Dear Blake Families:
It is hard to believe that it is already December 10 (although thinking about the busy weekend that has taken place, it makes sense!). Our weekend was a full one, for sure - NEASCD conference in Boston on Friday and Saturday morning, chaperoning the dance Friday evening, holiday get-together with friends, and trying to breathe! Katie and I are both took part in the Angel Run Sunday afternoon - an event we always look forward to! I would like to thank and recognize all of the staff who helped to chaperone the dance this past Friday evening: Erin W., Cynthia M., Kelly C., Matt Marenghi, Jillian C., Travis T., Jeff C., Tracy A., and Kristen K. I so appreciate the cross-section of teachers who helped to assure a safe and positive experience for our students.
This past Friday and again Saturday morning I was fortunate to be able to attend the annual NEASCD conference in Boston. As I shared a few weeks back, being out of the building is hard and it can feel like a 'leap of faith' or 'rolling of the dice' when attending a conference - what looks good on paper may not translate into reality. My approach and hopes at conferences have been evolving as of late, specifically regarding the language used in relation to the idea of 'take-aways', shifting more towards that of new 'habits, ideas, or mindsets'. Language and vocabulary can appear to be semantic in nature, but they are very important to me as they help me to really focus and center on the intentions of the learning process. Rather than focus on a specific take-away (which for whatever reason feels more defined for me), if a mindset can be introduced or ignited in my thinking I believe that it will have more sustainability and a greater impact as well. I believe this is true for our students and the lessons we teach on a daily basis.
Although the networking and breakout sessions were meaningful, my own thinking and thought processes were most positively 'disturbed and challenged' by the keynote addresses given by Tony Wagner (@DrTonyWagner), a leader in the field of innovation, and Finnish educator and scholar Pasi Sahlberg (@pasi_sahlberg). Both Wagner and Sahlberg challenged my thinking about leadership, change, educational priorities, and our work with students. Although it is hard to directly transfer and instill models from other countries or schools, the key is to simply be open to ideas and then think about implications in our work. This is true for everything we do with our students - 'How can we find meaning in this lesson? What is the essential learning point? How are our students demonstrating the transference and true interpretation of the skills that have been taught?' I will be sure to share in more detail the 'mindsets' I brought home with me in days and weeks to come, both reminded me that we must be open to self-examination and to embrace a culture of failure. The influence of both speakers - Wagner emphasizing that we must 'stop worrying about a deeply flawed system and begin thinking forward' and Sahlberg driving home the keys that 'School is a team and children must play' - was profound and I hope to weave them into our work.
The articles below directly relate to the mindsets of our work, and I have shared a point of interest or quote for each...
What Happens When We Question Our Habits?
This post from the blog, Education to Save the World, is the sharing of the changing views of teachers when their habits were pushed (Belief or habit questioned, New habit or belief, Result). As hard as it is, I strive to be willing to be open to do this with my own habits and will continue to ask students, teachers, and parents to do the same: "We need to question everything we do and ask if it fits with 21st Century principles of learning."
Learn From Mistakes and Lead Forward
Education Week by Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers
As our world and day-to-day life have become more transparent due to social media and the evolving nature of human interest and communication, we now know so much more about one another. And, this is true of our leaders - Berkowicz and Myers remind us that we must be humble, acknowledge our own mistakes, and most important learn and move forward: "It is easy to get lost and focus on the perceived failure of our leaders. It is hard to forgive ourselves when we are those leaders who have made the mistake or fallen to the ground in humility. But it can and does happen to most of us at some point. The goal is to learn and get back up with generosity of spirit and lead on."
So, why am I sharing all of this? I hope you will help me by continuing to push both me and one another to better define the steps we need to take towards this mission we have for our students and community. Let's question our habits, learn from mistakes, and lead forward. We will be better educators as a result. More important, though, let us make sure we establish opportunities for our students to exercise these practices in their learning. With report cards for Term 1 going home on Friday and Term 2 beginning this week, the timing could not be better to reflect upon successes and failures (yes, we must be ok with this word), and look forward towards continued and new growth. Since the death of Nelson Mandela hit the news and realm of social media on Thursday, I have been struck by the stories and quotes that have been shared. In reading a few posts this morning, this one stood out: "Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."
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