To help encourage conversations and dialogue about helping oneself learn, our topic/question for the dinner table is: What is one thing you can do to help yourself learn? Please see link to Google Form to share your responses: Setting Myself Aside for Learning (Week of 10/16/16) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
With a chilly start to the weekend last Saturday morning, it is clear that autumn has arrived! After enjoying a nice run Friday afternoon with the MHS X-Country team (it's been a great way to end each week this fall - always cracks me up when they call me Coach Vaughn!), Katie and I enjoyed a nice dinner out with the kids. Our Saturday started with soccer for the boys and Maggie's swimming practice, and we then were fortunate to be able to be outside on the beautiful day. After watching the Pats game and Maggie's softball on Sunday, we had family dinner to help ground our week - always feels like it is important to capture the calm, collective times before the pace of life accelerates again!
Last Thursday evening I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Pasi Sahlberg (@pasi_sahlberg, http://pasisahlberg.com/) speak as part of the Diane Silvers Ravitch Class of '60 Lecture Series at Wellesley College. This series is endowed by Ravitch (@DianeRavitch, https://dianeravitch.net/) and Sahlberg's talk, The Inconvenient Truth About American Education Reform, was the second annual talk. In addition to the thrill of just being in the academic environs of Wellesley College, it was inspiring to simply hear Ravitch introduce Howard Gardner (@howardgardner43, https://howardgardner.com/) who then introduced Sahlberg. These are three educators whose work I deeply admire as they all push me to be a more thoughtful, informed, and comprehensive educator. A goal I have for the Blake community, and my own network of professional and personal learning, is for all of us to continually expose one another to ideas and engage in thoughtful discussions. With this in mind, I am sharing a few notes that I took (full slide deck) that evening...
- Exposure to ideas - a critical component of the process of learning
- The importance of an external observer's view
- John Dewey's views on progressive education
- Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory
- Cooperative Learning - work of David and Roger Johnson, Elizabeth Cohen, and Bob Slavin
- Asks the question - 'Is the American education system broken?'
- Equity as the foundation of learning
- We can learn from other models
- Find time to play (children and adults)
- Ideas of legal rights of children in regards to education
- Start a blog and share your thoughts
- There is hope
Here's How Schools Can Soften The Blow Of Sixth Grade
by Kat Lonsdorf in NPREd
This post is rooted in a current debate about the most effective model of schooling for middle school age children, but the underlying question that is explored is how we can make the transition smooth for students as they navigate these years. It reminds me how incredibly critical it is to always keep in mind the 'journey' that our students are on during this stage in their lives.
An effective middle school, or middle grades, program needs to go beyond the grade configuration change. You can change the grade configuration of a school all day long. But you can also do some other things, and should do some things, that are developmentally responsive to young adolescents.
It starts with identifying what their unique characteristics are. Identifying that they are trying to achieve not just academically or cognitively, but they're achieving and really working on social, emotional, behavioral, psychological, ethical — all that stuff at one time in a rapid way. So, we start with that understanding, plus a shared vision of what type of programs and what type of people we need to have in our buildings to serve those kids, that's where it really begins.
Having difficulty in the sixth grade is part of that young adolescent journey. How we respond to and support them on that journey starts with an awareness that they're on it...Quite honestly, one of the first things that a middle grades program needs to do is just to remember that. Have the teachers and administrators and staff members in the school take those characteristics of young adolescents that they have and remember what they were like at this age too.
On Doing Your Best…
by George Couros (@gcouros)
I highly encourage everyone to follow Couros and his brother, Alec (@courosa), as they are leaders who focus on positive leadership and are models of reflection as they share their own learning in a public and open fashion.
As I have talked about before, what I always tried to focus on was the question, “What is best for kids?” Sometimes people were not happy with some of my decisions, but if I believed that at the end of the day the decision that was made was in the best interest of the students we served, I could sleep at night.
Be humble, build relationships, focus on doing what’s best for kids. The more you focus on that, the more awesome you will become at what you do, and the more it will spread and influence others to make positive changes to do better for kids. That is true leadership and it can come from any position.
Teaching As Daily Experimentation
by Victor Pereira
Pereira, a Lecturer in Education and Master Teacher in Residence in the Harvard Teacher Fellows Program, shares his perspective that teaching is both 'learning and science'.
Teaching Is Learning. Each time I lead a class, I position myself not only as an instructor, but also as a learner — notebook in hand, ready to jot down notes on what I learn or what I can do to improve the next class. I often tell new teachers that they will learn more from their students than they will in any course they take...Teaching Is a Science. To me, teaching is an exercise in inquiry — learning from experiences, reconstructing knowledge, asking better questions, and applying information in new ways.
...evolving as a teacher is similar to the Red Queen hypothesis in evolutionary biology — in which one’s teaching constantly adapts and evolves in order to continue to be effective. As I continue to evolve in my practice, I love that I get to be both a teaching scientist and a scientific teacher.
In an effort to translate some of these ideas into practice, I'm hopeful that we can continue to live a culture of learning through self-reflection as we open up to meet the critical challenges head on for the benefit of our students. In order for this to take place I believe we, myself included, need to be willing challenge ourselves by 'setting myself aside and asking, What does it take for me to learn? Let's continue engaging with ourselves and one another in that process of questioning. I have copied below a few quotations from Pasi that I intend to keep in mind...
'If we all think the same way, none of us probably thinks very much.'
'Reforming schools is a complex, slow process. To rush it is to ruin it.'
'Systems excellence in education requires that the entire society perform harmoniously.'
'The worst enemy of curiosity is standardization.'
'It has become clear everywhere that the schools we have today will not be able to provide opportunities for students to learn what is necessary in the future.'
And, as a nod to the recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, some favorites from Bob Dylan...
'There is nothing so stable as change.'
'Sometimes it's not enough to know the meaning of things, sometimes you have to know what things don't mean as well.'
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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