Dear Blake Families:
I hope that everyone found some time to relax this past weekend, amidst the holiday busyness and final work on grades for Term 1. Our weekend was a busy one - a couple of holiday get-togethers, and on Saturday Katie took Maggie into Boston to see The Nutcracker with her mother. As I have said before, it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between the weekdays and the weekend! I want to thank and recognize the staff who chaperoned the Winter Wonderland dance this past Friday evening: Matt Marenghi, Kelly Campbell, Eileen Hurley, Kelly Dengos, Jen Dondero, Elise Malone, Kristen Kirby, and Cynthia McClelland. I appreciate the cross-section of volunteers to chaperone to help provide a safe and positive experience for our students.
With grades for Term 1 closing this past Friday and report cards going home this week, I have been taking some time to reflect upon the long-term goals we have for our students. As we update and report our students' progress, I believe it is critical that we all step back to think about what it is that we want to instill in our students at this critical time in their lives. I have posted an article entitled 'Creating a Culture of Can' by Terry Heick (located on the Articles tab of this blog) that I came across two weeks ago, supporting the idea of creating 'enabled' learners: 'An enabled learner can grasp macro views, uncover micro details, ask questions, plan for new knowledge and transfer thinking across divergent circumstances. This doesn't happen by content knowledge holding, or even by the fire of enthusiasm, but by setting a tone for learning that suggests possibility, and by creating a culture of can.' Heick offers three ways to create 'can': Use the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model; Intentionally Use the Individual Student as a Culture-Maker; Diverse - and Authentic - Terms for Success. While Heick's approach may need to be balanced with other approaches, I did find myself thinking about 'enabling' students in a positive light, rather than viewing that approach with the negative connotation for which it is often viewed. As we examine and review our mission statement and 'umbrella goals' for our students and culture at Blake, I believe that fostering a 'culture of can' will serve our students well: 'If a learner is able to learn can, he or she must learn it. While some students have more natural confidence or initiative than others, can is slightly different than confidence. Can is a mix of knowledge and self-efficacy that has been nurtured through experience - by consistently meeting both internally and externally created goals judged by standards that are also both internally and externally drawn.'
Coupled with this idea of fostering a 'culture of can' for our students occupying some of my thoughts this week, it has been a real pleasure to continue to observe and hear the theme of 'perseverance' become part of our Blake dialogue over the last few months. As we are providing feedback to our students in Advisory this week and discussing the report cards, it is important that we take time to discuss the importance and benefit of one's effort in learning and achievement. Along these lines, I have attached an article entitled 'Inscribed Upon My Wrist: Emphasizing Effort to Empower Learning' by Kevin Washburn (located on the Articles tab of this blog). Washburn shares that his 'id tag' for running has a customized 'mantra' of 'Give the effort' for when he goes on a run, and makes the connection for our work with students as well: 'My wrist one-liner is a good mantra for our schools: Give the effort. Perhaps we should have it inscribed on student desks or chiseled into classroom walls. Why? Because more than anything else, effort influences learning, and authentic learning involves effort. (In fact, students who rarely struggle are probably learning little!)' I believe that Washburn's article supports our belief that mistakes and failure can help our students in the long run, yet we need to make sure that the analysis of these errors becomes part of our culture as well: 'When we experience failure, our brains are in a state in which neuronal connections can be rewired, but only if we attend to our errors. When students resist analyzing mistakes and figuring out better strategies, they slam shut a window of learning optimal opportunity. The way we respond to student error can invite the opening of this window. In contrast, a less effective response can eliminate any space between pane and sill.'
I hope that we can continue to keep these thoughts and ideas on the forefront of our thinking as we give feedback to students and work together to instill a love of learning and appreciation of true effort in our students.
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