Dear Blake Families:
I hope this update finds everyone well, with Term 2 wrapping up and many, many items on our minds as we begin Term 3 this week. With the 'normal' routines and activities it was a good weekend for us, and I am hoping that this week brings up some well-deserved spring weather.
Last Wednesday evening Katie and I had the pleasure of attending a book talk about The New American High School by the late Ted Sizer given by his wife, Nancy, and Jed Lippard, Head of School at Prospect Hill Academy. I have always been a 'disciple' of Sizer, or a 'Tedhead', and both Katie and I left the discussion inspired and centered. After all, after sitting in a room with Tony Wagner (@DrTonyWagner), Alfie Kohn (@alfiekohn), and others in our field, it is hard not to find oneself affirming our vocational choice. Beyond an outline/summary of Sizer's book, the discussion was rooted around the overarching question of, 'What does progressive education look like?' To answer this question and others of a similar nature, the onus falls on all of us as educators to challenge each other and ourselves and to push the boundaries of our thinking.
As I reflect upon the talk three keys come to mind. First, we should always be open to listening and sharing to new thoughts, ideas, and questions. We want this for our students and our structure of the middle school model is conducive to this framework - for content partners, clusters, grade levels, departments, and the greater school as well. Second, as we examine our teaching and programs, both in and out of the classroom, a healthy approach is to think about 'principles of learning' rather than 'prescriptions for learning'. Third, our planning and process for decisions will have greater meaning if they are grounded in mindsets, not methods - in other words, our methods should reflect our mindsets.
I aim to continue to incorporate mindsets into our day-to-day conversations and hope that they will spread into meetings, workshops, and thought processes. I have listed below ones that really stood out for me Wednesday night and have pushed me to a more reflective place…
- School must be fun, messiness is good, and exploration/experimentation is at the heart of good teaching
- Context matters
- What we value is what we make time for
- Look at who is in front of you and then decide how to proceed
- We need to continually be asking ourselves, 'What if?'
- Informed skepticism is important and healthy
- Work Ready = Citizenship Ready = Learning Ready
- Learning should be full of collaborative autonomy, 'unanxious expectations', and creative subversion, and constructive messiness
These posts are a reflection of these mindsets and have helped to center my thinking this week...
Wish List: Piecing Together an Ideal School from the Ground Up
by Katrina Schwartz in MindShift
I found this of interest as we often think of ideals when mapping out our vision for learning and believe that the six highlighted principles within the post pertain to our work at Blake (Inquiry works at all ages; Integrated curriculum is powerful; Multiple assessments give a full picture; Built in professional development sustains teachers; Open-ended technology use; and Learning should be grounded in place).
Technology and Teaching: Finding a Balance
post by Andrew Marcinek in Edutopia
As we look to the coming years with the integration of iPads into our curriculum, balance and mindful integration is critical.
"Before we rush to judgment on technology integration as another sweeping phase in education, we should focus on finding a healthy balance for integrating technology in our respective classrooms. Ignore the clutter of overzealous edtech enthusiasts and find your focus to design your own instruction. Ultimately it's not about how many apps we integrate, but about providing our students with the best access and opportunities to contemporary learning resources. As educators, we must prepare our students for their future, not ours."
Other Data: 20 Signs You're Actually Making a Difference as a Teacher
post from TeachThought
With many of the internal and external elements that assess our progress as educators, it is important to think and reflect upon some of those that may be less 'tangible' but are equally, if not more, important.
"We've all reacted to current situations with emotions left over from the past, whether it's trouble at home or personal strife. The ultimate lesson, at the end of a rough day, is not blaming anyone but yourself for your reactions. Students are always watching; someday someone will be watching them too...Despite what administrators might drill into our skulls, educators exist to produce good people, not good test results. The true measure of our success is hard to record on paper but easy to recognize in a student's behavior. Look for the signs and be open to improvement."
Why I Want You to Steal My Ideas
by Seth Godin
I have shared this post before but believe it is one worth sharing again and again. Godin's encouragement to 'steal his ideas' is worth our consideration.
"Like ideas, the more credit is shared, the more it can be worth, to the giver and to the recipient...With the ability to steal comes responsibility. Not just the responsibility to synthesize something better than what you started with, but the obligation to relentlessly~seek out the next thing worth stealing. We've created a bucket line. Our economy is a long line of people handing ideas up and down the line, improving and customizing at~each step. When you stop seeking and merely consume, you let us all down...And yes, sure, please steal this idea. But make it better first, okay?"
So, what does a progressive middle school look like? Looking forward, both short and long-term, I want to keep in these ideas in mind as we try to marry these mindsets with the reality of our day-to-day work. There are connections to be made with our thematic approach to learning at Blake - for students, teachers, parents, and the greater community - as we strive to answer that question. The path we are on is worth our time, dedication, and commitment.
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