Dear Blake Families:
Hopefully everyone enjoyed a restful long weekend, taking some well-deserved time for yourself and your family. Our weekend has been a nice mix of activities and down time - dinner with cousins, soccer games, exercise, and watching the Red Sox and Patriots!
I am happy to share that the 7th grade arrived safely Friday 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: Deb Manning, Judy Silva, Matt Millard, Eileen Hurley, Kanee Chlebda, Kelly Campbell, Mike Gow, Nancy McLaughlin, Greg Keohan, Elise Malone, Mike Gow, Susie Boulos, Kristen Musto, Jeff Cincotta, Sandy Spierdowis, Caitlin Kirby, Tracy Allen, Jon Haycock, and Matt Marenghi. I want to extend an extra thank you to Judy Silva, Kelly C., Tracy Allen, and Tricia Williams 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 staying behind and also assisted with the necessary coverage throughout the week.
Having been in school for a little over a month now, I took some time at the end of the week to reflect and do a 'status check' as to where I see 'we are at' for the 13-14 year. In doing so I was reminded of the importance of reaching out, within our Blake/Medfield network and also beyond our day-to-day resources, for support, feedback, and insight. With October designated as Connected Educator Month, much of the focus has been on utilizing technology for educators to connect and learn both with and from one another. For your interest I have posted Peter Dewitt's post from Education Week, entitled Connected Education Might Not Mean What You Think, as I think his perspective is in line with our goals in regards to technology integration - enhancement rather than replacement: "That kind of speaks to how we all feel about technology. It hasn't replaced anything but it has enhanced it. Whether it's the way we communicate with teachers, students or parents, through flipping faculty meetings and parent communication, or how we as professionals interact with one another, technology has helped us grow. Not because technology is the flavor of the month but because it literally has enhanced every aspect of our job. I tweet with people I respect and email back and forth with experts that I have long valued their work. We blog about ideas and hear from people who live around the world. Technology makes that happen." As Dewitt notes, technology is important, but the integration for both students and adults should not be 'one shot' experiences; on the contrary, any tools and learning experiences should be embedded throughout the educational experience.
Beyond technology, we must also be striving to find other ways to connect and grow. Face-to-face and direct interactions with one another, students and adults alike, are critical. Professional development and the process of personal learning, for me and our staff, is incredibly important to me and at the core of my educational beliefs for progress. This past Tuesday I attended a presentation/workshop at TEC, The Education Collaborative, led by clinical psychologist, Robert Kegan. Kegan and colleague, Lisa Lahey, have co-written a book, Immunity to Change, and the focus of the workshop was on the change process, outlining the connections and internal obstacles that affect and/or limit change within ourselves and organizations. Much of their work is rooted in the realm of mindsets (Informative learning vs Transformative learning), and this is right up my alley. I hope to incorporate some of this work into our day-to-day growth as educators, as we work together to improve the learning at Blake. During the workshop Kegan encouraged all of the participants to push ourselves to be honest about the necessary areas of growth that we each have. Simply put, he wanted to us to acknowledge our weaknesses and this honesty with ourselves will lay the ground work for more growth, sharing (paraphrased), "If we are successful, you're all going to get a little uncomfortable." The connections with our students' learning and our own learning as educators and invested adults are clear - we must be willing to get a little uncomfortable to improve.
Kegan's workshop was rich and informative and I am looking forward to learning more about his work. On a more base level, though, the two tangible take-aways in regards to change and growth were to 'stay positive' and to 'start small'. Both of these principles can certainly feel trite and overstated, but in my experience, unfortunately, they are often forgotten and ignored. Staying positive does not mean we should not hear opposing views or allow the 'devil's advocate' to be at the table, but I do believe we need to be 'open to change' and self-examination. With this in mind, you may enjoy reading Heather Wolpert-Gavron's post, Teachers: Staying Positive in Trying Times, as she acknowledges the desire to 'shut down', but provides advice for finding optimism: "Look, I know that shutting down is a sort of peaceful demonstration. If we as teachers didn't shut down when lines were crossed, if we permit stakeholders to assume that we will always keep the boat afloat even when they take away our deck, you're right. We will continue to be taken advantage of. But we need to find ways to be happy in our day-to-day lives. We need to find ways to continue to support one another and to maintain our positivity." Of similar import, starting small with manageable steps in regards to change and growth will keep us grounded and more likely to find success, as Dewitt shared at the end of his article: "We don't have to be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs to get on a computer and try something new. Connected education isn't about being brilliant when it comes to technology but it is about trying something for the first time. Perhaps it means trying Touchcast on your iPad or using Glogster for the first time with your students, or maybe it just means that you finally join Twitter or Facebook to see what friends are up to or meet some new colleagues and create a PLN. You can still hold on to the parts of technology you don't like but I bet with an open mind you will find some aspects that you really enjoy."
In the spirit of modeling and full disclosure, I have made a commitment to take the challenge from Kegan. 'Balance' is a struggle for me, yet I know the endeavor of working towards a healthy one is important, as an educator, husband, colleague, parent, and friend. I certainly do not have the recipe or algorithm figured out, but I am committed to the process and am going to maintain an openness to change. Tying these ideas together my hope is that the reflective process and willingness to examine my own practices will help lead me there. In his closing words at the workshop, Kegan referenced Einstein's view that often getting the problem right is most critical: "If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions." He also emphasized that the key to change is a willingness to take an internal look and introspectively reflect on one's needs. I am looking forward to this growth and hope you will help push me to stay on track and make progress. In turn I hope you will join me as we all collectively work to identify our needs and continue finding ways to grow and improve, for our students and ourselves.
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