Defining Student Success

Posted in Uncategorized on November 26th, 2017 by dkerr

 

So we’ve been meeting as a small group over the past few weeks trying to prepare for our upcoming, “Journey Towards Inclusion” faculty meeting on December 11th, and it’s been super interesting. One of the discussion points that has stayed with me (and really got me thinking) revolves around the idea of student success, and what “success” truly looks like for our kids. It’s been heartwarming for me to listen to educators at our school, across divisions and departments, who are wanting to find ways to celebrate students in so many ways beyond just academic achievement. Academic success is only one small part of what makes up a successful student, and it’s exciting to be thinking of ways to bring that message to life for our community in the upcoming months.

 

You see, over the past few weeks I have watched our students succeed in sports, on the stage as they prepare for this week’s Pirates of Penznace, in musical theater club and our many other after school activities, with their service learning initiatives like the successful student store and the newly formed student leadership council, and with the showcasing of their learning and growth through Seesaw and in their daily classroom experiences. All in all, hundreds of young people succeeding in so many different ways, and growing so immeasurably in areas both inside and outside of the classroom. I guess for me, the idea or definition or measure of success cannot be simplified down to a single thing, like academic achievement for example…it incorporates so many things and so many aspects of a young person’s life.

 

I think we need to be careful as adults and educators not to place too much of a priority on any one aspect of a student’s success, and look to develop and celebrate the areas where a student is showing success in all aspects of their lives. Kids, as you all know, go through various stages of maturation and development, and a student’s “time” may not be in Lower School, or Middle School, or High School, or University for that matter. It’s no secret to the people who really know me that I was very much a late bloomer when it came to academic success, but I found success socially and on the athletic field when I was young, which set me up for the person that I’ve eventually become.

 

The true measure of success in my opinion, is whether or not a student is growing and learning and taking steps to find their passions. Is a student getting better academically, socially, as a leader, as a teammate, as a friend, as a person? Are they being empathetic and embracing what it means to be inclusive? Are they learning from their mistakes and growing as young people, and are they showing grit and perseverance? If so, then ultimately we’re doing our jobs as adult mentors, and a priority for us is to continue to find ways to celebrate these successes with each individual student as often as we can. A big part of me believes that the most powerful learning that happens with our kids happens outside of the classroom…the learning that makes them better people, not just better students.

Look at our students this week everyone, and measure them against themselves…not their peers, or someone else’s packaged idea of success, and celebrate them. Think about this when you’re writing your comments in the upcoming weeks too, thinking about the areas in a child’s life where they are truly being successful. We have work to do around reporting out a more well rounded, all encompassing commentary on our kids I know…a report that celebrates not only academic achievement but an in depth snapshot of a young person as a whole child…that work will be fun and I can’t wait to get going!  What does a successful child really look like to you? Think about it before we get together on the 11th. Anyway, have a wonderful week with our kids everyone, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful 

– Herman Cain

 

The Definition of Success – 

The Accomplishment of an Aim or Purpose

 

TED Talks –

The Beauty of Being a Misfit

One True Calling?

 

Great Articles –

What Does Success Look Like?

How Do We Define Success?

Who is Defining Student Success?

Grades are NOT Paramount to Achievement 

How to Measure Success

An Autumn Re-Set

Posted in Uncategorized on November 19th, 2017 by dkerr

So I got home this past Friday evening feeling a little more tired than usual. I wasn’t physically sick or anything, it was just that my mental energy was dragging a bit and I wasn’t sure why. I poured a glass of wine, turned on the barbecue and some music, and as I was reflecting on the week it hit me…it’s the Autumn chill. For me, the Autumn chill refers to (in my opinion) the toughest stretch of time in the school year for educators. It’s a time when energy can sag, morale can dip, fatigue can set in, and we can ultimately start to lose focus. We’ve all worked so hard over the past two and a half months to give our students an amazing start to the school year, and now that the routines and expectations are set, and we’ve become comfortable with our schedules and the approach to our days, it can become very easy to start running on autopilot. This post is a call for an Autumn re-set…a chance to think about how you’re feeling, to intentionally recognize how you are putting yourself out there for your colleagues and for our kids, and a chance to think about the steps that you can take to re-discover that passion and energy that you brought with you on the first day of school back in August.

Think back to the start of the school year for a minute…the excitement around the new facility build, the energy around some new divisional imperatives, the addition of fantastic new students and faculty, and the overall buzz and energy of a year that was bursting with promise and possibility. In those early weeks It wasn’t hard to want to sprint to work everyday and to soak up all the positive vibes. For us this year, we have had a wonderful beginning in so, so many ways, and we seem to have now come up for air after that much needed October holiday. It’s fair to say that we’ve settled into the year that lies ahead, with a clear focus on our collective and individual expectations for ourselves and for our students…and now here comes a long, demanding stretch that is bound to test our resolve. The weather has changed, the daylight is disappearing, the skies are a little grayer, and the next holiday break seems like miles away. Like I said, it can be a tough stretch of the year.

I guess what I really want to say about this time of the year, or this “Autumn Chill”, is that we need to take care of each other, and be a tremendous source of support for one another. Let’s talk openly about how we’re feeling, let’s rally around each other when the weeks seem to drag on, and let’s go out of our way to lift each other up. I’m asking all of you to please take care of yourselves physically and mentally over the next five weeks, and to find a balance in your lives that keeps you healthy and energized. It’s going to be a relatively long stretch, the weather is going to get cold and damp, the days are going to get shorter and the nights are going to get longer, so let’s prepare and ready ourselves, and re-commit to one another to find our joy and energy again for the benefit of our students.

Don’t forget, this upcoming five week stretch is brimming with opportunity for our kids, as the uninterrupted student learning time is as good as it gets. Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year, and I’m honestly looking forward to the weeks ahead. I’m excited about all that is coming our way, and together we can make it an incredible second quarter. We have American Thanksgiving, holiday concerts, fun field trips, the school musical, winter fest, and don’t forget we get to feed off of the smiles of our kids each and every day…let’s feed off of each other’s as well. Be good to yourselves everyone, and please be good to each other…and remember, I’d love to help and support if you ever need an ear to bend. I’ll show up Monday morning energized and ready to roll…feed off of my energy and I’ll feed off of yours. Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our students and supportive of one another throughout the Autumn Chill!

 

Quote of the Week…

Winter is an etching, Spring is a watercolor, Summer an oil painting and Autumn a mosaic of them all.

– Stanley Horowitz

 

Related Articles –

Teacher Inspiration

Re-charging Professional Batteries

The Best Things about Teaching

The Best Job in the World

Autumn Awesomeness 

 

Interesting Videos –

TED Talk – Laughter

TED Talk – A Good Night’s Sleep

The Science of Empathy

The Book Thing

Autumn Season

Your Brain on Childhood

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12th, 2017 by dkerr

So I just finished reading a ridiculously good book titled, Your Brain on Childhood, by Gabrielle Principe, and it has my head spinning with ideas, questions, concerns and wonderings about the kinds of experiences that we regularly give to our kids in school and at home. I find it super interesting to read books like this, which through research address the kinds of things that we do with children, and the kinds of things that we’ve seemingly always done with our students, that simply don’t make a whole lot of sense. We do these things because we’ve always done them, but just because we’ve always done them doesn’t make them right. The small print title on the front cover reads, “The Unexpected Side Effects of Classrooms, Ballparks, Family Rooms, and the Minivan”, and honestly, if you’re an educator, a parent, or at all interested in brain development, this book is a must read in my opinion…order it now for your next birthday present to yourself.

 

It’s tough for me to know how to organize my thoughts around the chapters, as I just put the book down a couple of days ago, and I need more time to digest the information. There seems to be a blog post screaming out to be written on every second page, but there are a few topics that really caught my attention, which speak directly to some changes that we can be making in our traditional school environments that would enhance learning with our students immediately.

 

The first chapter that I want to quickly discuss talks about our need and want as educators and as parents to prepare our young learners for the future…focusing on the adults that our children will eventually become instead of on the children that they are NOW. She calls the chapter the Butterfly Effect, and illustrates her point with an example of a colleague of hers who won’t take his children to Disney World until they are old enough to remember it. He tells her, “why would I spend thousands of dollars on a trip that they won’t even remember?” Her concern is that as parents and educators, we often choose experiences and make choices for our kids that we think will make a positive difference later in their lives, which may or may not be true, and we then ultimately forget about the experiences that will make our kids feel good now, and make them happy now. She also points out the unintended pressure that adults often put on kids through extra “enrichment” activities, over scheduling children (excessive activities and homework) in the belief that this will somehow be the golden ticket to getting into Harvard. She ends the chapter suggesting that there is no basis for belief that speeding up a child’s development, or delaying enriching experiences (like going to Disney World) will do any good…if anything, these adult choices are often counterintuitive.

 

Another interesting chapter is called Organized Crime, and it deals with the difference between self-esteem and self-respect in children, and which one we should be focusing on in classrooms and on the sports fields…it’s self-respect by the way. It reminds me of much of Carol Dweck’s research around Mindset and grit and praise, where effort and failing forward and mistake making are the skill sets that we should be developing in our kids. She also tackles the idea of intrinsic and extrinsic reward systems, and the research around how extrinsic reward systems in classrooms don’t actually work as a way to change behavior in the long term. She states that, ‘it’s better to develop intrinsic self-respect, and to acknowledge that failure can provide harmless but valuable life lessons”. This has me wondering about how we speak to our kids in school, and what we are actually praising them for, and the language that we use to do so…the final part of the chapter deals again with how as adults we love to schedule and manage and supervise every aspect of our kids’ and students’ lives…she begs us to let go of our inner helicopter and stop spending so much time hovering over the lives of our kids. She implores us to give our kids plenty of time to do “nothing – to indulge in pretense, create their own fantasy worlds, and to foster their own happiness”.

 

The final chapter that I want to talk about (believe me I could write about them all, especially the chapter about nature as a classroom) is called Old School, and it touches on the importance of student brain breaks, recess, and how we view homework or home learning…things that I’m personally passionate about. With regards to recess, Principe believes that it (unstructured play time) should be seen as a vital part of the curriculum, just like math or science. Children need this time, just like with regular brain breaks throughout the academic day, to be best able to sustain attention on tasks and to help reduce fidgeting and increase attention. With regards to traditional homework, and the research which shows next to no link to academic achievement in the elementary grades, she asks the question, isn’t there a better use of a child’s time after the school day is over? My answer is yes, and I’m excited to continue this conversation at our school about what that may look like. Anyway, it’s things like this (limited recess, lack of brain breaks and traditional homework) that many, many schools continue to embrace when in actual fact it’s the absolute wrong approach to helping our students grow and learn and achieve…interesting to think about for sure, and I encourage you to do so, and to do your own research around these topics…read this book too.

 

Principe says it best very early on in the book when she says, “The problem is, despite parents’ and teachers’ real desire to help young brains grow into smart and successful adult brains, most know remarkably little about how brains really develop. Anyway, as you can tell I enjoyed this book very much, and it really got me thinking. Although we’re making great strides in moving away from our many traditional approaches to educating children, there is still work to be done. The first step is to understand what really works with kids, and to learn the truth around how they develop. It’s also important to be able to identify, and to step away from the urban myths around what we think is the best approach to helping kids learn…remember, just because we’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

The more you and I learn about how the brain develops, the better we can care for and educate our children, and the better we can raise old brains in a new world – Gabrielle Principe

 

Interesting Articles –

Brain Development – New Insights

Early Childhood Development

Why Play is Important

Learning With Nature

Student Brain Breaks

 

Ted Talks and Videos –

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

Read Montague

Forest Kindergarten

Alternative Education