To help encourage conversations and dialogue about welcoming new ideas, relevance, and gaining a new lens on thinking, our topic/question(s) of the week are: How do you push yourself to gain new perspectives and challenge your thinking? New Perspectives (Week of 4/29/18) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
Blake's Guiding Lights
Blake's Core Values: Respect, Responsibility, Resourcefulness, Reflection
Our Essential Question: How can we cultivate and curate the progression of student learning and growth?
Our Mission: Blake Middle School believes in a living mission statement, based on the concept that our community seeks and respects knowledge, integrity, character, wisdom, and the willingness to adapt to a continually evolving world.
I am not one that wishes time away, but I am certainly looking forward to the month of May arriving this week. Seeing the flowers pop up through the mulch and the buds blooming on the trees has certainly helped make things feel lighter and brighter! After a nice, low-key dinner out as a family Friday evening we had our sports-filled Saturday (baseball, soccer, and softball!) and then a quieter Sunday evening after one more late afternoon baseball game for Owen.
The question itself is one that is an excellent entry point and holds implications for our work, connections with students, relationships, lesson plans, assessments, projects, and lives. It was one of those 'mirror moments' as it immediately pushed me into a place of reflection of diversity and the implications that hold true - in terms of gender, race, culture, learning, age, etc. This perspective is one I hope to meld into our day-to-day thinking for our endeavors - as I have said before, my hope is to not add 'one more thing' but to broaden our thinking so that some of this work becomes 'second nature' and part of 'how we do business'.
On my run early Saturday morning I found myself coming back to a few ideas...the question posed above, moments of clarity, focusing on what matters most, opportunities for relevant learning, the Design Thinking framework, and connections with one another (it was a run full of reflection!). The common thread within these ideas was, and is, the importance of seeking, listening, and reflecting upon different perspectives. In this vein of thought, I am sharing several posts that pushed my own thinking this week and offered some different perspectives...
How Being the 'Worst' Transformed My Teaching
by Ryan Sprott in Education Week
This post offers a nice perspective from Sprott, as he shares the lens he gained (or regained) when he took a weightlifting class and encountered struggles.
Remembering what failure feels like can be difficult for teachers. As adults, many of us—myself included—prefer to avoid situations where others clearly outpace us. We generally choose careers and hobbies where we experience success. But the young people who walk into our classrooms have far fewer choices in the matter. Compared with adults, students in many traditional school settings are more likely to be forced into situations where they can experience years of struggle.
I have always tried to be sensitive to the needs of all students. But it took reliving some of my own struggles to deepen my empathy for students who feel a lack of academic belonging.
The Soul-Crushing Student Essay
by Scott Korb in The New York Times
Gail Duffy shared this post last weekend and I appreciated the perspective offered by Korb about the concerns and worries he has about the trends he is seeing in young writers. It is a lens that is important for us to think about, as both educators and parents.
...my experience with students has me worried that years of “texts being read” and “tests being taken” have created the sense in them that whatever they’re devoted to doesn’t matter much to the rest of us — so long as they know the answers to our questions, so long as they pass the test. Writing so passively and with what they’ve been taught is appropriate and “objective” distance from topics they often seem disinterested in, these young people signal to me that they’re still waiting for something important or real to happen to them.
A decade teaching young writers has taught me a great deal. First, we need to value more the complete and complex lives of young people: where they come from, how they express themselves. They have already lived lives worthy of our attention and appreciation. Second, we need to encourage young people to take seriously those lives they’ve lived, even as they come to understand — often through schooling and just as often not — that there’s a whole lot more we’ll expect of them. Through this, we can help them learn to expect more of themselves, too.
This has been the lesson for my students this term. Look around at what baffles you; look in at your peculiar self and how your own frontiers continue to edge back. Don’t worry, you’ll never fully grasp how the world transcends you and your ability to describe it.
Managing the Dark Side of Workplace Friendships
I read this post towards the end of this week from Wharton's biweekly e-mail, and I found the perspectives within fascinating from both a personal and 'leadership' perspective. It is always helpful to read with a lens towards better understanding the different layers and 'factors' that can influence dynamics within a community.
In a conversation with Knowledge@Wharton, Rothbard and Pillemer discuss different nuances of friendship at the workplace and how individuals and managers can prevent situations from turning toxic.
Wanted: Professional Learners
by Will Richardson (@willrich45)
Richardson is one of my 'sources of influence' and I highly recommend reading and following his work, as he is a thinker and one who wants to push our structures to more productive and relevant learning environments. The perspective he offers in this post is grounded in phrasing from Jane Hart (@c4lpt), encouraging us to see the goal for kids as becoming 'professional learners'.
Much about that resonates for me. The idea that there is a growing sense of self-determination that learners possess, able to choose the what, the why, the when, the how, and the with whom of learning. The idea that learners have to be well versed in the learning affordances of modern technologies. That your paycheck depends on your ability to learn. And, I’ll add, the idea that being a productive, caring, contributing human being depends on your ability to learn as well.
Obviously, to help them with all of those things, we need to be professional learners ourselves. If nothing else, we have to be experts at learning more than experts at, say, chemistry. We’d have to be models of professional learners. And for that, we’d have to rethink much of our professional development, which is focused much more on teaching than it is learning. We’d need to live in cultures of learning, which, again, are much different from cultures of teaching. It would require us to rethink our roles, and our value in classrooms.
Richardson's perspective is one that I really hope we can foster within for our entire learning community (students, staff, parents, and community) - one of modeling professional learning, diversity of thought, learning in practice, and diversity in practice. As Dewey notes below the desire to continue learning will guide our actions and the path towards our mission...