Friday, April 28, 2017

The Gift of Failure

This is a must-read book, especially if you have anything to do with tweens and teens. The author, Jessica Lahey, a mother of two boys AND a middle school teacher, has all of the correct instincts when guiding parents through the perils of how parents should handle failure with their children. Here are three quotes from the book that can apply to any child and parents:

In order to raise healthy, happy kids who can begin to build their own adulthood separate from us, we are going to have to extricate our egos from our children’s lives and allow them to feel the pride of their own accomplishments as well as the pain of their own failures. (p. xv)

The less we push our kids toward educational success, the more they will learn. The less we use external, or extrinsic, rewards on our children, the more they will engage in their education for the sake and love of learning. (p. 22)

Teach your children to face failure and accept it as valuable feedback. Let them see you taking risks and failing, and talk about those failures as opportunities to better yourself. (. 238)

I personally read the book through the lens of a middle school teacher, former head of two schools, and a father of two sons. Some of my thoughts on failure are captured in "Rethinking the 'F' Word" an article I wrote back in 2008 for Independent School magazine.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Look at Empathy

"Empathy Can Ease the Pressure: A very short empathic one act play" is an article I wrote for Independent School magazine in 2010.

"Empathy is Tough to Teach But is One of the Most Important Life Lessons" from MindShift is excellent, and this video comes with the short article introducing Dr. Brené Brown's informative take on empathy.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Neurodiversity: A most Important Word & Topic

From NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman:

"One of the most promising developments since the publication of 'The Geek Syndrome' has been the emergence of the concept of Neurodiversity: the notion that conditions like autism, dyslexia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should be regarded as naturally occurring cognitive variations with distinctive strengths that have contributed to the evolution of technology and culture rather than mere checklists of deficits and dysfunctions."

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Video Against the Misuse of Standardized Testing

Check out this video that is a message to schools and children on how to respond to the misuse of standardized testing.

The video is presented by the Community Montessori School in New Albany, IN. View their special Be Brave for Education website.

From the video . . .

"Our care of the children should not be governed by the desire to 'make them learn things,' but by the endeavor always to keep burning within them the light which is called intelligence." (Mari Montessori)

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Lesson in Emotional Intelligence

Click over to this powerful article "How Emotional Intelligence Landed Mr. Rogers $20 Million" by Travis Bradberry author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Embedded in his article, Bradberry uses this YouTube video of Mr. Rogers speaking at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in 1969 about caring for children.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Helping Our Children and Ourselves Understand the Ills of Class

Recently, my son recommended that I read the book Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, a #1 NYTimes bestseller about a young boy growing up in Kentucky and southwest Ohio. For me, there are so many lessons to be gained from reading the book, particularly lessons in class distinctions.

Back in 1999 I wrote an article in Independent School magazine entitled "Class Bias—the Real Enemy." Here is a quote from the article that appeared in the NAIS Trendbook 2012-2013—"What impact does this [class] have on independent school communities? In 'Class Bias, the Real Enemy,' Dane L. Peters argues, 'By the nature of a school's many diverse constituents, there is inextricably woven within the fabric a class thread that can unravel the prevailing mission to educate children.' In addition to addressing access in admissions and financial aid, many schools have found that examining issues of socioeconomic and class diversity can help the school become a more welcoming community for all."

For those who may want to dig deeper into understanding class via Hillbilly Elegy, listen to a podcast from "The Ezra Klein Show" that features an interview with author J.D. Vance; it gives excellent insights into class and how it affects America.

Friday, February 3, 2017

I Came Across a Palindrome the Other Day and . . .

. . . way back when I was teaching my 5th grade math class, palindromes was the subject that really interested my students and me. You know that palindromes are numbers, words, and sentences you can read forwards and backwards, and they are the same, e.g. 32523, Otto, radar, and . . . "Go hang a salami! I'm a lasagna hog!" Yes, that is a palindrome.

Fifth graders are great thinkers. See what I mean when you read "Is That Number Really a Palindrome?," an article I wrote back in 1995 for the publication Teaching Children Mathematics. 

Here is the link to the book GO HANG A SALAMI! I'M A LASAGNA HOG! and Other Palindromes by Jon Agee.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Procrastination Problems?

Do you or your kids—your own or your students—have problems with procrastination? If so, view this informative and funny TED Talk. You will find it most helpful.

WARNING: Blog viewers are at their own risk if they share this with kids.  😉

Friday, January 6, 2017

You Have to Be Carefully Taught

I am convinced that some of the inhumanity cited below begin with how we teach our children. Read a recently published article I wrote, "You Have to Be Carefully Taught" to get further insights.

Excerpt from the article:
As I witness the struggles of Middle Eastern countries dealing with violence inflicted by radical groups like the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS, I again ask myself, How can this be happening? How can anyone justify this heartless, inhumane treatment? Is this behavior learned in certain cultures? Perhaps, for some people, it is in the name of a religious/cultural belief, and, for others (e.g., drug cartels), the object is not to cooperate with a higher authority—or the issue is greed, or mental illness. And let us not forget recent tragedies in San Bernardino, CA; Orlando, FL; Dallas, TX; and Nice, France. For the month of June 2016 alone, Wikipedia lists 218 terrorist incidents worldwide, including bombings, executions, shootings, and attacks.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Holiday Cheer for Children and Adults

Recently, a friend sent me the note below and this three-minute video. I watched it five times before stopping. When you watch it, you won't wonder why it has nearly 40M views to date.

     Here's something to brighten your holiday season. Turn the volume up.
     This looks like a normal grocery store, but when the lights go out? Awesome! It took a team of cashiers, 13 different hidden cameras, and a whole lot of holiday spirit to pull off this epic holiday surprise!
     Edeka, Germany's largest supermarket chain, decided to surprise its shoppers with a seasonal treat. In an attempt to liven up the otherwise boring chore of grocery shopping, these cashiers opted to delight their patient shoppers with a choreographed orchestra that beeped the holiday classic, "Jingle Bells."

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Joy . . . and Surprises of Reading to Children

Over a decade ago, I was enjoying one of my favorite activities—reading to children—when I was unexpectedly interrupted by one child. Here, see for yourself . . .

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Must Read if You're Working on College Placement

After listening to Frank Bruni speak at the Annual Head of School conference the beginning of November, I immediately grabbed a copy of his latest book Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania and read it immediately.

For parents, students, teachers, and placement officers as you wind your way through this year's college admissions process, you must be sure to read Bruni's book. It gives such good perspective. Here is one great quote from the book:

"Many people flourish in their careers and their relationships because of the buoyancy of their spirits, their talents for establishing a positive rapport with everyone around them and the emotional wisdom with which they separate what's vitally important from what's not."

Friday, November 11, 2016

Helping Class with Grace & Courtesy

I had a wonderful opportunity to speak to an eighth grade graduating class about how grace and courtesy can help them in life as they move on to their high school years. I was so inspired by the students I was talking to, I wrote an article about our experience, and . . . well, here is the article,  "Lead With Grace & Courtesy," if you want to learn more about helping a class with grace and courtesy.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Energy Bus

Whether you are a student, teacher, or parent we all need to be positive for each other AND ourselves. The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon is an easy read with lots of good advice. For example, here are five ways school leaders can care for their teachers and staff:

  1. Make time for them
  2. Listen to them
  3. Recognize them
  4. Serve them
  5. Bring out the best in them

And, you know, the best part of this approach is that students see and hear this behavior, and they will want to model the same when they get into leadership positions.

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Case For Good Governance

For me, the most important committee on a nonprofit board is the governance committee — the committee that was was once known as the nominating committee or the committee on trustees.

It is the governance committee that is charged with taking care of a nonprofit board. There is lots more to tell you and it can be found in an article I wrote that was just published in Independent School magazine — "The Case For a Good Governance Committee."

See what you think.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Must Meeting Minders

When I speak to heads of school, I am not amazed when they tell me that their board meetings may go on for hours . . . and hours. Be they committee meetings or board meetings, volunteers' precious time at meetings should not last more than an hour and a half with the understanding that some designated meetings may need more time. Here is some sage advice on the structure of a meeting.

  • Recognize a quorum
  • Calling meeting to order
  • Approve the agenda and minutes
  • Communication and reports
  • Old/new/Other business
  • Close the meeting"

To read more on this important skill read the full article from BoardEffect.

Also, I recommend that all meeting goers read Patrick Lencioni's book Death by Meeting.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Emotional Intelligence — Importance & Resources

"The Emotion Revolution: Enhancing Social and Emotional Learning in School" by Marc Brackett in the summer 2016 issue of  Independent Teacher confirms all that I have been living and reading on emotional intelligence. From Howard Gardner's work on multiple intelligence and book Frames of Mind, to John Mayer's work on personal intelligence and book Personal Intelligenceto Daniel Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence; and to Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Jean Greaves and Travis Bradberry, emotional intelligence plays a significant role in our lives. Learn as much as you can.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Advice for Teachers

Excellent clip from the NAIS Bulletin 

"Three 2016 NAIS Annual Conference speakers share tips on connecting with students, teaching the class you wish you could take, and using technology in the classroom."

Friday, September 2, 2016

Doing Good Better -> A Clear Path to Good Governance

I have read many resources on good governance practices, and I recently stumbled upon one of the best. Best because it is very readable, easy to understand, provides several great resource documents, and is especially volunteer friendly to new board members.

This new and improved 2015 paperback edition of  Edgar Stoesz's Doing Good Better has excellent reference as well. Much of Stoesz's knowledge comes from his many years working with non-profit boards.

Friday, August 26, 2016


Steve Silberman, author of the book NeuroTribes: the Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity was interviewed yesterday on New Hampshire Public Radio's "Word of Mouth." The interview begins with a statistic from a CDC estimate that today 1 in 68 children has been identified as having fallen somewhere along the autism spectrum. In his book, Silberman is hopeful and looks at autism not as a pathology or disorder but as neurological diversity and calls for it to be recognized and respected as a social category.

Click here to hear "Neurotribes" the excellent and hopeful 14-minute interview.