Archive for the ‘teaching’ Category

Intentional development: could I raise the next Steve Jobs?

I am continually intrigued by the questions surrounding the intentional actions we might choose in raising the young.

Carol Dweck’s Mindset taught me much about creating a fertile environment for learning. Dweck’s conclusions align with some of the advice offered in CNN’s recent article, “How to raise the next Steve Jobs.” If the celebrity headline troubles you, here’s the original article by Christina Vercelletto.

What philosophy guides our choices in raising the young? What actions result from this philosophy? If universally applied, what society would this philosophy build?

Could we intentionally grow a creative person?


Can a middle schooler understand?

Dan Pallotta doesn’t understand what he’s hearing. To quote his post,

“I’d say that in about half of my business conversations, I have almost no idea what other people are saying to me.”

Similar epidemics exist in every field, sometimes spreading outside the box.

My personal solution? If a middle school student doesn’t understand, I should refine my explanation.

(Here’s a group making a project of simple explanations, and also a growing encyclopedia in simple English.)

Classroom function and form

From Seth Godin, “Form and function“:

“When a change in form comes to your industry, the first thing to discover is how it will change the function.”

I wonder if we will ever have lasting change in American education while the traditional classroom form, designed for content delivery to a group, continues as the dominant physical feature of a student’s school experience.

Faculty recruiting

More people have a Facebook account than a passport.

According to the linked article, 95% of current university students have Facebook accounts.

What will happen to faculty recruitment as these students complete degrees and seek employment?

How will these young adults engage our school culture?

How might we attract them? How might we repel them?

Pretending our schools will not encounter generational conflict is self-deceptive, harmful to our school’s long-term success, and a hinderance to growth.

What must we learn – first as leaders, then as learning communities – to embrace a thoroughly networked generation into the teaching ranks?

The little white lies hidden in the fabric of school culture will not be kept secret in a networked world. (The for-profit world is already learning this lesson.) We will perpetuate those half-truths to the peril of our reputations – or we will embrace a new level of integrity and reap the rewards of transparency in our learning communities.

The choice will be ours.

Update: A New York Times article, “Social media history as a new job hurdle,” tells of a company conducting background checks constructed completely from social media sources.

From the article: “We are not detectives,” said Max Drucker, chief executive of the company, which is based in Santa Barbara, Calif. “All we assemble is what is publicly available on the Internet today.”

Digging deeper, we learn, “Less than a third of the data surfaced by Mr. Drucker’s firm comes from such major social platforms as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. He said much of the negative information about job candidates comes from deep Web searches that find comments on blogs and posts on smaller social sites, like Tumblr, the blogging site, as well as Yahoo user groups, e-commerce sites, bulletin boards and even Craigslist.”

Why I’m surprised that anyone is surprised. How did we ever imagine anything on the Internet was going to remain private?

When I compose Merlyn’s Rules of Digital Communication, I will include these words: permanence, availability, and immediacy.

Learning resilience through school admission

We are counting down to this year’s announcement day for high school acceptances. The season begins with boarding school announcements this week; Augusta’s magnet programs will announce their acceptances at the end of March; Augusta’s independent schools are already admitting applicants.

Jane Foley Fried, dean of admissions for one of the most prestigious and selective boarding schools in the world, posted an insightful, considerate, and utterly compassionate blog entry with wise counsel regarding what to do while waiting for – and after  receiving – The Envelope.

The harsh reality remains that we do not learn resilience without failure, and often repeated failure. We test the truths within our souls under such circumstances.

I have paraphrased and shortened this from Seneca’s thirteenth letter. “It is only in this way that the true spirit can be tested – the spirit that will never consent to come under the jurisdiction of things external to ourselves. This is the touchstone of such a spirit; no prizefighter can go with high spirits into the strife if he has never been beaten black and blue; the only contestant who can confidently enter the lists is the [one]… who has been downed in body but not in spirit, one who, as often as he falls, rises again with greater defiance than ever.”

What lessons will we teach our students in the long hours of waiting before the envelopes arrive?

What lessons will we teach our students in the moments after the envelope is opened?

Will we act with maturity – as Kipling, to “meet with Triumph or Disaster/And treat those two imposters just the same”, or will we be something less than what we ought to be?

The young royalty watch us, and will remember the lessons of our actions long after the envelope has been forgotten.

The rise and fall of an industry

Schools (public and private) face a wave of retirements in the decade to come.

A conversation on generational conflict at the Drucker Exchange points at a teaching from Peter Drucker on declining industries: “The first sign of decline of an industry is loss of appeal to qualified, able and ambitious people.”

I wonder how the Merlyns of today will find and train those who will also devote their lives to the vocation of training young royalty.

How have you prepared someone else to fill Merlyn’s seat?

Treat doctors as teachers?

Shaun Johnson, professor of elementary education at Towson University (read: trainer for aspiring Merlyns), translates sociocultural expectations of teachers to the medical profession.

He does a credit to teachers everywhere in explaining the nature of the demands placed on those who guide the young.

No wonder we need magic dust!

On evaluating sources

Kevin Levin, chair of the history department at St. Anne’s-Belfield in Charlottesville, Virginia, wrote an insightful article surrounding the use of online sources in historical research – specifically considering the questions of slaves in combat roles for the Confederacy.

He asks the exact questions every historian must ask when evaluating online sources. When our students ask these questions, they have moved beyond completing assignments to evaluating knowledge, a skill essential to making a worthwhile contribution to knowledge through insightful interpretation.

Testing as an educational experience

Educators talk about great tests assessments as a learning experience of their own.

According to new research summarized in this NY Times article, traditional knowledge tests still have a place as a learning experience.

The effective Merlyn knows every learning tool has a place in training future royalty.

On the role of teachers

Our single greatest defense against scientific ignorance is education, and early in the life of every scientist, the child’s first interest was sparked by a teacher.

Ladies and Gentlemen: please join Dr. MacKinnon and me in applauding the individuals that foster the scientific competence of our society and are the heroes behind past, present, and future Nobel Prizes – the men and women who teach science to children in our schools.

-Dr. Peter Agre, Nobel Banquet speech, 2003.