Dear Blake Families:
As I have shared many times, vacations have always been a great time for me to take a step back, reflect, and think about what lies ahead -- that is, of course, after the first few days of true 'down time' and separation, a necessary part of the reflective process. With a very busy few weeks awaiting us (again, when is it not busy?) - teaching and learning, placement tests, planning for 14-15 beginning, parent nights, and MCAS - I found it helpful to focus my reflective process on some core elements and mindsets that have been guiding our work this year in the hopes that they will keep us centered. With this in mind, I am highlighting some posts that emphasize our efforts - transparency, creativity, and resources for one another.
Transparency with Our Endeavors
by Katrina Schwartz
Schwartz's post from Mindshift reminds us of how important it is to be transparent with our work, sharing both successes and challenges with students, parents, and the community. Within, she specifically notes the Mission Hill School, and the 'willingness to be disturbed'.
"One way to promote change is to allow the outside world to see inside innovative classrooms, hold up positive narratives and be sure everyone knows the consequences of seemingly distant policy decisions."
by Doug Johnson
"Educators actually fear creativity - whether we like to admit or not, whether we're conscious of it or not."
In this post Johnson addresses some of the reasons that we, as educators and adults, are afraid of 'creativity'. I would be lying if I did not admit to feeling this at various times in my life and in my work, and it is important that we recognize this within ourselves as models for our students.
by Laura Pappano in The New York Times
In a similar vein with Johnson's post, Pappano broadens the importance of creativity as a necessary discipline and skill that can be learned. Confidence and adaptability are key ingredients in this process, and it is incumbent upon us as invested adults to teach students that they have the innate ability to make creativity happen and that it can be an active and learned, rather than reactive and innate, skill...
"Traditional academic disciplines still matter, but as content knowledge evolves at lightning speed, educators are talking more and more about “process skills,” strategies to reframe challenges and extrapolate and transform information, and to accept and deal with ambiguity."
"Once considered the product of genius or divine inspiration, creativity — the ability to spot problems and devise smart solutions — is being recast as a prized and teachable skill."
"What’s igniting campuses, though, is the conviction that everyone is creative, and can learn to be more so...The view of creativity as a practical skill that can be learned and applied in daily life is a 180-degree flip from the thinking that it requires a little magic: Throw yourself into a challenge, step back — pause — wait for brilliance to spout."
As we strive to be transparent in our work, it is important to continually be mindful of the importance of language. The intent and impact of our words can not be divorced, and I continue be reminded of this as a parent, educator, friend, and colleague. As a great example, Cotton details how the meaning of a message can significantly change by adding the words 'I know' to a phrase I have used many, many times in both my personal and professional life.
"Saying “this is difficult” emerges from a teacher’s analysis of the cognitive demands of the material, a response to and frame of that challenge as potentially positive. Saying, “I know this is difficult” is a response to students’ hesitancy, and potentially validates a set of sub-optimal responses — a bit of passivity, learned helplessness perhaps, some checking out in the face of difficulty. Message: It’s normal that you would react that way to difficulty. There’s also an unspoken second half of the sentence: “I know this is difficult guys … but I’d like you to try a bit more than this” or “but you don’t have to be like that about it."
"One of the hallmarks of great teachers is they anticipate the problems that are likely to arise and prepare their language so that their response, in the moment, is genuine and fluid. Ideally, then, you’d anticipate the challenge in advance and narrate its normalcy, not the explanation for failure. If not, and if your thoughtful questions unexpectedly produce ringing silence, try to respond with a phrase that tells students what to do in the face of a challenge and makes it clear that they must risk being wrong."
This past week has been a necessary respite and I thoroughly enjoy the luxury of getting time to spend with my family. I will miss sleeping in and creating my own schedule, but I am looking forward to this next stretch, as I am continually humbled by the awesome opportunities we are given each day with our students and one another. It certainly will be busy and challenges await us, but please continue to remind of these important aspects as well.