Monday, December 20, 2010

Why you should watch MTV's Bully Beatdown

It's the first day of break and I am home watching the snow fall, waiting for my son to wake up so we can head to the hill to ski. I decided to get on the bike trainer and spin for 30 minutes in front of the TV. While flipping through the channels I came across MTV's "Bully Beatdown." Each episode, "bullies" are confronted by the extra hardcore host and challenged to a bout against a professional mixed martial artist for a chance to win $10,000. Sitting on my bike, I decided to watch a bit. What I saw was absurd. Cursing and fighting, the characters glorify the conflict with vulgar behavior and more bullying, as they prepare for a fight in a steel cage before a crowd. I thought of what we do at school to combat bullying and social aggression. "Bully Beatdown" and other shows like it, erode our good work. Educators are severely handicapped by societal messages that don't promote moral courage and ethics but rather push violence and vulgarity as a more blunt and effective way to solve conflicts. We need to be aware of these shows. They are here and our kids watch them. Read more on "Bully Beatdown" on the web. Or tune in on MTV.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Piano, fingers and learning

My son has been playing piano since he was six. Now nine, I have been noticing his fingers more and more and how much more fluid his movements are between chords. I love watching the ease he now exhibits. What I realized today when I snapped this picture was I have been watching real learning in action. I can actually "see" the learning take shape and can witness his "getting it." It's pretty cool. Actually, it's really cool.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Parents Embrace Race to Nowhere

It's not just MPH embracing the film "Race to Nowhere." With no advertising and little news media attention, “Race to Nowhere” has become a must-see movie in communities where, as stated in today's NY Times, "the kindergarten-to-Harvard steeplechase is most competitive." The article goes on to state "it isn’t often that a third of a movie audience sticks around to discuss its message, but that is the effect of “Race to Nowhere,” a look at the downside of childhoods spent on résumé-building." Nice to see this type of interest, nationally, for an important educationally film. Also important to note - MPH was the only school in CNY to commit to this discussion and to organize a screening of the film. Here is the link to the NY Times article:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Food Court Flash Mob - Handel's Messiah never sounded so good

If you have not seen this video, you must. Dane Peters, Head of Brooklyn Heights Montessori, had this clip on his blog. As Dane explained, this is just one of many ways to expose children to classical music. I loved it so much I needed to post it to my blog too.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Taking on bullying by sharing who we are

While doing rounds to classrooms today second block, I found Ms. Foster working with a section of grade 6 in Life Skills. Each student made a paper cut out, life size, and pasted images from magazines on the cut out that they thought said something personal - like a picture of a peace symbol, a car, people running, a swimming pool, a baseball player, shopping bags. Each student was asked by another student to explain why they picked the images they did for their cut out. One by one, each student explained to the class the reasons they picked the images.

The purpose, as explained to the kids by Ms. Foster, is simple - the more you know something about someone, the less likely you are to bully them. This is tremendous stuff to teach kids early and is another example of our commitment to a culture of caring at MPH. I was so pleased with what I stumbled upon this morning - Ms. Foster intentionally teaching kids about community and kindness.

Have a super weekend -


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Will Focus Make You Happier?

This is from Ned Hallowell, MD, a psychiatrist who served as an instructor at Harvard Medical School for 20 years, and is the director of the Hallowell Centers in New York City and Sudbury, Massachusetts. He has written two popular Harvard Business Review articles and authored eighteen books, including the national bestseller Driven to Distraction. He recently spoke at the NYSAIS Heads Conference at Mohonk. As someone who craves focus - mostly learned from years of bike racing and rock climbing - I wholeheartedly believe that is where our happiness lies. Good article for all to see. Will Focus Make You Happier?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Follow up to Race to Nowhere

We had an amazing draw for the screening of "Race to Nowhere" last week at the Palace Theater. The folks at the Palace estimated close to 400 people. Our post-movie panel did a great job fielding questions and concerns from the audience too. The following day, Dewey Meyers PhD, MD from the panel and myself went on WCNY TV with our panel moderator George Kilpatrick for CNY Central Issues. The conversation was broadcast that night. Needless to say, people in CNY want to talk about education and what makes a good education for their children.

So what's next? What does MPH do next to keep this conversation going and to take a leadership role? I heard from parents, teachers and students this week during conferences and at the supermarket who want to investigate and engage in this dialogue now more than ever.

I have an idea on how we can facilitate this community need: put together another event, sponsored by MPH, showcasing our commitment to 21st Century learning, to innovative teaching, and to helping students grow up to be capable performers. In the new year, MPH should design a weekend around this idea, where we can showcase what we do, have speakers discuss the importance 21st Century learning and define what 21st Century learning actually "is." Can if happen? I think so. We have already started the discussions here...and this a why MPH is such a great place to work - and to send your kids to school. What other Pk - 12 school in CNY is willing to embrace the life of the mind with such conviction and curiosity? I love it.


Monday, November 15, 2010

MPH's to show Race to Nowhere at the Palace Nov. 17th

Manlius Pebble Hill School will present a preview of the new film, “Race to Nowhere,” at the Palace Theater at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 17. The documentary – free to the public – examines what today’s pervasive high-stakes, high-pressure educational culture is really doing to our children.

The film contends that high-stakes testing contributes to cheating, stress-related illness, depression, and burnout and has largely replaced meaningful teaching and learning.

“The message in this film really must be heard by parents and educators, by all of us who love and work with children,” said Baxter Ball, head of school at MPH.

“The current obsession with tests, the pressure to out-perform everyone else in everything from academics to sports and music, the competition to get into the so-called ‘best’ colleges… this is all placing unprecedented stress on students today,” Ball said.

The audience is invited to remain, following the film, to participate in a discussion with local childhood experts and educators on issues raised in the film. The discussion panel will include Jeffery Mangram, assistant professor in Syracuse University’s School of Education; Dewey Meyers, Ph.D., child psychologist; Paul Gasparini, principal of Jamesville-DeWitt High School; Fatima El-Hindi, founder of the NAS Learning Center, a private weekend school that offers instruction in Arabic and Islamic history; and Baxter Ball, head of school at MPH.

“Race to Nowhere,” being screened in select locations across the country, raises issues fundamental to the current debate over education in America. Said Ball: “Its messages about the impact on students of competition, testing, excessive homework, and the pressure to achieve deserve our immediate attention.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Will a kid be the next tech person at your office?

There was a fascinating blog entry on the other day ("When the Tech Guy Is 13 (or Even 10)" By DAVID H. FREEDMAN) Of course, as a middle school educator, I was not at all surprised by Mr. Freedman's question "Can a kid help run the computers and applications that are close to the guts of your business?" Mr. Freedman says "maybe," while I say yes. We all know some 12 year old who has the technological savvy of a young Bill Gates. Remember, Bill Gates was a whiz coder at Lakeside School in Seattle, an independent school, when he was 14.

So it's not so incredible to think of students as problem solvers when it comes to tech. Perhaps a school's tech department should think the same the next time the wireless goes down...


Monday, November 1, 2010

Childhood is another country and we should go visit again

Josie Holford, Head of Poughkeepsie Day School posted a wonderful piece about taking kindergarten back to where it belongs - back to the kids. This quote really encapsulates her view and one I think any discerning reader can appreciate: "Childhood is another country: they do things differently there." But why isn't this resonating more loudly with adults? Sir Ken Robinson, expert on creative thought and renown thinker on education states the same thing. Robinson writes that "there is a paradox. Most children think they’re highly creative: most adults think they’re not." What happens to us as we grow up? Around the globe companies and organizations are trying to compete in a world of economic and technological change that is moving faster than ever and they urgently need people who are "creative, innovative and flexible." Are we as schools providing the 21st Century with the kind of problem solvers that it needs?

Read more: Childhood is another country | The Compass Point
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Monday, October 25, 2010

Top Ivy League Grads are not going to be teachers

I just read this Tweet from Diane Ravitch, a Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. Quote: "Top 1/3 of Ivy League grads not likely to enter a profession where pay after 20 years is so much less than other professions." What does this mean for the profession of teaching? It means some of the most outstanding students from America's most outstanding universities are not going to become teachers. It is that simple. Until the annual pay for teachers increases, other professions will attract the best and the brightest. Perhaps we should look to other nations as models such as Finland and Singapore where the profession of teaching is thought of with respect. For when people respect something, they usually value it. And if they value it, they certainly will pay for it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How independent schools take responsibility for bullying

I was reading a Huffington Post piece written by blogger John Merrow on the suicide of the talented young musician who was a student at Rutgers. The writer posed some important questions: "was it a hate crime? Sexual harassment? Cyberbullying?"

However, the most important question he posed was the following: "what is an institution's responsibility?"

We at MPH in the Middle School take bullying very seriously. We have a working, clear definition of bullying. We have a program, called Olweus, that is tested around the world. We have a document, the Commitment to Community, that is discussed and signed by all members in the community. We will have numerous speakers in, from the DeWitt Police Department and Vera House, to Community Centers and Dojos. We do an online climate survey on bullying, with all students. We have books assigned to faculty for summer reading. We created a class, Life Skills, to address issues. We go to workshops and seminars for more research and data. We have advisors versed in the issues and trained to work with kids on relational aggression. We communicate all of this to faculty, students and parents - in person, in groups, in the mail and with email. And then we communicate it again. And again. We do an unbelievable job.

As the author states "leadership cannot split hairs and decline to get involved. It's their job, like it or not. How they respond matters, and the key is to be pro-active, not wait until something awful happens. The good news, as I will explain, is that the law is on their side." I agree. This is what we do, and we do it better than any school I know.

He goes on to write, "First consider how non-public schools function. Most have a code of conduct, one that their students must accept. So if a student from Andover, St. Joseph's or Pencey Prep does something on a weekend that is an egregious violation of the behavior code and is caught, that student would suffer the consequences. No way the school head could drop that "not my responsibility" line and get away with it.

And parents and students at these schools are made aware of the rules, which are spelled out in detail. As Patrick Bassett, the head of the National Association of Independent Schools, notes, "Parents and students are often required to sign a document indicating that they have read and agree to the expectations as specified in the Student Handbook."

"Bassett says public schools can copy this approach. "Any school, public or private, can make character a core element of its standards and program. Any school that doesn't do that fails to educate the whole child. The 3 Rs of the academic curriculum ('reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic) must be accompanied by the 3 Rs of the character curriculum, (respect, responsibility, relationships)."

The key point here from Bassett as well as the author is that schools embrace values. And having values is "generally a 24/7 proposition." This is what we believe in the Middle School. This is what needs to be done at all schools, not just MPH.

To read more from Merrow, go to his blog -

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Football: A Head of School has the wisdom to walk away

I find this story fascinating and so emblematic of how great independent school educators think as well as govern. From the The Boston Globe:

"There was supposed to be a football game between Lawrence Academy and St. George’s on Friday, but some adults wisely put safety ahead of athletics.

St. George’s, a Newport, R.I., school that went winless last year, was slated to match up against Lawrence Academy, a football powerhouse in Groton that won all its games last year, and most by 40 points or more. Lawrence Academy’s roster features 300-plus-pound behemoths and future Division I stars, while St. George’s is not known for football prowess. It was a mistake to schedule this mismatch in the first place. And despite the St. George’s team’s promising 2-0 start this year, the headmaster and athletic director there had ample reason to pull out.

Predictably, a few outraged armchair quarterbacks are now complaining that the adults at St. George’s are teaching their kids to be quitters. But given the physical differences between the teams, neither side would have gained anything from what would likely have been a lopsided victory for Lawrence, and there would have been a heightened risk of injury for the smaller St. George’s players.

At a time when high schools and colleges are growing more aware of the injury risks in football — but when athletic fervor is at an all-time high — St. George’s acted courageously by walking away."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Education policies in Finland

If you have been following reform movements in education, Finland is now the country of the moment. I think there is a good reason for that. Here is what Finland's educational policy focuses on:

- Broad and creative learning
- Customizing
- Professional responsibilities
- Slow learning
- Owning a dream: building a shared inspirational vision of what good education system school and teaching look like. Appointing education professionals to leadership positions.

Sounds good to me.

Talking Heads 12:00 today after the 7th grade trip

Just now, I am meeting with the team and some parents before going off to Ft. Ontario with the 7th gr. Remember, Talking Heads will be at 12:00 today due to the field trip.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Spending time with Colgate's Peter Balakian

Friday night, my wife, Ellen, and I had dinner with Peter Balakian, poet, professor and proponent of human rights. I first met Peter 11 years ago while his daughter was at an Armenian summer camp which my wife directed. Peter and Ellen went on to organize the 85th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide at the New York Public Library - a gathering of great writers and thinkers the likes of Vartan Gregorian and Robert Pinsky.

Peter has a new book of poems out titled Ziggurat. As stated in the Armenian Weekly, "as a young man in the late 1960′s, Peter Balakian was a mail runner in downtown Manhattan, working in and around the building site of the World Trade Center as the towers slowly took shape and began to fill with people and businesses. And, like so many others, he watched in mute horror on September 11 as they fell. In his long poem “A-Train/Ziggurat/Elegy”—which forms the centerpiece of his new book, Ziggurat—he weaves the story of their rise and fall into a complex personal and cultural account of life and loss in New York in the final decades of the 20th century."

At dinner we spoke of his books, his children, the Armenians, and writers. Peter used to teach and coach football at a prep school in NJ too, which lead me to ask him to come to MPH to read. He said he would, but I remembered it would be wise to get on his calendar now - he is a busy guy, and a true poet too boot. We'll see!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Will these things become obselete? From

21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020

Last night I read and posted the clip on '21 Things That Became Obsolete in the Last Decade

1. Desks
The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students. Allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning.

2. Language Labs
Foreign language acquisition is only a smartphone away. Get rid of those clunky desktops and monitors and do something fun with that room.

3. Computers
Ok, so this is a trick answer. More precisely this one should read: 'Our concept of what a computer is'. Because computing is going mobile and over the next decade we're going to see the full fury of individualized computing via handhelds come to the fore. Can't wait.

4. Homework
The 21st century is a 24/7 environment. And the next decade is going to see the traditional temporal boundaries between home and school disappear. And despite whatever Secretary Duncan might say, we don't need kids to 'go to school' more; we need them to 'learn' more. And this will be done 24/7 and on the move (see #3).

5. The Role of Standardized Tests in College Admissions
The AP Exam is on its last legs. The SAT isn't far behind. Over the next ten years, we will see Digital Portfolios replace test scores as the #1 factor in college admissions.

6. Differentiated Instruction as the Sign of a Distinguished Teacher
The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn't yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won't make you 'distinguished'; it'll just be a natural part of your work.

7. Fear of Wikipedia
Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it's time you get over yourself.

8. Paperbacks
Books were nice. In ten years' time, all reading will be via digital means. And yes, I know, you like the 'feel' of paper. Well, in ten years' time you'll hardly tell the difference as 'paper' itself becomes digitized.

9. Attendance Offices
Bio scans. 'Nuff said.

10. Lockers. A coat-check, maybe.

11. IT Departments
Ok, so this is another trick answer. More subtly put: IT Departments as we currently know them. Cloud computing and a decade's worth of increased wifi and satellite access will make some of the traditional roles of IT -- software, security, and connectivity -- a thing of the past. What will IT professionals do with all their free time? Innovate. Look to tech departments to instigate real change in the function of schools over the next twenty years.

12. Centralized Institutions
School buildings are going to become 'homebases' of learning, not the institutions where all learning happens. Buildings will get smaller and greener, student and teacher schedules will change to allow less people on campus at any one time, and more teachers and students will be going out into their communities to engage in experiential learning.

13. Organization of Educational Services by Grade
Education over the next ten years will become more individualized, leaving the bulk of grade-based learning in the past. Students will form peer groups by interest and these interest groups will petition for specialized learning. The structure of K-12 will be fundamentally altered.

14. Education School Classes that Fail to Integrate Social Technology
This is actually one that could occur over the next five years. Education Schools have to realize that if they are to remain relevant, they are going to have to demand that 21st century tech integration be modeled by the very professors who are supposed to be preparing our teachers.

15. Paid/Outsourced Professional Development
No one knows your school as well as you. With the power of a PLN in their back pockets, teachers will rise up to replace peripatetic professional development gurus as the source of school wide prof dev programs. This is already happening.

16. Current Curricular Norms
There is no reason why every student needs to take however many credits in the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in middle schools to a role as foundational content providers and high schools as places for specialized learning.

17. Parent-Teacher Conference Night
Ongoing parent-teacher relations in virtual reality will make parent-teacher conference nights seem quaint. Over the next ten years, parents and teachers will become closer than ever as a result of virtual communication opportunities. And parents will drive schools to become ever more tech integrated.

18. Typical Cafeteria Food
Nutrition information + handhelds + cost comparison = the end of $3.00 bowls of microwaved mac and cheese. At least, I so hope so.

19. Outsourced Graphic Design and Webmastering
You need a website/brochure/promo/etc.? Well, for goodness sake just let your kids do it. By the end of the decade -- in the best of schools -- they will be.

20. High School Algebra I
Within the decade, it will either become the norm to teach this course in middle school or we'll have finally woken up to the fact that there's no reason to give algebra weight over statistics and IT in high school for non-math majors (and they will have all taken it in middle school anyway).

21. Paper
In ten years' time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Can Exercise Make Kids Smarter? -

Do you really need more evidence that students need to run, play and move? MPH gives each middle schooler PE everyday and a new recess period will be rolled out next week. Richard Louv would approve.

Phys Ed: Can Exercise Make Kids Smarter? -

Monday, September 27, 2010

Obama, Quizzed on Private Schooling, Is Blunt

This is from

Obama, Quizzed on Private Schooling, Is Blunt
President Obama offered a bleak assessment of the schools in the
nation’s capital, saying his daughters could not get the same
education in a D.C. public school that they are getting at Sidwell Friends, the elite
private school they attend.

The president did not use the issue of security for his two daughters
as an excuse for his decision to put them in private schools. Rather,
he said, Sidwell Friends offers a better education.

“I’ll be blunt with you. The answer is no right now,” Mr. Obama said
during a half-hour interview about education on NBC’s “Today Show.” He
added that there were some “great” schools in the city, but that the
system over all was struggling.

“Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for
Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it,” Mr.
Obama said. “But the broader problem is for a mom or a dad who are
working hard but don’t have a bunch of connections.”

During the interview, the president also endorsed a longer school
year, saying that would “make sense” but would cost money. He said he
wants to work with teacher unions to reform schools and to honor the
profession. But he said teacher unions must be willing to acknowledge
the shortcomings of their members.

“You can’t defend a status quo in which a third of our kids are
dropping out,” Mr. Obama said, noting that some schools have high
failure rates. “In those schools, you have got to have radical change.
And radical change is something that is in the interests of the
students. And ultimately in the interests of the teachers.”

Mr. Obama said the coming documentary about schools, “Waiting for
Superman,” offers a “heartbreaking” image of students in a charter
school lottery, whose futures depend “on the bounce of a ball.”

In answer to a question about responsibility, Mr. Obama said part of
the blame lies with parents.

“If the kid’s coming home from school and the parents aren’t checking
to see if the kids are doing homework or watching TV, that’s going to
be a problem,” he said, adding that “at some point you have to say,
your job right now is to learn.”

The president defended his administration’s “Race to the Top” program,
in which states compete for a share of $4 billion in extra education
money by embracing school reform. He called it the “most powerful tool
for reform in decades.”

But he said that other school funding that is distributed to all
states according to a formula was also important so poor schools and
school districts continue to receive federal funds.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Middle School Advisor/Advisee Lists

For all to see - these are the adviror/advisee grouping in the MS this year.


James Eagen

Head of Middle School

Manlius Pebble Hill School

5300 Jamesville Road

De Witt, NY 13214

315 446 2452 x 162

Dress code from a middle school viewpoint

This week in my 7th grade Expository Writing Class, I posed the always popular question - should MPH have a dress code? The students were then asked to write the first three sentences of a ten sentence paragraph, which we call the three sentence assessment. Here is a response from a 7th grade girl:

"Many great institutions of knowledge have an enforced dress code. Manlius Pebble Hill, being a college preparatory school is one of the aforementioned institutions. But not many stores carry cute clothes so it makes it really hard to shop."

This response shows exactly why middle schoolers are so wonderful!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I presented the new Middle School Commitment to Community, a document that was created over the course of many months last year in order to put language around what we do at MPH to ensure we teach students not only how to think and learn, but how to strive to be their best as citizens on campus, and beyond.

The students will sign this document in the coming weeks as will their advisors. I will sign each document too. The signature symbolizes a student's commitment to the Middle School and MPH and will be a guide throughout the year when they may fall short or lose sight of their purpose.

The commitment can be seen at the bottom of this page. We are proud of our work in the MS and know the hard part is still ahead. Discussions started today during tutorial and I am sure there are many more to come.


Monday, September 20, 2010

What is so important about recess in the middle?

Today at lunch, like many days, I took the middle school outside to run, play, and connect. At times, we fret about them being out of class, loosely grouped, romping about just before language or math class. But what was clear to some faculty this afternoon was how important it is to let adolescents be, and at the same time quietly observe their social workings. This morning, the 6th grade team discussed two new students who were not connecting to their classmates. The teachers expressed concern, even worry, about the two students inability to mesh with fellow classmates in the class during the first week. I listened, gave my two cents and then made it a goal to make sure I observed these two during the course of the day and the week. Within five minutes of watching, one was seen in a game of freeze tag with seven other girls. The other student? Walking across the field in deep conversation with a 6th grade boy. Both students were clearly fitting in, at least today, connecting and feeling better about being a part of things. Without those unstructured moments kids might not find that place to organically connect. And without watching from a safe distance as they play, talk and be, we might not see the whole child or the entire social picture, limiting our effectiveness as educators, protectors and leaders.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dumb Action Games Make You Smarter. Really.

From Fast Company: "For just about as long as there have been politicians and pundits complaining that videogames cause violence and indecency, there have been academics quietly refuting them. Collaborative play fosters communities, says one. Games can treat ADD, says another.

In today’s issue of Current Biology, however, a new study takes these results a step farther. Cognitive scientists from the University of Rochester set out to see if games improved decision-making. And they weren't thinking of smart games like Sim City or Civilization. The researchers wanted to see if there was a relationship between improved decision-making and the loudest, brashest, most action-packed—some would say dumbest--games around.

The team’s initial findings were intriguing. Simply by comparing groups of people who regularly who play action games (like Call of Duty or Grant Theft Auto) against groups of people who do not, they saw that the former made decisions more quickly--but with the same degree of accuracy.

But the researchers needed to go farther than that--they wanted to show that playing shoot-‘em-ups actually caused these gains in decision-making prowess, and not simply those who already made better decisions also played action games. Daphne Bavelier, one of the study authors, explains that her group then took young adults who were not fast-paced gamers. These were divided into two groups: a control group playing leisurely games like The Sims 2 or Tetris; and a group playing action games like Counterstrike or Halo. The action gamers were better able to answer questions in a visual test involving a field of moving dots and an audio test involving distinguishing a target sound from a field of noise.

“If the effect is really due to action game play,” Bavelier says, “we expect those individuals trained on action games to show more improvement between pre-training and post-training than the control trained group. This is exactly what we found.” The study design “ensures causality,” she says.

It’s an intriguing study, but it still raises a few questions. Action games may train us to make “better decisions” when it comes to spatial and auditory cues--but decision-making in general is a much broader category than that. For the time being though, this study is another one for the back pocket when anyone complains you play too many shooters--just tell them you’re getting smarter.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Started School of with a Shake

This is from today's Post Standard: "Manlius Pebble Hill started its first day of school today with the school’s traditional handshake greeting. The private school’s students all lined up to shake hands with all the faculty and staff outside the school in DeWitt.

The tradition stretches back to when Pebble Hill was a separate school, and has been going on for decades. The school later merged with Manlius School in 1970.

This year about 560 students shook the hands of 130 faculty and staff. The seniors go through the line first, and then the rest of the school shakes hands with the staff and all the seniors. School officials said the event has never been rained out, and is designed to welcome everyone to a fresh new year."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Lesson in innovation for the start of the school year

This year, the Middle School's theme is collaborative innovation. Faculty will be working with others to come up with new approaches to teaching core concepts in and out of the classroom. According to thinker and writer Dan Pink, Colorado math teacher Karl Fisch is taking a new approach to something old, "and in the process, he’s offering a lesson in innovation for organisations of every kind." According to Pink, Fisch returned from the summer to his classroom to teach an algebra course to 9th and 10th graders. However, instead of lecturing about polynomials and exponents during class time – and then giving his young charges 30 problems to work on at home – Fisch flipped the sequence. He’s recorded his lectures on video and uploaded them to YouTube for his 28 students to watch at home. Then, in class, he works with students as they solve problems and experiment with the concepts. Lectures at night, “homework” during the day. Read more from Pink below - you may have to cut and paste the link into your browser:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Change, anxiety and hope for the new school year

Retiring school head Lenesa Leana of Belmont Day School in Massachusetts said these words during her Back To School Night Remarks a couple of years ago: "Certainly science is front and center as a force for generating dramatic changes, along with technology and medicine. But it is also clear that the fields of diplomacy and conflict resolution will face mighty challenges as well. In addition, I also think about the arts, about instruments we might never have imagined and the interweaving of technology and the visual arts that are beyond our ken. No wonder as we ponder all these possibilities at once, we can find our hearts beating faster and faster. Such challenges and the possibilities of such change elicit anxiety. What I have learned so keenly over my years in education is that change invariably invokes a sense of loss at some level. Put those two together – anxiety and loss – and it is difficult to focus on excitement and expectation! And we do so need to keep those positive emotions in mind, for it is our responsibility as educators and parents to share a perspective of hope and anticipation with our children. We want them to know that we believe that we will meet these challenges with ingenuity and expertise, with a commitment to do the right thing with focus and excellence."

Jack Stamp - Why Music Matters

Diversity workshop: bonding with citrus? Gotta love it people....

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Way We Live Now - When Does Holding Teachers Accountable Go Too Far? -

From the NY Times: "The start of the school year brings another one of those nagging, often unquenchable worries of parenthood: How good will my child’s teachers be? Teachers tend to have word-of-mouth reputations, of course. But it is hard to know how well those reputations match up with a teacher’s actual abilities. Schools generally do not allow parents to see any part of a teacher’s past evaluations, for instance. And there is nothing resembling a rigorous, Consumer Reports-like analysis of schools, let alone of individual teachers. For the most part, parents just have to hope for the best." read the full article here:

The Way We Live Now - When Does Holding Teachers Accountable Go Too Far? -

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bill Gates Favorite Teacher

Is it only a matter of time before the walls of our schools are knocked down by technology, experience and innovation? Bill Gates thinks so. From


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nearly One Million Children in U.S. Potentially Misdiagnosed With ADHD, Study Finds

"Nearly One Million Children in U.S. Potentially Misdiagnosed With ADHD, Study Finds
ScienceDaily (Aug. 17, 2010) — Nearly 1 million children in the United States are potentially misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder simply because they are the youngest -- and most immature -- in their kindergarten class, according to new research by a Michigan State University economist.

These children are significantly more likely than their older classmates to be prescribed behavior-modifying stimulants such as Ritalin, said Todd Elder, whose study will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Health Economics.

Elder said the "smoking gun" of the study is that ADHD diagnoses depend on a child's age relative to classmates and the teacher's perceptions of whether the child has symptoms."

This is another great example of how important it is to NOT push ahead your child in school. I have never met anyone who regretted keeping their child from entering kindergarten if their birthday would put them as one of the youngest in the class.

Read the whole article here:

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Race to Nowhere

What makes a great teacher?

Keith Middleton, Associate Superintendent of Mason County Schools, asked some students this question for AOL. The top 11 things he and a co-author of a recent book found students saying were:

* Know us personally, our interests and strengths
* Let us know who they are as individuals
* Smile at us
* Encourage us to participate in school activities
* Spend time beyond class time to help us be successful in their class
* Give us descriptive feedback on assignments
* Tell us why
* Share how what we learn is connected to real life
* Apologize when they make mistakes
* Give meaningful work
* Are energetic, enthusiastic and enjoy their job
This is from Eric Greitens, Outside Magazine's chief inspiration officer. Five steps on how to overachieve 1. Vigorous exercise, everyday 2. Eat clean. Eat food that is good for you and keeps energy high 3. Assembly your team. Work with positive people who think they can do big things 4. Balance. Meditate, laugh, work, play. 5. A goal. Focus on something you want and don't relent.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When is the door closed?

As we enter the school year, there are always those uncomfortable situations with families whose contracts for the school year were not extended in the Spring. Those family's are often in denial or upset with the situation. Their son or daughter may or may not have a future in independent school, and this could be a real shock. Yet, there could be long standing relationships with those families and the school may feel an obligation to the parents and the student. How does the school proceed? Carefully.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I just read a great article on a new boys school in the East Bay. Every boy will get a hammer, power saw, and wood. Why? To build their own desk!

Advice for new teachers...

This list comes from the blog of Josie Holford, Head of Poughkeepsie Day School . She is a wonderfully thoughtful educator, with great opinions and experience in independent schools. Though most of you are not new teachers, I like to think we all begin anew each year.
Advice (random and very incomplete) for new teachers:
1. Sign on to Twitter. Follow the smartest people you can find in your areas of interest. Build a great PLN – personal learning network – of the wisest and most helpful people you can find. Follow people with whom you agree and those who challenge your assumptions. Follow people like you; follow people not like you. One place to start looking: Twitter for Teachers wiki.
2. Expand your PLN with colleagues in your school, in other schools and elsewhere from whom you know you can learn.
3. Assume that your older colleagues want to be helpful and see you succeed. This includes administrators. Invite them to your classroom. Ask their opinion. Ask to see them teach – or whatever it is they do. See if you can find a project of theirs in which you can participate.
4. Understand that you are going to fail. Don’t be afraid of failing. The ratio of success to failure is about equal so fail fast and frequently and try again.
5. Read and understand the mission of your school. Talk about it with colleagues. Find out what it means to people and how they strive to live by it.
6. Keep working on your own educational philosophy. How do children learn? What does that mean for how you conduct yourself in the classroom and your routines, policies and practices? Which educational theorists make the most sense? Learning is serious stuff so take it seriously and have fun doing it.
7. The hardest part about working with children can be keeping your face straight. Laugh with your students and at yourself. Learning is disorderly and messy and is taking place whether it’s what you planned or not.
8. Think about the forces of change and disruptive innovation. What do they mean now and what might they mean for the world your students will inherit as they move out into the world? What do they need most to be educated citizens and thrive in that world? How can the tools of technology help you collaborate with other learners to do creative good work?
9. Remember that every child is a learner, deserves a great education and to be respected and cherished and that very few of them are like you. Saving face is the number one priority for most children in school – so work to preserve the sense of self worth and dignity however trying the circumstances.
10. Seek out colleagues and learn with them and from them. Appreciate the wisdom of veteran teachers. Avoid at all costs those who are cynical about children, have stopping learning and are nodes of negativity about the school. This may means avoiding the faculty room. Seek out colleagues who share your commitment to learning. Hang out with them and do something fun.
11. If you and the school are not a good match, work to contribute and stay mission consistent and positive but be prepared to change schools. One size does not fit all goes for shoes, lesson planning and finding the school that is a place where you can be a positive contributor to the lives of children.
12. Take advantage of professional development opportunities
13. Take advantage of the opportunity to work with students outside the classroom – clubs, teams, school trips.
14. Learn from failure, learn from practice, learn from collaboration with colleagues, learn from theory. Most of all – stay a learner. (And staying a learner is the number one reason for being active on Twitter.) And here is Cybrary Man’s website of resources for new teachers. He is Jerry Blumengarten and twitters @cybraryman1
15. Eat well, don’t live and breathe school, wash your hands and get lots of sleep

Sunday, August 22, 2010

If you have not read Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, do. Very interesting take on how we should be parenting.
Amazing. Texting in a post right now...

Summer's almost over...

It has been a wonderful summer for my kids. My son Ben got on a surfboard in Far Rockaway, found hermit crabs in Gloucester, made many friends while away at Armenian camp and got to kayak in Lake Placid. Sarah Rose, rode swan boats in Boston, was the dancing queen at my cousins wedding in Connecticut and dug endlessly on the beaches of the Adirondacks, Finger Lakes, and Massachusetts. What a wonderful way for them to spend their days - unhurried, investigating, trying new things, greeting new friends. Then I thought, why can't experiences conntinue once school starts? Can't schools be places where children do these things - play, explore, team - in an environment that is tolerent of a child's need for time in order to reach discovery?