Of Note: Introducing the Coalition to Support Grieving Students

    Coalition to Support Grieving Students by Coalition to Support Grieving Students
    September 1, 2017

    As school communities seek to cope with the many kinds of tragedies, deaths, and losses that impact their students, a new website created by The Coalition to Support Grieving Students (CSGS) is now available to provide resources to educators of all kinds. The site offers a comprehensive set of practitioner-oriented modules to equip teachers and school administrators with insights, and practical advice as they work with students and families who are making their way through a wide array of losses. CSGS was convened by the New York Life Foundation and the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, which is led by pediatrician and childhood bereavement expert, David J. Schonfeld, M.D. This resource has been missing from the educational landscape, and it can be used not only by individuals, but also by teams as they seek to develop professionally. Additionally, the site seeks to be timely, as evinced by a current tab focused specifically on communities coping with the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. 

    Submitted By Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM


    Uncapping Capitalization

    Revisionist History, Season 1, Episodes 4, 5, and 6 by Malcolm Gladwell
    July 1, 2016

    Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History, examines “things overlooked and misunderstood.”  Through a three episode miniseries in Season One, Gladwell delves into education and capitalization, an idea Gladwell describes as “how society provides opportunities for people to make the most of their abilities,” so they can capitalize on their potential and improve their lives through education and hard work. In these three episodes, Gladwell reevaluates how good America really is at capitalization and how the American educational system helps or hinders its citizens. Although episode four focuses on public schools and the next two episodes focus on higher education, all three episodes can easily be applied to K-12 independent schools grappling with important social justice issues in education including admissions, financial aid, endowments, and the question of what role schools can and should play in promoting a more just society. Gladwell does not conceal his own personal views about these issues; his opinions, as well as the facts that he presents, offer an insightful perspective on an important conversation and dilemma facing schools today.

    Submitted By Erin McHale, Ed.M. Candidate, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    Myth Unmaking

    The Myths That Persist About How We Learn by Ira Flatow
    Science Fridays, PRI Public Radio International, September 1, 2017

    At the beginning of the school year, teachers often contemplate the different learning styles of their students, but what happens when a teacher’s understanding of how students learn is based more on myth than evidence? In a recent interview on Public Radio International’s “Science Friday,” host Ira Flatow spoke about pervasive myths in the world of education with Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, Lauren McGrath, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Denver, and Kelly Macdonald, a doctoral candidate in clinical neuropsychology at the University of Houston. One myth, which 76% of educators believe, is that a student learns best when instruction is geared towards his or her particular learning style. The problem is that there’s not sufficient evidence to support the existence of different learning styles. What implication does this insight have for teachers who plan with learning styles in mind? Possibly not that much, which is also a problem. The interviewees point out that varying modes of instruction, in itself, may be helpful to learning. In other words, teachers’ lesson plans may be effective, just not for the reasons they might believe. The danger of this myth and others like it is that teachers may be spending too much time on scantily-supported theories at the expense of focusing on research-based methods that demonstrably support learning. 

    Submitted By Brendan Faughnan, Cristo Rey New York High School, New York, NY


    Emotions are Teachers

    Emotional Agility as a Tool to Help Teens Manage Their Feelings by Deborah Farmer Kris 
    KQEd News, February 28, 2017

    In this article, educator Deborah Farmer Kris overviews key points from Harvard psychologist Susan David’s book, Emotional Agility (2016). As teachers and administrators launch the new school-year, Farmer Kris’s reasons for teaching emotional agility are timely and instructive. Citing Stanford University research, for example, she explains how reflective writing can translate into academic gains for middle school students and how “scaffolded autonomy” for teens equips them in “how to think” (not what to think). Farmer Kris organizes her highlights of Susan David’s book around five main points related to messages we should teach students about emotions: 1) Emotions are not good or bad, 2) Emotions pass, 3) Emotions are teachers, 4) Courage is “fear walking,” and 5) Values affirmation strengthens emotional agility. While Susan David’s book in full is an ideal resource for exploring emotional agility more comprehensively, Deborah Farmer Kris points educators to some of David’s most crucial findings, offering helpful reminders and insights for our humanities and human development curricula this year. Opportunities abound for teachers to ask students to engage with their own emotions and values; the payoff is both academic and social-emotional. 

    Submitted By Meghan Tally, Windward School, Los Angeles


    Smartphones: Negative, Positive, Neutral, Delayed

    Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? by Jean Twenge
    The Atlantic, September 1, 2017

    Despite the hyperbole of her article’s title, psychologist Jean Twenge documents both the positive and negative changes that have appeared in national surveys and studies of teen behavior as smartphones have become ubiquitous. She offers warnings about how increased smartphone use is highly correlated with increasing depression and loneliness in teenagers. However, the author also notes how the increasing use of smartphones has had other neutral or even positive impacts on the current generation of teenagers (e.g., greater physical safety and a decrease in a number of risky behaviors, such as underage drinking and sexual activity). Overall, the lack of independence and increased time spent online seems to have had the effect of delaying adolescence. As Dr. Twenge notes, “Across a range of behaviors – drinking, dating, spending time unsupervised – 18-year-olds now act more like 15-year-olds used to, and 15-year-olds more like 13-year-olds. Childhood now stretches well into high school.” As school leaders, instead of reveling in nostalgia for the pre-smartphone days, we should be thoughtful about how our schools can provide meaningful offline social interactions and scaffold the transition to independence and adolescence that teens are increasingly delaying. 

    Submitted By Michael Arjona, The Walker School, Marietta, GA


    Out of the Gray

    Managing in the Gray: Five Timeless Questions for Resolving  your Toughest Problems at Work by Joseph L. Badaracco
    Harvard Business Review Press, September 6, 2015

    The essence of leadership in schools is working with people to accomplish goals and solve problems. For most problems, collecting facts leads to a solution, but in some cases, despite careful analysis, the solution is not clear and the people you consult may disagree. Just as challenging, you have to explain your decision to others. Grappling with "gray area" problems is the hardest part of the job because such problems test both the leader’s skill and judgment and often serve as a litmus test for further promotion. Managing in the Gray addresses ways to deal with these murky situations. To generate solutions, author Joseph Badaracco frames five questions that aim to get to the truth of what really matters in life: What are the net, net consequences? What are my core obligations? What will work in the world as it is? Who are we? What can I live with? For each question, case studies provide a meaningful way to relate to “gray area” problems. Additionally, instead of using contemporary management theories, the author looks to classical philosophers such as Confucius, Aristotle, and Nietzsche, as well as prominent thinkers who have wrestled with big questions. Badaracco’s approach is a refreshing one for confronting complex problems in our schools. 

    Submitted By Pearl Rock Kane, Director, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    Young Math

    But Why Does It Work?: Mathematical Argument in the Elementary Classroom by Susan Jo Russell, Deborah Schifter, Reva Kasman, Virginia Bastable, & Traci Higgins
    Heinemann, April 4, 2017 

    This book focuses on the art of teaching mathematical argument in elementary classrooms. Instead of honing in on how to support students in solving individual problems, the authors present a protocol and sample lesson structures to help teachers engage their classes in mathematical argument, representation, and discussion. This type of mathematical teaching allows students to make generalizations about the behaviors of different operations, leading to a deep understanding of how numbers and operations relate to one another, as well as the ability to apply this understanding to a variety of problems. The authors also discuss and encourage “productive lingering,” inspiring teachers to give their classes the time and space to unpack different problems and patterns, instead of solely focusing on solving the problem at hand. Such practice allows for more abstract discussions, focused on deriving rules and generalizations about different operations. The authors worked with teachers across elementary grade levels to develop and refine these protocols and lesson plans, and they present their findings in a clear and concise manner, including links to videos, so that teachers can easily apply this mathematical framework in their classrooms. 

    Submitted By Karlyn Adler, The School at Columbia University, New York, NY


    Getting Proximate

    Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
    Spiegel & Grau,  January 1, 2015

    Just Mercy is the nonfiction account of the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization created to defend falsely accused prisoners on death row, many of whom are poor and/or children. Bryan Stevenson uses his storytelling prowess to present a few seminal cases, deftly weaving in American history, information about the justice system, and personal reflection. As Kenji Yoshino did in his book Covering (2006), Stevenson shows that “We are all broken by something,” and in turn, "Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving.” Stevenson’s insistence that we “get proximate” to suffering is a fundamental insight for educators who teach the importance of connecting to a purpose bigger than one’s self, and who emphasize courage and persistence in the face of difficulty. For educators interested in equity and for teachers of American history, on the other hand, Just Mercy provides a real life account of the implications of  Reconstruction era legislation and its effects on American citizens. Finally, for those educators seeking to connect to a generation of increasingly empathetic and passionate millennials, Just Mercy reveals how,  as Stevenson puts it, "There is work to do.”

    Submitted By Christopher R. Mizell, Town School for Boys, San Francisco, CA

    Social Media Wellness book Cover

    Walking the Talk of Balance

    Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World by Ana Homayoun 
    SAGE, July 1, 2017

    Talk of social-emotional learning in schools has been underway for decades. Newer to the discussion in schools is the topic of academic wellness. In Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World, Ana Homayoun offers useful suggestions to teachers and parents helping young people manage their technology-saturated social and academic lives. Homayoun takes a particularly empathic and realistic approach to a problematic irony students face today – “the device they need to use to complete their work is their biggest distraction from getting work done.” In eight highly-readable chapters, she reviews the history of social media and its impact on tweens and teens before turning her attention to the specific things adults can do to teach and model healthy academic habits. Chapter five, on academic wellness, delivers exercises aimed at helping students to compartmentalize their lives into the categories of work, fun, and rest. Using virtual folders and IRL (in-real-life) binders, students can bring order to the steady flow of information, assignments, and feedback they receive on a daily basis in school. Additional best practices include monotasking, use of the Pomodoro Technique (25 minutes on task, 5 minutes off), and avoidance of toggling back and forth between textbooks, apps, and worksheets. Perhaps most important is for teachers and parents to walk the talk of balance and wellness in schools and life. 

    Submitted By Jessica Flaxman, Nashoba Brooks School, Concord, MA

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