Written by Sumant Bhat
Read time 3mins 40 seconds...
Happy New Year, everyone! It is hard to believe, but the year 2020 is here. As a kid, I remember thinking about how far away 2020 was and imagining a world of flying cars or Flux Capacitors like in Back to the Future. With 2020 here, those of you with 8th graders might be in disbelief that your child will be graduating in just six months. In any case, I look forward to a great 2020 ahead with our amazing middle school community, as there are so many trips and experiences like Project 8 speeches, Blue/Gold Week, the art show and drama productions and more that will showcase our kids’ myriad strengths and talents. As this is a time for resolutions, I thought I’d share a few resolutions I’ve been pondering that are rooted in experiences from our first week back.
#1: Appreciate inspiration that is right around you:
To start our middle school in-service professional learning last Monday, faculty explored and interacted with an art installation on teaching created by faculty members Stefanie Bakken, Laura Boroughf, and Angela Moreira. It was inspired by collected responses from our faculty to questions like “Who/what inspired us to go into teaching?” “What does it feel like when I’m teaching what I love?” And “How do higher-order thinking skills connect to feelings?” It also included responses from our amazing students about the kinds of environments where they learn best. The exhibit included projected word clouds, opportunities to create poetry from responses, and other interactive stations. It was an inspiring way to launch us into the work of teaching higher-order thinking skills, and it highlighted the power of relationships within our halls between students and faculty. It also bonded us together around our common purpose of educating young people. The preparation that went into the meeting, the facilitation during it, and what was shared was a reminder for me of how extraordinary the middle school team of faculty is and how much inspiration I draw from them each and every day.
#2: Approach the diverse world with curiosity:
At Middle School Assembly this week, we had ten students compete in the second annual St. Anne’s Geography Bee (after having made it through multiple rounds already). Throughout the competition, I was struck by the great diversity of climates, wildlife, and human experience highlighted in the Geo Bee’s questions, often in places that surprised me. Our world is so incredibly diverse, and there are so many biases and assumptions we hold based on our understandably limited experience with different places in the world. The only way to break those assumptions is to approach the diversity of places around the world with a curiosity to learn more and a willingness to admit that we maybe don’t know everything about another place or people. Sitting through the Geo Bee with the questions that humbled my world view, I know I am resolved to learn more and to approach places different from my own home with wonder.
3) Be flexible & adaptable: There’s nothing like welcoming students back for their first day while simultaneously learning that an issue with our Wi-Fi would prevent us from being connected for much of the day. Despite the fact we have more devices on campus than students and that technology is a valuable tool for our teaching in the classroom, we hardly missed a beat in the middle school. I credit our faculty for their flexibility and willingness to pivot plans or circumnavigate issues using their own hot spots to create great learning environments for our kids. I also will credit our general approach of understanding that technology needs to be the right tool for the job to enhance or transform learning experiences, not just technology for the sake of it. Viewing technology as one of many tools in an educator's toolbox allows us to be flexible and not overly reliant or dependent.
4) Embrace opportunities for old acquaintances to be brought to mind:
Thursday night we had our post-holiday alumni event. We had so many of our young alumni join us in the evening in the library. While I do feel that a space like the library at St. Anne’s conjures up a feeling of coming home for our alumni, I also know that alumni come back to see the faculty they love and that love them. We had a fabulous turnout from both faculty and students. As a division head, it was wonderful to see the continued growth, successes and resilience from graduates whose unique journeys I was fortunate to see up close for three years. I’m not sure students will ever understand the pride we get as educators watching them grow into the young people of character and scholarship that I see time and again from St. Anne’s alumni, but that’s the truth. It was a busy day for everyone, I am sure, but the turnout and feeling of connection are worth it. Applying it to my own personal connections outside of school is worth a resolution as well, I believe. Yes, it can be tough to make time with the constraints of my own kids and school, but the half-hour or hour that coffee or lunch can take is always worth it for relationships that have been important parts of my own life.
I probably could have another twenty resolutions, but four seems enough as it is. Whatever your resolutions are, I wish you the best in keeping them in the year of 2020!