During my journey to earn my Ph.D. I was frequently surprised by just how much fun I was having. Sure, working full time and going to school full time had its moments, like when I was in the middle of my research and my mom became quite ill. After a few weeks, it was clear that I would have to delay completion a year so I could properly care for her. But, as one who doesn’t have any memory of not being fascinated by brains and how they work, the majority of this experience was like being the proverbial kid in a candy store!
When I contemplated by doctorate, I knew that I would do work at the intersection of cognitive science (how we think, the process we use), neuroscience (the actual working of the brain), and educational research (how we blend and share a multitude of complex and dynamic forces to create learning for other humans). When my advisor mentioned a summer conference at Harvard’s Mind, Brain, and Education department within the Education Department, I knew I had to go. Harvard had always been that place of mythic proportion in which I dreamed to be immersed. My old brother attended Harvard for his Master’s and I was more than a little envious.
As some of you know, I am a two-time cancer thriver. When I kicked cancer to the curb the first time, I was determined to finally earn my Ph.D. My visit to Harvard was very early in that process. As I was doing my literature review (the deep and wide reading one does to be sure one has a handle on the field of focus for your doctoral work, to ensure that your work builds upon the field) I “discovered” Dr. Kurt Fischer and his Dynamic Skill Theory, a theory of how cognition develops: as we say now, Mind Blown! Dr. Fischer was one of the founder’s of both Harvard’s Mind, Brain and Education and the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society. When I reached out to him, I realized that regardless of cost there was NO WAY I was missing this opportunity to go study Mind, Brain and Education during the first summer of my doctoral work. At the end of the first day I went for a walk along the Charles River. I was overcome with emotion and stood there and cried like a baby, until I realized that the overwhelming feeling was one of profound gratitude to be alive, cancer-free, pursuing my doctorate as I had committed to doing when I was six years old (I have it in writing in my keepsake box that I was going to be a “doctor and a teacher.”), and at Harvard no less! Life was incredibly good.
On the second day I learned the piece of science that has informed every educational decision and move I have made since then. A brilliant, young (relative to me) woman named Mary Helen Immordino Yang was sharing her insights into how our brains work. She revealed that the data was irrefutable that humans learn through emotion. Period. Full stop. Our brains are emotional organs. I was blown away! It made such great sense to me, but so do many neuromyths, so I set out to learn all I could. I read every juried academic article I could find and I agreed to join the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society, in part to give me great access to both the scientists doing the work and a bunch of my fellow geeks who love to read, think, and talk about our brains and how they work.
Next week in our shared time of Coffee with the Principal we will be exploring what it means to have what is called a growth mindset, how we can cultivate this in school (and at home ), and how powerful our mindset is when it comes to developing our knowledge, talents, and skills. Until then, remember that we cannot separate our selves (our heart, our soul, our feelings) from our feelings and our feelings make a big difference in what we learn and what we do not.
Now that the school year is launched, we will be hosting weekly “Coffee with the Principal,” meetups starting at 8:45. Each week will feature discussion amongst community members about different aspects of school – present, and future. I will be inviting other members of our leadership team to join us too.
Tuesday, October 2nd was our second “Coffee with the Principal.” Based on the request from last week’s Coffee with the Principal, we focused on rubrics, and how they can be used effectively to support teaching and learning with a strong commitment to student voice and choice. The group worked together with a fairly straightforward rubric that describes each of the 6 traits of writing and how it is expressed in an essay. Parents experienced an introductory lesson in determining the relative strength or value of a piece of writing based upon an effective rubric. We had an engaging dive into this essential teaching and learning tool. We anticipate repeating this for the first “Brown Baggin’ with Dr. B.” bring your own dinner evening on Thursday, October 18th, from 5:30-7:00. We will either gather in my office, or the teacher’s lounge, based on attendance. We want to try to keep these sessions as dynamic and engaging as our first two coffees have been, so we will be posting an RSVP next week.
Thank you to all who joined have joined us thus far.
Next Week’s Plans
Next week’s Coffee with the Principal has to be cancelled, as I must go to a district meeting. (We will resume on Tuesday, October 16th, with an exploration into mindsets and their power when it comes to teaching and learning, and developing our capacities to be global citizens.)
Thursday, Oct 11this the Parent-Teacher social, our first opportunity to eat dinner and chat about school.
On a wonderful, textile-rich tangent: All are invited, parents and students, to join the Lanier Knit and Crochet Club next Wednesday, October 10thfrom 4:00-5:30 in the Teacher’s Lounge. I am providing yarn, knitting needles, and crochet hooks. We hope to firm up regular meeting dates, probably twice a month, going forward.
It is our plan to have our coffee and dinner educational chats provide flexibility for parents. Because we are concerned about space, we will post a survey to enable parents to RSVP to “Brown Baggin’ with Dr. B.” to ensure that we hold this gathering in the right space.
Please check out the resources I am sharing HERE. It is my objective to share readings of interest to inform our discussions. Please offer me feedback about them. If there is a particular topic that you would like to have featured in our discussions, a survey will be shared soon – I welcome your feedback.
Oct. 2nd – 8:45 am Coffee with the Principal
Oct. 4th – 8:30 am and 5:30 pm – 8th grade Parent Magnet information session
Oct. 9th – 8:30 am and 5:30 pm – Gifted and Talented Parent information session
Oct. 16th – 8:45 am Coffee with the Principal
Oct. 23rd – 8:45 am Coffee, Tea and IB with the Principal
Nov. 6th – 8:45 am Coffee with the Principal
Nov. 13th – 8:45 am Coffee with the Principal
Nov. 27th – 8:45 am Coffee, Tea and IB with the Principal
Dec. 4th – 8:45 am Coffee with the Principal
Dec. 11th – 8:45 am Coffee with the Principal
Dec. 18th – 8:45 am Coffee, Tea and IB with the Principal *Cultural Holiday Celebration
Tuesday (09/25) was the inaugural “Coffee with the Principal,” that we combined with “Coffee, Tea, and IB.” We apologize for the late announcement, we wanted to seize an opportunity when our schedule shifted just a bit! Thank you to Ms. Kearston Block, from Nothing Bundt Cakes for once again treating us to delicious snacks, and to Ms. Marini for baking for those who are gluten-free! If you have an occasion for yummy cakes, please consider Nothing Bundt Cakes at 5115 Buffalo Speedway, and share a thank you for their support of Lanier.
Now that we are well into the school year , we will be having a weekly “Coffee with the Principal,” starting at 8:45am on Tuesdays. Each week will feature discussion amongst community members about different aspects of school present, and future. I will be inviting other members of our leadership team to join us too. This week, Ms. Rhymes, our wonderful IB Coordinator joined me. We shared a few videos about 21stCentury schooling and IB MYP and utilized a discussion protocol that your students might use in class. The discussion was lively and a great example of what an engaged and dynamic learning community Lanier is. We spoke quite a bit about the use of rubrics as important feedback tools and documentation of student learning, and parents requested an opportunity to take a deeper dive into this essential teaching and learning tool.
Thank you to all who joined us today. We plan to share a similar discussion today for Parent University. Parent University will be preceded by a Magnet Tour from 5:30-6:30. Parent University will begin at 6:30, and go to 8:00. You are welcome to bring dinner and eat while we chat.
Next Week’s Plans
Next Tuesday, October 2nd, “Coffee with the Principal” will feature a deeper dive into rubrics in the classrooms. This can be a rather challenging dialogue for the first time, so we may extend it over the next coffee as well.
Because Thursday, Oct 4this both an 8thgrade Magnet information meeting and a general PTO meeting, and Thursday, Oct 11this the Parent-Teacher social, our first opportunity to eat dinner and chat about school , aka “Brown Baggin’ with Dr. B. will be on October 25th starting at 5:30, and we will be delving into the use of rubrics in the classroom.
It is our plan to have our coffee and dinner educational chats provide flexibility for parents. Because we are concerned about space, we will post a survey to enable parents to RSVP to “Brown Baggin’ with Dr. B.” in order to determine the most appropriate space for the number of participants.
Hopefully by the end of this week, I will be sharing some resources that community members may find of interest to inform our discussions, so please stay tuned to the blog.
Throughout HISD, at every campus, we are hosting Parent University on September 27, 2018. Please join us at Lanier from 6:30-8:00. We will be:
- Hosting Magnet Tours
- Sharing what Gifted and Talented education looks like on our campus
- Chatting about International Baccalaureate
- Dialoguing about Lanier’s plans to move with IB into the 21st Century
- Our cafeteria team is offering spaghetti dinner, and we have to know how many to feed. Please use the Survey Monkey link to let us know you are coming so we are sure to have the right spaces available for our breakout sessions and enough spaghetti for all! Please RSVP by Sept. 20th so our cafeteria team can prepare.
We look forward to seeing you on the 27th!