To help encourage conversations about the role relationships play in teaching and learning, our topic/question of the week is: The more often you put yourself in the shoes of a student, the better you will know what and how to teach and evaluate that student.
I felt inspired and invigorated driving home last Friday afternoon from school, reflecting upon the events of the day. Our parent coffee/discussion about student recognition at Blake was well attended and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the perspectives, questions, and thoughts of teachers, parents, and former Blake students. I so enjoy and value these discussions and believe that these conversations push us to articulate our practices and challenge our thinking. After a lovely luncheon co-sponsored by the Blake CSA and Medfield PTO for the Blake and high school staff (thank you!), it was great to hear Geri Tasker's 'Why I Teach' reflection before our professional afternoon. I appreciated the care and attention that everyone brought to the afternoon workshop led by Jen Dondero, Matt Marenghi, Stephanie Worthley, and Tracy Allen - thanks to our guidance department for a job well done. All of these events on Friday all directly relate to the mission we have for our students, our staff, and greater community. To put it simply - Friday was a good day.
One common thread throughout Friday was the importance and value that relationships hold in all of our work - with students, parents, colleagues, supervisors, and community. Whatever our endeavor may be, a foundation of a solid relationship and care must be established, in place, and known. At the parent coffee on Friday, each of our former Blake students shared that the biggest motivator and source of inspiration for learning was the care exhibited by their teachers. This theme of care and relationships can certainly be applied to our teacher appreciation lunch, listening to colleagues share their stories about teaching, and learning from our counselors about strategies to support our students. With this idea in mind I am sharing two posts this week that underline these ideas - maintaining an understanding of relationships, the complexity of teaching, and fostering growth mindsets for all (students and adults alike)...
The Antidote for Unhealthy Perfectionism
post by Tricia Ebner
Although this post is intended or written in the context of 'gifted students', I believe the principles apply to all - encouraging perspective and maintaining for all that the underlying goal of being in school is to learn. The ultimate goal is growth.
"There can be a healthy level of perfectionism, one that pushes an individual to do his or her best and while keeping a good perspective. But then there can be an unhealthy level of perfectionism, one that attaches all of an individual’s self-worth to every task, action, activity being done perfectly."
"We need to stress that the whole reason for being in school is to learn. Learning can be messy, noisy, and difficult. Learning the best, strongest lessons often requires struggle and even a strong risk of failure. No one likes that idea, but it's a truly terrifying thought to perfectionists. Our kids need to solve problems. They need to use reasoning, collaboration, and critical thinking. Those skills aren’t always neat, orderly, straightforward processes. The engineers at NASA didn’t use worksheets to figure out how to bring the Apollo 13 astronauts back to work safely. It took lots of brainstorming, trying, testing, failing, and trying again."
"...when a student struggles with a task and the end result isn’t matching expectations, I don’t give it a grade. Instead, I work with the student to help him or her reframe the task and try again. Yes, there are times in life that second chances just don’t happen. But when we’re learning new skills in middle school, second chances (and third . . . and fourth) are not only appropriate, they’re necessary."
"It's all about growth. It needs to be all about growth. When we can get our high-pressure, intensely-perfectionistic students to see that, or at least begin to see that, the stress and anxiety they feel lessens, and that leaves more room for the TRUE learning--the problem-solving, the critical thinking, the idea generation--to occur. And then those students can experience the joy of learning and growing."
Teaching = Thinking + Relationship
post by Bryan Mascio (@Bryan_Mascio)
Mascio's post spoke to me on many levels and affirms much of what we have talked about as a staff. I believe it is worth bookmarking as one to reference again and again.
"Teaching is far more than a mechanized set of actions. Our most masterful teachers aren’t just following scripts or using pre-packaged curricula. They are tailoring lessons, making professional judgments, and forging deep bonds with students – all of which is far more difficult to see or understand. Teaching is a cognitive skill that has human relationships at its center."
"Embracing this more sophisticated and relational view of teaching is an important and necessary paradigm shift, which ultimately calls for an abandonment of many of the policies and practices that we currently take for granted, and which are championed by the most influential politicians and academics. While it will be a dramatic change, it is neither radical in its design nor unproven in its effect."
The teacher/student relationship does indeed have a direct and meaningful impact on learning and I look forward to more discussions as to how we can continue to support our community of learners for all. My hope for this past weekend was to do my best to unplug - May is such a busy time for all and our weekend plans have been full with sports, family birthday parties, and Mother's Day celebrations. And that hope is one I share for all of you as well.
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