To help encourage conversations about reflection and an openness to new or unanticipated directions, the topic/question for the dinner table is...
The Next Step
How often should a teacher ask the class "so what can we do with this information we learned?"
- during/after every class
- during/after certain lessons
- wait for the students to ask
- on occasion
- when colleagues ask
After one of our rare 5-day weeks at school this fall, I hope that the weekend has provided a nice break. We had a busy weekend - Friday night dance at Blake, soccer and flag football games on Saturday, a neighborhood get together with friends Saturday evening, and went toMaggie's final softball game of the season Sunday afternoon. After the game we watched the DVR'd Patriots game and enjoyed family dinner together - looking forward to it! Our first 7th/8th grade dance was a success and I would like to thank all of the staff who chaperoned the event to provide a safe and positive experience for the students: Eileen H., Deb M., Kelly C., Matt Marenghi, Nancy M., Patty G., Tracy A., and Kayla A. As I have shared before my hope is that we can continue to have a cross-section of staff for our students at each of the dances this year.
At the outset of every school year the principals of each of the schools are provided some time at a School Committee meeting to provide an update and outline goals for the academic year. This usually takes place in September, but due to my trip to North Carolina, it was delayed a bit and I attended the meeting last Monday evening. I always enjoy this opportunity to take some time to talk about our students, staff, and community at Blake - sharing the initiatives we are embarking upon, highlighting successes as well as the challenges we are working to address. It is often hard to find (and, if I'm being honest, make) the time to do just that. Fast forwarding a few days to Friday afternoon - after making a few phone calls and checking in with a few teachers, I decided to take a run to 'clear my head'. I was staying through for the dance and reminded myself that I need to make sure I find (again, make) the time to get out and run. I love running at this time of year as it is so pretty with the foliage and the festive Halloween decorations and pumpkins are out. I have found the 'Friday afternoon run' to be a great entry point for reflections on the past week, while also allowing some planning and new ideas to come forward. As I was running I thought back to Monday evening's sharing of goals under this overarching question: 'How Can We Curate the Progression of Student Learning and Growth?' An essential component of the 'goals process' is scheduled or routine 'checkpoints' along the way. For our students and our staff the mid-term, or interim report time period, is one of these checkpoints. It is at that time that we can take a look at what has transpired thus far, assess progress, realign goals if needed, and map out a plan to move forward. I hope that these are the types of conversations that are taking place in advisory with our students and at home with students and families.
A few questions surfaced to my thinking on the run - How do we make progress? How is that we measure progress (for students and ourselves)? What can we put in place to assure progress has opportunities to develop on a continual basis? The answers to these questions are not clearly defined; however, they are worth pursuing. And, as with many important elements of education, the conversations and dialogue (the process) is as important, if not more important, than the actual answers. A few more questions that are often posed during these conversations: What is it that we really want for our students? What are the skills that we want for our students? What do we want them to know in (fill in the blank -- science, math, wellness, etc.)? A few answers I often hear...I want them to love history; I want them to have a thirst for knowledge; I want them to be lifelong learners, critical thinkers, inquisitive; I want them to be willing to share their thinking in a collaborative way; I want them to feel good about themselves. As I write this, and I am sure as you are reading, it is clear that this run was a reflective one. How is that we get there - how can we continue to have productive conversations as a staff and community and make progress? What does it take? I am sharing several readings I have bookmarked over the last few weeks that I believe relate to this process and can serve as some compass points for our collective work. Key threads that can be woven together include understanding and adoption of a growth mindset, an openness to new ideas, making connections, collaborating, and being sure to recognize and appreciate...
Carol Dweck Revisits the 'Growth Mindset'
by Carol Dweck in Education Week
In this post Dweck, one of the lead researchers in motivation and author of the 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, takes some time to 'revisit' her work and offer some guidance - openly sharing common 'misunderstandings and pitfalls'. One of the key steps is her advice for all of us to identify our own triggers, acknowledging the 'fixed mindset' within each of us and thinking about how we can work through those triggers.
A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve.
How can we help educators adopt a deeper, true growth mindset, one that will show in their classroom practices? You may be surprised by my answer: Let’s legitimize the fixed mindset. Let’s acknowledge that (1) we’re all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, (2) we will probably always be, and (3) if we want to move closer to a growth mindset in our thoughts and practices, we need to stay in touch with our fixed-mindset thoughts and deeds.
My colleagues and I are taking a growth-mindset stance toward our message to educators. Maybe we originally put too much emphasis on sheer effort. Maybe we made the development of a growth mindset sound too easy. Maybe we talked too much about people having one mindset or the other, rather than portraying people as mixtures. We are on a growth-mindset journey, too.
The #InnovatorsMindset: What We Can LearnFrom Carly Rae Jepsen and the Harvard Baseball Team #CE15
post by George Couros (@gcouros)
Kelly C. shared this post with me last week and I have come back to it several times since my first read. Couros always pushes my thinking as he articulates the ways that connections and collaborations via social media can make us all better.
...I am not saying that if you are not on Twitter, you are ineffective. Being on Twitter doesn’t make you a great teacher any more than not being on Twitter makes you ineffective. There are a lot of great teachers who do some pretty amazing things despite choosing not to connect online. That said, Twitter and other social media give you 24/7 access to new ideas and interactions with forward-thinking teachers. A network helps people become better. How could it not?
The lines between “amateur” and “professional” have blurred. Admittedly, some professional artists may see this blurring as a risk. In contrast, those with an abundance mentality know that this new era allows them to tap into different people’s unique strengths and create a more powerful product or brand.
So, whether it is developing better dancers, creating or remixing music, or designing a better classroom experience, the more open we are, the more likely something amazing will come out of it.
From Disconnected to Mr. Connected Educator
by Billy Spicer in Smartblog on Education
This quick read from Spicer is in support of October as Connected Educator Month, sharing some steps that we as educators can take to foster connections with others.
As we celebrate national Connected Educator Month, I ask, or better yet challenge, all of my fellow educators, to get and keep your classroom connected! Technology can be daunting, but the rewards are extremely sweet. Educators have an immense amount of responsibility to our students such as facilitating a top-notch education, instilling technology-based skills that will serve them in jobs that may not yet exist, and creating a common understanding of the effects of their digital footprint.
Using technology for technology’s sake just doesn’t cut it anymore; we owe our students more than that. We are tasked with redefining the way students think and the way they approach a challenge or obstacle. We can all do this by providing students opportunities to create, reflect and question what they are learning. I have seen this approach truly transform my student’s learning experience, and have watched technology only amplify its effects.
Let us all celebrate Connected Educator Month together, better yet, let’s celebrate the possibilities and opportunities we can create for our students by being connected educators.
John Hattie's 10th Mindframe for Learning
by Peter DeWitt (@PeterMDeWitt) in Education Week
If you are on Twitter, I highly recommend DeWitt as an educator to follow. This post references his role as a Visible Learning Trainer, working with John Hattie and the concept of Mindframes. Hattie's extensive work has led to his identification of the key mindframes are students need to develop, and he has recently added a 10th mindframe - collaboration - to the original nine (see list below). This is a timely development for our community as we work to embrace collaboration as our theme for the Blake community this year. This post will serve as the framework for our November faculty meeting at Blake.
The 9 Mindframes: I am an evaluator; I am a change agent; I talk about learning and not about teaching; I see assessment as feedback to me; I engage in dialogue and not monologue; I enjoy challenge; I engage in positive relationships; I use the language of learning; I see learning as hard work
We all teach, lead and learn under different Mindframes. They envelope our personal lives as well as into our professional conversations.
Collaboration, which brings together diverse thinkers who engage in authentic conversation, can help shift our thinking which inspires us to grow as learners. It's why Twitter is so popular with educators because they find professional and personal learning networks which help them think outside the box. Imagine how much better it would be if we didn't always have to go to social networking for that and could find it within our own buildings as well.
An Open Letter To K-12 Teachers (From a College Professor)
post by John Spencer
Written from the perspective of a former middle school educator who is now a college professor, this post is a clear reminder of the importance of taking the time to recognize others and say thank you.
Thank you to all of the middle school teachers who love students during the awkward, difficult, and painful age. Thank you for being patient in the midst of attitude and insecurity. Thank you for helping them feel known when they feel all alone.
Thank you to all of the teachers who inspire critical thinking in the midst of a compliant culture. The vast majority of you are under intense pressure to teach to the test and yet you manage to be rebellious. I don't think people realize just how much courage it takes to push critical thinking and creativity at all costs.
Thank you for all the teachers who inspire a love of learning. Thank you for knowing students relationally and finding books that they want to read. Thank you for correcting their writing, even when it might lead to hurt feelings. Thank you for finding ways to get past the cultural lie that some people "just aren't math people." Thank you for helping them learn the art of observation in science, even when the culture embraces scientific illiteracy. Thank you for making history fun and relevant and engaging, even when society says that nobody will use the subject.
Keeping these ideas in mind for our students, ourselves, and our community, we also need to make sure that all of our work - our systems of learning, assessment, feedback, and reflection - are aligned with our mission statement: 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 looking forward to this week as we begin the second half of the term. I hope we can all keep some of these ideas in mind for students, ourselves, and our community. Keep the conversations going and please be sure to do the same with me - ask questions, invite me into the conversations 'we may be too scared to have', and be willing to push back. I have shared this before - I promise to keep these noble goals in mind and hope you will do the same. My door is always open.
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