Dear Blake Families:
After the snowy and blustery Friday, I hope everyone was able to get outside and enjoy the mild and sunny weather - gives us the hope that spring is indeed coming. Daylight savings, although tough with the initial adjustment, is always a welcome sign of light in the evenings! We had a relatively low-key weekend, with activities for the kids and 'the routines' filling our schedule.
This past week, even with only four days of school, was certainly a full one, but also one that gave me many opportunities to reflect upon our work and the environment we are striving to foster for our students. Beginning the week with the discussions about our own views of 'public education' at our staff meeting was centering and refreshing, hearing the varying views of academics, advising, and social/emotional learning. It was a real joy to have the Harmony Club from MHS visit and share their thoughts with us about their work and views as to how we can foster a climate and culture of acceptance. As discussed at our meeting, our goal in this work is to provide a 'seat at the table' for all of the students in our community and to be sure that we are pushing our school towards a school of true acceptance, and not just tolerance. With this in mind as a follow up, I have posted an article by Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers from Education Week, entitled 'Leading from Tolerance to Acceptance'. Myers and Berkowicz articulate the difficult task of confronting one's personal belief system in this work: “Schools must make the subtle and significant shift from tolerant environments to accepting ones. Some people use the word tolerance and mean acceptance. Others see a difference between the two…Tolerance includes a type of separateness, while acceptance requires inclusion. Leading the leap from tolerance to acceptance requires the hard work of confronting belief systems.” It was inspiring to read our staff's thoughts as to how we can adjust our own approaches in classrooms and their ideas for fostering a culture of acceptance - reflecting on both our language and actions. I appreciate their willingness to join me in this work to benefit all of our students.
As part of Read Across America week, I had the joy of visiting Alison Guilbert's kindergarten class as a guest reader at Memorial on Wednesday morning. On Tuesday evening, my son Owen (a kindergartner himself) picked out the book Big written by Coleen Paratore and illustrated by Clare Fennell, sharing that, “…it would be a good one - they will like it.” And, he was right - it is a wonderful picture book with the message that we all have the chance to be big (through thoughts, actions, questions, etc.) every day. I have to say that my respect and admiration for elementary educators always rises every time I have the chance to visit a classroom at Memorial, Wheelock, or Dale. Beyond the energy of the students and enthusiasm for learning, what struck me most was the caring and supportive environment at Memorial and in Alison's class. No matter what the age of our students or our audience, it is critical that we continue to work towards a nurturing and open space for learning. For your interest I have posted an article by Larry Ferlazzo entitled, 'Cultivating a Positive Environment for Students'. Although it may be seem obvious, in this brief article Ferlazzo acknowledges the challenges of remaining positive with influences of negativity: “…the power of a setback to increase frustration is more than three times as strong as the power of progress to decrease frustration.” He then presents some concrete suggestions, concluding with the idea of incorporating reflections on a regular basis, emphasizing the 'why' - “Identifying those reasons can help students see actions they can take more often to increase the quality and quantity of positive events in their lives.”
As I look ahead to this week - planning for incoming 7th and 8th grade parent information nights, building upon the vision of technology in our schools, beginning the work of scheduling for the 2013-2014 academic year, in addition to the day-to-day work - I am going to try and find time to center myself on the positives and keep the overall vision of our work in mind. March is National Middle Level Education Month (see http://www.nassp.org/tabid/2686/default.aspx and posted article - '8 Ways to Celebrate the Magnificent Middle'), and I am reminded every day of the awesome opportunity and responsibility we have working with our students each day. As the seasons are starting to change I am renewed by the hope our students give us and look forward to our work together.
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