To help encourage conversations about reflection and the ideas of reinventing yourself as an educator, the topic/question for the dinner table is...
The Full You
If you have to choose, what will you do first?
Put yourself in the role of a classroom teacher, trying a new way, even though the consensus opinion says what is done now 'works just fine'...
- I will assess on process, not product
- I will stop in the middle of an activity, and ask everyone what we do now, and what can we do with that information
- I will let the students take over, record what happens, and provide observation and feedback later
- I will change the physical environment at least two times each week
- I will use a standards based approach for academics
- I will use a standards based approach that reflect each Interim Report comment individually
I hope this long weekend was enjoyed by all and that you were able to take advantage of the beautiful weather. After dinner out as a family Friday evening, we enjoyed some of the kids' sports games and spent time gardening, cooking, and simply being. Taking advantage of the down time is a real challenge for me, as you know, and it is a goal I continue to pursue.
As I shared Friday morning at the beginning of our professional day with our staff, it was wonderful to see the 7th grade students and Blake staff arrive safely back in Medfield Thursday afternoon from their trip to Nature's Classroom. I would like to thank all of the chaperones for volunteering their days and nights to provide a wonderful experience for our students: Emily Alland, Maura Batts, Susie Boulos, Kelly Campbell, Kathleen Caprio, Jeff Cincotta, Lisa Crawford, Jen Dondero, Mike Gibbs, Mike Gow, Jon Haycock, Eileen Hurley, Greg Keohan, Kerrie Krah, Deb Manning, Matt Millard, Kristen Musto, Amy Reynolds, Judy Silva, and Josh Walas. I want to extend an extra thank you to Judy, Kelly C., Jen, and Tricia for their tireless hours preparing for a safe, productive, and smooth week. A thank you as well to the 7th grade teachers and other teachers back at Blake this week who helped provide a rich experience for students and assisted with the necessary coverage throughout the week.
I also would like to thank, commend, and share my appreciation for our entire staff's commitment to our students and to our profession. I felt energized and inspired by the collective work that took place throughout the day on Friday as we made progress with our overarching goals of Experimentation/Innovation; Professional Growth-Supervision/Evaluation; and Progress Reporting and Feedback. As I heard from several individuals, this professional day is always good because it allows us to take a step back with the 40,000 foot view while melding that vision with our day-to-day endeavors. The updates from the content specialists regarding goals that are being outlined and conversations that took place have been great to read and I look forward to the work that lies ahead.
At our morning meeting on Friday the thoughtful analysis, table discussions, and group processing regarding the classroom observation video exercise were indicative of the rich understanding of teaching and planning that takes place every day with our students. When sharing elements of the post-observation discussion, a common thread that came forth was the importance of reflecting upon what has transpired and pushing oneself to answer these types of questions: What would you have done differently? If you went back in time, what would you keep and what would you change? Was your objective for the students met, and how do you know? Broadening these questions to a greater scope, I encourage all of us, myself included, to ask these questions of ourselves with all of our practices on a frequent basis. I am sharing three posts below that emphasize the importance of reflection, the value of teaching, and the concept of continual growth…
Nietzsche on How to Find Yourself and the True Value of Education
by Maria Popova
Popova shares excerpts from some of Friedrich Nietzsche’s work, sharing his thinking about the process of finding oneself and the profound influence that educators have in this development.
No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life. There may be countless trails and bridges and demigods who would gladly carry you across; but only at the price of pawning and forgoing yourself. There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk!
There may be other methods for finding oneself, for waking up to oneself out of the anesthesia in which we are commonly enshrouded as if in a gloomy cloud — but I know of none better than that of reflecting upon one’s educators and cultivators.
My Views on Teaching
by James Antony
In this post Antony shares his own thinking and perspective on the growth he has experienced as an educator. At the heart of this evolution has been his increasing willingness to ask difficult questions of himself and be open to the answers.
Good teaching -- the type that promotes real learning in students -- takes work. Hard work. Good teaching is also a courageous act that, as with anything meaningful, can only result from introspection. You ask yourself a lot of questions. Who am I as an educator? What do I have to offer my students? How will I challenge my students to grow as lifelong learners, while also learning the present material? How will I listen to my students, and learn from them, and grow because of my interactions with them? And on, and on, and on. You can’t really teach effectively if you fail to ask yourself a lot of hard questions.
Good teaching requires an inwardly-critical stance in which you are willing to question the effectiveness of your own approach. How did I stink as a teacher today? What do I need to do better, and how will I make that happen? How did I shine today? How can I build on that success? Nobody should ever grow so confident as a teacher that they fail to ask even these most rudimentary questions.
...I do know that I have become better over the years -- through a lot of painstaking practice. And I also know that my attitude about teaching has evolved, from my earliest years as a faculty member during which I gave my teaching less thought than it deserved, to where I find myself today -- a firm believer that teaching is, in every way, a scholarly activity as vital and important as my research and writing.
Changing the Conversation: Grades vs. Learning
by Starr Sackstein (@mssackstein)
Sackstein’s brief reflection is an exemplar of the reflection that Antony noted in his piece. Through honest and open introspection, Sackstein shares her own progression of thought as she shifted her focus from grades to learning – an important shift that we must practice. All of her realizations are worth reading, but I have highlighted a few that held particular meaning for me…
- Learning and achievement are all about what students know and can do based on the standards. If they can demonstrate their ability to be proficient or effective by achieving mastery of a skill or standard, it doesn’t matter HOW they do it, just that they did.
- It’s not enough to tell a student they aren’t doing something correctly, we need to provide them with possible ways to do it better or they won’t learn.
- There is more than one way to meet a standard. Not all kids will do it the same way and that is perfectly acceptable. Some will take longer than others. This too is acceptable and responsible.
- One size doesn’t fit all in learning, so our teaching practices shouldn’t either. We need to be flexible when working with kids to help them find achievement success.
- Community is incredibly important and must be fostered
- Reflection is at the heart of what we do
- I love my job
- My respect for the staff at Blake increases every day
- I continue to see a deeper sense of gray in situations that I used to view as black and white
- There is no substitute for asking questions and listening to the answers – when in doubt, ask a few more questions for clarification – it can’t hurt to do that
Jack Uldrich - The Future Requires Unlearning
Since viewing it two weeks ago at the workshop in North Carolina, I have watched it several times and encourage everyone to do the same. The notion of unlearning and challenging one’s beliefs holds meaning for both our students and adults alike. I hope we can all keep the conversations flowing from Friday and increase our connections with each other so that the possibilities of progress will continue.
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