Dear Blake Community,
At the suggestion of Seth Hellerstein, I am going to start the weekly blog update with the 'Topic/Question of the Week' as a way to help frame my thoughts and the ideas that are shared. The hope is that the question will be one that can elicit dialogue and potentially more questions about our beliefs, practices, and work. Our topic/question this week is: 'Ask yourself this: Why do I compare my group's performance with another person's group's performance?'
I hope that everyone was able to take advantage of the extra hour of sleep, finding some time to rest and relax. We certainly appreciated it in our house, after a fun-filled Halloween Friday evening and frigid Saturday morning on sports fields with the kids. Sunday afternoon enjoyed a get-together with friends while watching the Patriots game.
One goal for our yearlong themes at Blake is to truly bring them into the culture of our school and work so that they are not 'one hit wonders'. The themes of the last four years have been Community, Perseverance, Creativity, and now one of Acceptance. Our 'Acceptance Group' met this past Tuesday morning to brainstorm different ways for us to bring the theme to life at Blake - in classes, celebrations, messages, and our day-to-day work. Many ideas were shared and I look forward to sharing them with staff and community in the coming days and weeks. What struck me most was that many of these ideas were rooted in the concept and culture of building and fostering a true community. When we chose community as a school for the 2011-2012 academic year, the timing seemed just right (10th anniversary of 9/11) and with transitions in the school (new principal, assistant principal, staff) we could work to root ourselves and our beliefs to establish a foundation. The end of this week - from visits to classrooms to 8th grade field trip to Salem to our annual pumpkin contest to conversations and meetings with teachers about professional practice/student learning goals to the festive Halloween spirit that permeated the halls of Blake on Friday - brought the Blake community to life and inspired me as we headed into the weekend. The work we are doing is both rewarding and challenging, and we continually wrestle to find the answers to incredibly complex questions. I feel fortunate to work in a true community that is committed to finding answers, or sometimes just potentially raising more questions, with an openness to possibilities. Connections (with students, parents, staff, and one another) are critical and I am sharing two posts this week that relate to this notion.
The Challenges of Adolescence (And How Parents and Educators Can Help)
by Mark Phillips in Edutopia
This post by educator Mark Phillips highlights three recent studies about adolescence and the roles that educators, parents, and policy makers have for growth in these areas of need. I particularly like Phillips' explicit language that we each (schools and parents) have responsibilities to respond to this information.
"These studies challenge our values as educators and parents, and also challenge cultural values that go beyond education. We need to listen to the messages and effectively respond...Challenging peer-group norms isn't easy, but kids are capable of having their consciousness about this raised...Almost 80 percent of students ranked achievement or happiness over caring for others. Only 20 percent of students identified caring for others as their top priority!...Despite this obstacle, we can at least raise awareness and foster learning of more altruistic values. If we fail to respond to these three studies, we share the responsibility for the price that will be paid by many of our students."
post by Dennis Schug (@DJrSchug)
Dennis Schug is a middle school principal in New York and I found his post to be a strong reminder of the importance of making time for 'non-tech' connections. He writes about the experience he had on his daughter's overnight field trip, and the lessons learned. As one who fully supports and has grown from connections in education through technology (Twitter, blogs, online learning, e-communication), I also believe that the day-to-day face-to-face observations, discussions, and dialogues are what matter most.
"So what does any of this have to do with being connected? For most of my adult life, I’ve allowed my professional pathway to define my personal identity – as an administrator and a teacher. These labels have been and continue to be a source of pride for me. I am an educator, a leader, and a learner. And I am proud of it...However, this month, on this trip, I found myself, quite unexpectedly, re-connecting with old familiar labels - dad, teacher, student, (inner) child. It happened quite unintentionally, and it never felt so good...So, how was this month connected, for me? I connected, with my daughter, with others with whom I could empathize, and I connected, with myself."
It is important that we take the time to respond to needs, of both students and staff, and the connections we make to build a community will help us do just that. Again, the answers/solutions are neither simple nor always clear, but the process towards finding them is the means for growth and progress. Thank you for your continued commitment to our students and community.
Please click here for Blake Updates.
Please click here for Thursday Packet Information.