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Saturday, August 06, 2016

A Thematic Approach to Life

I never regret time spent at a wonderful museum. Today I'm visiting
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts
I find that identifying themes for a year creates a good pattern of activity in both my professional and personal life.

Tying events together in a thematic way brings good synthesis and connection as we interact with people, places, and life in general.

So as I ponder this morning, I'm thinking about the themes for the year ahead.

Mathematical Thinking
The overarching theme for the teaching year will be mathematical thinking. How can I help approximately 75 fifth graders develop interest, skill, and understanding of what it means to be a mathematical thinker. As I teach, I tend to see students' brain paths--I think about the ways that I can help them to create loops, new paths, and connections to grow their ability to make sense of new concepts, create, and apply what they learn. I'll embed this theme into the year by reading a lot about math, discussing math with colleagues, and facilitating lots of mathematical exploration, investigation, conversation, and practice with students. To build this theme with greater depth, I'm on the lookout for a group of like-minded elementary math teachers who are working with a similar theme this year.

STEAM Study
Maker math will be the way that I connect STEAM to the math theme. STEAM, the interdisciplinary study of science, technology, engineering, art, and math, will be the second professional theme this year. I've engaged in STEAM study this summer and look forward to integrating what I've learned into the students' program. Next steps include setting up the STEAM center in the classroom and embarking on the first STEAM event of the year, The Global Cardboard Challenge. As part of this study, I want to dig into The Imagination Foundation's research and global efforts.

Community
Our school system's theme will be UNITED, an acronym that stands for many great learning/teaching goals, and one that fits nicely with my third professional theme which is community. How can I contribute to and learn from the learning/teaching community including students, families, colleagues, administrators, and citizens? Specifically I'll look for and integrate ways to build community including a focus on learning habits and behaviors, cultural proficiency, social competency, and empathy and care for one another. The shared teaching model which we embarked on last year provides a strong model of community for our students. It also gives me a chance to "practice what I preach" as I work together with my colleagues to build a strong, successful grade-level program.

The community theme extends to my extended professional work as I'll spend time this year working with colleagues to help craft a good contract for our teaching/learning environment and efforts. The contract holds potential to elevate the conditions, salaries, and work we do so that we can best commit to and teach the students we serve.

Community extends to family members as well as we come together to celebrate, help one another, support, and enjoy each other's company. It's likely that we'll spend lots of time together at sports events, holiday celebrations, and the day-to-day events that call us to help one another. This kind of community truly gives life meaning and is filled with lots of love and care.

Arts, Nature, and Health
Now that I'm a mom of mostly independent, young adults, there's much less day-to-day efforts with regard to their care. This leaves time open to reengage with interests I have. I'd like to propel this time into the arts, nature, and healthful activity. I live in an area thats teeming with cultural events, museums, and classes. I also have access to lots of free museum passes and many friends who enjoy the arts. So to be healthy and happy, I'll find time to visit lots of artistic places and events and nature preserves and parks. I'll couple that with biking, walking, and other physical fitness activities.

Having these wonderful themes in mind helps me to plan my days, study, and special events. It keeps me positive and helps me stay out of trouble too!

What themes will lead your professional and personal paths in the year ahead? Who will join you in this thematic approach to life? Can we embrace themes and be serendipitous too as we don't want to be too planned or over scheduled?  And now, I'm off to the wonderful Boston Museum of Fine Arts.