Monday, June 19, 2017

Dexter Park Staff Book Study: Week 1 Reflection

First of all, let me say how excited I am to be trying out this new format of books talks, and thank you to Anna for bringing it to us! I have done a little bit of blogging but not nearly as much as I'd like, so I am hoping this will give me the push I need to get back into it. I have already enjoyed the reflections posted already and am certain you will see blogging as another way to deeper reflect on your practice and learn from others.

I did not take the quiz. Actually, I started to take the quiz but found it very challenging. I went in thinking I would take it with the best knowledge I had during my last year of teaching, but then I realized my responses would not be accurate- even though it was 4 years ago, I would have trouble figuring out if it's what I wanted to be, or what I actually was as a classroom educator.

I will say, in reflection, what resonated with me is that teaching is such a complex act. As a leader, my goal is to be present in classrooms as much as possible and push educators' practice forward. In my first couple years, I leaned on the evaluation process to do this: visiting rooms, giving my perception of strengths and areas for growth, then coming back in a few weeks to check-in on progress. What I am learning is this does not move practice the way I had hoped because that process if heavily one-sided: it is my interpretation of just a sliver of an educator's year with students. Robyn points out something that I believe strongly, it's not as much about skill as it is mindset. In my years working with educators and leaders, there is no doubt that reflective practitioners are the most skilled and successful in their work. It is having a growth mindset, knowing there is always something for us to learn and grow in (which is why you are all in this book study!). It is also being honest and willing to admit when you have challenges or a lesson didn't go well, but then striving to make it better.

My goal for this book is to help grow educator capacity not through the evaluation system but through regular dialogue and reflection. I want to be able to support all of you as you are exploring these strategies in your practice but I also want to help others reflect on their practice. I am hoping each chapter will bring to light reflective questions that I can use to further promote the 7 principles not just in your classroom but throughout the building.

Again, so excited to take this journey with you!!

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Fond Farewell

Good afternoon graduates, parents, families, community members, School Committee members and Superintendent Thomas to our 2017 graduation ceremony. My name is Chris Dodge and I proud to the be principal here at the Dexter Park Innovation School. Today we honor, recognize, and celebrate our 6th grade students and you, their families and support networks.

This time of year for me, for the students, and staff is one of great excitement. But it also brings with it a flurry of other emotions: grief as another year comes to a close, pride in our students as we see them move on ready for the next grade, and even sadness as we say goodbye to the students and staff that we have worked so tirelessly with and invested so much to. Students, you are probably feeling the same mixed emotions. Maybe a little sad about leaving a place you know so well, a little scared about what is next to come, and hopefully proud of of you have done in your time here. I want you to know that the adults feel the same way, and it’s okay. It is completely normal, you are human.   

You may also be sitting here wondering, as the adults here do this time of year, did I do enough with my time? Was I enough for those around me?  Was I the best I could be all the time? Well, I am here today to tell you the answer to those questions: no, you weren’t, and it is okay. When you find yourself asking these questions, shift your mindset from one of regret to one of acceptance. Accepting you for who you are, the mistakes you make, and the effort you put forth to making you and the people around you better. And as you sit in front of me, ready to move on from DP, accept this moment as it is and all the feelings and emotions that live inside you. It is what make you, you.

It is always funny for for me to be giving this kind of advice because I don’t always practice what I preach: about slowing down, letting go, and letting things be. So I was recently looking for some inspiration and found a poem that I’d like to share.

Friends, when you move onto new adventures, my message if simple: remember how small things grow. We cannot do it all, change it all, solve every problem, but as Mark Nepo writes “we can feed each other”. We can offer small, nearly invisible kindnesses that can take flight into some unknown future, effortless, alive. Bring everything you have to others around you; all your passion, humor, intelligence, weakness, and challenges. Be content with you are at this very moment, accept yourself and others for who they are, and seek to make others’ lives better in your presence.  These small moments make a big impact, and the world need more of that. Take big risks, give it all you have, don’t forget to laugh, and always choose kindness.