Dear Blake Families:
I hope that everyone has enjoyed a nice weekend, after a busy and full week following Thanksgiving break. Our weekend was a good one, although I do not know where the time went - starting with indoor soccer at 8 a.m. for Owen on Saturday and going from there! Katie and I both ran in the Angel Run this afternoon Sunday evening and were reminded once again of the communal support that exists in Medfield.
This past Thursday Kelly C. and I attended the NEASCD annual conference in Boston along with some of our teachers. Kelly and I attended Kim Marshall's session on supervision/evaluation, and the teachers attended Carol Ann Tomlinson's presentation on Differentiated Instruction. As I have shared before, while it can be a challenge to leave Blake for a day (setting up plans, missing meetings, e-mails and voice mails piling up), I always find it refreshing and energizing to 'get out of the routine' and think about our work from a different perspective. While I particularly enjoyed hearing Kim's presentation and engaging in dialogue with colleagues from all over New England and New York, it does not always matter what the 'topic of the day' may be - the simple exercise of the conference is often enough. When I got back to Blake Thursday evening before our Cybersafety presentation, I took some time to reflect upon the workshop - reviewing my notes and thinking about implications for our students and staff. As is often the case after engaging in professional development, I found myself swaying back and forth between a sense of excitement/energy about the ideas and perspectives that had been presented and a sense of being overwhelmed and daunted by the tasks of potential paradigm shifts and change. However, I was able to remember that these challenges are 'good problems' and that we must remember that the process towards new ideas is as, if not more, important than the realization of an idea. As part of Kim's presentation, he shared the story (that I had heard before and many of you may have as well) of the famed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden's first exercise every year with freshman on the basketball team - teaching the players how to properly put on their socks and shoes. He shared his approach that details are critical - if the socks are not put on properly and the shoelaces are not tied carefully, players will get blisters. Wooden's message was clear and simple - details are critical and we must understand the path towards effective influence and change -- "Don't look for big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That's the only way it happens. And when it happens, lasts."
Along the same lines, I have posted an article from the Mindshift blog (one of my favorite resources as of late) entitled 'Beyond Talent and Smarts: Why Even Geniuses Struggle' (located on the Articles tab of this blog). The article highlights the work of several writers and psychologists espousing the values of effort and perseverance. The article also describes renowned psychologist Carol Dweck's work in this field: "...children and adults who believe in the power of effort to overcome challenges (what she calls a 'growth mindset') are more resilient and ultimately more successful than those who are convinced that ability is innate (the 'fixed mindset')." Our work with our students at Blake has been centered and focused on this idea, and I hope that we can continue to instill this 'growth mindset' as part of our core values and culture, fostering the belief that, "...elite performance really is the product of striving."
As we enter the last week of the first term, I encouraged our staff to take some time with their students to reflect upon the work that has been accomplished and think about the implications of a 'growth mindset' in your classes, clusters, grade levels, departments, and collectively as a community for both students and staff alike. Towards the end of Kim's presentation, Kim Marshall shared Franklin D. Roosevelt's quote as he encouraged all attendees to instill the approach of 'bold, persistent experimentation' in our work. On Thursday evening I did some research and found that phrase came from Roosevelt's Oglethorpe University Commencement Address on May 22, 1932: "The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." While we examine the many challenges and changes that exist today and await us in the future in the field of education, I hope that these values and traits of perseverance, incremental improvement, and a growth mindset will allow and encourage all of us (students, staff, and parents) to experiment, admit our challenges, and try again.
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