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Staff Members Given Chance To ‘Pause’ and Reflect

People are busy. Life is complicated. Everyone has a to-do list that rarely seems to get stamped "DONE."

But teachers, administrators and other certified staff have been asked recently to put aside any immediate stresses and tasks … and take time to pause and reflect.

"It's all about professional growth," Superintendent Matt Geary said Monday during a break at an administrative "Pause Day" held at Bennet Academy. "Nobody thinks you have time for this -- to stop and reflect and to think about your work. But if you don't stop and do this, well, when you get to 2016-17 or 2017-18, we would more likely be doing things the way we are doing them now."

Administrators spent Monday in discussions and activities guided by Allison Zmuda and Bena Kallick, who are nationally renowned consultants in the fields of personalized learning and habits of the mind, respectively.

Last Wednesday, during building-based professional development activities, teachers and others were given time to spend in 'pause' mode, and asked to do something that they normally would not have found, or made, time to do.

As Geary relayed in his staff email on Sunday, people used their time on Wednesday to read articles or books, watch TEDx talks, collaborative with colleagues, create materials and so on.

Geary said his decision to build time for reflection into busy lives is based on benefits outlined in a book, "The Pause Principle" by Kevin Cashman as well as the highly touted "20 percent" time program made famous by Google. (Google reportedly lets employees spend one day a week focusing on their own projects -- and credits this investment to some of its most valuable technological breakthroughs.)

Much of Monday's work had administrators analyzing two initiatives that are currently underway in the district -- the Academy Personalized Learning Seminars at MHS, and Genius Hours at Keeney Elementary.

Zmuda and Kallick guided the analysis, and did so using principles that were outlined a document that they co-authored and had everyone read earlier in the day.

Both student and teachers, they wrote, “need to have a sense of belonging to a community that offers camaraderie, care and an ethic of excellence in which all members are accountable to one another for the quality of the work that they do.”

The article concludes: “They both need to be trusted as innovative, entrepreneurial, and creative individuals who collectively make a significant contribution to society.”

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