See. Believe. Think. Act

As we ask students to do all the time, the members of the middle school faculty regularly engage in reflection and inquiry related to their practice. We also meet together as learners to explore how best to realize our progressive mission and best meet the needs of our middle school students. These conversations touch on many topics including curriculum, assessment, advisory, diversity, program design and implementation and our own individual and collective professional growth. As we move through this innovation cycle, we regularly examine how our ideas evolve into specific actions and we then make little or large adjustments based on the feedback we gather as we are implementing them. 

It is exciting and demanding work, but also helps us to understand what the learning experience is like for our students. As we enter into a new innovation cycle and explore a variety of ideas and possibility, I wanted to share with you a framework for thinking that guided our most recent conversation. The image below, which captures a process developed by the folks at SYP Partners who do interesting work connected to teamwork, business transformation and leadership development, is a compelling one. I also think that it is resonant with many of our core values. 

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As part of our initial brainstorming activities at this week’s divisional faculty meeting, we also used an iPad tool that SYP Partners have developed called Unstuck. While primarily intended for individual problem solving, we used it to frame some small group work. We think that it may also have some interesting uses with our seventh and eighth graders to support goal setting activities in advisory. If you’re an iPad user, check it out and let me know what you think. Below are some quotes from the app that we used to frame our initial work about engaging in change efforts. What change efforts are you currently undertaking? Maybe these quotes will provide some inspiration.

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On other fronts, the return from Winter Break signals the return of the National Geographic Society Geography Bee. Our Geography Bee, which began before the break with preliminary competitions in each homeroom, culminated with the School Championship that took place last week in Middle School Meeting.  Representing their respective homerooms were fifth graders Aditya and Maisy, sixth graders Beckett and Monica, seventh graders Lauren and Lola and eighth graders Davis and Halle. After several rounds of competition, the group of eight was reduced to three. Beckett emerged as our third place winner and Maisy and Monica moved on to the championship round, which was ultimately settled after several tiebreaker rounds with Maisy answering the fifth tiebreaker question correctly. Maisy will now move on to take the state-level qualifying exam. Well done and congratulations to all of our participants!

In addition to the good fun that the National Geography Bee provides, it also points to the critical importance that a basic understanding of geography plays in being an informed citizen of the world. As technology makes the world smaller and increases our interconnectedness, we should not let ourselves be fooled into thinking that the boundaries, borders, and geographic features of our planet don’t matter any more. The geography of our planet provides a key to understanding important aspects of history and culture and provides a lens for focusing on issues that are “of the moment.”

Knowing where something is by necessity establishes a relationship to it. With an understanding of place, we can gain a deeper insight into the people who inhabit that place while we simultaneously gain new insights about our own place in the world. It is these moments of insight that help to define us and our relationship to the larger world.

Finally, second quarter progress reports will be available on LREI Connect tomorrow in the late afternoon.  I will send out an email to let you know when they are available for review.