Dear Blake Community,
To help encourage conversations and dialogue about resolutions, learning, and self-awareness, our topic/question of the week is: If you make a New Year's resolution list, will this one be under consideration: "Show others and yourself that taking small risks will help you learn a lot about yourself".
I hope that the holiday vacation was an enjoyable one for all and that you were able to find time for yourselves, in addition to time spent with family and friends. As I mentioned in my New Year's e-mail, we have enjoyed the extra few days after the holidays to decompress, relax, and simply be - very important as we gear up for the start of the new year!
Vacations and time off are wonderful and necessary, and I find that they serve many purposes - healthy separation, reflection, and centering to name a few. These are habits and mindsets that I hope we can weave into the 'norm' of our school's culture as they should not be seen as intermittent practices, for lack of a better description. As you well know finding and working towards a 'healthy' balance of work and home is an ongoing goal I have. Although I feel I have made some growth, it is still an 'uphill climb and one that I am sure I will wrestle with throughout my life. This is not a resignation or giving in, of sorts; rather, it is simply a recognition and better understanding of my composite. Taking this understanding into account, I have to admit that vacations and 'down time' can be a challenge - something that, if I am being honest, can be hard to say out loud. I like routines and schedules, and it is often hard for me to proceed 'untethered'. I, like many of our students and I imagine (or like to tell myself) adults in our community, benefit from structure. So, it presents a dichotomy for me - knowing the inherent benefits of vacation, while finding a way to allow myself to work through the challenges so that I can take advantage and access the benefits that the vacation can breed.
As I have been reflecting upon this over this week, while reading and spending time with my family, I see a direct connection to the work we are doing with our students and one another. In essence we need to create the proper learning environment so that students can access the material so that they are ripe for learning and understanding. Part of this process is the shifting of our thinking and an openness to what it is that the students need and what it is that we need as educators. A common and shared goal of educators is to have students acquire the skills they need to be successful in the 'real world'. What that means, though, is certainly up for interpretation and is why we should continually be discussing our practices to establish a shared vision - with one another, our students, parents, and the greater community both in and outside of Medfield. A worry that I have from time to time is that we are not always fostering those 'real-world' experiences when we actually think we are. This is not a judgment of our practices, rather an observation that lends itself to some healthy questioning. As an example, I wonder what would school have looked like for me (or rather, could have looked like for me) to better prepare me for 'down time'? And, what might that look like at Blake? I am sure we each could take a few moments and think about an area of growth, either personal or professional - or, both, as they often do connect - and ask a similar question.
So...how does this connect and why am I sharing? Well, beyond the benefits I get from the cathartic practice of writing as it helps me to clarify my thinking, I believe it is critical to ask questions and share the thoughts that are on my mind. And, as we enter a new calendar year in the season of resolutions and new beginnings, it is important to 'center' myself so that we can continue our good work and set, or simply reset, the intentions we have for our learning community. I also believe that modeling is important - professional growth is critical for me and I believe that is what is at the heart of Blake's (students, teachers, and parents) mission. So, in that spirit, here are a few resolutions/intentions I have for 2015, followed by some posts that I hope will continue to shape and guide my resolve and thinking...
- Expand my learning network both within the Blake/Medfield community and beyond 02052
- Push myself to stretch, take risks, and learn (among others, Instagram is on the list for 2015)
- Be open to the ideology of those who do not share my thinking and better understand those views (ask questions and be genuinely curious for feedback)
- Be a mirror for others and ask others to do the same for me
- Stay the course and keep the 'big picture' in mind at all times
- And, as always, 'lean towards yes'
4 Reasons Why “Innovation” in Education is Different Today
post by George Couros (@georgecouros)
I appreciate how Couros explores the idea of 'innovation' beyond a buzzword (something, along with the pendulum swings and 'edubabble' we experience, found all too often in the world of education). Innovation in education is not new, as Couros points out, but opportunities for innovation have grown tremendously and it plays an important role in education.
"The wrong approach is assuming that “innovation” is simply a substitute for the word “technology”; education technology leads have become “innovation officers”. The title has changed but has the approach? In some cases it totally has, while others it is not the case. To me, it is about learning new ideas and creating something new and better for kids. Sometimes it is invention (a totally new idea) and sometimes it is iteration (remix of an old idea), but it is always better. That is key to “innovation”."
"...innovation is not isolated to what we do in our schools today. We just now have more of an opportunity to move it from “pockets of innovation” to a “culture”. The access and tools are there, we just need to embrace them."
A Look Inside the Classroom of the Future
by Dana Mortensen (@DLCMSavvy) in Edutopia
Mortensen outlines five strategies to think about the future and how we can best prepare our students: Leverage real-world case studies; Dig into, rather than avoid, the complexity; Regularly practice empathy; Use technology to enhance learning and empower students; Ensure that reflection is part of routine. I encourage all of us to think about what these strategies may look like in our work with students.
"The challenges today's students will face as tomorrow's leaders will involve working more closely across geographic borders, and with people who have very different backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences. In short, diversity and global citizenship are our common future."
Building Technology Fluency: Preparing Students to be Digital Learners
by Beth Holland (@brholland) in Edutopia
This post (from December, 2013) by Beth Holland resonated with me following the work that took place with our 'Hour of Code' and pushes us to think about this question - How are we teaching and fostering technology fluency?
"Technology fluency transcends devices, apps and programs. It implies that a student can quickly, accurately and deliberately communicate, collaborate and create across platforms. In Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat, he made it abundantly clear that we are currently preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist. If we think about it, they will also need to employ technology that has not yet been created. By supporting the development of students' technology fluency, we are preparing them to become digital learners who are able to construct new tools and objects, communicate ideas and solve new problems."
An Update on Screen Time
post by Elissa Nadworny from NPREd
As we continue to find meaningful and thoughtful ways to integrate technology in our 1:1 mobile learning environment at Blake, it is incumbent upon us to stay current and informed about 'balance', screen time, and the perspective of health. This post highlights some evolving views from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the research that is currently being explored.
"We've seen many ways that media can have a positive impact on kids and learning. Mr. Rogers used his TV show to instill values and teach lessons in our country's youngest audience. And through Daniel Tiger, Fred Rogers' focus on social and emotional learning continues to reach a whole new generation. As classrooms and teachers get more connected, using apps and media in and out of school, our view of screen time is changing."
"So as children throughout the country unwrap those tablets, phones and video games, we have time to reflect on how all this screen time really influences our children and us. There is no definitive set of rules — the research and our perception is evolving...And after a year of reporting, one of our biggest takeaways is simply that screen time is situation-based. As researcher Patricia Greenfield told NPR Ed's Cory Turner, 'It's all about how things are used. And how much they're used. And what they're used for.'"
8 Things I Know for Sure about Middle School Kids
post by Jennifer Gonzalez
I appreciated this post from Gonzalez a great deal, finding meaning in all of her thoughts, as one who 'fell' into middle school myself and would not look back. But, it is the last 'thing' that I love most - 'they are still kids'. And, they are why we are here and show up each day.
"I never planned to teach middle school. When I got my teaching degree, I was set on teaching high school English, but the only open position I found was in a middle school. So I took it, planning to “move up” as soon possible. Well, I never looked back. Something about that age just got me. And over those years, I became kind of an expert on the idiosyncrasies of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. I figured out how to make the most of their special qualities. If you recently started teaching middle school, or you have a child this age, you’re probably discovering these things, too."
"Most of the time when I told someone I was a middle-school teacher, I got the same basic reaction: They’d wince, or say whoa, and then add something along the lines of “Tough age.” And I would smile and nod, knowing that tough didn’t begin to cover it. One word could never quite capture the ridiculous, smelly, stubborn, fragile beauty of them all."
Lastly I want to highlight once again Bill Ivey's quote from Larry Ferlazzo's blog - "Each and every school day will bring tens of thousands of reasons to celebrate in schools across the country." I have the luxury of seeing this every day at Blake and will continue to celebrate, recognize, and appreciate - please join me. In this process, I invite you to continue to hold me accountable. Here's to a wonderful year ahead - of successes, challenges, many questions, some answers, more questions, experiences, and fun.
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