Wednesday, November 14, 2012

CES Fall Forum: Day Two

This post is a little late, but I did want to make sure I documented my full experience at the CES Fall Forum this year.

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend four sessions. The first was on reaching males in urban secondary schools, specifically black males. The second was mindfulness practices in schools. The third was on mapping the common core standards with a CES lens. And lastly, I attended a session on supporting academic dialogue.

While I thought the session on reaching males in urban schools entertained interesting discussion, I can't say I left with it with any major epiphanies. The more useful sessions were on mindfulness and academic dialogue, probably because I was most ready to hear their content.

Since I left New York with major stress issues, I've been thinking about the power of mindfulness. The presenters noted that emerging findings in the discipline of neuroscience have discovered increasingly convincing evidence that mindful practices in life lead to improve brain and body health. They called neuroscience the Madison Avenue for bringing new practices to schools (noting that the education community has long been skeptical of mindful practice due to lack of evidence). And, apparently, there are a number of people studying the intersection of education and mindfulness - what it means for students and teachers.

Research suggests that mindful practices have the effect of increasing the size of the amygdala, and larger amygdala's are associated with less reptilian-type behavior. The presenters referenced the work of Dan Siegel, who explains the benefits of mindful practices through a hand model of the brain. I believe I have a large number of students who could benefit from bringing their brains to the present more often. Many of my students spend so much time worrying about what's going to happen after school, or what happened before school, that their brain is capable of devoting precious little energy to class.

I also really enjoyed the session on supporting dialogue. The presenters pointed out that while we have debate teams, we've never had dialogue teams. Our culture is so skewed toward debate, many of us don't have the appropriate habits for dialogue, a generally healthier form of communication. The presenters were careful to point out what dialogue is and is not, and they recommended listening dialogues recorded by the Civil Conversations Project. Some of the scaffolds they recommended for helping students grapple with dialogue made me think that they could be used to break down some of the walls that exist between students at my school.

I'm happy to be a member of my school's leadership team, and extremely happy to have had the chance to spend two days with such incredible school thinkers. If you have any questions about the sessions I attended, please feel free to email me. I can send you my notes and contact information for the presenters if you're interested.

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