To help encourage conversations and dialogue about resolutions and intentions for the new year, our topic/question for the dinner table is: Please complete this statement: For 2020, I am committed to these 1-2 resolutions… Stating Intentions (1/1/20) (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
Happy New Year! I’m writing this update with the sincere hope that everyone found time to rest and relax during the vacation and celebrate (whatever that may mean for each of you) the holiday season. At the beginning of each school year I share the words below from Rainer Maria Rilke as a reminder that ‘our new year in the context of schools’ takes place around Labor Day each year...
At this time of transition following the December holiday vacation during the school year (coming off of a vacation, entering a new calendar year, embarking upon Term 2), I often come back to Letters to a Young Poet as the writings center me, remind me to delve deeper, value reflection, foster questions, allow space for ‘the process’, and appreciate a sensitive approach. This is important and I believe we can and should find and make the natural connections for our students and ourselves as learners. When sharing our resolutions and intentions, it is the process itself that will foster growth...
Responses from Our Last Topic/Question (Week of 12/15/19): When thinking back on 2019, what have you learned about yourself and how have you grown as a learner?
- Coming off a very busy couple of months, I have learned to reprioritize family time and appreciate smaller moments of life.
- I have learned about my attitude. It has changed and I’m getting better at math (not that I wasn’t)
- I have learned a little bit about "simplification". I do about two main things during the day...working with students and then taking long walks. I have compromised my painting as I can only get involved with those two items...so I'm storing up ideas for painting when I walk and work with students.
- I have become more mature, and responsible, noticing and knowing what is wrong and what is right. Asking if my parents would be ok with what I was doing.
- I have learned that confidence can be a very helpful thing.
- I’m good at participating in class
- I learned that I have so much more to learn and that I need to be quiet and listen and watch before I can join the conversation.
Some Year-End Lists and Reflections/Predictions
DECEMBER’S “BEST” LISTS – THERE ARE NOW 2,123 OF THEM!
by Larry Ferlazzo (@larryferlazzo)
This list is always my 'first stop' for reflections upon the year. Ferlazzo is a prolific writer, reader, archivist, and blogger of 'all things education' and this link has over 15 lists, from content-specific 'best of' to recommendations to predictions for 2019. I recommend bookmarking this site.
12 Critical Issues Facing Education in 2020
by Peter DeWitt (@PeterMDeWitt) in Education Week
A teacher makes 10 predictions for education in 2020 — some of them rather hopeful
by Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post
The 10 Best Express Articles of 2019
A Decade of Getting Smart
Selected by the Getting Smart Staff
50 Stories About the #FutureofLearning
Selected by the Getting Smart Staff
What You Read This Year - Mindfulness, Play, and Motivation — Our Top Stories of 2019 Show a Focus on Growth
from HGSE’s Usable Knowledge
The Teaching Profession in 2019 (in Charts)
by Madeline Will in Education Week Teacher
2019 Education Research Highlights
by Youki Terada in Edutopia
Every year brings new insights—and cautionary tales—about what works in education. 2019 is no different, as we learned that doodling may do more harm than good when it comes to remembering information. Attendance awards don’t work and can actually increase absences. And while we’ve known that school discipline tends to disproportionately harm students of color, a new study reveals a key reason why: Compared with their peers, black students tend to receive fewer warnings for misbehavior before being punished.
Most Popular Stories of the Decade
An Education Week Retrospective
Top 100 Education Blogs in 2019 for Educators and Teachers
from Feedspot Education Blogs List.
The Best Education blogs from thousands of top Education blogs in our index using search and social metrics. Data will be refreshed once a week. Also check out Educational Podcasts and Educational Videos from Top 100 Educational Youtube Channels.
Some 'Big Picture' Posts
For the New Year, Say No to Negativity
By John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister in The Wall Street Journal
In this season of intentions and resolutions, this is an excellent reminder to focus on the positivity and do our best to ‘push aside’ the negativity. The strategies within are ones I hope to use both personally and professionally.
Our minds and lives are skewed by a fundamental imbalance that is just now becoming clear to scientists: the negativity effect. Also known as the negativity bias, it’s the universal tendency for bad events and emotions to affect us more strongly than positive ones. We’re devastated by a word of criticism but unmoved by a shower of praise. We see the hostile face in the crowd and miss all the friendly smiles. We focus so much on bad news, especially in a digital world that magnifies its power, that we don’t realize how much better life is becoming for people around the world.
The negativity effect sounds depressing—and it often is—but it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. By recognizing it and overriding our innate responses, we can break destructive patterns, make smarter decisions, see the world more realistically and also exploit the benefits of this bias. Bad is stronger than good, but good can prevail if we know what we’re up against.
After recognizing their own bias, psychologists began compensating for it by studying the “positivity ratio,” which is the number of good events or emotions for every bad one. Researchers saw that older people are typically more contented than younger people because they’ve learned how to improve this ratio in their lives. They’ve gone on a low-bad diet, and that general approach can work for people of all ages. Here are a few strategies: First, do no harm...Remember the Rule of Four...Put the bad moments to good use...Capitalize on the good moments—and then relive them...See the big picture.
By rationally looking at long-term trends instead of viscerally reacting to the horror story of the day, you’ll see that there’s much more to celebrate than to mourn. No matter what disasters occur in 2020, no matter who wins the presidential election, the average person in America and the rest of the world will in all likelihood become healthier and wealthier. Those who go on a low-bad diet will also become wiser—and happier, too.
It’s Possible -Focus on Learning for 2029
by Missy Emler in Modern Learners Blog
This post takes the ‘long view’ by looking ahead at the possibilities for growth, improvement, and learning in our educational practices. Emler’s focus on learning is what should be driving all of our decisions, no matter the year or decade.
It’s possible! The Modern Learners theme for the next year and likely the next decade is “It’s Possible!” December is normally a time. I spent some time looking back on the year and looking forward to the next. This year, I’m spending December reflecting on an entire decade. I’m thinking about it at a deeper level than the side by side pictures of 2009 and 2019 people are posting on social media. I’m thinking about my “defining moments” of the decade. The ones that have changed my views and more importantly MY PRACTICE in the field of education.
In 2019, I have many conversations with many people about grades and whether or not they do more harm than good. It is my experience with Accelerated Reader being a mandated 10% of a student’s grade that serves as the basis for my belief that grades do not tell us whether or not a student has learned...I’m dreaming about schools in 2029 being gradeless. With the work of Teachers Going Gradeless and Mastery Consortium, it’s definitely possible! I’m NOT asking you to Change; I’m Asking you to LEARN!
I’m dreaming about a 2029 where Universal Design for Learning is the lens through which school experiences are shaped. Based on the work I see in my state and across the globe, it’s definitely possible.
I’m dreaming about a 2029 where the focus of schools is on learning. We think it is now, but having asked hundreds of school leaders to define learning, I promise you we don’t have coherence around what learning actually means. Over the next decade, I dream of seeing a shift from testing and accountability to getting focused on learning and being comfortable with our inability to measure it as we currently do. Begin with the simple question, “What do you believe about learning?” Do this and find coherence at your school. Focusing on learning in schools is simple and it’s definitely possible.
A Parent's Guide to Prioritizing Emotional Well-Being
By Richard Teneyck (@RichardTenEyck1) in Modern Learners Blog
I have read and reread this post several times this week - helping to frame my own thinking for our children - I have shared it with Katie and we hope to use it as a guide and I hope it serves the same for the Blake (and greater) community. It offers suggestions for parents and provides a framework for prioritizing the emotional well-being of our students (and ourselves). I simply love these lines: The goal in writing this is both to sound an alarm and to offer concrete suggestions for actions parents and educators can take to acknowledge and honor the way our children experience the world...This is an invitation for parents to re-think what schooling has become and the purpose of schooling in children’s lives… a purpose that does not rob them of their childhood and trigger depression and anxiety.
We, both as educators and as parents, cannot continue to sacrifice the mental, social and emotional health of our children. The articles above and research currently being explored are sending us signals that are both loud and clear. We’ve unintentionally allowed schooling to become something that was never intended. This is due to our unwillingness to change what we’re used to, coupled with our acceptance that the purpose of education is not learning, but primarily to serve the economy with qualified workers. While this may have been understandable in the early 1900s, given our current advances in brain research and its connection to learning, there is no excuse.
The data about the alarming growth of pre-adolescent and adolescent stress, anxiety, and depression frightens us. Although there is general agreement that school is about learning and preparation for life, there is surprisingly little agreement about what learning actually is, how it occurs and the best ways for it to happen so not to harm a child’s emotional well-being.
Kids have a limited sense of what Martin Luther King called “someoneness,” or sense of belonging. They feel pressured by adult concerns. Beyond their circle of friends they feel isolated. They feel pressured to do well, while not having access to the conditions (safety, freedom to ask questions, choice in learning) needed to first learn then excel. The Time article cites a study which revealed that 70% of teenagers characterized anxiety/depression as a “major problem”. Is that enough for us to do something? The Time article and many others make a clear connection between the unintended consequences and the deterioration of the mental and emotional health of our children. In spite of this growing awareness, we continue to hang our hats on stories of achievement. Achievement is what we know, but shouldn’t we know and honor learning?
By law our schools are required to act “in loco parentis,” in the place of parents. In trying to do things right, too many schools are creating environments that as parents we would never do. School systems continue to focus on test scores, orderly buildings, and traditional convenient practices while largely ignoring the emotional impact these practices are having on our children.
Successful change efforts rely on finding ways to circumvent the natural response. Research in this area reveals that reliance on fact-based speeches rarely changes deeply held beliefs.
Successful change efforts have relied primarily on the creation of emotion-based experiences. What is more emotional than the reality that our kids are suffering and experiencing stress, anxiety and depression in record numbers? Are we helping our children express themselves to the school system they exist in? Is that school system listening? Does the school system see your child?
What Students Are Saying About How to Improve American Education
by The Learning Network in The New York Times
It is important that we continue to talk to our students and to listen, hoping to winnow the gaps (sometimes inherent) that exist between our ‘intent’ and ‘impact’ in education. This post shares insights from students as to ‘...how they would improve the American education system.’: Put less pressure on students...Use less technology in the classroom (…or more)...Prepare students for real life...Eliminate standardized tests...Give teachers more money and support...Make lessons more engaging...Create better learning environments...Support students’ families...De-emphasize grades...Praise for great teachers
Going 'gradeless' allows Woodland teacher to focus on skills and students
by Marissa Heffernan in The Daily News
As we continue to refine our practices with the intent of providing meaningful feedback to foster learning, this post highlights a high school English teacher’s decision to go ‘gradeless’ - encouraging to see these approaches beyond the scope of our own community and middle school.
Blackwelder said he now focuses more on building relationships with students. Instead of using grades in a “punitive” way, he said he wants students to recognize that he wants to help them succeed. “Assessment is no longer punitive,” Blackwelder said. “I‘m not marking you wrong. I’m working to pull out what you need. Since I’ve gone gradeless, there’s been a real change in my classroom.”
“I got to the point where I thought education just felt empty and that reading a book, writing a paper and taking a test only to forget everything felt asinine,” Blackwelder said. “I thought, ‘I need to find some purpose in this.’ ”...“My philosophy of learning now is that it needs to be worthwhile and transferable beyond the classroom,” Blackwelder said. “I want it to be usable 20 years from now.” Lynn said that’s the big advantage of Blackwelder’s approach: “I feel like we’re actually learning something that will help us in the future, not just to take a test and not use again.”
Is There a 21st Century Report Card?
By Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby)
Whitby is a ‘must follow’ as he continues to challenge the ‘status quo’ in education, pushing all of us to establish and implement relevant and meaningful practices for our students. This post’s focus on feedback and connecting the feedback to learning is certainly relevant and timely.
The influence of technology has been slow in changing the industry of education. The idea of reassessing and reevaluating the product of education is difficult when the product is not something that is tangible. The other complication is the many facets of the education industry that need to be affected in order for the slightest change to take place in the final product that might be described as an individual’s education. There is no one silver bullet that will fix or evolve the education system. It will take many advances in many areas to improve the overall outcome of an individual’s education. The big question is: If we can’t do all the needed changes at once, where do we begin in order to start the changes?
There are two things that schools do that cause unwanted stress in a family for many. The first is homework, often a struggle to get kids to complete. The second is the report card. I have often said that report cards are only provided for some parents to have bragging rights. Of the two, reexamining the why and the how of report cards might be an easier task.
I question whether the report card in its current form using the current procedures accurately reflects a student’s learning?...Developing portfolios are far better indicators of a student’s learning than subjective assessments from teachers with limited time and prescribed assessment choices. Portfolios also provide for self-assessment giving great insight into a student’s learning to the teacher and parents. Grades are a promise of potential, while portfolios are proof of accomplishment.
Just because we have done the same thing since the 1800’s, doesn’t mean it is still the best way to do it. We have different tools today than were available in the 1800’s. We have different needs as a society than we did in the 1800’s. We live in a tech-driven world that affects our perspective and our culture. Employing nineteenth Century solutions in a Twenty-first Century world doesn’t make sense for an industry that deals with learning and relevance. Let’s reexamine quarterly grading periods, as well as the way we observe and report student learning to parents.
How to Communicate Better With Your Children in the New Year
by Lisa Damour in The New York Times
This post is a compilation of strategies (posts) for how to improve communication with our children - at the essence of each post is the practice of listening (easier said than done, for sure).
Often, the central message in experts’ advice to parents is to find ways to pay attention to what is going on in your kids’ lives, to be present with them and to listen.
Teaching Kids Kindness Prepares Them for Success
by Adam Grant and Allison Sweet Grant in The Atlantic
Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist (another ‘must follow’) and he co-writes this post with his wife, Allison - sharing how they have evolved as parents, leaning on the science and research to emphasize the values of kindness and caring. By showing and expressing these values to our children, it will make an important difference. The implications for our work with students and families is clear - we must focus on the skills, habits, and values - they will transcend and prove beneficial for all in the ‘long run’.
As anyone who has been called out for hypocrisy by a small child knows, kids are exquisitely attuned to gaps between what grown-ups say and what grown-ups do. If you survey American parents about what they want for their kids, more than 90 percent say one of their top priorities is that their children be caring. This makes sense: Kindness and concern for others are held as moral virtues in nearly every society and every major religion. But when you ask children what their parents want for them, 81 percent say their parents value achievement and happiness over caring. Kids learn what’s important to adults not by listening to what we say, but by noticing what gets our attention. And in many developed societies, parents now pay more attention to individual achievement and happiness than anything else. However much we praise kindness and caring, we’re not actually showing our kids that we value these traits.
...overemphasizing individual achievement may cause a deficit of caring. But we don’t actually have to choose between the two. In fact, teaching children to care about others might be the best way to prepare them for a successful and fulfilling life.
Of course, we should encourage children to do their best and to take pride and joy in their accomplishments—but kindness doesn’t require sacrificing those things. The real test of parenting is not what your children achieve, but who they become and how they treat others. If you teach them to be kind, you’re not only setting your kids up for success. You’re setting up the kids around them, too.
My Annual Shares
5 Media Resolutions Every Family Should Make in 2019
by Caroline Knorr in Common Sense Media
Although written a year ago, Knorr’s advice for how families can try and make sense of the benefits and challenges that we all encounter and embrace with media are worthy of reflection. Common Sense Media is a phenomenal resource and these resolutions hold meaning for educators and families alike - as we do each year, Katie and I will be reflecting upon them for our own household.
What do you remember from 2018? Did you share pics of your kid on Facebook? Did you sneak a peek at their texts with their friends? Did you yell at them to get off their devices? Did you watch a movie that made you both laugh (or cry)? Did they send you a text that filled your heart and reminded you of why you had kids in the first place? So much of our daily lives revolves around media and tech that we barely notice it anymore. But we should. Why? Because these moments are the stuff of life. And the way we use technology really matters.
The start of a new year is a perfect time to reflect on the role you want media and tech to play in your family's lives. After all, media and tech are just the enablers. Learning, connecting, growing -- even setting a positive example for your kids -- are where the real magic happens.
Help your kids become more aware of their own online time and help them take control of their use, too. You don't have to shut everything down. But really focus on what you're doing, when you're doing it, and why. The way you use media and tech has a huge influence on your kids, and you can be a great role model for using them mindfully.
To My 13-Year-Old, An iPhone Contract From Your Mom, With Love and To My 13-Year-Old, An iPhone Contract From Your Mom, With Love
by Janell Burley Hoffman in The Huffington Post
I share these posts each year and I find it resonates each time I come back to it. # 18 is wonderful - 'You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.' As with many posts that hold meaning, we could substitute many ‘gifts/possessions’ for the ‘iPhone’ and the essence will ring true.
The new year brings forth so much - hope, excitement, worries, challenges, and successes, to name a few emotions- and it is important that we name them with the intention and mindset of looking forward to build, knowing that we have the strength and collective capacity within ourselves and one another to grow, learn, and improve...
Each and every school day will bring tens of thousands of reasons to celebrate in schools across the country. - Bill Ivey
Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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Enjoy the week and take care.