Friday, July 29, 2011

One Woman Teachers

One of the special treats about living in New York City is the availability of performing arts for students and teachers. I had the occasion to see "No Child . . ." at the Barrow Street Theater in the Village; it is a one-woman show about teaching Bronx high school students drama. I was awe struck by Nilaja Sun the sole performer. Like Sarah Jones's (TED Talk) "Bridge and Tunnel" and Anna Deavere Smith's "Let Me Down Easy," one actor portraying many different characters on stage is amazing.

I had the good fortune to sit next to an actor and high school drama teacher during the performance, and this is what she had to say:
"The play really is a very accurate portrayal of the kids I and all my colleagues teach and how we work with them. And you are so right about how challenging and heartbreaking it can be. But as you well know, it is the most rewarding work in the world, and I have have been privileged to see hundreds of young lives utterly transformed in the 8 years I have worked with the Epic Theatre Ensemble"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Lottery

During my exploration of the book The Lottery and Other Stories, I stumbled upon "Charles," "After You, My Dear Alphonse," and "Afternoon in Linen." Shirley Jackson's stories are "Twilight Zone"-like, compelling, and fun to read. I read the classic "The Lottery" each year to our Middle School students.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Too Many Emails in Your Inbox?

For all of us: parents, educators, and students, email has gotten out of hand. Step back or plow through?

You have to read The Energy Project's Tony Schwartz's excellent column in this morning's Business Section of the NYTimes. "The Personal Energy Crisis" has an answer. Here's a peek:

"The problem is that rest and renewal are counterintuitive for most of us, and counterculture in most organizations. Rewards go to those who do just the opposite in the face of demand. The guiding ethic is more, bigger, faster. We admire those who hunker down, stay the course, burn the midnight oil."

Schwatrz has a proven suggestion.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Not Acceptable R Word

A colleague who is raising a five-year old child with Down syndrome shared this simple, excellent, and poignant public service announcement with me.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Positive Child Guidance

I had the good fortune to spend two days with author Darla Ferris Miller at a Board of Directors retreat. She let me know that the 7th Edition of her textbook, Positive Child Guidance, will be out in October.

After our conversation, I checked out the currently available 6th Edition on Just take a look at the Table of Contents; it's encyclopedic. The book contains all you need to know about raising, understanding, and educating children.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Avenues: The World School

An editor of a national publication asked me if I read the piece "The Best School $75 Million Can Buy" in the Sunday NYTimes and what I thought of Whittle's The Avenues: The World School concept. I responded by saying, for me, it sounds very much like Whittle's '92 Edison Project all over again. He had heavy hitters working with him then—Chubb, Schmidt, Finn, and Alexander. It did not work. It is important to point out that it is tough enough for public schools having to deal with tight budgets and unions, but to also have to deal with profit-making was too much to ask. Can you blame the public schools?

Now we have Whittle, Round 2. I see the same dynamic: big building, $75M, heavy hitters—Tingley, Matoon, Dunnen, Schmidt—and a market that begs for more schools, independent and public. Certainly, we know that for-profit schools work; look how many there are in the Montessori community.

At our independent school tri-state association heads conference in November, Whittle will be one of the speakers to address the assembled heads of NY, CT, and NJ independent schools.

For now, it seems like we will have to take a wait-and-see posture.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Recently, I had the good fortune to spend three days with 20 other educators just outside of Albany, working in a think tank. Our job was to look at professional learning and collaboration for the member schools of the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS). Our inspiration was the book What Would Google Do by Jeff Jarvis.

Taking our lead from Google, we all used (a Google extension) to record our work. Give it a try; it's pretty simple to use.

BTW, we all loved Google's concept of beta testing: put the product out there, let the users work with it, and invite feedback to make it better.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Everything is a Remix

"Everything is a Remix" is a fascinating series of three short (7 to 11 minutes) videos about how ideas come together — copied, borrowed, discovered, original, or otherwise. Using music and movies, producer Kirby Ferguson makes excellent points on how hits are often produced from previous materials. It is easy to understand how students can "use" or "borrow" others' ideas in work they produce.

I was particularly taken by "Everything is a Remix Part 3: The Elements of Creativity" and its exploration of how the Macintosh computer evolved from earlier ideas. See what you think

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.