Dear Blake Families:
I hope this note finds you well and that you all enjoyed the weekend. We had a nice, relaxed weekend with a busy Sunday. I took Maggie and Owen to the Celtics game, and we met up with my brother and sister's families as well. Needless to say the anticipation/excitement at our house this past week was pretty high!
This past Friday's Digital Learning Day was a great success and I appreciate all of the positive feedback that many of our staff shared. I want to thank the many Blake teachers for leading sessions throughout the day. I appreciate their leadership and willingness to push themselves out of their comfort zones to share insights and knowledge with fellow teachers in the district. The sessions were productive, inspiring, and meaningful. An extra thanks and recognition goes to Diane Horvath and Neal Sonnenberg for their preparation both 'behind the scenes' and with all of our teachers to help establish a purposeful and productive day for all. I encourage you to check out Medfield Digital Learning Day to see an outline of the endeavors that took place. I also want to thank Kara Farrell for sharing her 'Why I Teach' reflection with the staff - always important to find ways that we can connect with one another outside of our daily roles. Kelly C. and I took some time on Friday afternoon, reflecting upon the sense of pride that we both have for our staff at Blake. The positive energy, professionalism, and dedication that is exhibited on a daily basis were highlighted throughout the day on Friday. I often feel that if I can find one 'take-away' at a conference or professional development day than it was worthwhile. Using that guide as a measure for success, I can confidently say that the standard was more than met!
As we take the skills acquired and knowledge gained from Friday and move forward, it is important that we make sure we continue to make and take the time to think about the implications of integrating technology into the classroom. Many questions arise: Is this worthwhile? How much professional development is needed? Is this better than 'pencil and paper'? Are our students ready for this? Does this enhance our teaching? What is the impact on student learning? These are just a few questions that pop into my head, and there are many more. However, before we actually select a tool, device, website, etc. we need to 'step back' and think about our guiding goals, mission, and vision for our classrooms and students. One of our fundamental goals as educators is to prepare our students for the future. This has become an increasingly challenging aspect of our job, given the rapidly changing world in which we live. Along these lines I have posted an article (located on the Articles tab of this blog) written by Tina Barseghian, entitled 'How Do We Prepare Our Children For What's Next?', that has helped shape my thinking about the education and environment I believe we should be fostering at Blake. In this posting Barseghian helps to provide a framework for thinking through many of the questions that arise, offering insight for educators and parents alike. She also transcribes her interview with Cathy Davidson, a professor at Duke University, and this quote resonated with me about 'fear' and 'change': "...we are right on time to give up techno-phobia and to tackle the problems and opportunities of the digital world with good sense, pragmatics, realism, and purpose. Once we absorb the realization that we've already changed, and that we're actually doing pretty well despite major realignments in our lives, then we can think about how we want to take this amazing new tool and use it in a way that better serves our lives. Being afraid is never useful. It's time to survey our lives and figure out what works, what doesn't, and how we can make real and practical improvements in our schools, our workplace, our every day lives."
Thinking about these ideas of preparing our students' begs the question as to what skills our students need to embrace this change? In this regard I believe we are on the right track with the theme of perseverance. How we prepare our students is to embed the traits of resiliency, perseverance, effort, and motivation into our work both in and out of the classroom. These skills are critical. We need to model the 'try, fail, and try again' mantra with our students - and, when we do, we are preparing ourselves as well for 'what's next'. I have attached two articles (posted on the Articles tab of this blog) you may find of interest: 'Teaching Students the ABC's of Resilience' from Edutopia and a brief piece entitled 'Study: Student Motivation, Study Strategies Trump IQ for Learning Gains'. In different ways these affirm the work that we are doing with our students.
With regards to technology, we also need to make sure that we are looking at its integration into the classroom with a holistic lens. We have an obligation to teach our students how to use the technology and to gain an understanding in a greater context. I have attached an article (posted on Articles tab of this blog), 'Teaching Technology: 10 Lessons Every School Should Share', that I believe will serve as a great reference for us in our current work and as we look ahead to future initiatives. I shared this with our staff this week and have asked them to continue to remind me of these lessons as we work together. I also know that it is important that we continue to 'break down the walls' of the school and solidify our partnership with the community for our students. The rapid pace of technology expansion and its impact on our students' lives is significant and we must help one another to navigate the course. In this vein I have attached a posting (located on the Articles tab of this blog) from Patrick Larkin, Assistant Superintendent of the Burlington Public Schools, entitled 'Are You Sure Your Child Isn't Using Social Media?', that I found helpful and pertinent as a parent and educator. This work is both exciting and daunting at the same time, but I believe our collective efforts will serve our students and children well.
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