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!