Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Homework Survey from 11/24 - 12/19

The Middle School is going through it's annual homework survey. If you don't have yours, you can find it here. Be honest, be thorough and be diligent in getting the data down on the paper. Your teachers want to know how much homework you are doing every night as well as what else you do after school. The more honest and true you are with your answers, the better the results of the survey will be for you and your teachers. Thanks for all your help!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen: a work that independent schools need to consider...

From an independent school listserve - "Clayton Christensen is arguably the world's foremost expert on the impact that disruptive innovation can have on existing organizations. In Disrupting Class Christensen (and co-authors Michael Horn and Curtis Johnson) present a compelling case that within 10 years 50% of the courses secondary-school students take will be computer delivered, and that by
2024 80% of courses will be taught online. These courses, according to Christensen, will provide customization that takes into account different intelligences and different learning styles. If Christensen's theory is correct -and there is a distinct possibility that it is- then our schools are likely to undergo huge transformative changes over the next 15 years."

What is the impact of this theory on MPH?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

When is Student Support Services needed for my child?

MPH honors individual development while carefully monitoring the acquisition of skills and knowledge as students progress through school. The thoughtful and challenging 6-8 program is designed to educate students with a wide range of academic abilities and different learning styles. When a child struggles or does not seem to be making progress in a particular area, the faculty works hard to identify and address concerns in order to help every child make progress and experience success. When this doesn’t happen, it may be a good time to look for assistance from Student Support Services. The question for many parents becomes when is Student Support Services needed?

Initial concerns about struggling students most often come from teachers, but may also come from parents or students themselves. For example, a student may:

have trouble finishing tasks
be easily distracted
have trouble reading
not be able to retain math facts
have difficulty with coordination and body awareness
struggle with and avoid writing assignments
have trouble making and maintaining friendships
feel unsuccessful despite his/her best efforts

If you have a concern about your child, please let me know. We have support at MPH that can often be a source of great help to students.



Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How Academically Rigorous is MPH?

One of my big beliefs, and is at the core of MPH's mission statement, is the need for the middle school to pursue academic excellence. I think it's inherent in an independent school's DNA. Below I pasted some stats from NAIS for parents on this topic:

Among the findings about private school students:

They have to work harder to graduate. “Private high school students typically have more demanding graduation requirements than do public high schools students,” according to “Private Schools: A Brief Portrait,” a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education).

They study core knowledge to advanced levels. Private school graduates are more likely than their peers from public schools to have completed advanced-level courses in key academic subject areas. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics’ “National Educational Longitudinal Study” (NELS), 85 percent of NAIS students study a foreign language before the eighth grade, compared to 24 percent of students overall. The NELS study also showed that students at NAIS schools were more than twice as likely to complete algebra in eighth grade (70 percent of NAIS students, compared to 32 percent of all students polled). By completing gateway courses early, NAIS school students are able to take the most advanced courses during their final years of high school.

They volunteer more. Private high school students are four times more likely than public high school students to have a community service requirement for graduation, according to “Private Schools: A Brief Portrait.” “The Freshman Survey Trends Report,” a survey of first-year college students that’s conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute, found that 90 percent of NAIS students had participated in volunteer work in the preceding year, compared to 83 percent of all students.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back to school!

It has been a great summer at MPH, but all good things must come to end so other good things can start - like school! I am really looking forward to the new year. Check back soon as I will now be updating much more regularly.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Moral choices, moral education

Lately, our student's moral behavior has been a subject of interest. I thought this list by Michele Borba, author of "Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing," was simple and thought provoking. She says these 7 parenting myths are especially deadly to kids' Moral IQ:

MYTH 1: Moral intelligence develops naturally. One thing is certain: kids aren't born with moral intelligence. Moral IQ is learned. The best school for learning the critical habits of solid character is always in the home. Too often parents assume these habits develop naturally: and it's a major misconception. To ensure kids acquire strong moral habits and beliefs, parents must intentionally model, reinforce, and teach the virtues and habits comprising Moral IQ. Unless they do, chances are their kids won't acquire them, and they'll be left morally defenseless.

MYTH 2: How kids turn out is all in the genes. Most of us would agree there are some "givens" we can't change about our kids, such as their genetic makeup and their innate temperament. But even those are not etched in stone. Research verifies it. One 12-year study of 72-pairs of genetically related adolescents found their biological tendencies could either be encouraged or stifled depending on how their parents responded to them. The bottom line: biology is not destiny if parents realize that a good deal of how kids turn out rests in how they treat their kids. If kids are treated morally and deliberately, taught moral skills and beliefs, researchers say chances are high they will become moral. But the first critical step is for parents to realize they do make a difference in how their kids turn out.

MYTH 3: Moral beliefs are set by early teens. Research confirms moral growth is an ongoing process that will span the course of our children's lifetimes. In fact, current studies say the part of the brain where conscience is formed isn't fully developed in males until 21 years of age. The adolescent years are when kids need adult guidance about tough moral choices most. So moral-building endeavors must be continuous and not stop during those teen years when parents often erroneously believe their kids' moral growth has stopped.

MYTH 4: Peers influence kids' morals more than parents do. Scores of studies-including ones by the American Academy of Pediatrics-report that while peers do have a huge moral influence, parents influence their kids on moral issues that matter most such as religion, education, and values. Peers influence deals more with daily issues such kids' entertainment, music, and dress choices. Parents must recognize they can still have the inside track in their children's moral development because they can have the closest relationship, if they chose to nurture it. The bottom line: peers will be a bigger moral influence if parents allow them to be. And today's parents can't afford to make that mistake.

MYTH 5: Intelligent kids turn out morally intelligent. Intelligence does not guarantee moral behavior. If you need proof just think of brilliant leaders-such as Hitler, Stalin, Lenin-who were also evil. If parents are to succeed in raising moral children they must help their kids not only think morally but also act morally. And that means they must deliberately teach their kids critical Moral IQ skills such as resolving conflicts, empathizing, managing anger, negotiating fairly, using self control, etc. We've always known that the true measure of character rests in our actions-not in mere thoughts. Unless children know how to act right, their moral development is defective. And that knowledge rests not in their IQ score but in what they've been taught.

MYTH 6: Moral growth starts at school age.A common mistake parents make is waiting until their kids are 6 or 7-the so-called Age of Reason-to build their moral IQ. By then poor moral habits have formed and are so much harder to break. The fact is parents can start enhancing kids' moral growth when they are toddlers. Although at that age they certainly don't have the cognitive capacities to handle complex moral reasoning, that's when the rudiments of moral habits-such as exercising self-control, being fair, showing respect, sharing, and empathizing-are first acquired. So the earlier parents begin cultivating their kids' moral capabilities the better the chance they have of raising good moral beings.

MYTH 7: Previous generations didn't build kids Moral IQ, so parents today shouldn't have to. Today's kids are being raised in a much more morally toxic atmosphere than previous generations for two reasons. First, a number of critical social factors that nurture moral character are slowly disintegrating: adult supervision, models of moral behavior, spiritual or religious training, meaningful adult relationships, personalized schools, clear national values, community support, stability, and adequate parents. Second, our kids are being steadily bombarded with outside messages that go against he value values we are trying to instill. Both factors make it much harder for parents to raise moral kids. Today's parents can no longer sit back and assume their kids become decent human beings. Deliberately teaching the moral virtues and habits that make-up strong Moral IQ is the best assurance parents have that their kids will lead moral lives. Their first step is dispelling seven deadly myths so their kids do turn out moral.

Monday, March 31, 2008

MPH middle school kids win big at Greater Syracuse Science Fair

MPH had many 5th through 8th graders attend the Greater Syracuse Scholastic Science Fair at Solvay High School on March 30th . The kids were judged by up to nine different judges and were there from noon to 6:30pm. Below are the awards our students earned, please pass along your congratulations. Those kids winning the Discovery Education’s Young Scientist Challenge Award and the SSP Middle School Program are invited to apply for another fair at a national level.

Also attending:
5th grade:
Maryam El-Hindi

6th grade:
Phillip Maier
Elena Bingham

Honors: 7th Grade:
Ashley Kaigler

High Honors:
5th Grade:
Elizabeth Clarkson
Emerson Czerwinski Burkard

6th Grade:
Lexie Melendez Martineau
Sigma Xi Award

Morgan Smith
CNY Skeptics Award

Highest Honors:

5th Grade:
Will Maresco

6th Grade:
Lisie Andersson also won:

Society for Science and The Public’s Middle School Program

Discovery Education’s Young Scientist Challenge Award

7th Grade:
Sammy Appleby also won:

The American Chemical Society Award

CNY Skeptics Award

Sigma Xi Award

Society for Science and The Public’s Middle School Program

Discovery Education’s Young Scientist Challenge Award

8th Grade:
Elliot Tan - Discovery Education’s Young Scientist Challenge Award

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

8th Graders get a lesson in tragic flaws

Well, you have to admit, MPH does certainly promote critical thinking and heady ideas, even in the middle school. Check out the amazing lessons Bill Preston has been doing in his English 8 class with the comparison of MacBeth and Spitzer. Very thoughtful and important stuff...


Toil and trouble: Students discuss Spitzer's tragic flaw Tuesday, March 18, 2008
By Elizabeth Doran
Staff writer
What do former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Shakespearean tragic figure Macbeth have in common?

A lot, according to Manlius Pebble Hill eighth-grade teacher Bill Preston, who's been teaching his students how Spitzer's fall relates to Macbeth, the tragic central figure in the Shakespeare play of the same name.

Media accounts have portrayed Spitzer as the central figure in a Greek tragedy, but Preston assures his students that's inaccurate. Greek tragedies involve the anger or amusement of the gods or fate.

"Either you ticked off a god, who then made sure you paid, or you did something terrible that had repercussions in the future in divine payback," Preston said.

In Shakespearean tragedies, a gaping character flaw leads to the character's ultimate downfall, he said.

"The Spitzer matter is Shakespearean tragedy. Everyone has a crack or flaw in his or her character. It becomes a tragic flaw when it expands to become your entire personality and ultimately destroys you," he said.

Macbeth undergoes dramatic changes as he lusts for power, his bravery and loyalty evaporating as he becomes evil and murderous in his quest to be king.

Eighth-grader Polly Englot said the class talked Tuesday about the parallels between the main characters in the play and the scandal.

"Both Spitzer and Macbeth had character flaws that led to their downfall," she said. "Macbeth's desire to have more power led him to kill the king, and Spitzer's flaw was that he was so comfortable with his power he thought he could get away with anything."

Spitzer's confidence in his power led to his demise, just as Macbeth's yearning for absolute power caused him to do horrible things like kill the king, said student Mark Berger, 14.

"It's showed me you have to notice your flaws so they don't wind up hurting you," he said.

Spitzer resigned as governor effective Monday after being linked to a high-priced prostitution ring.

Elizabeth Doran can be reached at edoran@syracuse.com or 470-3012

Monday, March 17, 2008

Character Education at SUNY Cortland

As we move forward at MPH with a comprehensive approach to social and emotional education, I found an interesting assessment tool for schools looking to enhance their character ed. programs. Check out The Center for the 4th and 5th R's at SUNY Cortland:


Thursday, March 6, 2008

What is bullying?

Last MPH held a bullying seminar for parents. For middle school educators, bullying is as much a part of the conversation as is organizing three ring binders and getting students to complete rough drafts. Last year, while head of middle school at a school in California, I worked closely with an organization called No Bully based in the Bay Area. The first thing we did was to define bullying. What is it? What does it look like? Once this is done by a school, the administrators and teachers can begin to address the students constructively, systematically and clearly, all of which is crucial to the emotional health of middle schoolers. This is the definition we used:

What is Bullying?

School bullying takes four main forms.
Physical bullying, where a student uses physical force to hurt another student by hitting, pushing, shoving, kicking, pinching or holding them down. Physical bullying also includes taking or breaking a student’s belongings or stealing or extorting money.

Verbal bullying is when a student uses words to hurt another student. This includes threatening, taunting, intimidating, insulting, sarcasm, name-calling, teasing, slurs, graffiti, put-downs and ridicule. It also includes hostile gestures such as making faces, staring, giving the evil eye, eye rolling and spitting.

Relational bullying occurs when students disrupt another student’s peer relationships through leaving them out, gossiping, whispering and spreading rumors. It includes when students turn their back on another student, giving them the silent treatment, ostracizing or scape-goating.

Cyberbullying refers to the use of cell-phones, text messages, e-mails, instant messages, web blogs and postings to bully another student in any of the ways described above. Examples of cyberbullying are sending threatening or insulting messages by phone and e-mail, and spreading destructive rumors.

When bullying is also harassment. Bullying is part of a continuum of student violence and may, at times, amount to harassment. Harassment occurs when a student is the recipient of threatening, disturbing or unwelcome behaviors because of a particular characteristic. Many forms of harassment are prohibited by federal and state laws, the most well known being harassment based upon a student’s race or sex.

Students are often bullied for reasons beyond those prohibited by anti-harassment laws. Particularly at risk are students who are perceived as gay or lesbian or who do not conform to stereotypical gender expectations. Students are also targeted for not belonging to the dominant race or class, because they are disabled or obese, for being less (or more) intelligent, athletic, attractive, confident or simply because they dare to be different. If we allow harassment and bullying to continue at our schools, we fail to protect the diversity of our children and ultimately our whole culture.

I urge you check out their website for more info: http://www.nobully.com

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Winter Break Update

Though the school is quiet right now, there are some people working hard on campus. In fact, this is the perfect time to catch on reading, return emails and to think about next year. Mrs. Stone is here handling the phones and organizing materials for furture months and I am in the office working on the US search and thinking about curriculum and scheduling for 2008/2009. One aspect of the this weeks focus has been our curriculum map on Atlas. Important for the articulation of our academic program, this tool is a great way to see clearly and closely what we do in ever class, in every grade, in every division. It's not quite a day at the beach or on the slopes, but it's not a bad way to spend the day in the office. If you are not familiar here is a link:


Monday, February 18, 2008

What does it mean to "play" for kids today?

There has been so much discussion on play of late. I even picked up my daughter at daycare and found in her cubby a newsletter on the importance of play. It seems kids are getting less time to be creative, to imagine and to simply be themselves, unstructured, and in the moment. Here is a thorough piece from the Sunday NY Times Magazine well worth the read.

Children and Youth - Play - Development - Science - New York Times

NAIS - Search - Baylor School Community Service Program

NAIS - Search - Baylor School Community Service Program

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Empire State Building Run Up on Channel 9

Recently, I was askd to do a story for Channel 9 in Syracuse on a race up to the top of the Empire State Building I was invited to do in NYC. Humbled and excited, I went down to the State Tower Building for the shoot and a little workout. You can check it out here:



Middle School
A Letter from the Head of Middle School
Greetings and welcome to the MPH Middle School!
Although the Middle School years may be described as the time between the ages of 11 and 14, the range of development for these students is far more expansive. The period of early adolescence is filled with change, both physical and emotional, which can be quite erratic and varied in rate and process. Middle School students are, therefore, in continuous transition as they move from the carefully guided classes in the Lower School to the independence of the Upper School.

Because change is inevitable for Middle School students not only in the long-term, but also as frequently as class-to-class or even minute-by-minute, each student has an advisor with whom to meet daily for a tutorial period. This advisor assists the student with academic and social challenges and brings the student's experiences and perspective to grade level team meetings held on a weekly basis. It is in these forums that patterns of learning and behavior are monitored and techniques to support the student are developed. Parents are also an important part of the "Team" and are contacted by individual teachers, the advisor, or the grade level team leader as often as is necessary. Communication is crucial to provide appropriate academic and social/emotional guidance for Middle School students.

Having students who are eager to learn and challenge themselves creates a dynamic learning environment. In order to stretch our students a full complement of core classes including English, history, math, science, world language, and performing arts is offered. In addition, various electives or "encore" classes may include health and wellness, computer, fine art, study skills, and Model United Nations.
To fully engage students in the life of the School, special activities amplify, supplement, and enrich students' interests or studies. Athletic opportunities such as soccer, volleyball, basketball, track, tennis, lacrosse, and golf are available. Activities ranging from chess, drama, and P-S-T (Puttin'-Stuff-Together) clubs to Leadership Team and International Club provide another facet of development within a social context. Dances, socials and events such as Winter Carnival and Red and White Day are held throughout the school year.

Although Middle School students are very social, they are also very invested in social responsibility within their immediate and global communities. Interdisciplinary study, field trips, visiting speakers, and community service opportunities help keep students informed and active allowing them to take charge and make a difference. Our students fully embrace the responsibility of caring and sharing with their younger "buddies" in Lower School. You might see the Sixth Graders with the Prekindergarten children picking up litter; the Seventh Grade class visiting the zoo with Kindergarten to offer their guidance in learning about the animals; or the Eighth Graders assisting the First Graders when they prepare their "booth" for the First Grade World's Fair. Some classes take up a global cause such as the current Eighth Grade offering continuous financial and communicative support for a child from Mali for three years!

From the beginning of Middle School in Sixth Grade to the closing exercises at the end of Eighth Grade, parents, teachers, and students themselves recognize the tremendous growth and change that has occurred in the students over three short years-a metamorphosis from childhood to young adulthood that should bring pride to everyone.

If you would like to contact me, I am available through email at or you may phone 315/446-2452, ext. 162.