Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to:
- connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
- share ideas about learning and human development;
- spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy.
Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing.
Michael Ulku-Steiner, Head of School
Leaning into new learning with Rob Evans
Durham Academy and Hill Center faculty joined forces today to learn from and with Dr. Rob Evans, who has worked with more than 1,700 schools over his career as teacher, psychologist, consultant, and Executive Director of The Human Relations Service in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Click here for more information about Rob and his work.
This summer, all Durham Academy teachers read one of Dr. Evans’ books:
- The Human Side of School Change: Reform, Resistance, and the Real-Life Problems of Innovation
- Family Matters: How Schools Can Cope with the Crisis in Childrearing
- Seven Secrets of the Savvy School Leader
Today’s conversations focused on building from our strongly congenial faculty culture toward a culture of more candid and purposeful collegiality. What exactly does that mean? See below for comments, notes, quotes, and reflections from our faculty.
Teachers: have at it!
Hi DA and Hill Center, I spoke up about Learning differences and probed Rob about his feelings about how different people communicate best. I think it is important to be aware of our strengths and weaknesses as communicators and as such am posing a video about Working Memory. Some people do not enjoy or thrive with being put on the spot and I want us all to be aware of differences within our community so that we can best relate and respect each other. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5vTQJv1s2M
My other reaction today was the feeling that we all love what we do, but do we love it enough to take risks and step outside congeniality and into deeper collegiality?Looking forward to building a safer place that balances personal with business!
I am grateful we have taken time to reflect on the process of change in schools. I am challenging myself to be mindful of the ideas below.
- As a community of learners we must be willing to disagree in the interest of growth.
- Change/learning/schooling is a journey, not a destination.
- The more that is asked of us, the more we need to support each other.
Here are a few things that resonate strongly with me after having some time to reflect on what Dr. Evans had to share with us today:
- to remember that none of us is perfect. This is something I remind my students of all the time, and it's something that we ourselves need to remember, too. We all want to set the bar high but we also must remember that the greatest successes are often the products of risks and failures
- to remind ourselves that none of us is alone and that we are all on the same journey when it comes to our profession--as Dr. Evans suggested, more often than not our feelings, our doubts, our insecurities. . .are pretty much shared by all of us, especially when big changes are on the horizon
- to communicate openly and constructively with one another, and to realize that there's a lot we can learn from each other, even when we disagree
- to realize how fortunate we are to be surrounded by hardworking, talented, caring colleagues, and perhaps most importantly, not to take them for granted!
Two parts really resonated with me from the talk with Dr. Evans. First was the idea of really getting to know and make connections with other faculty and staff members. This is something that we automatically do with our students and advisees, but there is definite value in taking the time and energy to do so with colleagues as well. The second idea was that of giving gratitude to other members in the community. Many people help us and impact our lives professionally and it is wonderful to take a few moments to let someone else know that they made a difference in our lives.
We gained some valuable perspectives on the dynamics of implementing change in schools—perfect for our yearlong strategic planning moment. And yet my “ah-ha” moment came when one of my colleagues (sitting down front—I couldn’t see who you were—sorry!) pointed out that what we were really talking about wasn’t how to navigate through a singular period of change, but rather a way of being all the time: a teaching community that is conspicuously supportive, open to experimentation, and willing to stab and be stabbed in the front.
Many of the ideas Dr. Evans resonated with me today. Two of them seem to rise above the others. First, that speaking candidly and honestly is not only important, but imperative for a school community to be able to embrace change and to find continued success. I felt empowered after today’s session in a way that I have not felt before--- a new responsibility to be a more active and vocal member of the community. Second, he talked about the idea that we need to go beyond simply asking ourselves “Are we doing well?” and move towards asking ourselves “Are we doing as well as we should be doing?”. Michael alluded to this idea on Monday in his opening remarks when he implored us to not “rest on our laurels” so to speak. It is true that we can grow complacent at DA---we can revel in our high retention rate, the demand for seats in our classrooms, the success of our seniors in their college admissions, etc. However, we need to remind ourselves that we got to this point because of the work, energy, and willingness of those before us to “push the envelope”; we need to continue to carry that torch.
For me, a few highlights include:
- exploring the idea of change and that this change is usually EVOLUTIONARY, but at the time it feels REVOLUTIONARY, and reminding myself of this when confronted with change in the future,
- “If you’re going to speak, be willing to listen back.”
- “avoiding excessive avoidance,”
- talking to my colleagues from the same division and learning some valuable nuggets about their teaching in just a few minutes – something I sincerely hope that we continue!
- And, reading all these comments from my colleagues.
Thank you to the Professional Development Committee!
Dr. Evans was inspirational in laying a common ground for us to grow as a community. For this I am truly #GratefultoDAy
We had a great session today. As a new faculty member, I am impressed and thankful for DA's commitment to professional development. Several things stood out to me about today's presentation, but here are my top two:
- The idea of change as substitution instead of addition. If teachers continue adding to their repertoire in the classroom without taking something else away, it can become overwhelming and impractical. Recognizing we can't do everything forces us to take a hard look at what is essential and truly best practice.
- Dr. Evans had good insights about teachers and their "high vulnerability to guilt"—a tendency to over-focus on what we could do better or how we haven't done enough. We were encouraged to take time to give ourselves credit for what we have done and credit for trying those things that didn't work out so well. As Dr. Evans said, "If you're going to stay in this line of work, you've got to lighten up!" Good advice for a room full of dedicated and driven educators.
Thanks to everyone for yesterday.
I appreciated how engaged and lively and responsive you were, and how thoughtful your questions and comments were. I appreciate, too, the comments posted on Michael's blog. I’m moved to add my own because as I was boarding my plane home late in the afternoon I suddenly realized that I had unaccountably omitted one recommendation for follow up.
A number of schools have found it helpful to have each person think of one step the school could take this year to improve collegial candor and one step that he/she could take this year to do the same. Some schools have solicited these anonymously and published the two lists, others have had people share the items in division or department meetings. The key is to commit to concrete actions, even small ones, that can strengthen appropriate candor in the service of growth.
I hope it’s a great year.
Thanks again and very best wishes,
I like how he pushed us to constantly strive to get better, and fully embrace that failure is part of the growth process.
I found messages from Rob that resonated in both my professional and personal life. As others have said, we are all humans with our own mix of "issues" that shape our view of the world along with our value in it. While I did not take the route of a clergy, I considered social work before landing on teaching. I, too, have the "helper gene."
I have a couple of sayings that reasonate with me. The first is what I am trying to do professionally with respect to the educational revolution taking place.
"It's more important to fail at something that matters than to succeed at something that doesn't." Regina Dugan.
The second is something I am trying to do both personally and professionally and is best said with this image.
Here is to a year of a voice that matters and shakes sometimes.
The idea that resonated with me was striving to achieve a "shared commitment to appropriate candor in the service of growth." It can be difficult to communicate disagreement or suggestions for improvement directly to a colleague, especially for the conflict-averse among us. But it's critically important to the health of our school that we have the courage to do that. I feel like Rob gave us permission and encouragement to engage in that type of communication. In our meetings this morning we discussed this idea, and I've already benefited from several examples of improved communication as a result.
My take away for working in community is, "Honest, caring, and direct conversations are the way to build relationships."
My take away for the classroom is, "You won’t ever arrive at the destination of your high expectations. Therefore, keep your dreams, but keep your eyes on where your students are and the movement they make. That is the measure of utmost importance."
Choose groups to clone to: