I hope that everyone enjoyed a nice weekend after a full, albeit shortened, first week of school. We had a nice one, with soccer games, visits with friends, and we enjoyed a nice Sunday afternoon watching football. I want to thank everyone for their energy and dedication in making the opening a success for our students. Thank you to all!
On Friday evening while processing the week with Katie, I felt energized by the pulse of excitement that was in place during our first week of school. Many of our staff shared with me that same excitement and 'buzz' that was felt as we began the school year with our students. One of the goals I have this year is to keep our overarching goals and aspirations we have for our students present in our conversations and thinking as a staff. At yesterday's faculty meeting we took time to discuss the article, Good Failures, in the hopes of framing one of the ideas I believe is important for us to adopt, as Thomas Hoerr writes: "We need to teach and embrace the term good failure. No one wants to fail, but a good failure can help us learn and become stronger. Employing the term good failure lets everyone know that failing isn't the end of the world. What matters most is what we do after we fail. With that in mind, we need to go beyond measuring and rewarding students' results and also applaud their effort, trajectory, and progress." Hoerr's brief post helps to drive home the importance of the process of learning - a key goal for students.
At our opening professional days, I shared the goals and initiatives I have for Blake and I will also be highlighting them with our parents at information nights over the next week. At the heart of the curricular and structural work we will be examining are the thematic threads that I hope will pervade our work - 'learning and growth for students and staff' and 'creativity'. At one of our meetings, our staff shared, in very thoughtful words, reasons why 'creativity' is an important to value to foster in our students, and I will be sharing the compilation of thoughts in next week's blog update. This week I am highlighting a few articles that I believe connect to these themes and hope you will find of interest. The first, Establishing a Culture of Creativity by Paying Attention to Failure, is a brief blog post written by John Robinson in reference to Andrew Grant and Gaia Grant's work on the topic of 'creativity'. In this post, Robinson connects failure's role in the creative process. Often as schools and as parents we look at the successes and try to use positive reinforcement: "When it comes to our actions, our schools celebrate the victories, and not the struggles...then, we wonder why our students aren't more creative, and why they fail to demonstrate resiliency in the face of failure." One of the key elements in this regard (embracing a culture of failure) is to be and stay attuned to our own responses to failures, through both 'actions and 'words': "Perhaps we can begin to establish a culture of creativity when we begin to pay closer attention to the language we use in relation to failure. But more than that, we can begin to pay attention to how we view and react to both succeeding and failing, winning and losing. It's how we speak of and react to these that teach our students resiliency, and ultimately foster a culture of creativity we seek."
A key question, then, for us as adults working with our students is how we can get our students to this culture of creativity. As we have discussed, and the quotes highlighted last week underline (While I think quantum leaps are possible, real success - sustainable success - happens based on day-to-day, simple behaviors and habits. - Jack Canfield; Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it every day, and at last we can not break it - Horace Mann), we need to help our students identify and then practice key habits that are transferable and are building blocks for success. Katrina Schwartz writes about the connection between habits and creativity in her article, How to Hold Onto a Kid's Natural Genius, referencing Angela Maiers's work from Classroom Habitudes. Maiers believes that it is the mindsets and development of key innate skills that need to be fostered: 'imagination, curiosity, self-awareness, perseverance, courage, adaptability, and passion'. She then goes on to share the three-step process (Name It, Claim It, Sustain It) for students to understand and live the traits, as that is the real challenge: "It's easy to name qualities that will help students in the future, but much harder to help them identify those traits within themselves." Although 'genius' is not a descriptor that I find to be healthy or to endorse, I do believe the idea of one's natural state having great potential is important for us to always keep in mind.
For these efforts to come to fruition we need to encourage risk-taking, provide opportunities for mistakes, both nurture and challenge each student, and be willing to listen. In essence we need to meet students where they are at and bring them forward. We must tap into what is already in place and provide experiences for richer learning. The same is true for ourselves, as we model the learning process - being 'willing to be disturbed' and 'learn and unlearn'. This year, to continue a practice from last year, I asked the content specialists to collect information from the respective teachers in each department to share how we, as a staff, learned over the summer. I have posted the Blake Summer Learning Endeavors 2013 - a brief summary from each department, highlighting and recognizing our collective work as lifelong learners (yes, it is a lengthier read than usual, but it highlights the professionalism of our staff). You will see that I have separated 'academic learning' from 'life/interest-based learning', although these often blur. This summary certainly does not cover everyone's work, but it does provide a snapshot of the work that took place. These brief descriptions highlight and support the professionalism, commitment, and overall interest of the Blake staff.
In the same vein of modeling with our students, the third article I am sharing this week is a posting by Matt Levinson, The Digital Lives of Teens: Turning 'Do As I Say' into 'Do As I Do', that Kelly C. shared last week with me. Levinson presents the concept of 'digital dualism' (managing digital life as adults and then handling digital life with kids) as a challenge for adults, a concept that resonates with me as a parent, friend, educator, and colleague. We all play multiple roles in our lives, and I found this to be a centering reminder of the importance for us to be present and listen to foster relationships with our children and one another. Levinson points out some concrete strategies for all of us: 'pull the plug, park the device, on the weekends, take a digital break; create designated digital time as a family; make something together; acknowledge the difficulty of turning off devices'. All of these are certainly easier said than done, and I know I am guilty, but it is important. As we look at mobile device implementation and the excitement and prospect these endeavors bring, it is important to remember balance. The intent in my sharing is to not instill a sense of guilt (although I know I feel it), but rather to remember that we do have the ability to impact our children - that is what gives me hope and inspires me to try and be a better father and educator.
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