Dear Blake Families:
I hope that this update finds you relaxed and recharged after a well-deserved vacation, whether you were skiing, in the tropics, or enjoying a 'staycation'. We had a low-key week in the Vaughn household, with a little bit of everything. Katie and I were spoiled by her mother, giving us a real gift as she took our kids for the first weekend of vacation, giving us a 'child-free' couple of days in the city!
As you hopefully heard from your children, the student-staff volleyball games on Friday, 2/15 were a great success! I would like to thank all of the teachers who participated, and a special thank you to Kath McCullough, Mark Nickerson, Ellen Gelinas, and Jeff Cincotta for organizing the games as a culmination of the volleyball unit. This event is indicative of the student-centered environment that our staff helps to foster on a daily basis.
One of the highlights of the vacation for Katie and me was our finally being able to see two movies we have been waiting to see - Argo and Lincoln. I had heard many wonderful reviews of each of these movies and they did not disappoint! Over the week I have found that both of the films have stuck with me for different reasons, and Katie and I have been raving about them since last weekend. I have always enjoyed reading and learning about President Lincoln, and in reflecting upon the film and some readings I have done over the last week I am struck by his willingness and genuine desire to engage those of differing opinions than his own in dialogue. As you know I love quotations and these are just a few of Lincoln's that will be finding their way to my office door and walls over the coming months...
Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.
I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.
I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.
The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.
With all of the hype of the Oscars over the past couple of weeks, there have been many articles written, referencing the various movies that have been nominated for the awards. I have attached for your interest an article written by Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers, entitled Lessons from Lincoln. Their blog references Donald T. Phillips's book, 'Lincoln on Leadership', and highlights the personal and professional qualities that can be learned from President Lincoln: "No school, no online class, no book, can teach us how to be compassionate, or courageous, or selfless, unless we understand the value of personal growth as it relates to our leadership. These are personal qualities that we grow if we have the awareness." These qualities and willingness to grow, coupled with Lincoln's 'team of rivals' philosophy, is a model worthy of emulating and it is my hope that we can instill this value in our students, as we work to develop critical thinkers. On a personal note I aspire towards this belief system in a leadership capacity, as programming is developed and new initiatives are explored and implemented at Blake. With many of the programs and initiatives we are exploring - scheduling, mission statement, technology integration, school culture, etc. - it is my hope that the differing opinions that exist within our staff and greater community can come to the table in the spirit of open dialogue. I recognize that it is critical to hear the varying viewpoints, and I encourage and welcome all voices to engage in our discussions. My door is always open and I know I need all the help you can offer.
Reflecting upon the importance of both accepting and embracing differences of opinions directly ties into the topic/theme that we will be discussing at our next faculty meeting on March 4. Last year in April the MHS Harmony Club visited our staff to share their work, perspectives, and interests. I have asked Mary Garcia Rangel, the advisor for the club, to have them join us once again to rekindle the dialogue here at Blake. A safe, supportive, inclusive, and nurturing environment for students and staff is critical, and it is important that we continually discuss ways that we can work to establish an accepting culture here at Blake. To help frame our discussion, I have attached an article that I have asked the staff to read before the meeting on 3/4 - 'What Does Public Education Mean to You?' The article is written by Peter DeWitt, an elementary school principal, and it quotes the views of various educators on the meaning of 'public education'. I believe that this lens provides an important framework for our discussions about school culture and the relationships we hope to foster amongst students, staff, and the greater community. Healthy and positive relationships are critical, and we also need to keep in mind that we are modeling this for our students on a daily basis. Roland Barth, an educator and author on the topic of school culture, puts it nicely: The nature of relationships among the adults within a school has a greater influence on the character and quality of that school and on student accomplishment than anything else. Hopefully our engaging in these important topics will help to build upon the core values and character we are working on for our students.
As you can tell from this blog update, this vacation has been helpful for me as I have found some time to reflect, read, and simply renew. Prior to vacation I sent along the article about 'daydreaming' and I hope you all were able to find some time to do just that. I hope that we can carry forth the benefits and values of vacation, when the busyness of school greets us this week. Along these lines I have posted an article that you may have read from The New York Times, Relax! You'll Be More Productive, written by Tony Schwartz that highlights research showing that 'strategic renewal' increases "...productivity, job performance, and of course, health." I know that this is a challenge for me and that I do not always set the best example in this regard, so I hope you will remind me of this as we move forward. As Schwartz points out, managing our energy in a productive manner will help us in the long run: "By managing energy more skillfully, it’s possible to get more done, in less time, more sustainably. In a decade, no one has ever chosen to leave the company. Our secret is simple — and generally applicable. When we’re renewing, we’re truly renewing, so when we’re working, we can really work."
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