Friday, March 20, 2015

College Admissions Madness

"How to Survive the College Admissions Madness" by Op-Ed NYTimes columnist Frank Bruni is a must-read for all parents—and not just those that have daughters and sons applying to college this year. Bruni's sensitive and realistic advice is a perfect elixir for anxious parents as they wait for the results of their child's college application results. Bruni delves further into this topic in his new book, Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania. 

The best part in the article is a letter that a mother and father wrote to their son as he waited for his college admission decisions . . .

"Dear Matt,

On the night before you receive your first college response, we wanted to let you know that we could not be any prouder of you than we are today. Whether or not you get accepted does not determine how proud we are of everything you have accomplished and the wonderful person you have become. That will not change based on what admissions officers decide about your future. We will celebrate with joy wherever you get accepted — and the happier you are with those responses, the happier we will be. But your worth as a person, a student and our son is not diminished or influenced in the least by what these colleges have decided.

If it does not go your way, you’ll take a different route to get where you want. There is not a single college in this country that would not be lucky to have you, and you are capable of succeeding at any of them.

We love you as deep as the ocean, as high as the sky, all the way around the world and back again — and to wherever you are headed.


Mom and Dad"


Sunday, March 15, 2015

We Know Jack Now


I first introduced my blog readers to Jack Andraka on December 12, 2014 upon the publication of my interview with him in Montessori Life. Today, I had the distinct honor of introducing Jack to over 3,000 educators at the American Montessori Society's Annual Conference.

If you were not there to hear Jack's wonderful story, get his book, Breakthrough: How One Teen Innovator is Changing the World I know you will enjoy reading it just as I did.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Love Has No . . .

In case you missed this beautiful video on diversity and inclusion . . .


Friday, February 27, 2015

Talking About the Birds & the Bees

The previous post was meant to be an introduction to this post. As preadolescent and adolescent kids attempt to figure out the birds and bees and parents try to figure out how to tell their children about the birds and bees, there is an expert who is the best at helping kids and parents understand the birds and bees. Her name is Deborah Roffman!

Read her most recent article to get some insight into her expertise
"Fifty Shades of Blush: Why Is It So Hard to Talk to Kids About Sex?" Better yet, get her to speak at your child's school.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lessons on Middle Schoolers

I love talking to parents of middle school students. The middle school years are a special challenge to students and their parents.

Listen to this great piece from This American Life, "Act 1: Error at First Base" where Mike Birbiglia does a stand-up routine describing his first kiss in seventh grade and all of the many difficulties kids have at that age around getting to know one another. (Be sure to advance to Act 1)

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Hierarchy of Learning



Originated by Edgar Dale in 1946, his Cone of Experience has taken on many iterations over the years. Nevertheless, I appreciate what it conveys. Read more — "Tales of the Undead . . . Learning Theories: The Learning Pyramid," which is found on the Association of College & Research Libraries' (ACRL) blog.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Impulse Control, Rejection Sensitivity (RS) & Bullying

As you dive deeper into the wealth of information contained in The Marshmallow Test, the more you can understand what underlies bullying, unwanted weight, smoking, anger, AND overall health. Here is an excerpt from this remarkable longitudinal study and book by Columbia University psychologist Walter Mischel.

“THE MOST EXCITING FINDINGS from the marshmallow studies are not the unexpected long-term links between seconds of waiting on the Marshmallow Test and doing well later in life. More impressive is that if we have delay ability and use it, we are better protected from our personal vulnerabilities—such as a predisposition to gain unwanted weight, become angry, feel hurt and rejected, and so on—and can live with these predispositions more constructively. The research that shows how and why self-control has this positive effect has focused on a widespread and pernicious vulnerability called rejection sensitivity (RS), and I turn here to what has been learned about it.


In middle school, high RS children are more easily victimized and bullied by their peers and are lonelier. In the long run, people who are high in this vulnerability continue to experience more rejection, which in time erodes their sense of personal worth and self-esteem, making depression more likely.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Let it Snow

For those of us living on the northeast coast, snow caused many schools to close today.

Check out this YouTube video showing how one ingenious school called for a no-school day.


Friday, January 23, 2015

All Kinds of Testing: To What End?

Here are a few good resources to bring you up to speed on testing in our schools, especially the first one.

1)  NPR's “The Past, Present And Future of High-Stakes Testing” is an excellent, short update on testing. Listen to Steve Inskeep interview Anya Kamanetz, author of The Test: Why Our Schools Are Obsessed With Standardized Testing — ButYou Don’t Have to Be.
2)  Check out The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley to learn about a test that has been given to 15-year old students all over the world, using the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).
3)  “Ivy League’s meritocracy lie: How Harvard and Yale cook the books for the 1 percent” by Lani Guinier

“. . . the name was changed first to the Scholastic Assessment Test (keeping the handy, well-known acronym) and later to the SAT Reasoning Test. Call it what you will, the SAT still promises something it can’t deliver: a way to measure merit. Yet the increasing reliance on standardized test scores as a status placement in society has created something alien to the very values of our democratic society yet seemingly with a life of its own: a testocracy.”

Friday, January 16, 2015

Learning to Lead



I am at a retreat about to listen to David Mead, a protégé of Simon Sinek. To prepare, I read Sinek's book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. I recommend it highly. 

In case you are not familiar with Sinek, here are his two TED Talks—they are so good—"Simon Sinek: Why good leaders make you feel safe" (below) and a link to "Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action."





If you like him, then you'll want to try Fred Reichheld's The Ultimate Question 2.0, Dan Pink's Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, and Danny Meyer's Setting the TableAll of these books revolve around learning to lead, "good profits," caring for employees, and providing dedicated service to customers.


Friday, January 9, 2015

A Bit of Montessori Education


Read the brief article "Why the World Embraces the Montessori Method" I wrote. Here are some of the terms and concepts discussed:

  • Respect for the Student
  • Teacher as Facilitator
  • Intrinsically Motivated
  • Prepared Environment
  • Mixed-age Classes
  • Three-year Cycle
  • . . . and more. 
Read and see what you think.


Friday, January 2, 2015

A First Contract for a Third Grader

When he was in third grade, he received his first contract . . . from his father and mother.
#8 on this week's NYTimes Middle Reader bestseller list, The Contract by Derek Jeter with Paul Mantell is a thoughtful book, all children AND parents should read. Here is that first contract between Derek and his parents.
  1. Family Comes First.
  2. Be a Role Model for Sharlee. [Derek's sister]
  3. Do Your Schoolwork and Maintain Good Grades (As or Bs).
  4. Bedtime. Lights out at nine p.m. on school nights.
  5. Do Your Chores.
  6. Respect Others.
  7. Respect Yourself.
  8. Work Hard.
Failure to comply will result in the loss of playing sports and hanging out with friends. Extra-special rewards include attending a major-league baseball game, choosing a location for dinner, and selecting another event of your choice.

Meet Derek's mother and father Dot and Charles in this five-minute interview.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Middle Readers v. Young Adult Literature

Whenever I speak to a group of middle school parents, I let them know that one of the best resources for learning about their emerging adolescent child is to read books about their world. Middle readers and young adult literature (YAL) have so much to say.

For example, I just finished the book Eleanor & Park, a YAL book that takes you on a journey of a relationship between two 16-year olds.

Check out the Sunday NYTimes Book Review section to see the best selling list for both categories. Age-appropriateness is listed for each book. It is important to keep in mind that there is a definite distinction between middle readers and YAL.

If you want to learn more about the differences, read the middle reader Wonder and the YAL book The Fault in Our Stars.



Friday, December 19, 2014

Optical Illusions - Revisited

Below is the most viewed post of all time on my blog.  It was originally posted on May 13, 2010 and since then has had 4,994 hits to date. Going back to each of the links, I understand why it has been so popular.

*   *   *   *


I have always been fascinated with optical illusions.  Check out these two websites for more illustrations like the two at the left.  Illusion-Optical. com and NIEHS KIDS' PAGES.
     Also, M. C. Escher, a master of optical illusions, was one of my favorite artists, and I used his work often way back when I taught geometry.

Friday, December 12, 2014

You Don't Know Jack . . .


. . . but you will after reading my interview with him that was recently published in Montessori Life magazine.  First read the article —"A Model of Will: An Interview with Jack Andraka"— then go to his website to learn more about this amazing teenager who will be a keynote speaker at the American Montessori Society annual conference this March.




Friday, December 5, 2014

Listen, but Watch the Children's Faces

Here is a wonderful treat as we work our way through the holiday season. The United States Air Force Band holiday flash mob at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Common Core 101

If you want to get a good insight into the Common Core State Standards, check out the debate, "Embrace the Common Core," that took place on the website "Intelligence Squared Debates." It gives a great perspective from both sides. Here is an overview from the website:


"In K-12 education, there is nothing more controversial than the Common Core State Standards, national academic standards in English and math. Adopted by more than 40 states, they were developed, in part, to address concerns that American students were falling behind their foreign counterparts and graduating high school without the necessary skills for college and the workforce. But is this the reform we’ve been looking for? Has the federal government overreached and saddled our schools with standards that have been flawed from the start? Or will the Common Core raise the bar and improve the quality of our children’s education?"

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Smaller Class Size = Better Education?


When I read "By Trying to Reduce Class Sizes, We're Solving the Wrong Problem" by Sam Chaltain in the November 19 Huff Post Education blog, I immediately thought of Malcolm Gladwell's book David and Goliath, specifically Chapter 2 - "Teresa DeBrito 'My largest class was twenty-nine kids. Oh, it was fun.' " Essentially, the first part of his book is about the advantages of disadvantages. A great read, by the way.

The best part of Chaltain's piece was when I came to the part that stated:

“The University of Virginia's Angeline Lillard, a professor of psychology who has studied the extent to which [Dr. Maria] Montessori's century-old theories have been affirmed by 21st-century research, unpacks Montessori's preference for large class sizes a bit further. ‘She believed that when there are not enough other children in the classroom, there are not enough different kinds of work out for children to learn sufficiently from watching each other work, nor are there enough personalities with whom children can practice their social interaction skills.’


‘In traditional settings in which class sizes are reduced, Lillard explains, ‘when one person is teaching the whole class simultaneously, that person would have more attention to devote to each child, and fewer children would conceivably allow for better teaching.’ By contrast, ‘when children are learning from materials and each other, having more varied possible tutors and tutees, a greater variety of people to collaborate with, and more different types of work out (inspiring one to do such work oneself) might be more beneficial.’ ”