I hope that everyone enjoyed a nice long Labor Day weekend, finding ways to take advantage of the beautiful weather and rekindling the feelings of summer. We certainly did just that, joining my parents on the Cape for a few days before coming back to a neighborhood BBG Sunday afternoon. It's always nice to have an extra day to gear up for reality the next day!
I want to thank and recognize our entire staff for their professionalism during our opening meetings. The commitment and dedication shown this past week has laid the groundwork for a positive, healthy, and successful year for our students. I know that there is always that 'pull' to take care of all of the details (room setup, rosters, materials, meetings, etc.), and I so appreciate the presence, commitment, and care that was in place for our work. I feel fortunate to work with such a talented staff and I know that the community shares that sentiment as well.
As we start each year I like to try and keep a broad bird's eye view on our school and vision for our students. We need to start with a greater purpose and think broadly before delving into our day-to-day work. With this in mind, I am sharing the two opening quotes from our opening staff meeting, along with the two TED talks we watched together...
Progress begins with the belief that what is necessary is possible. -- Norman Cousins
Do we want our kids being prepared for their futures by a system that has not fundamentally changed in 125 years? -- Will Richardson
Why Are So Many of our Teachers and Schools so Successful?
Will Richardson's TED Talk
These words and the messages within Hattie and Richardson's talks are ones that I intend on coming back to throughout the year to serve as compass points for our work. There will be times when we are frustrated and need some clarity in our thinking, and I believe they will serve that purpose.
I am also sharing a link to This We Believe. This posted excerpt is from This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents, a position paper from the Association for Middle Level Education, formerly known as the National Middle School Association. The paper outlined the association's vision for a successful school for middle level adolescents. Each year our staff signs the pledge and it is framed and posted in the front foyer of Blake. Amidst all the busyness and hectic chaos that can take place Labor Day weekend, I encouraged our staff to each take a moment to read these words before we greet students Tuesday morning, and I encourage all of you to do the same. My hope is that you will find it affirming and centering as parents. I will also strive to keep the closing words in mind throughout the year: Therefore, I proudly dedicate myself to becoming the best middle level educator I can be and an active advocate for all young adolescents. In a similar vein I encourage you to take a moment when you walk in the building this year to read the Blake Mission Statement hanging on the banner: Blake Middle School believes in a living mission statement, based on the concept that our community seeks and respects knowledge, integrity, character, wisdom, and the willingness to adapt to a continually evolving world. Throughout the year we will be 'checking in' to acknowledge, inquire, and explore ways that we are establishing experiences for all of us in the context of our collective mission.
With the intent of framing our year with a global view, I am highlighting two readings that emphasize the importance of providing purposeful learning experiences and laying the groundwork for a productive year...
How a Bigger Purpose Can Motivate Students to Learn
by Ingfei Chen in MindShift
I particularly appreciate the practical and realistic lens that Chen brings to this approach, brining philosophy to the level of the classroom.
"The students with a purposeful-learning attitude (who agreed with socially oriented statements like “I want to become an educated citizen that can contribute to society”) scored higher on measures of grit and self-control than classmates who only reported self-oriented motives for learning such as wanting to get a good job or earn more money."
"Students go to school not just to learn specific facts, he pointed out. They’re learning how to learn, how to practice self-discipline and motivate themselves through frustrating roadblocks, and thus are preparing for adulthood. That’s important even if it isn’t always fascinating, he said. But having that bigger sense of purpose, that personal mission of making a positive difference in the broader world, might help students to find meaning in difficult or mundane schoolwork."
Four Skills to Teach Students in the First Five Days of School
by Alan November in MindShift
In a similar vein, we can start broadly as we approach the first few days, making sure that keep in mind critical skills for learning: power researching, meaningful contributions, passion, and a learning ecology.
I encourage everyone (staff, parents, and students) to join me at the 40,000 foot level during these first few days with students as we map out the plans and plant the seeds of learning for the year. We have much exciting work to do and I am looking forward to it - I hope you share my enthusiasm and optimism!
This year I will be continuing with weekly blog updates for the Blake community, sharing general thoughts, highlighting reminders, announcements, and pertinent information. You know I love to read and share, and my hope is that this can be one of the many vehicles to keep the 'topics of education' present in our collective thinking. I know that you all may not be able to read the articles each week, but I hope they may at least spark some conversation, challenge the status quo a bit, or simply resonate for some of you. As you can imagine I have plenty of resources to share and am looking forward to this work. My hope is that this will continue to provide a structure for consistent communication with the community in a timely manner, while recognizing the need to centralize the information. Updates from the CSA and Medfield Coalition for Public Education will also be shared via this forum.
Please click here for Blake Updates.
Please click here for Thursday Packet Information.