October 31, 2016
This week brings October to a close. Each year, I hear teachers and parents saying, “October can be a challenging month.” Often I think about what makes it such a challenge? And, what are the good challenges that we embrace each year, and where are the rough roads traveled as teachers, parents, and students, that we want to smooth out.
School begins with everyone refreshed from a nice summer hiatus from traditional work and school routines. Everyone seems to have a story to tell about a summer adventure, connection with a loved one, or discovery of a new interest. School brings back old friends to share those new ideas and adventures with, and a time to plan and move forward. With that being said, each week the pace picks up a little more and a little more, until we can feel a bit overwhelmed. Helping our students and one another manage this stress or challenge in a positive way is another area of focus.
Over the summer, I was able to ride my horse, play with my grandchildren, swim, spend time in nature and rejuvenate. I was also allowed the time to read! Reading brings joy and new adventures, as well. Often I like fiction, and more or less what is coined beach reading, but this summer I chose to read non-fiction and learn something different. The many books suggested on the Breck Professional List appealed to me, and it was hard to choose. So, I just started reading and ended up almost completing four titles: Growth Mindset, by Carol Dweck, The Gift of Failure, by Jessical Lahey, Quiet, by Susan Cain, and…finally The Upside of Stress, by Kelly McGonigal. (I have to admit that I did cut some corners when reading by finding several of these authors on Ted Talks.) The books, the author lecture, and the time to think really changed how I looked at teaching and learning. I also thought about being a parent and the lessons involved in that, too. I highly recommend these books and the Ted Talks by these amazing authors!
Now since being immersed in school routines, activities, and special events, I see how Breck teachers are incorporating the overarching tenets of these books/authors. I have witnessed new and challenging math curriculum being presented with teacher enthusiasm and a can do attitude by students. No one said that this was going to be an easy task. This is a challenging curriculum, but the teachers and students are embracing the challenge and finding a great deal of success in the process. Are they making mistakes? Absolutely! Are they embracing the mistakes and learning from them at an even deeper level of academic connectedness….a whole hearted, YES!
Initiatives in schools across the national include: Growth Mindset, Yoga Calm, Mindfulness, and The Power of Quiet. What does all this tell you? It tells me that we are a busy society that is overflowing with activity, energy, and many choices. Learning to balance a busy schedule, one needs to learn how to set priorities and make choices. Too many things, even really good things, flip a switch and make things go wrong. In this feeling of imbalance, there can be confusion and disappointment. Then… it is hard to think, appreciate the lessons in life, and find joy in day-to-day activities. Working through challenges is a good stress. It is an area that can stretch you into new levels of learning and later understanding. Without it life and learning can fall flat. Of course too many challenges all at once are frustrating and defeating. A student needs the opportunity to grow, but also time to reflect and have some fun. This year, I am making a conscious effort to encourage the excitement of learning new things; supporting my students through the opportunities that come with mistakes; and celebrating each step along the way. I encourage everyone to work hard and play hard, but I don’t want to forget that ever important part of the equation…rest hard!
November is such a good month for quiet and reflection. The weather is getting cooler and brings us inside. And, the holiday in focus is Thanksgiving. It is an important time to think about what we are grateful for, and to appreciate family. This should not be a time that we forget or move past too quickly into the hurried activities that go with December. Enjoy the moment of peace, the moment of quiet thinking, and the moment of much deserved rest.