Dear Blake Families:
I hope that everyone enjoyed a restful autumn weekend. Despite the sinus infection that I was trying to overcome, the Vaughns had an eventful weekend - 'boys night out' dinner with Owen and Gray as Katie was with the Girl Scouts at the circus on Friday, soccer games, and a 'date night' for Katie and me with one of my close friends from elementary school days and his girlfriend on Saturday evening. On Sunday evening we got together with one of my cousins and my brother's family at Chuck E. Cheese - not necessarily a relaxing afternoon!
The 7th grade arrived safely back from their trip this week to Nature's Classroom on Friday afternoon. Both students and staff have reported that it was a successful week, and 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, Mike Manske, Lisa Crawford, Kelly Campbell, Eileen Hurley, Mike Gow, Susie Boulos, Sean Bowles, Jeff Cincotta, Alex Gantos, Anna Lassoff, Sara Callahan, Jon Haycock, and Jen Dondero. I want to extend an extra thank you to Judy Silva, Kelly Campbell, 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.
At last Friday's professional day we took some time to briefly discuss the MCAS results, highlighting some of the terminology, accountability measures, and methods of assessment employed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (formerly known as the D.O.E.). As part of the discussion, I talked about the importance of looking at the data in a thoughtful and measured manner, knowing that statistics and data points need to be examined 'in context'. The MCAS tests are important and they do provide feedback about our students, programming, teaching, and curriculum. However, we need to keep in mind that this test is only one measure of a students' understanding and growth. (Along these lines we will be holding an information session for parents on 10/24 to better understand the assessments, data, and reports - please see the information on the Important Dates and Announcements tab of this blog). A couple of weeks ago I came across a commentary by Alfie Kohn in Education Week entitled 'Schooling Beyond Measure' (located on the Articles tab of this blog). I have mentioned Kohn before, and he is known as a progressive educator who often contests 'established methods and conventional thinking'. In this commentary, Kohn argues that in an effort to quantify students' achievement, we have become obsessed and blinded by the data -- "To be overly enamored by numbers is to be vulnerable to their misuse" -- and need to make sure that qualitative assessment plays an important role as well. I do not always agree with his viewpoint and my intent is not to say that he is fully correct in his commentary. Rather, I am sharing it as a 'counterpoint' to the discussion as I think it is important to hear all views.
As is true with many of these issues and topics in our profession, I am often left with more questions than answers. The good news for me is that I believe that there is great merit in questions. At the monthly job-alike meeting with middle school principals Friday morning, I was introduced to a protocol for approaching a discussion or topic with colleagues, parents, or students from The Right Question Institute entitled 'The Question Formulation Technique'. It is a simple protocol that uses the questioning process as an effective tool for prioritizing and moving a discussion forward to an 'action-oriented and focused' state. I was struck by the simple nature of this protocol - producing questions, improving questions, and strategizing how to use the questions effectively. Simply put, we need to continue asking questions, and not only asking questions, but pushing one another to clarify our approach so that we are asking the 'right questions' that will help enhance our work. My hope is to present and employ the strategy, as I think it would benefit our work with students and with one another. I have shared before that I find these meetings to be centering and energizing on many levels, looking at new perspectives, collaborating with colleagues, and simply asking questions.
On a serendipitous note, Justin Reich's weekly blog in Education Week touched on the very theme of the importance of questions - 'Before Technology, The Power of Asking Questions'. In this brief blog post (located on the Articles tab of this blog), Reich references sources for his own inspiration and underscores the inherent value of questions: "Nothing unlocks human potential for learning like questions that demand answers and problems that get under your skin." I hope that we can continue to push one another by asking questions, demanding answers, and asking more questions. We should foster and encourage this same approach with our students.
Please click here for Important Dates and Announcements.