I am old enough where the idea of picking oneself by the bootstraps was still said and believed. “To get your work boots on your feet 200 or so years ago, you would stand up and grab two small leather flaps on the sides, known as bootstraps, and pull the boot up. From this everyday activity, the idiom ‘to pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ was born – and with it, a torturous myth that true success meant getting ahead only your energy and steam, without help from your family, government, or community” (Alissa Quart). While I am not 200 or so years old, over my lifetime this myth has had pushback and a new understanding has been achieved, not only for myself but also for many Americans.
In education we do not talk about bootstraps anymore. Instead, the term often used is windows and mirrors. It is important for students to be able to see themselves (mirror) as well as others (windows) in both curriculum and learning opportunities/experiences. When there are only mirrors, focusing purely on oneself, or only windows, focusing only on others, balance is lost. It happens all the time in life, and it happens all the time in middle school. When a student does not collaborate or communicate, that becomes a huge barrier to progress. Progress does not occur or occurs much more slowly when done in isolation. When one only focuses on others and what they think and do, this too becomes a barrier. Chasing after status or failing to be one’s authentic self (Brene Brown) impedes growth.
This year’s conferences are complete. Thank you for attending, for communicating, and for collaborating with us! These are important dialogues of connection, and when windows and mirrors are a part of them, learners are able to see themselves as well as plan for where they go next. The middle school years are a critical time to find the balance between the windows and mirrors, to try things out, to stumble, to fall/fail, and to get up again for more. It is a time to define that authentic self while learning to be empathetic to peers. Conferences are a time to draw everyone’s attention to this balancing act.
We have made a lot of progress over twenty-seven weeks, but there is more still to come, more explosive growth and development to happen. Eighth graders will be finishing these years, leaving the comfort of what they know for the excitement of the unknown, while seventh and sixth graders will continue to wrestle with this balance. Nine weeks to go, and we will continue to help all of them find ways to strengthen empathetic, thoughtful, and reasoned decision-making as they get high-school ready in their knowledge and skills. A little “energy and steam” never hurt as well.
I am looking forward to the last nine weeks of the 2022-23 school year.
Weeks in Review
- Monday, February 27: Teacher Professional Development - No School
- Tuesday, February 28: Question/Answer + Tour Night for any still interested in attending SMS next fall - 5:30 Sixth Grade Campus
- March 2023: National Reading Month - read, read, read!
- Thursday, March 2: Parent-Teacher Conferences - arena style
- Tuesday, March 7: Team Conferences - invitation only