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My Hopes for our 8th Graders #BCSLearns

streaks_8th grade

The theme for this year’s 8th grade Farewell Celebration for the BCS Class of 2018 (high school class of 2022) is “The Best Streaks of our Lives.”  Let’s look forward, into the future, with this theme in mind.  How might each of you make each phase of your life “The Best?”  What does it take to live a long successfully happy life?  How might you answer this question?  Many of the first things that initially come to mind revolve around taking care of your mental and physical health.  Exercise often. Eat healthy. Keep a positive attitude.  These are all easier said than done to be sure.  Or, how about read and learn daily keeping the mind sharp.  All important indeed!  But, what if I shared with you research that suggests that the top 2 secrets to a long life have nothing to do with these seemingly obvious beneficial activities.  Researcher Susan Pinker shares that “The Italian island of Sardinia has more than six times as many centenarians [100+ year olds] as the mainland and ten times as many as North America.” It is also the only place on earth she can find where men live as long as women.  But, Why? What’s the secret? According to Pinker, “it’s not a sunny disposition or a low-fat, gluten-free diet that keeps the islanders alive so long.  It is their emphasis on close personal relationships and face-to-face interactions” that make the difference.   If fact, a positive attitude is not even on the list of top 10 from Pinker’s research (of course it can’t hurt).  Things involving physical health are on the list, but the two activities that top the list are Close Relationships (no. 2) and Social Integration/Social Connectedness (no. 1).  From her research, Pinker has determined that “social isolation is the public health risk of our time.”  On Sardinia, people “are never left to live solitary lives.”  Members of their community are always dropping by to interact with each other making social isolation impossible and improving their close relationships and social integration.  So, why do I bring this up to you 8th graders tonight?  Because I have serious hopes for each of you!  Five to be exact.

My hope is that your years at BCS (whether it was 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or all 6) gave you the opportunity for some close friendships and social integration. People who know me, know how important collaboration is to me, and now look what research here points to as it relates to social connectedness.

My hope for you in high school is broadening your friendships and social integration discovering even more deeply who you are and who you want to become.

My hope for you beyond high school, in college, is creating lasting close relationship and socially integrating with an array of interesting people both similar to and very different from yourself.

My hope for you in adulthood is you realize the importance of positive relationships and social connectedness that will feed your success by any measure and lead to a long and successful life. 8th graders, class of 2022, through your close relationships and social integration may you become a centenarian, like the islanders on Sardinia, who looks back on each phase of your life as “the best streaks of your life”, indeed the best life, because you have people with whom to spend it.

Let me close by sharing my final hope. I indeed look forward to seeing you in four years at the BCS Senior Alumni breakfast and hearing all about your next BESTs.  Congratulations on your recognition tonight – you should be proud; I know I am!  My final hope?  I hope your time at BCS was the best so far.

Congratulations on your special day and I wish you THE BEST! [certificates distributed]

[to close the evening I share the following]

I have mentioned the word “success” several times tonight, so let me close the evening leaving you with a quote on success that I feel perfectly embodies its meaning. It is a quote by American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson and is my ultimate hope for each of you in ensuring each phase of your life can be considered, in line with this year’s theme “the best.”  I wish for you…

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

Congratulations BCS Class of 2018; You are the Best!

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What’s the Secret to a Long Life? #BCSLearns

What does it take to live 100 and beyond?  How would you answer this question?  Many of the first things that come to mind revolve around taking care of your mental and physical health.  Exercise often. Eat healthy. Keep a positive attitude (easier said then done).  But, what if I shared with you research that suggests that the top 2 secrets to a long life have nothing to do with these seemingly obvious beneficial activities.  Researcher Susan Pinker shares that “The Italian island of Sardinia has more than six times as many centenarians as the mainland and ten times as many as North America.” It is also the only place on earth she can find where men live as long as women.  But, Why? According to Pinker, “it’s not a sunny disposition or a low-fat, gluten-free diet that keeps the islanders alive so long .  It is their emphasis on close personal relationships and face-to-face interactions” that make the difference.   If fact, you can even be “grumpy” or a “sourpuss” – a positive attitude is not on the list of top 10 from Pinker’s reasearch.

  • 10 – Clean Air
  • 9   – Hytertension Rx
  • 8   – Lean vs. Overweight
  • 7   – Exercise
  • 6   – Cardiac Rehab
  • 5   – Flu Vaccine
  • 4   – Quit Boozing
  • 3   – Quit Smoking
  • 2   – Close Relationships
  • 1   – Social Integration

From her research, Pinker has determined that “social isolation is the public health risk of our time.”  On Sardinia, “They are never left to live solitary lives.”  As people age, members of their community are always dropping by to interact with each other making social isolation impossible and improving their close relationships and social integration.

Pinker explains what it takes to live to 100 and beyond in 2 videos I share below – both well worth the time.  The first video is a 2-minute snippet of the TED Talk and summary of her research.  The second video is the full 16 minute version.  View them both to help you understand what she means by “close relationships” and “social interaction.”  Give them a watch!

Stand Up and Upstand #BCSLearns

With May upon us, we focus at BCS on our next habit of empathy from Michelle Borba’s book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Success in Our All-About-Me World.  This month’s focus is that empathetic people Stick their Necks Out.  In her book, Borba says that empathetic people have the “moral courage” to stick their necks out and become “active bystanders, better known as “upstanders”.  Bystanders stand by and passively observe or witness any acts of unkindness to others.  We need to teach our students, even ourselves, strategies to stand up actively.  In her book, Borba shares some strategies to positively S.T.A.N.D. U.P.:

  • S – seek support
  • T – tell a trusted adult
  • A – assist the victim
  • N – negate with positivity
  • D – detour
  • U – use a distraction
  • P – pause and rethink

In helping students nurture this habit of sticking their necks out, we need to explicitly teach what each of these strategies look like and sound like.  For many middle school and high school students telling an adult is taboo.  We have to help students realized they have a moral obligation to help create a safe environment for each of us who have the privilege to be part of the community in which we find ourselves.  Telling a trusted adult is not “ratting out” a classmate; rather, it is getting help to further support the safety and well-being of those in our community.  If a student just won’t report, there are still other strategies to demonstrate this moral courage.  A student can be an upstander with another strategy such as assisting the victim, detouring or simply using a distraction.  These do not require reporting; the taboo for many older students.

So what happens when we become upstanders?  Here are the research-based outcomes.  Upstanding…

  • reduces the audience that a bully craves
  • mobilizes the compassion of witnesses to step in and stop the bullying
  • supports the victim and reduces the trauma
  • is a positive influence in curbing a bullying episode
  • encourages other students to support a school climate of caring
  • encourages reporting a bullying incident since 85 percent of time bullying occurs an adult is not present. Students are usually the witnesses.

In short, “When bystanders intervene correctly, studies find they can cut bullying more than half the time and within 10 seconds (Pepler and Craig, 2005).

If that is not enough to demonstrate the benefits. “Sticking your neck out and nurturing this habit, as Borba contends, helps our students find their “inner hero.”  What can we do to help nurture the inner hero of our children?

  • Expect social responsibility
  • Set the example: model it.
  • Offer Heros: Harrry Potter, Huck Finn, Nelson Mandella, Little Engine that could.
  • Stop Rescuing : We do not build confidence when we rescue.
  • Try small scale courage.

Above all, always encourage, and help children live the mantra of Muhatma Ghandi, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Be the Change – It is done everyday, let’s just make it larger scale!  Show this below video to your students and children to help them find their inner hero.  “Kindness begins with you!”

Fill Every Class with Passionate Learning #BCSLearns

Elective and “special” classes adjacent to the core curriculum classes typically do not purposefully integrate core curriculum standards from the core subjects, though, often, they naturally become integrated through the project-based approach.  In the article To Engage Students and Teachers, Treat Core Subjects Like Extracurriculars,” Leah Shaffer shares the compelling research of Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine.  “The most powerful core classes Mehta and Fine have seen take on the elements of extracurricular activities. For example, at High Tech High School in San Diego, one biology class is organized around the goal of students creating and eventually publishing field guides.”  We must build on student passions for authenticity within the real world all while driving the standards that need to be learned.  Not only can this project-based approach drive the standards, it will also drive student passion, motivation and engagement.  Another “example Fine has seen is in a project-based humanities classroom. Students started the class by reading about the anti-communist fervor of the 1950s and McCarthyism. Then for the latter half of the semester, students were tasked with using the same rhetoric from that time to create documentary films on a controversial subject of their choice. Essentially, the project allows students to understand propaganda by making their own propaganda film.  [Or] In social studies, for example, students learn local history and then study ethnography by interviewing residents in different neighborhoods and mapping those neighborhoods.

All that said, with the breadth of the many standards to be learning in many of our core curricula, often times teacher will feel pressed for time to get through the standards in lieu of authentic projects.  Thus, the structure of the day and the pace of learning is a critical component of the school day for students.  Artful integration of standards within the curriculum is essential; something that is much easier in a self-contained classroom at the elementary level vs. a 6-hour class period day at the secondary level.  “The day at Lodestar [Academy] is broken into two parts: time for expeditionary and project-based learning, and a section of the day for literacy and math lab, where students learn core subjects at a personalized pace.”

In the video below, project based learning, PBL, is explained in full detail with examples and instructions for implementation.

In the video below, the perfect problem connects content, student interest, and an authentic context.

We, at BCS, remember this from Edutopia about Building a Student Centered School.  In the video below, See how some very familiar teachers help very familiar students apply their literacy skills to explore science problems outside classroom walls.

Others-Focused Leadership #BCSLearns

An article in Edutopia by Robert Ward called Exploring the Benefit Mindset references the work of benefit mindset theorist Ash Buchanan.  According to Buchanan, the benefit mindset “describes societies everyday leaders who promote well-being on both an individual and a collective level. It builds on Carol Dweck’s pioneering research on how beliefs can profoundly shape the lives we lead and the actions we take.” 

Mindset has been a popular trend in education, business and leadership since Dweck’s research spurred its interest in her 2006 book.  Previous posts of mine include Empower a Positive Mindset and Growth Mindset – Fixin’ to See Its Implication for Adults & Kids Alike.  In this article from Edutopia, Ward details four ways educators can help nurture the benefits mindset in the students they serve shifting them from a “me” mindset to a “we” mindset.

  • Encouraging Inclusion – students include others, “no student eats alone”
  • Providing Peer Supports – this concept works perfectly with our BCS multiage looping approach where students become buddies or mentors for each other.
  • Empowering Change Makers: Students Acting Locally – service learning is an important component of our students’ learning experiences from raising salmon, to gardening (hydroponic and otherwise), to honeybees, to green efforts, to diversity and honoring individuality.  The list goes on, but supporting student learning that benefits others matters!
  • Emphasizing the Positive: Everyday Heroes Report – for this, Ward suggests students highlight “noble deeds” they observe around schools.  They could even write it up and report it out.

This benefit mindset is important to me and the core values I aspire to live into as a leader.  In my office posted on the wall behind me hangs these key leadership values:

  • Advocate on behalf of our students
  • Have an orientation toward continuous improvement
  • Being of service to other

The last one, being of service to others, for me, captures the essence of the benefit mindset.  This does not mean simply providing service; rather, at its core, service to others is about being others focused supporting others’ well-being on both an individual and collective level as is described by Buchanan’s work.  The short video below defined the three types of mindsets and why each of us should aspire to be an “everyday learner” and an “everyday leader.”  The video describes the fixed mindset as an “everyday expert,” the growth mindset as the “everyday learner,” and the benefit mindset as the “everyday leader”.  Check out the video!

The article in Edutopia closes by reminding us educators that “Acting with a benefit mindset is not something students put on one Saturday a month for two hours as a grudging act of service—it is a way of being, a way of well-being, that yields powerful results inside and outside of the classroom.”  Powerful results, in my mind, that nurture greater empathetic habits and a more profound service-mentality in each and every one of us.

These Trends Look Familiar? #BCSLearns

Following are the Most Popular Trends in Education from TeachThought. In reviewing these, I marveled at how many of these trends speak to and are deeply aligned with our BCS Vision, Mission, Values and Beliefs and how we approach learning at BCS.  In fact, noted after each, is a previous post referenced from my blog.  Which trends most resonate with you at a member of the BCS community?

  1. Growth Mindset (Growth Mindset – Fixin’ to See Its Implication for Adults & Kids Alike)
  2. Maker Learning (Can Our Students Change the World from Our Classrooms?)
  3. Bloom’s Taxonomy (Questioning: Powerful for Inquiry, Discovery & Curiosity-for learning!)
  4. Digital Citizenship/Literacy (Are You Future Proof?)
  5. Personalized Learning (Individualization, Differentiation & Personalized Learning – A comparison)
  6. Project-Based Learning (see links for #2)
  7. Team-Building for Learning (Give These Collaborative Team Roles a Try!)
  8. Blended Learning (Personalized Learning vs. Personal Learning)
  9. Genius Hour (see links for #5 and #8)
  10. Teaching Empathy (Now More than Ever! At BCS We Value Each Other through Empathy)
  11. Pushing Back on Education Technology (Is Your Technology Integration Rigorous and Relevant Enough?)
  12. Social/Emotional Learning (How You Feeling?)
  13. Alternatives to Traditional ‘School’ (see links for #2, #5, #6, #8 and #9)
  14. Robotics/Coding (The Hour of Code is coming)
  15. Alternatives to Letter Grades (Grading – How to Make it Less of a Herculean Effort)
  16. Brain-Based Learning (Empathy Equals?)
  17. Gamification (Can Gamers Make the World a Better Place?)
  18. Adaptive Learning Algorithms (see link for #5)
  19. Game-Based Learning (“Can Schools Have a Spirit of Entertainment & Play as Part of Their Learning?”)
  20. Mobile Learning (see link for #11)

I also came across this video of the “Top 20 Trends in 2017” where futurist and keynote speaker Jeremy Gutsche shares future trends for the year ahead in this 6-minutes.  Have a look at these business-related trends.  In thinking about them, maybe we ought to integrate more cuisine, travel, and wellness into our curriculum. 🙂

The Top 20 Trends are noted below the video for your review as well.
Which ones could be implemented in a school?

  1. Retail Kinship
  2. Big Data Concierge
  3. Quantified Self-Care
  4. Culinary Laboratory
  5. Extreme Wellness
  6. Prosumer Tourism
  7. Boomer Peer-to-Peer
  8. Detoxifying Libation
  9. Preferential Pop-up
  10. Condensed Broadcast
  11. Designer Customization
  12. Suspended Adulthood
  13. Shoppable Media
  14. Instagrammable Fitness
  15. Branded Education
  16. Sponsorship Gaming
  17. Communal Living
  18. Artisanal Education
  19. Analog Divergence
  20. Embedded Virtual Reality

Practice Kindness Relentlessly #BCSLearns

This year at BCS we have focused on our theme were lean in and lead with EMPATHY always embracing our BCS Moral Compass.  Each month we have embraced a different habit of empathy, and with March roaring in like a lion, we embrace another habit of empathy – the notion that empathetic people practice kindness.  In her book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, author Michelle Borba proves from her research that “developing and exercising kindness and prosocial behaviors increases children’s concern about the welfare and feelings of others and enhances the likelihood that they will step in to help, support or comfort others.”  Borba purposefully names the habit as “practicing” kindness due to the fact that we, adults and children need to constantly work on this habit and “practice” our kindness.  Kindness is a habit and therefore can be strengthened like a muscle.  In fact, let’s view kindness, not as a noun, but as a verb.  It is an action, something we do and something upon which we act.  Additionally, let’s be sure we not only specifically praise our children and our students about their academics, but also for their acts of kindness as human beings.  Kindness is the way to Be!  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently states, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 

At the end of this post, I include a video called “27 Easy Ways To Practice Kindness” from Mind Movies.  As the video states,  “If we all choose to see the abundance that surrounds us and we all put a little bit of effort into making the world a better place, we could actually live much happier lives and be surrounded by much friendlier people. The good news is that kindness is an attribute that can be learned, and by practicing it [relentlessly] you’ll not only be improving your own life, but you’ll also be making a contribution to your community and to the world around you.”  Convincing enough! Let’s take care of each other and relentlessly practice kindness.  Take look at these 27 ways to practice kindness and give them a try.  Above all else, keep that POSITIVE ATTITUDE and spread it near and far!