Thursday, January 23, 2020

MLK Jr Prayer Service: I Have Decided To Stick With Love

An excerpt from Dr King’s speech titled “I Have Decided To Stick With Love."
I’m concerned about a better world. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood and sisterhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.
And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. [...] and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we aren’t moving wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love. He who hates does not know God, but he who loves has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.

And so I say to you today, my friends, that you may be able to speak with the tongues of men and angels; you may have the eloquence of articulate speech; but if you have not love, it means nothing. Yes, you may have the gift of prophecy; you may have the gift of scientific prediction and understand the behavior of molecules; you may break into the storehouse of nature and bring forth many new insights; yes, you may ascend to the heights of academic achievement so that you have all knowledge; and you may boast of your great institutions of learning and the boundless extent of your degrees; but if you have not love, all of these mean absolutely nothing. You may even give your goods to feed the poor; you may bestow great gifts to charity; and you may tower high in philanthropy; but if you have not love, your charity means nothing. You may even give your body to be burned and die the death of a martyr, and your spilt blood may be a symbol of honor for generations yet unborn, and thousands may praise you as one of history’s greatest heroes; but if you have not love, your blood was spilt in vain. What I’m trying to get you to see this morning is that a man may be self-centered in his self-denial and self-righteous in his self-sacrifice. His generosity may feed his ego, and his piety may feed his pride. So without love, benevolence becomes egotism, and martyrdom becomes spiritual pride.

MLK Jr Prayer Service: We Shall Overcome

An excerpt from Dr King’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech in December 10, 1964 titled, “We Shall Overcome.”
I refuse to accept the idea that the "is-ness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "ought-ness" that forever confronts him.
I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him.
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear annihilation.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.
I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow.
I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.
I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up.
I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed and nonviolent redemptive goodwill proclaimed the rule of the land. And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid.

I still believe that we shall overcome.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

No Phones

We live in a society of constant distraction.  With rampant instant messaging and social media use, our ability to communicate face-to-face, to socialize in a positive way, and resolve conflicts has dwindled.  To the end, students are prohibited from using their mobile phones or smartphones while at school in order to encourage face-to-face conversation, socialization, and to practice conflict resolution.  

From the hours of 8.00 AM until 4.35 PM, all mobile phones or smartphones must be turned off and stowed away in the backpack before the student enters the school building.   

If a phone is visible or rings while at school, the student must relinquish the phone at the request of the teacher or the administration.  The school employs a graduated discipline philosophy.  

The first time a phone is confiscated, the student can pick up the phone from the Assistant Principal at the end of the school day following a restorative conversation.  

The second time a phone is confiscated, a parent or guardian must meet with the Assistant Principal to explain the rationale behind why we do not allow mobile phone use at school and to pick up the phone.  The phone will not be released to the student following this second infraction.  

The third time a phone is confiscated, the school will make arrangements with the family to keep the phone at home for the remainder of the year, or if necessary, to hand the phone to school administration at the start of every school day. 

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

Academic integrity and right ethical conduct are expectations of all students.  Cheating and plagiarism are violations of academic integrity and right ethical conduct.  Cheating is defined as using unauthorized resources of any type on any exam, quiz, paper, major project, or class assignment.  Plagiarism is copying exact words or paraphrasing ideas without crediting original sources. Providing access to another student to such resources is also considered a violation of academic integrity as is allowing another student to copy from one’s own exam, quiz, paper, major project, or class assignment.  

In keeping with our model of restorative justice, the school treats first violations of academic integrity as a learning event.  In these situations, the student will receive an “I” for the assignment or activity in question. The student then has a conversation with the teacher who debriefs what occurred, next steps to rectify the action, and the teacher coaches the student on how to tell their parents.  Owning up to the action is an important step in understanding the severity of the violation of academic integrity.

The student is then responsible for telling their parents about the incident and to let them know that a face-to-face conference or phone conversation with the teacher will be forthcoming—this gives the students an opportunity to be at the center of the conversation.  

The teacher then has a face-to-face conference or phone conversation with the family and the student.  From there, a letter is sent home that recaps the meeting, and it serves as a record of the entire incident. In this letter, it states that all future offenses will result in more serious consequences. The student writes a letter of reflection which answers the following questions: 

“How have your actions impacted your relationship with others, including your classmates and teacher?  Looking back on this past incident, what would you have done differently? How has your understanding of integrity changed since this incident?” 

This reflection is then sent to the parents, the mentor, and the teacher.  Copies of the teacher’s letter and the student’s reflection are included in the student’s file.  The student is responsible for re-doing the same assignment or an alternative as assigned by the teacher which addresses the same Cognitive Skills or Content Knowledge assessed in the original assignment.  Please, note that any additional violations of academic integrity may include expulsion from the school.  

Learning Modalities

Last year, we had the opportunity to partner with three organizations dedicated to personalized learning.  These include Silicon Schools, Summit Learning, and New Classrooms: Teach to One: Math.  We continue to partner with the first two, and for a multitude of reasons decided to carve our own path with the latter.  And, before we parted ways this year, we decided to retain the learning modalities approach that was an essential component of the New Classrooms approach.  

We know that students can learn in a variety of ways.  They can learn directly from a teacher, they can learn from a colleague, classmate, or small group, and they can also learn independently with a learning management platform.  We leverage the use of these learning modalities to ensure that students get what they need, when they need it, and how they need it.  

Guided Learning is the traditional direct instruction approach where teachers, for a limited time, may engage in a lecture about a topic.  

Collaborative Learning is the learning modality assigned to students who work together in a small group setting to practice, to learn, or to explore a particular topic.

Leveled Learning is where students may work directly with a technology-assisted platform in order to learn about a topic.  

Informed by data, teachers can use these modalities in a myriad of ways.  All three modalities could be happening simultaneously in a classroom setting as necessary depending upon the objective for the day's lesson.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Huddles and Meetings

It goes without saying that communication is important.  In addition to our use of the application Slack, which has cut our internal email down dramatically, we like traditional face-to-face meetings in order to connect.  Our Academic Leadership Team has three types of meetings: (1) A Daily Huddle; (2) A Weekly Meeting; and (3) A President's Council Meeting.  

The Daily Huddle is comprised of myself, our Principal, and our Director of Wholeness.  This is a meeting of no more than 10 - 15 minutes in length where we check in and talk through any special events of the day.  We try our best to stand during these morning meetings to keep the blood flowing.  This huddle is operational in nature. 

Our Weekly Meeting is where we look at the week and review events.  We allot about 60 minutes for this meeting which ensures that we have plenty of opportunity to dialogue and reconnect.  These weekly meetings are more tactical in nature.

Finally, our Academic Leadership Team combines with other heads-of-departments to form our President's Council.  This is where we talk about larger school issues and where we test out ideas.  Most importantly, we have an opportunity to support and align with one another once collective decisions are made.  These meetings are also an hour long and are strategic in nature.  

We take a copious amount of notes and keep a running agenda.  This ensures that the meetings do not become cumbersome.  An agenda-less meeting is a recipe for unnecessarily lengthy meetings!  

Friday, July 26, 2019

Huddle Break

At the end of every huddle or meeting, we "break" in the same way that sports teams do.  The last member of the team to place their hand in the middle has to give "the word" that everyone will repeat with enthusiasm after the count off.  Also, each team member has to hold their weight.  This fun little ritual ensures some levity and positivity is always a part of our gatherings.