Dear Blake Families:
Hopefully everyone has been able to stay warm and find some time to relax and enjoy some quiet, amidst the winter craze of the past few days. After our brief hint of 'reality' on Thursday, we enjoyed a relatively low-key extended weekend as a family (that is, of course, after dealing with some frozen pipes!). I am looking forward to a return to routine this week as we begin a new calendar year with our students and one another.
I have always found the holiday vacation to be a nice balance of 'healthy escape' and time of reflection, often thinking about where we have been as a learning community and where we are going. This process of reflection, as you know, is one that I enjoy but I do recognize that it can lead to over-thinking with a negative slant towards self-critique. When that takes place, and I am able to step back for a moment, I try and remind myself to focus on what I would want for our students - go easy, recognize shortcomings, and make a new plan. Sometimes the plan may need to be more ambitious than originally intended, and at other times, perhaps less. At the end of the day, it is important to simply recognize that there is great benefit in the process of learning and reflection - often, that is the greater goal to attain.
A significant focus of thought and reflection for me as of late has been in the realm of leadership - for myself, the staff as educators, and for our students. My hopes and expectations are high and I feel quite fortunate to work in a community that shares a common passion and excitement for learning. As the educational realm is adapting at such a rapid pace, it is overwhelming to think about all of the new ideas and potential for enhancing the experience for our students. I find myself torn - so much good is taking place, but I worry that we may lose sight of the forest for the trees. We do need to step back and remind ourselves of the important, overarching mission of our work. As such, with 2014 beginning with much good work in store, I am sharing a few articles that helped to center my thinking over the vacation. Their areas of focus vary (a plea to the 'moral' imperatives of education, a current vision for education, and resources for educators/parents), yet I found significant meaning in each...
A Moral Standard
by Jim Dillon
"Teachers want and need to have their work return to the moral purpose behind what made them decide to be a teacher — the desire to help students discover meaning and purpose in their lives. This will provide all the energy and motivation they need to reach any standard set for them or their students...Our students need us to believe this about them, so they can believe it about themselves. They need us to put heart and soul back into their education."
What's Our Vision For the Future of Learning?
by David Price
This brief post poses the 'big question' for what education should look like, as we adapt to the reality of learning for our students and ourselves.
"Once the possibility exists for students to study informally, at online (and offline) schools, compiling their own learning playlist, putting together units of study that appeal to their passions, the one-size-fits-all model of high school will appear alarmingly anachronistic. So, if educators want to keep their students engaged and inside their buildings, they have to look at the way they learn outside, and bring those characteristics inside."
2013 Big Ideas in Education
posted by Katrina Schwartz
In this MindShift post, Schwartz highlights the common elements that were trending in the past calendar year, and in so doing, shows that learning is indeed (thankfully) at the heart of our work.
"...despite all the news about iPad rollouts and Common Core, the strongest thread of interest for our readers remains the topic of learning: student-directed learning, inquiry-based approaches to teaching, and the desire to help students learn how to learn in a changing world."
One of the great benefits for me in our profession is that professional and personal values, interests, and tenets overlap and intersect. Many of the resources, ideas, and workshops I attend are equally relevant as a father and adult who is simply invested in our youth. The two posts below are excellent examples...
Teens' Bonds with Parents Affect Their Sleep
published by LiveScience
Some Thoughts on Online Etiquette
posted by Patrick Larkin
"As I continue to reflect on these viral situations where individuals are caught up in these web controversies that may or may not be of their own doing, I will ask my children to consider the importance of not adding more hate to and already hateful commentary. My wish is that my children will see the hypocrisy in the actions of those who promote tolerance with ugly remarks about those who are intolerant. There will come a day when we will all seek to be pardoned for something and that is the time when we will reap what we have sowed with our network."
At the end of each calendar year, along with resolutions for change, I also believe it is important to maintain resolve for what is important. Our shared themes for the past three years of community, perseverance, and creativity are at the heart of our work. I have posted an article written by Tom and David Kelley, 'Reclaim Your Creative Confidence' from the Harvard Business Review (December, 2012), that highlights the work they have done and are doing in the realm of creativity. I found their words to be encouraging and inspiring, as they remind us that much is within, and I hope we can find that for our students and ourselves: "Most people are born creative. As children, we revel in imaginary play, ask outlandish questions, draw blobs and call them dinosaurs. But over time, because of socialization and formal education, a lot of us start to stifle those impulses. We learn to be warier of judgment, more cautious, more analytical. The world seems to divide into “creatives”and “noncreatives,” and too many people consciously or unconsciously resign them-selves to the latter category...we’ve learned that our job isn’t to teach them creativity. It’s to help them rediscover their creative confidence—the natural ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out. We do this by giving them strategies to get past four fears that hold most of us back: fear of the messy unknown, fear of being judged, fear of the first step, and fear of losing control."
It is clear that much is on my mind and many ideas are present in my thinking. I will continue to push and convey ideas and thoughts for change, but I also want to make sure we stay the course to follow through and carry forth much of the good we have in place. In the spirit of modeling, a few resolutions (of the many) I have are to try and be present, remember that listening is often more important than 'solving', and to keep 'balance' in mind. These are not easy endeavors, but they are worthy ones, and I will be looking to all of you to help keep me on track. One of the principles of Robert Kegan's work with change, and our immunity to change, is based on the principle that 'the deeper we are willing to go, the more we will get out of it'. I hope you will join me in diving in the deep end of the pool together for the benefit of our students.
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