Dear Blake Families:
I hope that everyone was able to find some much needed 'down time' this weekend and had a nice snow day. After a week with three nights out, I have to admit that 'unplugging' is something that was much needed in our house. We had a full weekend - dinner out as a family, Owen's soccer, Maggie and Katie at a Girl Scouts event, and the joy of going to see the MHS girls win the state championship on Saturday afternoon! Congratulations to the girls and to our very own Mark Nickerson and Ellen Gelinas for their success coaching this season - well done!
Although this weekend's pace was just as full as the school week, it was equally fulfilling. I believe that I am an optimistic person, but when the tasks and lists tend to pile up, I find myself starting to get overwhelmed and the 'negative or pessimistic' thoughts start to kick in. It is easy to get overwhelmed by everything going on, but when I am able to take a step back and look at each aspect, I am able to see the value and importance in each endeavor. I remember sharing this last year, mid-March starts the time of year where are entering the unique time frame of planning for two academic years - planning and scheduling for 2013-2014 while also making sure that we stay in the present for our students in the 2012-2013 school year. As such the work starts to pile up and the overwhelming feelings can kick in. It is during times like these that I believe it is critical to find a moment to slow down the thoughts, recognize the triggers of stress, work towards finding the good, and 'lean towards yes'.
With this thought process in mind, I have posted two articles that I believe are important and are pertinent to our work with students, the community, and one another. The first article, 'What Teens Get About the Internet that Parents Don't', presents the variance in opinions of young people and parents regarding the role of the Internet and technology in learning. The author, Mimi Ito, shares insight from her daughter's experience in school and the rising levels of stress that we all see in our society and youth, going on to present a perspective of how our youth view the technology meets their needs: "For her, the Internet has been a lifeline for self-directed learning and connection to peers. In our research, we found that parents more often than not have a negative view of the role of the Internet in learning, but young people almost always have a positive one." With our expansion of technology in education as a whole, and specifically at Blake our 1:1 iPad Initiative for the entire 8th grade for next year, this is a paradigm shift to recognize and keep in mind. And, please do not get me wrong - I believe in balance, have traditional views that still guide my views on education, and have many concerns that need to be considered as we move forward. However, it is our responsibility to stay current and respond in a positive, forward-thinking approach to meet the constantly changing needs of our students, as shared by Ito: "Young people are desperate for learning that is relevant and part of the fabric of their social lives, where they are making choices about how, when, and what to learn, without it all being mapped for them in advance...When my daughter graduates from college, I want her to be able to ask interesting questions, make wise choices in where to direct her time and attention, and find a career that is about contributing to a purpose that's more than her own self-advancement." This is not an easy task and involves far more than the integration of technology into the classroom, but the goal is one worthy of aspiring towards and I could not agree more with her hope for all of our students.
Along with the guiding principles and vision that I believe helps to center our work, we can not ignore all of the day-to-day tasks that need our attention. As shared above this is a busy time - placement tests, MCAS planning, Term 2 grade completion, meetings - and the overwhelming nature of our work can consume us. The second article I have posted is from Chris Lehmann, founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA. It is entitled 'Letter to a Young Teacher' and was written by Lehmann in 2008. He reposted it on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and I shared it with some of you already. It is an 'open letter' to a teacher thinking of leaving the profession, offering some of the things he has learned along the way. I saved a copy to my 'desktop' and have found myself reading and rereading it many times over the last couple of weeks. Here are a few of the ideas that I found particularly relevant and resonated with me...
This job is a marathon, not a sprint. As much as we don't like to admit it, we have to acknowledge our need to pace ourselves...You learn that perfection is a lousy goal because it is unattainable...You learn that you know a lot less than you think you can do. You learn that your colleagues know a lot more than you think they do...You learn that teaching is both an art and a craft, and that it is something you get better at...You learn that you aren't perfect...and neither are the kids, and sometimes the best thing you can do is forgive...yourself and the kids...You learn that the worst thing you do is think of yourself as 'just a teacher'. You learn that the second worst thing you can do is think that being a teacher is the hardest job in the world...You learn how to ask yourself, "Did I give what I had to give today?" You learn how to look at that question over time...You learn how much you have to keep learning...We need you to stay and figure it out. It's never easy, but it does keep getting better as long as you are willing to learn.
I hope that we can continue to help our students, children, and one another 'lean towards yes', work towards balance, and foster the willingness to learn. As shared at the incoming parent nights for all three grades over the last week, I feel so fortunate to work in this community and learn with all of you. Thank you.
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