Sunday, September 30, 2007

"What wisdom would we impart to the world if it was our last chance?"

A professor at Carnegie Mellon shares his "last lecture."

You can view the article here.

My favorite part of this lecture is "Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things."

Saturday, September 29, 2007

.... do learn

Thought Provoking!

This was brought to my attention by one of my a colleague. I've personally tried the cell phone challenge. After reading the editorial in the last post I'm re-inspired to infuse the outside world into my classroom.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bringing School to the Information Age

The new reality is that the public-education system is no longer the only, or the paramount, place where we go to learn.

by James Daly

Editor's Note

For more than 150 years, the local public schools were our community's temple of knowledge. They dutifully gathered, assimilated, and dispensed the wisdom of thousands of years of insight and learning to the eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) ears and eyes of fidgeting youth. Once you left the school's care, however, as a young adult, you were pretty much on your own to track down the information and wisdom that would lead to a more enriched mind or pocketbook.

Then something dramatic happened. In 1989, researcher Tim Berners-Lee was noodling around in his Swiss lab, working on a way for his colleagues to share ideas electronically on different networks using an odd jumble of computers. He came up with an online knowledge-sharing device: the World Wide Web. By the mid-1990s, new Web browsers produced by companies such as Netscape and Microsoft made sailing through the sea of online information simple; Berners-Lee had inadvertently kicked open a door to the world's knowledge.

Then came the crackling summer of 1995. While a staggering heat wave scorched the country -- New York City had a record-setting streak of twenty-four consecutive days with no precipitation, while out in the Great Plains, a freight train derailed when the tracks warped in 112-degree heat -- Netscape planned something even hotter: It went public. When that offering happened on August 9, the company's stock and its fortunes skyrocketed. Where there is money to be made (and Netscape was making billions), inventiveness and ambition followed.

The rest of the story, writ in large neon letters, has been a redistribution of knowledge that has essentially turned our world upside down and inside out (or is it the other way around?). In the past decade, the easy access to nearly any piece of information imaginable has become an expected part of our daily life. We've been Googled and YouTubed and iPodded so completely that the names of these very companies have seared into our cerebral cortex, even becoming verbs ("Did you google it?") in our daily chatter.

What happened with our schools? Not much. They continued to plod on gamely, passing out paper-based textbook after paper-based textbook, keeping their rooms and halls nearly free of the technology saturating their students' lives. The public-education system was a modern-day Rip Van Winkle, dozing peacefully beneath its educational elm while the distance increased between the technology that schools provided and the daily reality of the world students live in.

Subtly, but inexorably, schools -- or, for that matter, libraries -- were no longer the key holders to the temple of knowledge. A millennia-old arrangement of information distribution disappeared in the time it took for a newborn to reach fifth grade.

The new reality is that the public-education system is no longer the only, or the paramount, place where we go to learn. Most likely, the average child did his or her first Google search on a home computer. For many kids, they probably first logged on to a network (most likely AOL or Yahoo!) remotely, using a portable PC a parent brought home from the office. Their first online chat was more likely to happen at home while the child was enjoying Club Penguin than it was in English class.

This shift represents a fundamental restructuring of what public education is all about. Schools must now jump into the river of information provided by business, international groups, and the media and step into a new role: assembler of the collective intellect. Educators must help students sort out the insightful from the ludicrous, assisting them in their new role as capable and critical thinkers. Schools should not shun the seemingly endless variety of outside information sources, but should instead see them as new sources of inspiration for their daily lessons.

In an age when the flow of information was limited and controlled, schools were worthy gatherers of knowledge. That world is gone. Public education has entered a new phase, and it's time for it to catch up to the students it's charged with teaching.

Editor in Chief
James Daly

Jim Daly

This article was also published in Edutopia Magazine, July 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Reading in Bed?


After successfully eating a candle, our science department continues to surprise everyone. I personally was thrilled to see the freshmen physics teacher using the artifact of the 7 train the Summer Program created as an object of scrutiny in his physics class. The students from the Summer School Program have been coming up to me shocked that classes, and the occasional DEAR have used the train as a gathering place.

I would also like to thank Barkan for sharing the following hyper-linked quote from today's NYTimes.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pirates, Fire, and Socialization

In most schools events like the one we had last Wednesday would probably only occur in late June. Honoring student achievement is often a closing ceremony of any school. We have created a tradition of something different in Montessori. We have shared and celebrated the achievement of our students past year upon their return to school. The new freshmen get to share in our school culture right from the get go.

We almost got it right. We did have some miscommunication as to “who gets honors” (not running list from the Gardener Community was disheartening and painful when recognized) and we did have some slight glitches as to “how” the ceremony should transpire, but on the whole we as a community started the year with a truly special event.

FIRE—yes we might very well be the only school in the NYC BOE that distributes fire to 450 kids at the start of the school year. This displays an amazing amount of trust, and inspiring sense of unity, and possibly an insane risk factor. (Although to date we have never had an incident) As I looked around through the auditorium at the faces of the new students and peered into the eyes of those about to embark on the conclusion of their time here at QHST, I was truly re-inspired to dedicate myself to our community of learners. We have and amazing selection of staff and students of diverse interests and backgrounds.

The BBQ event after the candle ceremony went off rather smoothly. Students who can often be withdrawn in a classroom setting, began to open up in the lower risk social setting. The student government made their way through the crowds encouraging participation. We were even visited by several students whom graduated last year. Everyone seemed to have a smile on their face.

Upon return to the classroom on Thursday, I could already feel a sense of community with a freshmen class that I have only just met. One student asked me if “...We do these sort of events often?” My reply was, ”Not enough and never with as much fire.”

The photos in the third floor common area say it all.

PS> As for the Pirates…… it was after all September 19th! What do you expect?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What’s Good for Children

Here is a reprint of an opinion article published in the NYTimes and the letters responding to it:

Editorial September 12, 2007

America’s business community was an early advocate of reform and a prime mover in the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, which required the states to improve public schooling for all students. With Congress gearing up to reauthorize the act, business leaders are rightly raising their voices in an attempt to prevent the teachers’ unions and their political allies from weakening this important law.

Corporate leaders have complained for years about job applicants who don’t read, write or think well enough. Faced with poorly educated workers at home — especially in science — American companies are increasingly looking abroad, not just for lower-paid workers, but for workers with the training and skills to compete in a globalized economy.

With those concerns in mind, the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executives from the nation’s largest companies, spoke out forcefully this week. At a House hearing, the Roundtable’s president, John Castellani, cited troubling provisions in a draft reauthorization bill that would allow schools to mask failure in teaching crucial subjects like reading and math by giving them credit for student performance in other subjects or on alternate measures of performance.

Mr. Castellani voiced strong support for the accountability principles underlying the original law and warned that the draft would allow too many schools to “game the system” by hiding the records of underachieving students. The provisions, he warned, would weaken the process by which schools are identified as in need of improvement and would replace a “transparent accountability system” with a tortured and confusing one. As such, the new system could cover up deficits that the current law has clearly exposed.

The draft, the work of the House Education Committee chairman, George Miller of California, contains some good reforms as well. But those ideas would be wasted if states, schools and teachers were not held accountable for the quality of the education they provide. Not only do America’s businesses need better-educated workers, the country needs better-educated citizens as well. And America’s children all deserve a sound education.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why is Jonathan Kozol Fasting?

This morning, I am entering the 67th day of a partial fast that I began early in the summer as my personal act of protest at the vicious damage being done to inner-city children by the federal education law No Child Left Behind, a racially punitive piece of legislation that Congress will either renew, abolish, or, as thousands of teachers pray, radically revise in the weeks immediately ahead. The poisonous essence of this law lies in the mania of obsessive testing it has forced upon our nation's schools and, in the case of underfunded, overcrowded inner-city schools, the miserable drill-and-kill curriculum of robotic "teaching to the test" it has imposed on teachers, the best of whom are fleeing from these schools because they know that this debased curriculum would never have been tolerated in the good suburban schools that they, themselves, attended.

Monday, September 10, 2007

They ate a candle!

Check out Montessori Physics from Barkan's Freshmen Class and Montessori Sophomores joint effort at Web design.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Recruitment by Military in Schools Is Criticized

Published: September 7, 2007

Military recruiters are frequently given free reign in New York City public schools and allowed into classes in violation of the school system’s regulations, according to a report released yesterday by the Manhattan borough president and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The report, based on surveys of nearly 1,000 students at 45 high schools citywide last spring, said the city’s Department of Education exercised almost no oversight over how much access recruiters had to students at high schools.

“There were recruiters who were in the classroom not to talk to students about reading, writing and arithmetic, but to talk to them about how to get a one-way ticket to Iraq and all the benefits you will accrue by that process,” Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, said at a news conference. “This is something that must be stopped. It’s outrageous, and it gives recruiters a captive audience.”

Nearly all the speakers at the news conference, including Mr. Stringer, said they were opposed to the war in Iraq.

Federal law and city regulations require military recruiters to be given the same kind of access to speak to students as college and trade school recruiters who typically turn up for annual career nights.

In a memorandum sent to principals in January, city school officials reminded them that military recruiters should not be “given unfettered access to students in classrooms, cafeterias, gyms or other areas of the school building.”

Margie Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said the department was reviewing the report. “We’re not aware of any recruitment during school hours,” she said.

The report focused primarily on schools with large numbers of black, Latino and low-income students where Mr. Stringer and officials from the New York Civil Liberties Union said they believed the recruiting had been particularly aggressive. The authors conceded that the report was not a scientific study.

Adana Austin, a senior at Lafayette High School in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, who was quoted in the report, said in an interview yesterday that she had seen military recruiters in class a few times a month, but had never seen a college recruiter.

“They’re the ones talking to us about our futures,” she said of the military recruiters.

Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that the city needed to do more to regulate and monitor recruiters in the schools. She said schools should keep track of how often recruiters are allowed in and should make that information available to the public.

The Los Angeles and Seattle schools have each set up such a monitoring system, Ms. Lieberman said.

“If the Department of Education is so committed to evaluating everything at every turn, they have an obligation to protect our kids from military recruiters coming into our schools,” she said.

The federal education law also requires schools to submit student contact information to the military, though it also allows students to have their information withheld. Last year, just 25 percent of those city students surveyed remembered receiving such a form, according to the report.

In 2003, the first year of the federal requirement, roughly 54,000 of the city’s 300,000 students asked that their information be kept private. Ms. Feinberg said she could not provide any updated data because it is kept school by school and is not collated by the Education Department.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Survey Results

Some of you may remember the multiple choice surveys we had our students fill out last year. Here are the results.

The DOE released the results of their parent survey today.

They tried to manipulate the results to look like parents don't care about class size; even though it turned out to be the number one choice of parents among ten different options. When asked "which of the following improvements would you most like your school to make" class size came out at 24%. They actually had to lump together the responses of four other questions and called them "more and better programs." in a pathetic attempt to demonstrate that parents don't really care about this issue. They added together "More hands-on learning", "more or better enrichment programs,", "More or better arts programs, and "more challenging courses" to get this 45%. Of course, this begs the question of why parents should have to choose between smaller classes and arts and enrichment programs anyway!

A far better question would have been, which do you think would best improve our schools, smaller classes, more small schools, more charter schools, or more testing? The latter are the policies of this administration. I haven't noticed them offering our kids more enrichment or arts.

We asked this question in our independent parent poll, and we will let you know soon what the results were.

Reportedly, at his press conference this morning, the Mayor specifically singled out certain people who advocate for smaller classes, saying that these results confirm that he is right and that they are wrong and that class size isn't important to parents. Hopefully the media will be a little more critical. Check out WNBC news tonight for an interview.

My statement is just above their press release.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

With Start of a New School Year, Excitement and Jitters

Published: September 5, 2007

Questions rumble like approaching thunder. Will my teacher be mean or strict? Will I make friends? Will algebra be my undoing? Children ponder these issues when reluctantly surrendering to the end of another summer.

The prelude to the first day of school — which New York City’s 1.1 million public school children and many more around the country experienced yesterday — is dappled with more pleasant anticipations as well. There is not just the sometimes illusory promise of a fresh start, but also remembrances of things not so long past, like the fragrance of macaroni and cheese wafting from the cafeteria.

Perhaps a new friend will turn this year less solitary? If softball at camp proved frustrating, could the science classroom be the moment to shine?

Ask kids what they feel about the first day of school, and they’ll tell it from the heart. Alexander Puntorno, 15, a sophomore at the High School of Sports Management in Brooklyn, fretted yesterday about not fitting in; he was new to the school and had not known about its dress code. “Everyone else is wearing uniforms and I’m not,” he said, looking down at his shorts and white polo shirt with a green logo on it.

A few days before school, Tysaun Blair, a solemn, rangy 13-year-old, was already worrying as he was getting his last bicycle wheelies in with his cousin Kareem Pierre-Louis, 11, outside Kareem’s house on a placid side street of homes in Laurelton, Queens.

After eight years in the cocoon of Public School 156 two blocks away, Tysaun was not looking forward to his first day in August Martin High School, an unfamiliar mile and two buses from home. His friends Michael Crespo and Patrice Francois were heading elsewhere.

“I’m scared,” he said, rattling off his jitters. “I don’t know nobody there. I might be late to get to school. Something might happen while I’m walking. I might get into a fight with somebody or I could wake up late.”

Dread filled Tysaun when he imagined a teacher he has never met for a subject he did not know well, like math. “I wouldn’t like somebody giving me a hard time at something I’m not really good at,” he said.

Still, there was a silver lining in knowing he would be inside a larger, more anonymous building.

“If you don’t like anybody, you don’t bump into them right away,” Tysaun predicted. “You could avoid people longer.”

By contrast, his cousin Kareem, more smiley and squirmy, was full of delicious expectancy. He couldn’t wait to let old friends know about the snappers and yellowtails he caught fishing at dusk while visiting his father in Florida. He was feeling more grown-up because he would be taking over Tysaun’s role shepherding the family’s younger children to P.S. 156. “I’ll keep them in front of me so I know what happens,” Kareem said, demonstrating that he had thought the whole walk out.

P.S. 156 is where he has spent his school career, so the first day in sixth grade would not find him wandering in a wilderness.

“I know all the teachers, I know all the kids,” he said. And math and reading have not been struggles. “I’m good at every single subject,” he said, as if he had assimilated Dizzy Dean’s motto that it’s not boasting if you really did it.

Teachers try to make fretful pupils comfortable, but teachers, too, have butterflies. That first day is critical because it sets the year’s tone. An overly genial teacher who tolerates unruliness or inattentiveness will find that her class gets only more unruly and inattentive as autumn fades to winter.

Jerry Maraia, who has taught seventh grade at Clinton School for Writers and Artists in Chelsea for three years, tosses and turns every year with titles of books he wants his pupils to read and his plan for getting them to draw up their own “community agreement” of governing rules.

Inevitably, he never sleeps the night before school opens. “I’m just as excited as the students are,” Mr. Maraia said.

He was sitting outside the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, a week before school began, using the hours before the doors opened for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to peck out new lesson plans on his laptop.

Dianne Aronson, a second-grade teacher in Bronxville, N.Y., says she still feels anxious approaching the first day, even after 26 years of teaching. “We feel exactly the same way children do,” she said. “We wonder, ‘Are they going to like me, are they going to respond to me, are they going to be upset?’ ”

Ms. Aronson conquers her nerves by grabbing onto the concrete: her classroom’s physical design. She spends days before school covering bulletin boards with images of sea animals, the motif around which she will construct her curriculum.

On the first day, she tries to connect to all the children, “get down to their level and look them in the eye,” particularly those who may be nervous after the mothers leave the room. She acquaints them with routines: how to sit down “crisscross apple sauce” on the floor, where the supplies are stored, how lunch and recess are managed. She has them work out the class constitution.

“It makes it a lot easier for them to follow the rules,” she said. “I often refer to our constitution when somebody breaks the rules: ‘You see, you signed that.’ ”

But she tries to keep the atmosphere cheerful. “Children don’t learn if they’re unhappy,” she said. She looks out for the child who may be on the swings alone. She reassures those who have not learned to read well, reminding them that some children crawl earlier while others walk earlier.

“But eventually everybody walks,” she tells them.

That makes them feel that they just might survive the day after the daunting first day and, just maybe, the rest of the year as well.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Honeymoon Begins....again

I'm republishing the post from last September about the first day of school you may find useful

cebreakers here or here:

The following is something I found when looking for Icebreakers for the first day!....

First-Day-of-School Icebreakers Help Students and Teachers Warm Up!

Are you looking for the perfect way to get to know your students and help them get to know one another? You'll find it here! This week, Education World offers more than 15 creative icebreakers from our readers.

This is the Education World story that won't quit! Each year at this time, creative teachers share with Ed World readers their favorite first-day-of-school activities. Each year, Ed World readers respond by sharing new ideas! This year, we're pleased to share 19 brand-new, teacher-tested ideas for getting to know your new students!


Like many teachers, Suzanne Meyer feels compelled to use part of the first day of classes to "lay down the law." She shares her plans for the year ahead as well as class rules and expectations. A few years ago, however, Meyer, the K-12 instructional technology coordinator in the Hilton (New York) Central School District, decided to turn the tables.

"After doing my 'routine,' I asked students for their expectations of me," Meyer told Education World. "For three years in a row, I have found that this approach builds powerful bridges to understanding between me and my students.

"Because adolescents are in 'take in' mode early in the school year, you

will have their undivided attention as they try to size you up," suggested Meyer. "Tell them you're interested in their opinions and you're asking them these questions as a way of finding out about their learning styles and preferences. Ask them to write, using as much detail as possible, their responses to questions, such as

  • Now that I've told you my expectations of a good student, what are your expectations of a good teacher?
  • Tell me about the best teacher you've ever had. What made that person such a good teacher?
  • Now that I've told you some of my ideas about how we will go about learning this year's material, tell me about how you learn best. Give me an example of a project or unit where you learned a lot. Describe the project in detail.
"I passed this idea on to other friends and have gotten very good feedback about how it sets up a positive dynamic right from the beginning of the school year," added Meyer. "The students' writing will also surprise and amuse you, and you can use responses as a follow-up the next day when you launch into the work and fun of learning with a new group of students."