Dear Blake Families:
I hope that everyone has been able to find some down time with family and friends, and that you have been able to recharge a bit after our three-day entry back into reality this past week! Our family enjoyed a nice weekend, starting off with Owen's indoor soccer on Saturday morning and then headed to New Hampshire for my cousin's wedding. It was great to catch up with family and to celebrate together.
As you know the practice of reflection is one that I believe is critical, from both a personal and professional vantage, and the advent of each new year is a natural time for self-examination. Over the vacation, once the craze of the holiday excitement began to subside a bit at our house (subside being a very relative term with the kids), I took some time to thoughtfully think about the first few months of this school year - my goals, successes, challenges, students, staff, events, etc. The list could go on and on, and in fact I found that it actually did just that - the thoughts began to 'snowball' and it suddenly had turned into a massive 'to do' list. The list grew and it felt as though an endless set of questions filled my head, creating a sense of angst within me. Although New Year's resolutions help bring forth the prospect of potential change and the sense of a 'fresh start', I was quickly reminded that the idea of change can be daunting as well. I found myself overwhelmed, and this 'healthy' process of reflection was starting to simply feel not so healthy. But, upon further thought and in conversations with Katie, I was able to distance myself from the 'to do' list and remind myself that the process is as, if not more, important than the end result. Our theme of perseverance and giving our students and ourselves permission to take risks, and to put it bluntly, fail is vital. When making resolutions I believe that it is important to keep this in mind. At our faculty meeting yesterday we took some time together to think about the professional goals we have set for the year - progress that has been attained, adjustments that need to be made, steps that must be taken at this juncture, and ideas that have formulated for the future. I shared with our staff that I recognize that this can feel daunting and overwhelming, but my hope is that the process of reflection and our collective support for one another will help keep each other centered.
Vacation also provided me some time to catch up on some reading, an endeavor that truly feeds me. I have listed a link to an article written by Ben Michaelis, 'Aiming for Failure', that speaks directly to Blake's theme of perseverance (Aiming for Failure). Michaelis's article was inspired by a TED talk given by Sir Ken Robinson a few years ago entitled 'Do Schools Kill Creativity?', and he articulately points out that the talk has more to do with 'failure' than creativity: "Most people tend to run from failure as though it were some kind of disease -- a life sentence. Yet, it is anything but that...We need to focus much of our efforts on how to allow our kids -- no, how to encourage our kids to take risks and yes, fail." He then references what we can learn from engineers and architects, highlighting one of his favorite books by Henry Petroski: "One of the reasons I have such deep respect for engineers and architects (besides the fact that what I think they can do with their minds is amazing) is that they spend the bulk of their time talking about, thinking through, and learning from failures of the past. Mistakes are written in to their curriculum. They understand that they learn very little from buildings and bridges that stand up, and very much from those that fall down...The takeaway message is that if you are not failing you are not trying." I hope that as we reflect upon our goals this week and think about the second half of the year that we keep these ideas on the forefront of our thinking for our students and ourselves. We need to make sure that we are pushing and supporting our students and each other towards real growth.
When you have a moment (hard to find, I know), I recommend googling Ken Robinson's talk as I believe you will find it to be thought-provoking. I have listed a link to his talk 'Teachers Are Like Gardeners' (Teachers Are Like Gardeners) that is inspiring about our vocation. The talk is brief (a little over two minutes) and reminded me of the importance and value of our role in fostering a healthy classroom for learning: "Farmers and gardeners know you cannot make a plant grow...The plant grows itself. What you do is provide the conditions for growth. And great farmers know what the conditions are and bad ones don't. Great teachers know what the conditions for growth are and bad ones don't."
One of my continued goals is to highlight and share articles and resources for both our staff and the greater Blake community. With the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013, this week I am highlighting three 'end of year' posts that you may find of interest. The first comes from one of my favorite resources, Mindshift, and is their top posts of 2012 relating to deep, meaningful, and creative learning (Top 10 Posts of 2012: Deep, Meaningful, and Creative Learning). The second comes from Edutopia and is a list of Mark Phillips's favorite books for both parents and educators from the year (located on the Articles tab of this blog). The third comes from Mindshift and is a posting of the 'Top 10 Google Search Terms of 2012' (The Top Google Search Terms in 2012).
Finally, I have posted an article that one of our friends sent to me from Huffington Post, that you may have already seen - it is a letter that the author, Janell Burley Hoffman (located on the Articles tab of this blog), wrote to her son when he received his iPhone for Christmas. As a parent and educator, the language and message that is present in the piece resonated with me on multiple levels. I hope that you all find it to be helpful and I believe it is worth sharing with others, as we collectively work to help our students navigate the exciting world of technology.
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