To help encourage conversations and dialogue for Teacher Appreciation Week, our topic/question for the week is: What do you appreciate about the teachers you have had in your life? Appreciation for Learning (Week of 5/4/20) (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.
The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning. - John Dewey
You cannot teach today the same way you did yesterday to prepare students for tomorrow. - John Dewey
The weather this past weekend felt like a wonderful gift. After a very busy end to the week (I know I’m not alone with those feelings) and a very tired Friday night, Katie and I decided to ‘get out of Dodge’ (safely, of course!) and take a drive to the Cape for the day on Saturday. A fried fish sandwich and vanilla milkshake for lunch from The Knack in Orleans hit the spot, and we took a couple walks with Lila and the kids on the beach. As one who has difficulty unplugging, this physical unplugging and departure really served me well - and, I hope that I will be able to carry some of that sense forward. I am so thankful that Katie is the one who knows me so well and knew just what I needed.
I took some time this week to reread past blog posts from the past few years for inspiration and centering - I think at the root of it is a desire to find some sense of ‘normalcy, traditions, and routines’ from when we were in school together. Channeling my desire for traditions/consistency with a desire to both learn and ‘unplug’, this week’s post is a shorter one in length…
- a sampling of responses from last week’s topic/question (I love the honesty of the first response listed!)
- a recent post from Will Richardson (@willrich45) - always one to push and challenge the collective thought
- a couple posts shared last year at this time
- an explicit ‘thank you’ and acknowledgement of Teacher Appreciation Week for the wonderful Blake team of educators...
Responses from Our Last Topic/Question (Week of 4/27/20): How can your beliefs help to guide and improve your learning?
- Religion really impacts more than 50% of my life, and I use prayer and the Bible to guide me.
- Let’s say you believe in hardwork, that’s will guide you to work hard
- This is an interesting question. Belief can suggest a gut-instinct or something you FEEL to be true. Combining belief and learning must involve a willingness to look into our beliefs and find proof. The word belief sometimes places a thought on a level that prevents it from being questioned. A good learner has the courage to question belief at the risk of discovering the need to redefine a belief because learning has shed new light..
- They remind us what is important!
- My beliefs help by me believing in myself first.
- I believe that speed does not define intelligence.
- Attitude can really help me during this time - it improves my happiness when doing work.
“New Normal” of Education, Start With the “Old Normal” of Learning
by Will Richardson (@willrich45)
This post is one worth reading, re-reading, and considering - Richardson always pushes my thinking in a thoughtful manner. Within he reflects upon the concepts of the ‘new normal’ and ‘old normal’ of schooling and the need for thoughtful reflection about learning and schooling as we move forward.
...the very rapid transition from school buildings and classrooms to Zoom rooms and Google Docs over a period of just days has posed what may be the most complex problem-solving moment ever in education. As UC Berkeley historian Elena Conis said in a recent article in The Atlantic, “There is no precedent for a life-interrupting disaster of this scale in America’s current educational and professional structures.”
If we are truly serious about real change in education, our conversations have to go much deeper than a focus on new technologies or tweaked teaching practices. If we sincerely want to create a better, “new normal” for kids in schools once this crisis is over, one that truly transforms the experience in ways that are urgently required to help them navigate what lies ahead, we need to start by embracing the “old normal” of learning first.
The irony is that schools were not built for learning. Research shows that very little of what kids “learn” in a curricular sense is remembered for the long term, nor is it relevant to or applicable in their daily lives. It’s an unpleasant truth that makes us uncomfortable. But it is a truth. Just look at the many recent blog posts and Tweets from semi-embarrassed parents-turned-teachers lamenting how little they actually remember from high school that they can help their kids with. Learning in school simply isn’t like learning in real life.
Aside from being a moment of huge disruption for all of us, this may be the most profound moment of deep professional learning that any of us have ever experienced regardless if we’re in health care, business, politics, service, or any other industry you can name. Educators in particular are literally learning their way through the crisis, day to day, hour to hour, and the conditions required for powerful learning are obviously present: a deep engagement in meaningful, real-world problem solving that is driven by questions, is intensely collaborative, is challenging in productive ways, and isn’t constrained by a linear, dated “curriculum” that dictates what comes next. No one is doing this for a grade; we’re doing this for a goal, namely to try to serve our students as best we can under exceedingly difficult circumstances.
Those conditions and others like them are and always have been how all humans learn best. And all humans know it. Learning is as natural as breathing when there is a real purpose behind it and when we have the freedom to learn on our own terms, when we’re not confined and coerced by external systems and traditions. Yet, we humans seem to forget that when it comes to the experience our kids have in school. In school, we seem to think learning happens only when it’s age-grouped and graded, or when it’s chunked into time blocks and subjects and meets some predetermined outcomes. Students have “learned” it seems only when they have consumed a mandated bucket of information or content and been tested to make sure they consumed it adequately.
...as we have been making difficult choices in these weeks about schools and education as we transition online, we’ve been reminded of those things that we value most: relationships, community, the curiosity of kids, and the power of real learning. And we’ve been surfacing other things that are simply not as important. Grades have been suspended in many schools. College entrance exams have been cancelled or modified. Many states aren’t giving standardized tests. Schools are cutting curriculum and pulling back on homework. At a moment when we have record numbers of students feeling stressed, anxious, and depressed, those choices suggest a real opportunity to ask some difficult questions about what we truly want schools to be in the future. As in which of those things remain important, and which will we choose to put on our “To (Un)Do Lists”?
...the discussions we have and the decisions we make when the dust finally settles from the Coronavirus disruption will determine whether or not our schools and our students will just survive this moment or whether they will actually thrive in the future. For the best chance at the latter, those discussions and decisions need to be held through the lens of how powerful learning actually happens in each of us in the real world, not how we have long tried to force learning to happen in this thing we call school.
Two Posts from Past Years...
The Case for Doing Nothing
by Olga Mecking (@OrlaMecking) in The New York Times
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this post that I shared last year at this time speaks to the importance of self-care. Mecking’s post introduces the Dutch concept/term ‘niksen’ (doing nothing), espousing the need and benefits for all of us. As one who is continually ‘running around’ and often using the term ‘busy’ as a badge of honor, niksen is an important mantra for me to consider and embrace. Tips are given within the post: Make time for doing nothing, and do it with purpose...Resist the culture of busyness...Manage your expectations...Reorganize your environment...Think outside of the box...
Running from place to place and laboring over long to-do lists have increasingly become ways to communicate status: I’m so busy because I’m just so important, the thinking goes. Perhaps it’s time to stop all this busyness. Being busy -- if we even arebusy — is rarely the status indicator we’ve come to believe it is. Nonetheless, the impact is real, and instances of burnout, anxiety disorders and stress-related diseases are on the rise, not to mention millennial burnout.
...the idea of niksen is to take conscious, considered time and energy to do activities like gazing out of a window or sitting motionless. The less-enlightened might call such activities “lazy” or “wasteful.” Again: nonsense.
Generally speaking, our culture does not promote sitting still, and that can have wide-reaching consequences for our mental health, well-being, productivity and other areas of our lives. Technology doesn’t make it any easier: The smartphone you carry with you at all hours makes it almost impossible to truly unplug and embrace idleness. And by keeping ourselves busy at all times, we may be losing our ability to sit still because our brains are actually being rewired.
Ending the School Year Well
by Aaron Hogan (@afhogan)
The past couple of years I have shared this post as it speaks to the practice of ‘presence’, an attribute that is critical for a healthy and safe learning learning environment. This important element of ‘presence’ has taken on a very different meaning, but no less important, during our Emergency Remote Learning period that we are all experiencing. Hogan’s words remind me to witness, appreciate, and articulate the presence that has been, and continues to be, practiced by our teachers for students, parents, and one another. With 'end-of-year countdowns' in schools holding different meanings this year as well, I would be lying if I said I have not been tempted to make one in our house - that said, I have resisted. Hogan offers an important perspective with this post and I particularly commend his outreach for ideas for how to 'end the year well' from colleagues - a direct and indirect way to appreciate one another by seeking input.
We cannot afford to do anything other than continue to pursue our students. Our students and colleagues are worth more than our survival mode efforts. We can make just as great an impact in our last days with students as we did in our first hours together.
Never stop getting to know your students (even at the end of the year). Invest in them. Let them know that they are loved. Much like a successful start to the year, a successful end to the year is an active pursuit.
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I am coming back to words I shared at this time last year from Voltaire - the practice of appreciation is one that is active and mutually beneficial...
Words do not truly express the appreciation I have and feel for the teachers (again, broadly defined) with whom I work, along with the teachers who have left their imprint on my mind, heart, and being. I have been fortunate to have wonderful teachers/mentors throughout my life at all levels (Professor Watts, John D’Auria, and Mrs. Goldsmith are some I’ve been thinking of as of late), both personally and professionally, and I hope I honor them with my efforts each day. I hope we can all find time to appreciate each other this week.
As I say quite often, Blake Middle School is a special place (it may sound trite, but the sentiment is sincere) and I am so proud to be a part of the collective mission to enhance the learning experience for our students. It is a privilege and a joy to work every day with such a fine team of educators and this recognition is a reflection of our students, staff, and community.
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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Enjoy the week and take care.