Week in Review 11.8.19

SBT’s Week In Review

One Thing I’m Doing (Did) To Push Myself

I’ve finally finished an essay submission and sent it to a website I hold in high regard. It was a step in faith and I’ll let you know what happens!

One Thing I’m Reading

Is there anyone out there who hasn’t read Adam Grant and Allison Sweet Grant’s recent article in The Atlantic? Stop Trying To Raise Successful Kids  This sentence has oodles of implications for our work: “Kids learn what’s important to adults not by listening to what we say, but by noticing what gets our attention.”

One Thing I’m Listening To

I’m catching up on Season Four of Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell and was mesmerized by episodes 1 and 2 which have such implications for our work in education. Are we in it for the long game of the tortoise or the speed game of the hare?

One Goal I’m Working On

In addition to this weekly reflection tool, I’m also working on a daily reflection log specifically surrounding my work. I follow a series of prompts to focus on paying attention to the details of good each week. My goal is to be even more reflective in practice while simultaneously highlighting positivity.

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One Tool or Resource I Love This Week

Our team had the great gift of a few hours of planning retreat this week. Getting focused time to work and plan without distraction was amazing. I say gift because we were blessed with the use of an incredible co-work space here in Atlanta. Eleanor’s Place is a women’s only co-work space that is stunning, beautifully appointed, and dedicated to the empowerment of women. I’m so thankful for this resource this week.

My Favorite Part of The Week

We have a lot of siblings at our school and this week, a few very sweet interactions between siblings. Twin A checking in on Twin B when she seemed down. Big brother and little sister holding hands walking towards class. PreK sister reaching out for Third Grade brother and getting a mid-day hug. Oh, and a bonus of Teacher mom getting a sweet hug from daughter. These moments ground us in our need for familial connection. What a gift to see them in front of me.

a week in review 11.1.19

The other day, I received a lovely email blast from Ryan Sheehy with this set of questions around a weekly reflection. I’ve been producing the Currents series for a while, but this format really spoke to me, so I’ll use it for a while. Thanks, Ryan for being a sharer of great ideas!

SBT’s Week In Review

One Thing I’m Doing (Did) To Push Myself

I decided at the end of summer to audition for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus. I was blessed to get in and now spend every Monday night with 200 of my new friends. It is such a gift to sing with dedicated, talented folks. AND, it is a late-night for this lark. I’m pushing myself to keep up with my regular routine of exercise, reading, and morning focus time despite starting Monday with a very late bedtime. Sleep is very important to me, so this is a big push.

One Thing I’m Reading

I’ve started and closed the book, Thanks for the Feedback by Stone and Heen, about ten times in the last few years, but this week decided I need to go back and listen/read/annotate. I’ve been on a growth process to improve my feedback delivery (thank you, Brene Brown, for the phrase, “Clear is Kind”), but I know I need to grow my own resilience and acceptance of feedback in order to grow. I look forward to delving deeper into this layer of growth.

One Thing I’m Listening To

Super Soul Sunday Podcast with OprahThis week, I listened to an interview from a few weeks ago with Malcolm Gladwell around his new book, Talking to Strangers. I haven’t dug into the book, yet, but I know like almost all things Malcolm Gladwell, I’m going to love it.

One Goal I’m Working On

In my ever-evolving relationship with standardized test data, I’ve decided to dig deeper into our data in one area to look for correlations and causations as compared to our in-house data. Of course, I’ve already color-coded a spreadsheet.

One Tool or Resource I Love This Week

Ooh, my teammate, Jill, introduced us to a great new post-It app this week and we completely nerded out in the possibilities for its use

My Favorite Part of The Week

This week, we had a divisional gathering to start our week. We had not done this yet, in my tenure at Trinity, and it was a lovely way to set a tone for the week. I presented the concept of Thirty Days of Gratitude and made a place on my office door for children to express their gratitude each day between now and Thanksgiving Break. Watching our children make intentions to share their gratefulness was pretty amazing and I hope that it is awash with notes by the end of the month! (*I personally am falling the Calm Blog Calendar of Gratitude. Note that this calendar is not for 2019)

 

 

communicating when there is “not time”

Clear communication is vital to a healthy organization. In a community of learners, setting the expectations, communicating dates-times-places, and sharing the missional message are all important aspects of this communication path. But how do you do it in an already stretched thin schedule? How do you maximize instructional time, provide quality access to all subjects including “specials”, and have vital unstructured time throughout the day while still finding time together to share a message?

I have found that harnessing the power of technology can make a big impact on providing clarity of expectations. In year two at my school, I can take the time to have small moment interactions with kids and adults throughout the week. However, the avenue for a large scale message has to be concise and electronic. I have always produced a weekly newsletter for faculty to review dates, share important messages, provide a little nugget of inspiration, and share an article, video, or resource for teaching and learning. But this wasn’t getting my message to students. I was dependent on asking the teachers to share, but then…lightbulb.

In previous settings, I used video to record my substitute plans so that music instruction didn’t have to be on “hold” while I would be elsewhere. I used video to share big announcements like student council. Why wouldn’t I use that here?

While we have access to a beautiful, professional-grade television studio, this is decidedly and purposefully low tech. As if we were having a conversation. I want the kids to see the real, unedited Ms. Thomas so they can get used to me as a regular old person. Already, this has led to great interactions with kids AND provided support to the messages frequently articulated by teachers to students. It emphasizes an all-in approach to our messaging.

Nothing can truly replace actual facetime spent together and this method of communicating at some point will become a “wash”, but for now, I am finding that it allows a consistent way to share our missional messages and set clear expectations so no one can ever say, “you never told me that.” More importantly, it gets all of our student body on the same page. It can be played during morning meetings or snack so as not to take instructional time and is not so long that it loses attention. Thus far in the school year, I have sent three which provides ample time between messages to provide novelty.

How might we work towards clarity of communication when were are strapped for time? For me, an iphone camera, an unlisted youtube account, and an email link are worth their weight in gold. What works for you? Share with me, @teach2connect to continue our learning together.

Currents: Listens & Reads

Listens

TED Radio Hour, Maslow’s Human NeedsThis set of snippets all surround the concepts of the hierarchy of needs. I was particularly drawn to the section by Sebastian Junger. A reminder for us that our emotional needs have to be met before we can ever tackle our intellectual ones.

Calm App, The Big Bad Wolf Goes to Anger Management: I absolutely adore Nick Offerman. From his guest appearance on the first season of The West Wing to Ron Swanson to the Yule Log, I’m not sure he can do wrong. This sleep story was absolutely amazing and while it did not make me sleep, at all, it brought joy and hilarity to my evening.

The Goat Rodeo Sessions: This album was released in 2011, but it is brand new to me. With a quartet of cello virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma, mandolin master Chris Thile, bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan, bassist Edgar Meyer, this album is eclectic perfection. I found it great driving music as well as focus music.

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Reads

The Washington Post-History Making Mayor: As a former resident of Montgomery, Alabama, I’m simply thrilled at the election of Steven Reed. He is a remarkable, brilliant man with the foresight and fortitude to take on the layered challenges in Montgomery. The city is already on the rise in so many ways and this victory solidifies that trajectory.

The Washington Post-White Teenage Sons…White Supremacy: The alarm has been sounded…we must protect, educate, and insulate our children from the invasive nature of white supremacy. I’ve seen directly what the beginnings of this look like in teenagers and it is terrifying. “White-nationalist and alt-right groups use jokes and memes as a way to normalize bigotry while still maintaining plausible deniability,” Schubiner says, “and it works very well as a recruitment strategy for young people.” Kids will say, “it was just a joke” but it isn’t. This isn’t about being politically correct–it is about being kind, compassionate, and just.

The Washington Post-How to Talk to your middle schooler so they will listen: Phyllis Fagell is a counselor and therapist in DC and the author of the recently released, Middle School Matters, her work is practical and realistic. Connecting with middle school students is difficult and frustrating, yet, when done well, can yield some of the most amazing conversations you’ll ever experience.

New York Times-Finding Balance in a Tiny, Wobbly Boat-I rowed for four months, from January-April of 2003 on Town Lake in Austin, Texas. I was there for a fellowship and took a risk. It was the most glorious experience. I took to it so quickly and yet, it was so difficult. I felt free. I relished in reading Tara Murtha‘s essay about her experience on the Schuykill. How might disconnecting help us actually connect?

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Currents: Listens & Reads

Listens:

Hello Monday with Jessi Hempel (podcast): Episode “Yes, It IS You” with Jerry Colonna: In this episode, the discussion sits around being our whole selves at work; embracing our humanity and that of our colleagues within our work. I am passionate about ensuring that the teachers with whom I work feel comfortable to be themselves and seek/receive buckets of grace as well as the recognition that our work is a piece of our life, not our entire life.

Mahler’s 8th Symphony recorded by the London Philharmonic under the baton of Klaus Tennstedt: I have recently been accepted into the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and our first concert of the season is the Mahler 8. I have not sung it before and it is a doozy. Singing first soprano for the first time in a while adds to the fun challenge. What a gift to get to sing again.

Reads:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood: I was not one of those people who read The Handmaid’s Tale in school. In fact, I’d never read it before I realized I wanted to get hulu and watch the show. Like many, I was both horrified and mesmerized by Gilead and Offred’s fight for freedom. In devouring the series, I remain the same. So, of course, I was looking forward to the sequel, set 15 years after the end of the first novel. Suspending what was written for the show was a bit of a challenge, but I did appreciate the deeper stories found within The Testaments. While there are reviewers on Goodreads who lament the shift in depth from the original, I still found this book an interesting and enjoyable read.

It’s a Process from Well-Schooled: I very much enjoy all of the essays found on this blog for educators stories. In this particular essay by Lauren Huddleston, we are encouraged to honor our writers and readers along their PROCESS of learning, not only for their product. Since we know that the process is where the bulk of learning takes place, it seems like a no-brainer that we would honor this space for growth.

Great Barrier (poem) by Barbara Kingsolver: This poem was found in TIME Magazine on Sept. 23, 2019 as part of their Climate issue. I find myself going back to the language over and over again as a consideration of the Earth as divine. Her words are such a gift. Simultaneously a balm and a challenge.

Watch: 

Hello, Privilege, it’s me, Chelsea on Netflix: I appreciate this example, set out by an admittedly privileged, famous, wealthy, white woman, to explore what it means to be in a demographic that the world receives as the normal or the status quo. By setting this example of vulnerability, Chelsea Handler normalizes the start of the conversation of white privilege and systemic racism. (NSFKids)

The Politician on Netflix: For fans of Election and anything by Wes Anderson, this new series of ambition, politics, and privileged kid drama is hysterical and heartbreaking. An all-star cast led by Ben Platt will cause delight. (NSFKids)

Currently Reading:

Leading Well by Lucy Calkins

The 5 Practices in Practice by Smith and Sherin

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

a new measure of success

I am a runner. I started running at age twenty-three after a childhood of failed attempts at sports involving throwing, catching, and kicking. I decided one day in my second year of teaching that I needed to get off the couch and get running. It started slowly–walking a lot with little bursts of running. Then, bit by bit, I started running longer. I finished my first marathon almost one year to the day after I started running. I kept training, longer, smarter, harder and running became woven into my identity. Through running and endurance sports, I found my bestest friend, my greatest love, some of my best stories, and memories. I saw incredible places and spaces around the country. I started coaching running-first to adults, then to middle schoolers, then to Varsity athletes with collegiate ambitions. I spent hours and hours working after school in a running store and grew into my running communities. For a while, I got fast-ish. When I found triathlon, I certainly wasn’t content to just sprint…I went from newbie (though a life-long swimmer) to Ironman in two years. It changed my running–I would never be fast-ish again but I gained a discipline level I didn’t even experience through my years of voice study. Ten years, twelve marathons, countless other races, and an amazing Ironman day.

Then the injuries started coming….a sprained ankle here, a stress fracture there, and the mother of all torn calves two autumns ago while coaching in a boot. Three boots in five years. A life-changing grief walk and a new city and state shifted my running. Sure, I ran races here and there but didn’t consistently train. My times got slower and slower (despite one freak accident 13.1 that was just a gift from God!) I felt less and less motivated to run. Was I even still a runner?

Moving to Atlanta a year ago, I was determined to answer yes to that question. I would still be a runner. I signed up for races and ran them-slowly but surely. I invested in a year with a trainer but my fork impeded my process of positive body changes. Slower and slower and heavier and heavier.

Last spring, I set the goal of running a half marathon, my first in a few years. I wrote a grand training plan-a smart one. And when my shins and calves rebelled, I pulled back and then pushed through. I made smart decisions around training recognizing that, especially given my current size, I am more predisposed to impact injury. I finally chose to show up at the Saturday morning group and found I wasn’t alone. I found an awesome running partner who is willing to get up and start running before 5am a few days a week. And I changed my inner monologue. I AM still a runner. I AM slower than before. AND I can do this. I LOVE THIS. I am STRONG.

I finished the race on Saturday. It was a fair course as courses go. Enough hills to keep me honest about a need for more training and enough good scenery to keep me engaged when the crowds and fellow runners thinned out. When my brain fogged, my body kept going. When my body started to rebel, my brain stepped in. Yes, there was walking. Yes, there was a wicked blister that needed attending at mile 8. But crossing that finish line, I felt my old self coming to life. I didn’t need to be fast. I didn’t need to wonder if I’d make the podium. The answer to both of those was no. Yet, the positive mental outcomes from the race-confidence, self-esteem, physical strength, and goal fulfillment–completely outweigh the time on the finish clock.

This makes me think about our children. In the independent school world, we work in fast-paced, high-pressure environments. The bar is high, as it should be. And yet, I wonder if we model for our students that the bar of success can be malleable? I wonder if growing their skills of resilience, new approaches to old ideas, or self-grace is something that is just as valuable as guiding them to be strong mathematicians, readers, writers, and artists? I believe in my deepest of hearts that it is. The measure of success does not have to be the measure set by those who do not know or love us. It can be gauged and re-calibrated as we learn more, stretch ourselves, and increase our life experiences. Perhaps it is even an imperative for our children to see the way that adults can be failures in the eyes of the world-but successes in the scheme of their own history. All of the greatest successes in the world did not magically appear, they are the product of a deeply important process be it academic, emotional, physical, artistic, of whatever realm into which it fits. These processes are the measure of success, no matter how heavy the medal or the prize. Oh that we instill this in our children, I volunteer to step out first.

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childhood cherished – btsn 2019

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*Remarks from the 2019 Trinity School Back to School Night*

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” The words of the late Mary Oliver look at me in my kitchen and beg me the question each day of how I will live my life to the fullest. I think in considering the work of Trinity we can adjust just one word to get to the heart of what we do. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious childhood.”

Childhood is at the center of all things Trinity. It is embedded in our mission and pillars and it is what makes us unique in greater Atlanta, the Southeast and among our independent school peers. We believe in the power of giving children an elongated childhood in a world that encourages them to grow up to fast. We empower our children to develop a deep foundation in character and academics while remaining steadfast in curiosity, creativity, and confidence. We believe this commitment to childhood will solidify these traits and skills as they transition into adolescence and beyond. 

In her book, The Gift of Failure, Jessica Lahey writes “The less we push our kids toward educational success, the more they will learn.  The less we use external or extrinsic rewards on our children, the more they will engage in their education for the sake and love of learning.” Of course, we want our children to achieve academic success as measured by the external world but we know that there is a marked difference between the grade on the page and deep conceptual understanding, active engagement, and a thirst for learning. We have the brilliant opportunity at this age to help our children develop autonomy and independence by fueling their wonder and fascination with learning new things, making connections, and exploring a broad array of interests. 

In the UED, we are working on taking the solid roots planted in the EED and nourishing them to flourish. The groundwork of confidence laid downstairs continues on upstairs. We give our students the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, for we know that it is in these mistakes, both academic and social-emotional that their brains and hearts will stretch and grow. In his newest book, Range, journalist David Epstein reminds us: “The more confident a learner is of their wrong answer, the better the information sticks when they subsequently learn the right answer. Tolerating big mistakes can create the best learning opportunities.” We encourage you, our parents, to see these mistake making places as opportunities to grow and be stronger as academics, athletes, friends, and human beings. 

So how do we do it? How do prepare our children to thrive in a complex and rapidly changing world while protecting their childhood? 

We begin with children’s literature: 

Most of our UED children and all of our UED faculty had the opportunity to see and hear the book, On the Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, during the first few days of school. This book provides the reminder that each of us has something within us that is fabulously not quite like anyone else and by using our brave strong voice to share our fabulous self-we can widen our world and the worlds of others. Peter H. Reynolds newest book, Say Something, encourages us to be confident and to use our voice, our paintbrush, our bodies, our minds, to be courageous and stand up for what we value. The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld reminds us to be good friends, good listeners, and that practicing empathy makes us better humans. We learn that our big ideas, hard work, curiosity, and our gizmos, gadgets, and doohickeys are the best problem solvers, just like in Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. 

In the Upper Elementary Division, we intentionally and interdependently seek to honor the work of childhood through our vigorous academic program, vetted instructional resources, differentiated support, best practice-based teaching, commitment to play, and high expectations, all in spaces where children are known, loved, and respected. Our roots firmly planted, grow into the strong young trees of our Leadership Class and alumni. We look forward to a partnership with you as we begin anew here at Trinity School.