Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's Just a Story

     As he made his way around the corner, Paul reached into his pocket for spare change to drop into the paper cup of the beckoning street person.  Where the money went, Paul did not care; he was happy to help someone less fortunate.
     Paul was a contributing artist at an odd but well respected gallery in the City.  People often viewed his video/CD-based installations with wonderment and invariably walked away feeling inspired, hopeful, and reaffirmed.  A former teacher of 16 years, Paul developed a sense of what made up a good child.  Over those years he came to appreciate the characteristics in a child that caused him to stay in the classroom as long as he did.  Kind, hard working, thoughtful of the needs of others, and honest described the child he envisioned as the perfect child.  Paul felt obliged to help parents see this in their children.
     When his wife passed away and he had to raise his own two children by himself, he struggled to find ways to make ends meet financially and at the same time hold his own son and daughter to the values about children in which he believed so passionately.  Medical insurance held him to teaching, but financial necessity forced him to explore other avenues.  Technology, art, and part-time working opportunities lead him to work evenings at a small art gallery.  The hours were flexible, the owner loved his children, and a creative side of Paul emerged quite unexpectedly.  Here is where he began to develop his love of art and incorporate his appreciation of good child qualities and a desire to help parents see how beautiful children can be if nurtured and taught with love, care, and structure. 
     During ensuing years, his art, which was presented in sound, video, and still images, depicted children extending themselves in ways that captured the viewer – ways that told the story of just how beautiful children are.  Paul’s exhibits were especially appreciated by parents who were in the throes of a particularly difficult time with their children.  Repeatedly, Paul’s patrons were captured by the beauty children exhibit in their innocence juxtaposed to their desire to imitate their parents.  The power held by parents over children was readily seen in an image of a child’s eyes looking for approval, or a questioning voice looking for an answer, or a joyful smile offering love.
     It was no surprise when one evening as he was exiting the gallery, Paul noticed a young girl holding the hand of a lost soul who was sitting on a shiny brass standpipe.  How proud Paul beamed to eventually see that it was his daughter who was giving comfort to the stranger.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I had the good fortune to listen to the very funny author Michael Buckley at our school's Holiday Book Fair.  Michael talked about his career that began as an intern on the David Letterman Show and progressed to being an acclaimed author of the Sisters Grimm series.  His newest series, NERDS (National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society) is about the misfits at Nathan Hale Elementary School in the "geektropolis" of Arlington, Virginia.  Much like James Howe's The Misfits and 13 (see Oct. 22 and July 29 posts), Buckley's writing is of a Simpson's genre suitable for kids and adult reading.

When Michael read from the first chapter of the first book in NERDS, fifth grader Jackson Jones is in the dentist chair staring up at Dr. Gupta.  What follows is hilarious.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Smart Empathy

The holiday season — no matter what faith — does bring families together, and as I read Wendy Mogel's (The Blessing of a Skinned Knee) recent, insightful article "Smart Empathy" in the winter issue of Independent School magazine, it made me appreciate how important a role empathy plays in binding families, especially today in our school communities.  In her article, Mogel cites Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind (see post dated 3/30/08 post) by pointing out his emphasis on empathy as an essential quality for success in the 21st century.  On the other hand, she does warn readers that there can be a "dark side of empathy," and while the economy is placing stress on our families, it is also setting a stage for school communities to take notice of others' needs.

If you want a touch of seeing inside empathy, a teacher colleague sent me a link to John Henry Faulk's Christmas story, which first aired in 1974 on radio's "Voices in the Wind" and is now presented annually on NPR radio.  It is a beautiful story about one family being thoughtful of another family.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


One of the greatest and least expensive gifts you can pass on to a child—or for that matter, any person—is a smile. Here are a few neatly written words that explain what I mean:

Smile to talk to babies. The smile they return will pay tenfold.
Smile to a child to encourage without words.
Smile to an adolescent to give confidence and your approval.

Smile to a colleague to lend support.
Smile when you want to invite someone into your life.
Smile when you want to make someone feel better.

Smile . . .

:  )

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Patrick and Agnes

I can remember when my wife and I traveled with our two sons many years ago to Woolwich Arsenal, England outside of London.  We did a house exchange with a family and lived in their house right in the town.  We found ourselves walking everywhere.  To amuse ourselves, whenever we passed a dog, one of us would give the dog a name based on the look of the dog, the owner, and our general state of mind at the time.

Well, you can imagine my surprise when 23 years later I was listening to our librarian read to a group of children the book Once I Ate a Pie by Patricia MacLachlan.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wave or Cold Cut?

You may have gathered how much I love the innocence of kids. Helping them discover the truth without discouragement is part of the challenge and joy in teaching.

The other day a Lower Elementary (grades one, two, and three) teacher bounded into my office and asked, "Do you have a minute for a precious story?" Without hesitation, I said, "Absolutely."

She went on . . .

"Two boys, second and third graders, were explaining to the class their project on tsunamis. As you might imagine, they enthusiastically conveyed their discovery and interest in the topic to the class. Both boys were going on and on about how big the waves are and how much they can destroy towns and kill a lot of people. So much so, I could see that the class was staring wide-eyed terrified with 'incredible' written all over their faces. Before I could jump in with some perspective, first grader, Mazie, piped up with 'Salamis can't really hurt you. Heck, we live in New York City. We can get to the Empire State Building and escape the salami.' I could see the relief on the faces of the class now that they knew they could escape the salami . . . I mean tsunami."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Slice of America

This post was originally published on October 10, 2008. Because I saw Anna Deavere Smith perform her one woman show "Let Me Down Easy" recently, I wanted to sing her praises once again. She is truly an amazing actress. The NYTimes Health section did a piece "Through 1 Woman, 20 Views of Life's End". Do click on the TED link below to see her perform.

If you have never heard or watched Anna Deavere Smith, it is time to become acquainted with this very talented woman. In this 23 minute video, she portrays Studs Terkel, a woman convict, a Korean shopkeeper, and a bull rider, each character more gripping than the other. The fact that this particular performance was given at a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talk should give you an indication of its quality.

I first saw Smith at an NAIS Annual Conference and subsequently in "The West Wing" series. See a vivid slice of America by watching the TED video.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Frantic Families and Pilot Parents

When I started reading Patrick Lencioni's latest book, The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family, I did not know that, coincidentally, the same week, I would be encouraged to read Time magazine's November 30 cover story, "Can These Parents Be Saved?"  

While the book sets forth advice on how and why we (and I include myself) find families in a frantic pace, the article reveals some of the resulting frantic fallout, including "helicopter" parents and "stealth fighter" parents.  Both pieces give excellent perspective and good advice.  Start by clicking on the article that cites "a 25% drop in free playtime for 6- to 8-year olds from 1981 to '97, while homework more than doubled"; then, pick up a copy of the book that is an easy read and gives sound advice on managing a healthy family.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's Not My Fault!

Each morning as I stand by the school door greeting kids and parents, I often relish in the open, honest dialogue that goes on between siblings, especially with parents overlooking in the background.

The other morning, brothers — one four-years old and the other six-years old — came screaming down the sidewalk on their scooters, stopping inches from my feet. With their innocent eyes looking up from under their helmets at me quizzically and without words spoken, I knew they knew that they were late. Smiling, I held my wrist up chest high with my other hand pinching my watch and said, "Four minutes late." Before I could complete the sentence, "What's the deal?" the older brother pointed his finger at his brother who was standing alongside him and said, "It's his fault." "Oh?" I asked, which was immediately followed by his statement, "He had a tantrum." Whereby both boys proceeded to make their way through the doors. Mom looked at me, rolled her eyes, and gave me a wry smile.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Reading to Middle Schoolers

Once a month I have the privilege and joy of being able to meet with and read to our seventh and eighth grade students during their morning meeting. Drawing from fiction and non-fiction, I can usually capture their interest by varying topics that pertain to their lives, classes, and culture. Some short stories I read are abridged versions, since time is limited.  Here are some of the selections I use:

The Lottery by Shirely Jackson
The Necklace by Guy deMaupassant
Gift of the Magi by O'Henry
• Selections from Growing Up by Russel Baker
"How to Be Popular" by Diedre Dolan
• excerpt from Travels with Charlie by John Steinbech
• excerpts from The Jungle by Sinclair Lewis with excerpts from Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
The Feud by Saki (H. H. Munroe) adapted from The Interlopers
The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs (see my November 4, 2009 post)
The Ink Drinker by Eric Sanvoisin
• "Ralph Corlis, the Man Who Played to Lose" chapter from The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
• Song and lyrics from "Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Collins
• The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
• How Much Land Does a Man Need by Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

F.A.T. City Revisited

“It’s the leading selling educational video in the world.” was the claim author Rick Lavoie made during his recent talk at Mary McDowell Center for Learning, a K-8 (soon to be K-12) school in Brooklyn, NY with a mission of working with students who have learning disabilities.  The video F.A.T. City (Frustration Anxiety Tension) never fails to inspire its viewers to become sensitized to the challenges LD students experience. Here is a clip from the video where Lavoie talks about the difficulties the LD child has distinguishing among the letters d, b, q, and p.

Lavoie presented his F.A.T City workshop for ten years before he made it into a video in 1988.  The many stories he told that evening at MMCL were entertaining and gave cogent insights into the lives of LD students.  Here were several quotes that inspired me to take pen to paper while listening:

“Positive feedback changes behavior.  Negative feedback only stops behavior.”
“The middle school child is managed by the moment.”
“Adolescent prayer: Dear God, don’t let me be humiliated today.”
“Children go to school for a living.  To prove my point, when you see a kid on the street, what do you always ask her/him? . . .  How’s school?”

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Nine-year Old's Story

Have you tapped into StoryCorps yet?  Here is a touching StoryCorps story about Brian, a nine-year old boy.  You can read about the story, "A Son's Premonition, And Final Baseball Game" but take four minutes and listen to his story as told by his mother and father.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Early Email

I sent an email to a friend of mine, a former faculty member.  Instead of addressing my email to him, I decided to address it to his two-month old daughter.  Here is my original email to her and her reply!

Hey Genie,

I just wanted to check in with you to see how your first 2 months with your Mom and Dad have been.  I'll bet you are exploring everything in sight.  I'm always talking to little ones whenever they are in the lobby at Dad's old school.  You're kinda neat people, fun to be with.

If you are here over the holidays, Genie, make sure you stop by to see Chris and me.  Maybe we can have a bottle together.

Your friend,

Dear Dane,

In a sure sign that my Mom and Dad are never supposed to sleep again, I started teething at 9 weeks old.  I just felt like they were getting kind of soft, getting more than 4 hours sleep a night and all, and it was time to step up their training as my puppets.  So, now I am wicked angry all the time because I have a tooth breaking through the gum-flesh on my lower lip.

That said, I keep Mom and Dad happy with some serious cuteness and smiles and flirty eyes whenever I am well-rested and full of milk.  That keeps them going though the poopy blow-outs and teething madness that I bring to the table.  They tell me I am pretty amazing when I throw a big smile their way, so I do it from time to time, just so they don't go totally insane.

I have heard them talk about a new download of pics to be emailed out to people in celebration of my third month of life (that's today!!) so I'll bet you will get a fun email sometime soon, with me making flirty eyes right at you big guy.

Anyway, gotta go because I have not eaten in 15 minutes.  I hope that everything is great with you and your family.

Your new friend,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Summer Professional & Curriculum Development Benefit All

As schools build their 2010-11 budgets, now is a good time to think about how to enhance professional development programs. Several years ago, on the heels of the curriculum mapping frenzy, we wanted to review, solidify, and enhance our curriculum . . . but in a way that would not tax teachers’ already busy schedules and not invest thousands of dollars in mapping instruction, software, and related support services. My school’s administrative team collaborated on building a Summer Curriculum Grants Program. Now entering its third summer, the program and direct benefits to the curriculum, teacher professional development, and classroom support are significant. Here is the program as it is presented in our Faculty and Staff Manual:
Curriculum Development Grants
     Brooklyn Heights Montessori School recognizes the importance of ongoing curriculum review and development and has established a procedure to accomplish this goal.
     Each summer a committee of faculty members — one each from Preschool, The Little Room, Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, and the Interdisciplinary Program — will be formed under the leadership of one of the program heads. The committee will meet for one week during the summer recess, and will be charged with reviewing, developing, enhancing, and articulating curriculum in one specific academic area or discipline, using the current curriculum map as a starting point. At the end of the week, the committee will produce its final work which will then be incorporated into the School’s curriculum map.
     Each committee member will be given a stipend of $100 per diem for the work completed. Each summer a different academic curriculum will be explored and new faculty members will be selected for the committee.
     Faculty members interested in working on a curriculum committee should notify his/her Program Head by the beginning of the spring break each year. Selection of committee members will be made by Program Heads in consultation with the Head of School.
     Details of the grant:
• Work must be accomplished over a one week period after school ends
• Participants will act as ambassadors to their teams to inform colleagues of the committee’s findings and implement their recommendations
• A Program Head will provide oversight of the summer project
• The committee will address curriculum in the following order:
2008 – Mathematics
2009 – Mathematics II
2010 – Language Arts and Reading
2011 – Cultural, Social Studies and Science
2012 – Wellness and the Arts
• Beginning in 2013, the cycle will begin again with Mathematics.
• Grants will be based on a per diem rate of $100, not to exceed $500 per person.
• Grant money will be awarded upon completion of the work

Friday, November 13, 2009

Listening Leaders

In an interview with Drew Gilpin Faust, the Harvard president talks about leadership, changes she made at the University of Pennsylvania where she gained her early leadership legs. In a Sunday Times interview she has with reporter Adam Bryant, listening is one of the qualities that she attributes to her success as a leader.

She says, "I spend a huge amount of time reaching out to people, either literally or digitally . . . An enormous amount of my job is listening to people, to understand where they are, how they see the world so I can understand how to mobilize their understanding of themselves in service of the institution."

The part of the interview I appreciate the most is her answer to a follow-up prompt "But you can't make everybody happy." She responds with "No, you don't make everybody happy, but if people feel they were listened to, they're going to be much more likely to go along with a decision."

Excellent advice.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Currency of Language

While greeting children and parents one morning, I had the occasion to talk with a mother of a six-year old boy, Jonas. She and I talked about using appropriate language around children when she said, “I had a surprise the other morning. Jonas asked me, 'Mom, so long as I am not angry, can I use a swear word to explain something?'”

The mother, with some trepidation, was curious as to what was on her son’s mind, and said, “Jonas, it’s okay to use it with me when you have to explain something.”

You could just see the wheels turning in his head; this was the passport Jonas needed to begin to clarify what was on his mind, and before Mom could encourage him further, Jonas said, “Dad said f---.”

“Oh, that's not good.” was her immediate reply, with raised eyebrows.

She went on to explain to me that they have a system in place in their house that when Jonas says a word like “whatever” or “fine” with a bit of attitude, he has to pay her 25¢ out of his bank. Knowing this, Jonas pursued his ultimate point, “I guess that we should charge Dad $2.00 for what he said, huh.”

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bit by Bit

The heads of school for the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) had the opportunity to hear Mark Hurst at its annual conference. This post originally appeared on June 21, 2008. Mark was well received, entertaining, and immensely informative.

Who would have known that those magical zeros and ones that I taught in earlier math classes would power our economy, vehicles, communication, and lives. The bits that make up the basic binary number system confounds the most technologically literate when you realize that computers and programming are about switches either being on (1) or off (0).

Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload by Mark Hurst is both basic and helpful to those who readily use computers and the Internet. Hurst's book defines bit overload, i.e. too much information, and gives solutions and methods for managing and avoiding overload. This includes working your email efficiently, managing your to do list, and keeping your computer desktop and files clean and orderly. Have you heard of the Dvorak keyboard map, QuicKeys, or a bit lever? Fascinating answers are part of Bit Literacy.

Get to know the author better by reading an interview with Mark at Argus Center for Information Architecture; you get a good idea of what makes Mark tick, and the site is loaded with related links.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Middle School Spooky Read

The day before Halloween, I had the occasion to read to our middle schoolers. With the help of their teachers, I thought it might be fun to read William Wymark Jacobs's (1863-1943) "The Monkey's Paw." This short story is a classic.

To heighten the atmosphere we turned out the lights, lit a candle and placed it in the center of our group circle. Spooky, really spooky.

You may have seen The Simpson's version in a Halloween special. Here is a 13-minute modern version; it's not bad.

The best part was that our seventh and eighth grade students appreciated and enjoyed the story.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Family Dynamics

I had the good fortune to see Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” this past weekend on Broadway. Set in Brooklyn in the late 1930s, the beautiful set is the inside of the Jerome home, first and second floors. Only Neil Simon can capture the comedy and drama of family struggles and joys of parents working hard to raise their children. Seen through the eyes of 15-year old Eugene Jerome; avid Yankees fan, Eugene reveals all aspects of his adolescence through his diary with the audience. You’ll inevitably compare his youthful innocence and family’s life with your own.

If you can’t get to see BBM on stage, you can click over to hulu and see the full-length movie. Sometime on a Saturday night when you’re looking for family fun, gather around the computer and compare Simon’s family dynamics with your own.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is That Really a Palindrome?

This is an article I wrote that was originally published in Teaching Children Mathematics way back in November 1995.

by OTTO, A Fifth Grade Mathematics Teacher

Just the other day in my fifth grade mathematics class I was astonished beyond belief. (Children can do that to teachers, even when the teacher has been teaching for twenty years.) The lesson was simple with an objective to teach a new math word, “palindrome.” The class went something like this -

“Has anyone heard of the word palindrome?”
No one answers and many quizzical looks.
“I'll give you an example of one using numbers, and let's see if you can guess what is unusual about the numbers.”
1221, 43534, 9001009 are chalked on the green board. Now the hands start to raise.
“These numbers are the same when read forwards or backwards. Can anyone give me an example of a number palindrome? Good, 4334 . . . and 87678, that's it. Now, can anyone think of some words that represent palindromes? Yes . . . MOM - good. POP, BOB - now you're getting it! Any others? LEVEL - excellent, RACE CAR - great.”
Cooper has his hand raised and is looking at me, not overly excited, just looking at me. When recognized, he casually says, “GO HANG A SALAMI, I'M A LASAGNA HOG.”
“What did you say, Cooper?”
Now I have to assess quickly whether he is trying to play the clown or if he has something to say. So, I ask him to repeat it one more time.
I proceed to write it on the board - the third time is a charm, and I finally begin to see the light! How did this kid do that? Obviously, he remembered it from a previous experience, but still, to remember it just like that. I write it down several times on paper before I can commit it to memory.
Before bringing closure to the lesson, Cooper raises his hand and says that he has one more. My response is “Fine, impress me.”
“A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL, PANAMA!” ... I was impressed.

For more information on palindromes check out these sites

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Marshmallow Test

I first learned about the marshmallow test when I read Daniel Goleman's popular book Emotional Quotient.

If you want to read more about the test, click on the May 18, 2009 New Yorker article "Don't! The Secret of Self-Control" by John Lehrer.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gleeful Misfits

James Howe has become a favorite author — 13 and now The Misfts. Here is a revealing interview with the author about his own life, family, the book, and his stories writing about middle school kids.

The middle school years are difficult years to say the least. So many changes that take place in a human being's life — the most — during those ages from 10 to 15. For those middle schoolers who struggle to fit in, life can be even more challenging. Getting some insights into the lives of those "misfits" is an assignment for all educators and middle school parents. "The Weird, the Strange, and the Quirky (Kid)" by Robert Fles in the Fall issue of Independent School Magazine is a thoughtful, related article.

Cut to Glee, Fox TV's newest show about high school misfits is a fun and entertaining show. Do yourself a favor and at least stream in the pilot. The performance of "Don't Stop Believin" is Emmy-quality. Listen.

What is most enlightening about the book and the show is the insights presented into the family lives of the "misfits."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Playing With Imagination

I love watching the imagination of our youngest children—students and visitors. When you look closely, you can see the imagination in their eyes and actions.

During our faculty and staff work-week before the opening of school, I was chatting with teachers in one of our preschool classrooms. Two faculty children were having a conversation—one, an eighth grade student, the other a two-year old girl—and within a minute’s time the two-year old's attention shifted to a nearby dollhouse.

As is the case with many dollhouses, the back of the house was missing to give children easy access to the dolls and furniture within. I could see the adults in the room watching the eighth grader encourage the two-year old to interact with the materials inside. She grasped a doll and guided it to walk within the house, in the upstairs bedroom to be exact. You could see her become mesmerized by the bedroom and its furniture. All of a sudden, she guided her head into the room as much as it would fit. Next, she pulled back and then lifted her leg as if to enter the bedroom. Her eighth grade friend tried to help her understand that it is a room just for the little dolls. She looked a little disappointed, but soon accepted what he was saying and transitioned from her imagination to reality, going on to another activity.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Social Media Revolution

If you have not seen Did You Know, make sure you click on it first before viewing Social Media Revolution below. Author Daniel Pink in his book A Whole New Mind (see my 3/30/08 post) presents the different ages of our society's evolution from the Agricultural Age, to the Industrial Age, to the Information Age. Social Media Revolution will certainly give you more information than you may want to take in. This is an extraordinary clip.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Who's in Charge?

Plugged into my iPod and carrying my lunch and reading book, The Price of Privilege, I entered Prospect Park, which is huge — like Central Park — prepared to have lunch, listen to music, people watch, and read. I entered where there is one long park bench (it goes on forever), and a group of caregivers was chatting while their child charges ran, milled about, and tested their distances away from the people who were giving care to them. This part of the park is beautiful, like walking into a well-managed forest. I picked an especially good bench position to set up “camp,” with the park entrance about 50 yards to my right and a children’s playground about 50 yards to my left.

On the eight-foot wide asphalt path in front of me, all sizes of little ones were walking, riding scooters, being carried, and riding in strollers. This day was a beautiful day to be in the park. I watched one child after another focusing on fidgety squirrels, birds looking for food, dogs tugging at leashes, and the underside of the trees that covered our area in shadows, protecting us all from the shining sun above.

As I was finishing my lunch with a bag of M&Ms, a little girl walked on the other side of the path in front of me. She was off the path, wandering around the trees. She was no more than 20 months. I can size the age of little ones because the two-year olds walk past my office each day at school going to and from the rooftop play area. I looked to see to whom she belonged and saw no one. She kept looking over her shoulder, so I assumed she belonged to one of the caregivers at the entrance to the park, about 50 yards away, where the group was sitting and chatting.

I kept thinking that someone would fetch her and help her with boundaries, but nothing happened. In fact, the child roamed even further away, towards the playground. Measuring the distance in my mind, I imagined myself sitting at the 50-yard line at a football game. At this point, I stopped what I was doing and watched the child wander down a small hill to get closer to the children playing, noticing that she is now a good 100 yards from where she belonged . . . and out of the caregiver’s sight.

Now I am ready to intervene either by yelling at the group of caregivers, “Who’s in charge of that little girl?” or to just keep watching her. The child walked closer to the play area and turned around and started to walk further away. I had a Montessori moment that said, “don’t underestimate the child’s ability to know how to navigate, but make sure she is safe,” so I just kept watching.

To my amazement, I could see her calculating where she was, where her “home” was and eventually taking steps in that direction. Finally, a caregiver sauntered past me toward the child and corralled her back toward the bench that was home base. Without admonishing the child, the caregiver walked past me — the one who was in charge . . . for a brief moment anyway.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mind Your Mission

School missions come in all shapes and sizes. Crafting a mission statement is a challenge for any non-profit and requires a board of trustees/directors to devote much time and thought in the process. It is a good idea to review that mission every now and then. Schools should go through that process before each reaccreditation.

At a recent New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) trustee workshop, Independent School Management (ISM) consultant Terry Moore advised that a school's mission statement should be no more than 30 words. He cited The Julliard School's mission as an example ". . . provide the highest caliber of artistic education for gifted musicians, dancers, and actors from around the world, so that they may achieve their fullest potential as artists, leaders, and global citizens."

In any case, if your school is thinking about its mission statement, it would be helpful to pick up a copy of the Fall 2009 issue of Independent School magazine. The theme of this issue is mission, mantras, and meaning. Peter Gow's article "Missions, Mantras, and Meaning" is excellent.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


I am hearing more and more about the book, Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. After reading today's "NYTimes Book Review" review of the book, I get the sense that they are trying to nurture shock so that parents will buy their book. Bronson had two New York magazine articles that were equally provocative: "Learn to Lie" (February 2008) and "How Not to Talk to Your Kids" (February 2007), an article based on Carol Dweck's work regarding praise for effort v. praise for intelligence.

When you click on the book title above you will be able to see and hear the authors talk about their work.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What a Difference 2 Months Make

The other day at a faculty and staff lunch, I had the joyous opportunity to hold a baby—two to be exact.

The first one was a two-month old boy. His complacent disposition made for enjoyable snuggling. I was especially sensitive to holding his neck in order to support his head which was rolling around, kind of out of control. He was working really hard to take control of that head and his eyes were moving around trying to fix on one object. He could do it for a short time, and his beautiful blue eyes were perfect for catching the attention of passersby.

It just so happened that shortly after tranfering my little friend back to his mother, another faculty parent happened by with her four-month old son. Knowing how much I love to hold babies she passed her son freely into my arms. This little guy stood upright, totally in control of his head. He was solid, constantly exploring his hands, people going by, colors in a nearby quilt, and anything else that caught his developing attention span. He really showed his age when he delighted in talking to his mirror image when I held him up to a reflecting classroom door window. He was busy the whole time and could not take in his environment fast enough.

What was most remarkable between the two babies was the strength and density of the older, more physically developed child. Holding both babies in such a short period of time really emphasized the dramatic difference two months make in a baby's development.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Professional Development ---> The Marshall Memo

If you know anything about professional development—in any field—you know that it is what sustains people and promotes excellence in their work and in the work place. When you work in education, professional development becomes a way of life, and living the life of a life long learner models for children and young adults the way to move forward in life.

Probably the easiest and often the cheapest form of professional development is reading. Books, internet, magazines, and newspapers provide a wealth of opportunities to learn on your own.

Like ASCD's Smart Briefs, The Marshall Memo is a way of letting someone else do the reading and condense the work, and you pick what interests you and serves you in accomplishing what you are working on at any particular moment. Check out The Marshall Memo and see what I mean.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Stay Close

Drug addiction cripples young people—and their families—in ways that we can never understand.
Stay Close, A Mother's Story of Her Son's Addiction is the latest heartfelt, sad story about the subject. The author, Libby Cataldi, was Head of an independent day school, The Calverton School, in Maryland for 17 years.

Many of you may remember the gripping book, Beautiful Boy, A Father's Journey Through His Son's Meth Addiction by David Sheff.

Cataldi will speak at The New York School of Medicine Author Night Series on November 2 starting at 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What a Catch . . . I Mean Throw!

If you did not see this beautiful clip of a 3-year old's throw at the ole ball game, click on it below. It's priceless.

Little Girl Tosses Back Foul Ball - Watch more Funniest Videos

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fantastical Journeys

It was a beautiful day for a walk to Borough Hall where the annual Brooklyn Book Festival was taking place. Many vender stalls were erected throughout the grounds, all dedicated to books and reading. I grabbed an events schedule, and I was too late to hear Mo Willems (Don't Let Pigeons Drive the Bus, Elephants Cannot Dance, and Watch Me Throw the Ball) speak, but I was in time to hear a panel with Newbery Honor author Kate DiCamillo (The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie, and The Magician's Elephant), Christopher Myers (Wings), and Michael Buckley (The Sisters Grimm) speak about "a world of whimsical imagination where elephants guide, boys fly, and humans and fairy-tale creatures live side by side."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Fate of H1N1 May Be In Your Hands

Please take four and half minutes and listen to the Take Away interview with NYTimes "Well" columnist Tara Parker Pope. You can also click to my July 30, 2008 post for more frightening facts about germs and their destructive manners.

Good advice. Very sobering.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Price of Privilege – Part 4 of 4


In this last section, Levine focuses on what parents can do to help themselves in order to help their children, and again, she uses anecdotes from her work, research, and her own life, family and circumstance as a basis for her writing. She devotes the last chapter of this part of her book to mothers.

Here are some notable quotes from the entire section:
  • Affluent communities emphasize competition and extrinsic markers of success such as high grades, trophies, and admission to prestigious schools.
  • Mothers become overly dependent on their children for emotional support and comfort.
  • Excessive pressure, isolation from adults, inappropriate intrusion, controlling behavior, lax discipline—have all found their home in affluent communities.
  • If we hope to have our children who are capable of being accountable for their behavior, then we must model accountability.
  • Maladaptive perfectionism is driven by an intense need to avoid failure and appear flawless.
  • Affluent communities suffer from both lack of cohesion and a lack of values that stress the needs of the community.
  • This book stresses the value of authenticity in leading an independent, productive, loving life.
  • Most children at most times in their lives, feel closer to their mothers than to their fathers. So it should come as no surprise that research confirms that a child’s best shot at healthy emotional development depends on his own mother’s emotional health.
  • As we are able to feel generally loved, valued, and connected, so will our children. Children thrive best when their mothers take care of themselves as well as their children.
  • We never fool our children, regardless of how convinced we are that “the children don’t know a thing.”
  • Reaching out means we give, but it also means we get.
Levine wisely concludes the book by stating “Make certain that your children know every day how much they are loved, not for their grades, honors, or awards but for their striving to be independent, capable, good, and loving people.”

The green highlights throughout the four posts represent comments made in the book that are akin to the Montessori philosophy and the red highlights are not akin to the Montessori philosophy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Price of Privilege - Part 3 of 4


Part three opens with an introduction to University of California research psychologist Dr. Diana Baumrind who is noted for her work on the impact of parenting styles on child development. “Her central concern has always been to identify those parenting strategies that are most likely to turn out autonomous children, children who are independent, capable, and loving.”

See my October 22 post, “What is Your Parenting Style” for more information specific to Dr. Baumrind’s work.

Some notable points from Levine in Part 3:
  • Promoting guilt and shame invariably works against progress—and, more importantly, they weaken the ties between child and parent.
  • The disturbing sense of entitlement so often observed in affluent kids is partly an outgrowth of parents’ efforts to elevate their child’s sense of self with persistent praise. See Dweck posts “Mindset: Dr. Carol Dweck Part 3” (1/2/09), “Dweck on Intelligence” (7/10/08), and “Getting to Know Dr. Carol Dweck” (4/18/08).
  • Levine gives an informative look at what parent options are [for example] when your 12-year old child gets a poor grade on a math test.
  • There are good insights on parents being the “bad cop,” firmness, letting your kids know when you mean business, containment, flexibility, and the difference between being in control and being controlling.
Get to know Dr. Levine by viewing her interview about the book.

The green highlights throughout the four posts represent comments made in the book that are akin to the Montessori philosophy and the red highlights are not akin to the Montessori philosophy.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Price of Privilege – Part 2 of 4


Levine states that the [child’s] self is born in the crucible of interaction between parent and child.
Every time we encourage exploration, applaud independence, and require self-control we help our children grow into their best selves. She goes on to say that kids with a strong sense of self can come out of dismal economic circumstances and kids with an impaired sense of self can come out of the most fortunate economic circumstance.

Here are several other points Levine stresses in this part of the book:
  • What I loved about this section is that Levine emphasizes that the goal of parenting should always be to help the child learn how to act on his own behalf and that kids with healthy selves are ready and able to “own” their lives.
  • Affluent kids are often so protected from even the most minor disappointments and frustrations that they are unable to develop critical coping skills.
  • She talks about attunement, a reciprocal form of communication, that is aided by the mother who is sensitive to both the internal and external feelings and experiences of her child.
  • The child who is well loved and well schooled in the importance of empathy, is a child who can respect his own needs while being sensitive to the needs of others.
  • The “stuff” we buy our kids, the “advantages” we insist on providing say more about our needs than our children’s.
  • Make certain that you speak to your child firmly but respectfully and never bribe your children to learn.
  • Be kind to your child; her beginning sense of self is still largely dependent on your opinion of her.
  • Children need to see that we value their character first, their effort second, and then their grades.
  • Children need to see that we value their character first, their effort second, and then their grades. (Such an important point, I am repeating it.)
Levine looks at child cognitive and social development, parenting challenges, and proposes parenting strategies that are most likely to facilitate development at different ages, beginning with ages 2 to 4 and working through ages 5 to 7, 8 to 11, 12 to 14, and 15 to 17.

The green highlights throughout the four posts represent comments made in the book that are akin to the Montessori philosophy and the red highlights are not akin to the Montessori philosophy.