Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Welcome Class of 2020!

By Kathy Mahoney

It’s hard to believe that the school year is almost over! As students are gearing up for summer, the high school is already busy preparing for the next school year and the incoming Class of 2020.

Today, the 8th graders attended Transition Day at the high school in anticipation of their first day on August 31st. Our principal, Mr. Parga, and assistant principals, Mrs. Mandosa, and Mr. Sperling, addressed students about academics expectations, the school culture and values, and extracurricular opportunities available at the high school. Students also heard from our guidance content specialist, Mrs. Worthley, our Athletic Director, Mr. Scott, and IT specialist, Mr. Sonnenberg.

Following the presentation, the incoming freshmen were broken into small groups for Question & Answer sessions led by members of the Junior Class. They ended the morning with a tour of the building to help them become more familiar with their new home for the next four years.

It was a great morning and we’re looking forward to seeing our new students in the fall. If you have any questions about the high school, please visit the Transition Day website.

To view the welcome video for the Class of 2020, click here.

Have a great summer and we’ll see you in the fall!


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Salute to the Class of 2020

by Matt Marenghi

You’d be hard pressed to hear anyone fondly reflect upon their middle school experience. Suitably summed up by one of my favorite comedians, it is the point in life when you discover you are quite interested in gaining another’s affection, but also the time when hormones wreak havoc upon your appearance and shake your confidence to the core; a truly cruel joke nature plays on us.

Admittedly, there isn’t much you can do to prepare for this transition into adolescence. We often lean on the anecdote that you only have to make this rough transition once...and unfortunately no, you cannot just skip it. Emotions can be sensed to their fullest, but are not able to be accompanied by the reflective capacity to understand that tough times do not last. This class had their fair share of moments to build up their reflective reservoir. Their ability to embrace, rather than be beaten up by, these adolescent moments will surely serve them well.

The Class of 2020 met the rigors of middle school head-on, pulled together when things got rough, and had certainly made the Blake community their own. Even when not at their best, this class maintained an endearing quality that eased whatever frustrations their actions may have evoked. They were a testament to how working with this age group can be such a truly awesome experience.
As the Class of 2020 entered Blake Middle School in Fall of 2013, they presented with a general enthusiasm that would pour into our hallways. 216 engaging personalities that would inevitably hit bumps in the road, but who nonetheless kept moving forward. Coasting along with, and occasionally re-directing (i.e. “guiding”), this forward momentum has been such a fantastic experience, and surely one that I will never forget.

Two journeys began fourteen years ago: I began my professional life as a Guidance Counselor and the Class of 2020 began life. Fourteen years ago the world was completely shaken up by the events of 9/11, and despite all the tragic events that have happened since, this class gives me confidence and hope that good, caring people will dictate the trajectory and scope of our future.

In closing, a quote from one of my heroes, Mr. Fred Rogers:
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Monday, June 20, 2016

Teen Mental Health Summit

by Anne Lodge

Earlier this spring, Russ Becker and I had the opportunity to attend the 2nd Annual Teen Mental Health Depression & Suicide Conference with four MHS student representatives. Sponsored by the MIAA and the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators’ Association (MSSAA), the conference aimed to increase awareness and recognition of the importance of supporting our students and staff in the area of social-emotional wellness and learning. The conference’s keynote speaker, Jeffrey Benson, focuses his work on assisting administrators and teachers in developing school culture, structure, curriculum, and instruction that supports all learners. He addressed many of his remarks directly to the student representatives at the conference, urging them to make change in their school communities by asking questions, having conversations with teachers or administrators, and speaking up for themselves and their needs.

Following the keynote address mini workshops were held focused on model programs and curriculums, resources for schools, and informational sessions on mental health topics. We each took the opportunity to attend different sessions so that we could get the most out of the conference. Workshops included information on successful school transition programs, empowering and leading student leaders in promoting wellness, strategies for relieving stress, recognizing and intervening in youth depression, fostering resilience through everyday classroom practices, and initiating difficult conversations, among others. They offered up good suggestions and practices, but most importantly, the conference highlighted the critical role social-emotional wellness plays in schools and communities and how essential it is for all educators to focus on building supportive environments. The quotation on our program agenda by Leo Buscaglia, an American author and motivational speaker, sums it up well:

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Stress Free Zone

by Russ Becker

Headaches, inability to focus, increased irritability, lowered self esteem. These are just some of the many symptoms of stress that I’m sure are all too familiar for those reading this. While some stress can certainly be a good thing, too much can be all consuming and an awfully difficult hurdle to overcome, and striking that balance is often much easier said than done.

Beginning this Friday, our students will undergo the final stretch of their academic year culminating in finals week. While this can be a great way to finish the year on a high note, many students experience an increased level of stress at this time. So much so that a recent study conducted by the UK’s ChildLine National Exam Stress Survey revealed that 96% of the 1,300 students polled were experiencing more anxiety and stress in their daily lives due to their upcoming exams. Acknowledging that this is a difficult time for many, we are excited to announce that we are implementing a new program aimed at lessening that stress and teaching our students more effective ways of managing that pressure. Following the completion of the first exam period this Friday, the High School’s “Stress Free Zone” will be open to all students. The safe haven will take place in room 125 and there students can have snacks, partake in various stress free activities, and will be given a packet of strategies that can help mitigate their stress. While finals are certainly the most prevalent thing on most student’s mind it’s equally as important to take a breath and find strategies for relaxation in order to effectively move through our final stretch. Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information on any of the activities being run or how you can use some of these strategies in your own home.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Value of Field Trips

By Tracy Allen

There are many field trips at Blake, the majority of them taking place in the 8th grade year. The guidance counselors use the time on these trips to help supervise but also to have more casual interactions with the students. 

Some may question the validity of all our Blake trips. We do have far more than the other Medfield buildings. I will be on my third field trip in three weekstomorrow.  I must admit that a field trip can be and is often very disruptive to my own work flow. The teachers have found wonderful ways to enhance their curriculum with these educational adventures, and the  social emotional benefits for the kids far outweighs any stress about missing a day (or 4 with the DC trip) in the office.

Field trips are also an a great tool to provide opportunities that some of our students might not get to experience otherwise and for us to experience our students in a way we wouldn't necessarily otherwise.  We get to witness natural peer interactions that as counselors we only see in the hallways, at lunch or after school when students have more "hanging out" time with their friends. Dynamics in friend groups are evident. Positive pairings and pairings that need extra eyes on stand out. A student's ability to stay on task is apparent as is the joy of learning outside the classroom. Our connection with the students can be strengthened by long bus ride conversations or sing-alongs. Support is readily available to students having difficulties, friendship or otherwise, while away from the comfort of the Blake building. All things point to positive outcomes from our many school trips.

Will I ever say no chaperoning to a field trip? Not if I can help it.