Why #educon is a place I wanted to recruit a faculty from (and am still trying to)

Educon is a 3 4 year old conference run by my friend Chris Lehmann. I attended last year and was motivated for months by the people I learned from, the friends I saw there, and of course, by hearing from Chris and his students.

I recently moved to Grace Church School in New York City, where I am the Dean of Faculty. Grace is a 100+ year old school, a JK-8 institution. We are now adding a high school. The high school is located in the heart of the Village, sharing a park with Cooper Union. We're creating a beautiul blend of tradition and innovation, and I see Educon as a place that shares those values. We are constantly honing the craf of teaching, yet we stay open to new innovations.

When you start a high school from scratch you can make every single decision with one question in mind:

What is best for high school students?

Everything we do looks to answer this question. One of my most important responsibilities is to help recruit a modern faculy, prepared to teach modern classes. That means fewer classes per day, for longer periods of time - this allows for depth over breadth of study. It means never having academic classes back to back. It means having advisory every day. It means fitness first period. It means an hour for lunch, which is planned and budgeted for, prepared for and cleaned up by students. It means no classes on Wednesdays, but a Lab Day, where we make learning real with community collaborations, trips, place-based learning, time for further study, and more. It means better, meaningful homework, not just more homework. Academic, athletic, art excellence, coupled with a focus on ethical and spiritual development of young people, and the adults that work with them.

I had hoped to be at Educon this year to share our work, engage interested partners, and yes, recruit a new faculty. I will be recruiting faculty for the next four years, as we add a 9th grade each year until our first 9th graders gradudate in 2016. If you're an Educon-er, or just an innovated, motivated, excellent teacher, who wants to be a part of changing the dialog around high school in New York City and beyond, I couldn't encourage you more to apply to work at our high school. We love reading cover letters where teachers share their passion for teaching and learning. Do share yours if you are looking for the next great school to teach in...

Alternatives to food as a reward

Alternatives to Food as a Reward                   

Food is commonly used to reward students for good behavior and academic performance.  It’s an easy, inexpensive and powerful tool to bring about immediate short-term behavior change.  Yet, using food as reward has many negative consequences that go far beyond the short-term benefits of good behavior or performance.

Research clearly demonstrates that healthy kids learn better.  To provide the best possible learning environment for children, schools must provide an environment that supports healthy behaviors.  Students need to receive consistent, reliable health information and ample opportunity to use it.  Finding alternatives to food rewards is an important part of providing a healthy school environment.

The number of birthdays and holidays celebrated by an average elementary school class means that sweets can become regular snacks, rather than occasional, special treats.  In addition, it has become increasingly common for teachers to use candy to reward and motivate students.  If food must be used as a reward, healthy choices are encouraged and it should be part of a learning experience.  This flyer offers alternatives to help promote consistent messages about food and health.

Our lower school division head shared this resource from Kansas State's Johnson County branch of the Research and Extension services about alternatives to food as a reward. It is well written, easy to understand, and has great tips. Read the full post here.

An interview with John Palfrey: Rumors, Cyberbullying and Anonymity

David Pogue interviewed John Palfrey, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society about online rumors, cyberbullying, and more. It's worth a read if you work with children or have children of your own. On a side note, I've been following John Palfrey for years after I met him at the 2005 NYSAIS tech/library conference (which I now co-chair). My blog post about it here. His blog post about meeting me is here. One of the other directors of the Berkman Center is Jonathan Zittrain who is also a Shady Side Academy alumnus, like me.

Posted via email from arvind's posterous

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and What It Isn't

What 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Isn't

Allen Barra writes a critique of "To Kill a Mockingbird" in the Wall Street Journal that is wroth reading. We've been having discussions in our school on whether this 50-year old book is appropriate for 7th graders with its inclusion of viciously racist language (the "N" word) and moreover how we choose the cannon that is read at our school. It's an important conversation and a most difficult one. I think that we must recognize the value of tradition while respecting the evolving landscape of our countries, cities, and schools - finding the balance is incredibly challenging but is the real goal of these conversations.

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Blaming websites like Formspring for a young girl's suicide totally misses the mark

My head of school passed Rachel Simmons' blog post, What Every Parent Should Know About Formspring: The New Cyberscourge for Teens, to me. I read it, found it troubling, and had to write a response.

I had a great conversation with our 7th and 8th graders about formspring a few weeks ago, which I blogged about here. I thought that the article by Rachel Simmons was pretty poor. She starts with, “Last week, a Long Island high school senior committed suicide, and the website Formspring.me is suspected as a cause.” She links to an article which says just the opposite! See these quotes from the article she linked to:

“Alexis' parents downplayed the Internet role, saying their daughter was in counseling before she ever signed up with formspring.me, a new social site, where many of the attacks appeared.”

"I believe in my heart that cyberbullying wasn't the cause of Lexi's death," said her mother, Paula Pilkington. "This is a mistake."

It also didn’t recognize what the site is capable of in a positive way. For instance, I purchased a new dining table that is unfinished wood, and wasn’t sure how best to treat it. So, I went to this wonderful design bloggers website and asked her a question about wood treatment via her formspring. She replied to me within an hour. Problem solved. By an expert. There is a place for every technology tool, and there’s a poor way to use all of them, too. That’s what parents and students have to negotiate.

The bigger issue here is talking to students about “anonymous” behavior on the Internet, and what it entails. I gave the girls a guiding principle that anonymous places on the Internet tend to encourage bad behavior and discourage good behavior. We want them to learn that lesson because formspring will be passé tomorrow (it actually sort of already is), and they have to be able to apply the same principles to the next new thing.

Rachel Simmon's gut instinct reaction and advice to parents is summed up in her point:

So what to do? Here’s what I suggest. Start a conversation with your daughter about Formspring. Ask her if people at school use it (don’t start off by grilling her about what she does or she may scare and fly away). Ask her what she thinks of it. Then ask her if she uses it.

If she says yes, tell her she’s banned for life from the website. Period.

This completely misses the mark. If you think you can solve problems by banning use, you're in for real trouble when kids experience the same problems in new venues - they won't tell you when they stumble into a mess for fear that you'll ban them from it. Prepare them for the world they are living in. Teach them about how it works. Set family expectations and guidelines. Connecting the tragedy of a girl with serious psychological issues to a website is hyperbole, and won't get you very far in setting your kids up for success.

Ms. Simmons, if you're reading, I'd love to talk to you more about this.

Posted via web from arvind's posterous