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.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Price of Privilege – Part 1 of 4

This summer our faculty and staff read The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine with the hopes of extending our understanding of diversity—socioeconomic diversity—and how it affects our students, their families, us, and our surrounding communities.

I would like to share what I gleaned from my reading with you in several posts. There are four parts to the book, so this and the next three posts will encapsulate my thoughts and impressions.


Levine takes the reader into her therapy sessions with young people. One statistic after another give insight into this world of children and families of privilege. Some disturbing and others interesting, here are a few from part one:

  • Adolescent suicide today has quadrupled since 1950.
  • In addition to income, factors such as literacy, political freedom, and civil rights all influence a person’s happiness, what researchers often call “well-being.”
  • Studies show that approximately 50% of happiness is inherited, leaving 50% to be determined by parenting, life experiences, and luck.
  • Affluent parents hesitate to seek professional help more than other groups of parents.
  • Materialism is a value system that emphasizes wealth, status, image, and material consumption and is found among people in all socioeconomic groups. Liking stuff isn’t the problem; liking stuff more than people is. We want to avoid training our children to believe that it is external rewards that are responsible for personal happiness.
  • Two factors repeatedly emerge as contributing to high levels of emotional problems. The first is achievement pressure and the second is isolation from parents.
  • Study after study shows that teens want more, not less, time with their parents.
  • There is an inverse relationship between income and closeness to parents. Lower-socioeconomic kids are far more likely to report feeling close to their parents than kids from high socioeconomic homes.
Always looking at the student’s construction of “sense of self” as a measuring stick, Levine describes the privileged student as indulged, coddled, pressured, and micromanaged, and paints the at-risk child environment as empty refrigerator, unforgiving circumstances, metal detectors in their schools, killings in their neighborhoods. If you want a closer look into the world of at-risk children, read "In Prisoners' Wake, A Tide of Troubled Kids" from the July 5, Sunday Times.

Levine points out that increases in material wealth do not translate into advantages in emotional health. And, “Anxiety, depression, somatic complaints, thought problems, attention problems, and rule breaking can be 2 to 5 times more prevalent among private high school juniors and seniors than among the general population of high school juniors and seniors.”

Probably the two most salient points/suggestions I take away from this section of the book is 1) “Perhaps the single most important ritual a family can observe is having dinner together.” And 2) [Children] need to see that their parents value effort, curiosity, and intellectual courage.” On the latter point, read Carol Dweck’s work in my July 10, 2008 post.

Please feel free to comment on what you read, especially if you have read 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.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Records Exist to be Broken

While reading the August 10, 2009 “Sports Illustrated” magazine’s “Faces in the Crowd” section I noted

Leland McPhie of San Diego Track and Field broke the American men's shot put record at the USA Masters outdoor championships. His throw of 22' 6½" beat the previous mark by nearly a foot. I scratched my head as I know that the men’s shot put record is around 75’. When I read the piece again, I noticed that McPhie is 95-years old and was competing in the 95- to 99-year old division!

McPhie, who competes for the So Cal Track Club, also holds Masters 95 world records in the high jump at 3' 1¼" (the Men’s high jump is around 8’) and triple jump at 13' 0" (the Men’s Triple Jump record is around 59’).

Congratulations to Leland McPhie! What an inspiration to our younger aspirants.