To help encourage conversations and dialogue about school, potential adjustments to our system/practices, and starting points, our topic/question for the dinner table is: If you could change one thing about our 'system of education', what would it be? Why? Starting the Conversation (Week of 9/16/18) (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.
Although it feels as though we have been 'in the rhythm of school' for a while (at least for me - I can not speak for everyone else!), it is hard to believe that we had our first Monday of the year this week. This past weekend has been an invigorating one, having traveled to Stanford University with our 'Medfield team' to begin our partnership with Challenge Success, a coordinated program designed to help schools and families develop and articulate alternative models of success that are aligned with current research on healthy child development. It is good to be home and I am looking forward to sharing the experience with everyone.
Through the work and the learning from the immersive experience of a conference, it is easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the proverbial forest of ideas but 'the little things' help to center me - sometimes it's reading, sometimes it's an article, sometimes it's a conversation, sometimes it's a way of things, sometimes it could be practice, and sometimes it may be a reminder. Whatever the 'prompt' may be, these help me to approach a new lens and entertain a different approach. The key mindset that I hope to bring forth is to start and continue our process of growth and reflection. We need to continue some aspects of our work while allowing an openness to start afresh, when appropriate. I have always enjoyed the work of Alfie Kohn (@alfiekohn), as he shares his belief of 'We've always done it that way' being one of the worst rationales for our practices. Along similar lines, he often references and negates the BGUTI mantra (the students Better Get Used To It) as a rationale of many in our field, when explaining or 'defending' practices in question. One mantra or mindset that we all can agree on is that we want to prepare our students and ourselves for the future. However, it is the careful exploration of what that preparation will look like that is critical. The video we watched together as a staff on Day One this year (The Future of Work: Will Our Children Be Prepared?) is one of those 'sparks of discussion' and the Challenge Success experience provided many more for me, as we think about as we reflect upon what preparation means and the questions, hopes, and fears that arise.
I look forward to sharing and reflecting the learning with our Blake and Medfield community in the coming days, weeks, and months, but for now I am feeling inspired that we are starting and continuing a process, taking a step or two forward, reflecting, and having conversations. Below I have listed some responses to last week's question (to keep conversations alive), along with two posts that connect to the ideas of starting change and adjustments to practice to benefit our students...
Topic/Question (Week of 9/10/9/14): What question(s) is/are on your mind right now?
- Is my son learning enough about race, institutional racism, and role it plays in our society?
- What is the best way to teach grammar?
- What are week 3s like?
Welcoming Students With a Smile
by Youki Terada in Edutopia
The premise of Terada's post is both simple and self-explanatory, yet it is important and affirming to 'read in print' the impact that positive interactions with students can have. These small adjustments and practices are investments worth making and must continue.
Greeting students at the door sets a positive tone and can increase engagement and reduce disruptive behavior. Spending a few moments welcoming students promotes a sense of belonging, giving them social and emotional support that helps them feel invested in their learning...In the study, when teachers started class by welcoming students at the door, academic engagement increased by 20 percent and disruptive behavior decreased by 9 percent—potentially adding “an additional hour of engagement over the course of a five-hour instructional day,” according to the researchers.
When teachers focused their attention on students’ positive conduct and avoided rushing to correct minor disruptions, students had better behavior, and their mental health and ability to concentrate also improved.
Starting class by greeting your students at the door helps set a positive tone for the rest of the day, promoting their sense of belonging, boosting their academic engagement, and reducing disruptive behavior.
Attaching Complexity With Confidence
by Jonathan Rochelle, Katherine Prince, and Tom Vander Ark in Getting Smart
Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec) shared this post with me this week and I have marked it as one to reference again and again in the future. It poses some excellent questions, encourages a movement of change in our schools, and offers suggestions while placing an emphasis on humility, curiosity, and confidence as our students navigate a complex reality.
Of one thing we can be sure: tomorrow will be more complex than today...We agree that a complex future warrants intellectual humility and curiosity, but we want every young person to know where to start and what to do when facing a new situation. What we most desire for young people is confidence in the face of complexity.
With this extreme level of change, it’s obvious to ask, “How should education change?” While the answer is less than obvious and could vary in different places and in different circumstances, the one thing that is clear is that our students deserve a new set of learning priorities (not just more added to a crowded set of learning objectives). This is the challenge before us.
Economic opportunity now lies more in the hands of the people than ever before, rather than just with large, established companies...Yet there are also significant social and ethical implications to navigate as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution...In face of the uncertainty on the horizon, we most want young people to be confident — to be assured by prior success that they know how to address complex situations, how to navigate new places and people, and how to deliver value. Basic literacy remains important in the innovation economy but three new priorities are design thinking, social-emotional skills, and entrepreneurship.
Every community is experiencing high levels of change and is struggling to interpret signals about what’s to come. It’s time for a community conversation. School communities, employers, civic leaders, and service organizations should begin (or accelerate) a conversation about what’s happening, what it means, and how to prepare.
As with much of our work, there are many layers and it is hard to talk about any of our initiatives without talking about all of them. That said, we need to start having conversations, and continue having other conversations, as it is clear that the complexity of our reality - for us and our students - is not going away. And I do believe that progress begins with dialogue and listening.
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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