Sunday, April 29, 2007

Or, perhaps, ever hopeful

Found this 45 in the attic


Too much time on my hands this Sunday afternoon?

Another Parent/Teacher Conference Tale

Originally uploaded by italPASTA.
Another story from IB a Math Teacher:
Another math teacher had a kid at the end of the last quarter ask for a D- instead of his F because it was "so close". This particular teacher lets kids makeup exams in his Algebra 1 classes (something I won't do) but it was after the deadline. But he gives the kid three quizzes and tells him to go take them at home and bring them back in the morning. He figures that the kid was really close to a D-, so if he can teach himself something during the evening, then he can get a D-.

So the kid comes back the next day and gives the teacher the quizzes. One, (one!), is clearly not in his handwriting. The teacher points this out to the kid and he denies it. Time to call the mom, who is an assistant principal at another school.

Mom tells the teacher that her son is ADHD, and sometimes this causes his handwriting to be different from day to day! Wow! But she says that she'll come in after school to talk with the teacher about her son. Teacher is nervous....if a parent - who is a principal - is using ADHD as an excuse for her son's cheating, it isn't going to be a pretty meeting.

The meeting does happen, the parent looks at the quizzes, and immediately says so her son, "This isn't your paper. This meeting is over. Thank you, Mr. [Teacher] for your time" She then tells the kid to go out into the hallway for further scolding mentioning on the way that he'll be in school over the summer to make up the credit.
Oh, it had all the makings for an ugly session, didn't it? And, then, poof.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Blogging from campus homepage, nice UI
Originally uploaded by foolswisdom.
From the Boston Globe, we read that colleges and universities are using blogs as communication and marketing tools. Over at MIT, recently in the news after their admissions director resigned over faking her credentials, we see that blogging has taken on a fairly large role with authorized & promoted (but not censored) blogs from students and administrators, both.

A year ago, I posted a suggestion that independent secondary schools could use blogs to their advantage, too. Frankly, I'm amazed there isn't more use of blogs and other Web 2.0 tools by admissions, alumni, and development offices in independent schools.

A few days ago, I was talking with a colleague about organizations and institutions "speaking with one voice" and using Web 2.0 tools. If an organization can figure out what its one thing is, then it's a reasonable task to get everyone, even those speaking with tools of the Internet, on one voice.

Even the Army is using Web 2.0 tools such as flickr.

Not the environment in which I'd want to work

This story of the Associated Press wire from Woodburn, Indiana, caught my eye:
A high school teacher who faced losing her job after a student newspaper published an editorial advocating tolerance of gays can continue teaching at another school.

Amy Sorrell, 30, reached an agreement that allows her to be transferred to another high school to teach English, said her attorney, Patrick Proctor.

"The school administration has said in no uncertain terms that she's not going to be given a journalism position," Proctor said.

Sorrell, who had been an English and journalism instructor at Woodlan Junior-Senior High School, was placed on paid leave March 19, two months after an editorial advocating tolerance of homosexuals ran in Woodlan's student newspaper, The Tomahawk. Sorrell had been the newspaper's adviser.

School officials in the conservative northern Indiana community about 10 miles east of Fort Wayne said Sorrell did not comply with an agreement to alert the principal about controversial articles.

The agreement she signed includes a written reprimand that says she neglected her duties as a teacher and was insubordinate in refusing to obey school officials' orders.

Sorrell said she is "very proud" of Megan Chase, the student who wrote the editorial calling for tolerance and acceptance of gays, and the Tomahawk's other writers and editors. But she said she could not financially afford to fight the school district over her discipline.
They wanted to can her because she permitted the student-run newspaper to print an editorial calling for tolerance toward gays. Tolerance? The piece didn't call for becoming gay or trying it out or gay marriage or something else but just tolerance?

Chalk up another example of the environment I am not looking for.

Readers from all over

Douglas County Courthouse
Originally uploaded by kansasexplorer.
I don't get many readers, perhaps a dozen or two on a good day, but they seem to be coming from all over. Recently, we had a visitor from Lawrence, Kansas. I was reminded of a time I drove to Lawrence over a Christmas holiday in order to buy a pair of Birkenstocks. We were in Milwaukee, and since Milwaukee and Lawrence are right near each other...

Okay, it was a boondoggle and a chance to spend time together. And we drove through one of the worst blizzards I've ever experienced...

Anyway, welcome readers from all over.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Like the prettiest girl at the ball

the girls
Originally uploaded by
I was included in last week's Carnival of Education 115 in the faculty lounge.
Peter Stinson is like the prettiest girl at the ball, simultaneously courting Saint Swithins-in-the-Berkshires and Saint Swithins-Along-the-Big-River and blogging all about it at Chronicle-of-a-Search-on-Blogger.
I don't know. At this point, I've got a huge wart on my nose, and the Saint Swithinses are avoiding me.

My wife says I'm too out there.

My colleague John says I'm destined.

My colleague Dr. Kathy thinks maybe schools think I'll leave as soon as my eldest sons are into college.

I'm transparent.

I am called.

My track record would indicate that I'll stay long past my welcome... ;-) Kidding. But I've never jumped from job to job; why start now?

Meanwhile, I guess I'll work on my being the prettiest girl at the ball and seeing how many suitors I can court at the same time.


Mixed Messages?

Do you think this is perhaps too mixed to send a straight message?

Make your own KFC sign at

The airwaves are silent; as I used to say while on radio watch listening for distress calls at Coast Guard Station Plum Island, "Nothing heard."

I was intriqued with a recent post from a New England School:
Challenges & Issues:
1. Hiring Philosophy: How do we balance commitment and expertise?
2. How can we better identify the skills we truly need in our organization?
3. We have a leadership curriculum for our students. We need one for our adults.
4. We must improve evaluation & assessment.
5. As we search for leaders, how can we best balance looking inside and outside of the School community?

New Ideas:

1. Leadership Production: Commit to 10 great leaders in 10 years
2. Expand training to include expertise from outside of the School community.
3. Have a more extensive interview procedure for internal candidates seeking new School positions.
4. Create a training team to identify critical skills at key positions.
5. Create an advisory board to mentor leaders.
I'm intrigued as this takes parts of strategic planning, which most organizations hide behind a veil of proprietary double-talk. I'm also intrigued as they are looking forward and creating a roadmap for success. These are their critical success factors.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Excess... and what it says about us

Limo BABY!
Originally uploaded by dtewfik.
When I was in high school, many of my friends were much more financially well off than I was. My father, an Episcopal priest, was certainly stretching to have me attend boarding school, but the education was important to both my mother and father. On of the things that struck me about where I went to school was that even though some of my peers were flithy rich, they didn't flaunt it or talk about it. People were accepted for their character and their abilities, not what they owned.

Certainly, this wasn't true of the times; the school I attended up through the 8th grade was one where the culture was one of excess and a flaunting of wealth and prestige. I didn't like it.

I was very interested to hear about the position that Laura Gauld, the head of the Hyde School in Woodstock, CT. She's put the kibosh on prom excess.

From a recent statement from the School:
Woodstock Head of School Laura Gauld is making a statement about “the culture of excess” this spring. She has decided that all prom goers— seniors, their dates, and faculty—will go to the prom on a single bus this year.

Abolishing the stretch limousines and Hummers from the Hyde School parking lot is a controversial measure. Says Gauld, “This is a step to fight the culture of entitlement and conspicuous consumption that America’s youth are drowning in. Everywhere we turn there is a pecking order within the system of achievement and talents that puts someone ahead because they spent more money than someone else. While it might be unspoken, there is a system of evaluation that adults are passing down to their kids based on the achievement culture, rather than that person’s humanity.”

Gauld goes on to say, “Prom is a rite of passage that is becoming important as many rites and rituals of adulthood are losing their meaning in this day and age. What is the prom really about? At Hyde School, we don’t believe it is about spending thousands of dollars on big flashy cars and dresses. We think that it has something to do with spending time with the people who celebrate your growth as a person. It is a time to have fun and enjoy the hard work that has gone into the senior year at Hyde School, not to outdo someone with icons of affluence.”
That's a great start... next question: How do we get rid of icons of affluence and the culture of entitlement and signs of conspicuous consumption for the remainder of 364 days of the year?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Just classic: Parent/Teacher Conference

parent teacher conferences
Originally uploaded by bill kralovec.
When I taught, I had mixed feelings about Parent/Teacher conferences. We had conference days set aside just twice a year, and it really wasn't enough to ensure communication between the me and the parents. I think with the Web tools available today, two face to face conferences would likely be enough, so long as they are supplemented with other communications.

A good working relationship between parents and teachers is vital. Check out this post from IB a Math Teacher, a thirty-something mathematics teacher in Minnesota:
My Favorite Parent/Teacher Conference Story of the Night

English Teacher: Did you write [your son]'s English term paper for him?

Parent: Uh, no...why

English Teacher: Because your name is at the top.

The parent continued to deny it, and the teacher let it drop, but the teacher is absolutely convinced that the parent wrote the paper for her kid. What's more, it was poorly written. She thinks that the parent was really putting the skeleton of the paper together for her son, but the son never "filled in the blanks".
Er, I'm thinking they might need to work on that relationship "thing."

Thankfully, in a boarding school, that sort of exchange isn't so likely. But there are plenty of just-as-interesting possible conversations...

Friday, April 13, 2007

An interesting job posting

Originally uploaded by tape rewind.
I came across an interesting posting on the NAIS job site today. A school is looking for a Division Head/Principal; they claim to be a "dynamic school seeking experienced leader." Okay, so far all well and good. The problem is this: the posting says nothing else beyond that the school is in Tampa, Florida. The name of the school: Confidential.

I clicked on the URL for "confidential" and landed here at Carrollwood Day School. Must be a glitch. Why say that the school is not-to-be-named, and then post a URL direct to the school?

I wonder if, perhaps, this is a case where the incumbent doesn't know they're about to be sacked.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Not a peep from Saint Swithins or Saint Swithins

Originally uploaded by timothyb.
Last night I applied to Saint Swithins-In-the-Berkshires for their dean of studies position. Another awesome possibility at a great little school.

Nothing, however, heard from Saint Swithins-Nestled-in-the-Appalachians or Saint Swithins-Along-the-Big-River. At the moment, I'm not actually expecting to hear from Saint Swithins-Nestled-in-the-Appalachians since they reposted the job I'd interviewed for.

I can only imagine that it's difficult to get the word out to the right people when a school has an opening. My candidacy for a position at Saint Swithins-Nestled-in-the-Appalachians had started with my initial broadcast letter. I'd traded a couple of emails with the dean of the faculty and also spoken with him on the phone. When the school started talking about hiring a counselor, he passed my file along. Meanwhile, the school had advertised on the National Association of Independent Schools career center site for a counselor/chaplain. The placement of the posting didn't make much sense to me, since if a school really wants to find an Episcopal priest who has a counseling background, the place to go is the Episcopal Church's national clergy deployment office. Priests who are even interested in a new role go there first for leads. I doubt many priests, even those who would consider a position at an independent boarding school, would go first to the NAIS site.

I suggested posting to the clergy deployment site, but the head of the school told me that since they weren't a diocesan school, they had difficulty using the deployment office's services. Too bad.

Then the school posted the job in the local Sunday newspaper (as a straight counselor, not chaplain/counselor), and they received a slew of applications. My early suspicion was that most of those applications were from traditional mental health professionals who had little, if any, knowledge -- or true interest -- in boarding schools. They were applying because they were counselors and they were local.

Then came the posting on the NAIS site, which I guess has greater success than the local newspaper. I wonder if the NAIS site in conjunction with the job board at the American Counseling Association would provide a better field of candidates.

Meanwhile, I know the search for a counselor continues; since I haven't heard a "no" yet, I can guess that my name hasn't been tossed to the curb, but, since I haven't heard a "yes" yet and I know the job's been reposted, I'm not in like flint. Perhaps if they can't find exactly what they're looking for, they'll come back to me.

What do I not have that they might be looking for. Well, since I haven't yet gotten any specific feedback post-interview, I can only surmise. It might appear I don't have a burning desire and a true calling to be a counselor. Since I'm open to a variety of roles, some people are turned off by this. They want, to use Jim Collins' terminology, a hedgehog, someone who's skills ideally match the counseling function. Along with this, they'd likely want someone with current experience as a counselor to adolescents. My current counseling experience is all in crisis intervention and psychological trauma -- as a part-time volunteer, to boot. And, the third issue is that I've been out of the independent school world for more than a decade, and I think that throws some people.

I'd been told by the head of Saint Swithins-Along-the-Big-River that they'd be selecting, this past Tuesday, who to invite to campus for additional interviews. I haven't gotten a call yet, so, if they've made that decision, I'm likely not in the first round.

And, that doesn't bode well as that position is an English faculty position, and we know how many highly qualified people are in the hunt for English faculty positions at boarding schools. Whereas on the counseling side a school might have a difficult time putting together a slate of four or five superb candidates that meet ever single desired criteria, for English candidates it's probably difficult to weed the list down to four or five.

I have a friend and former collegiate classmate who is an assistant head at Saint Swithins-Above-the-Housatonic. She wrote me recently:
Right now the only positions I know I'm looking to fill are studio art, French, Latin, and mathematics. Not really much up your alley here, unfortunately! I will definitely let you know if something more appropriate opens up.

Meanwhile, I would love to know what you thought of Saint Swithins-Along-the-Big-River. We get a considerable amount of cross-over applicant-wise with them, and we also play them in sports! They have "re-made" themselves over the past couple of years ... are shifting to the arts.
Guess that three years of Latin I isn’t going to do me much good getting a job at Above-the-Housatonic.

Wrote a colleague of mine yesterday:
Don't ask me how I know, but good things are coming your way. The independent school gig is where your heart is at.... I think you'll find a boarding school looking for someone like yourself and you'll be doing your calling.
Okay, John, are you reading tea leaves or tarot cards? And can you tell me how much longer I am going to be waiting?

In short, I remain searching. Along-the-Big-River and Nestled-in-the-Appalachians seem to be less than promising, at least at the moment. In-the-Berkshires, anyone?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The public face of teaching: transparency improves performance

One of the things I liked about teaching was that my classroom was my classroom. And, one of things I didn't like about teaching was that my classroom was my classroom, and adults didn't darken the door.

How was I to get feedback?

Thankfully, I team-taught a couple of classes with several colleagues, so we had the chance to help out and work with each other; he gave me plenty of feedback.

And, I was lucky that the dean of the school was willing to visit my classroom, at my request, to provide feedback.

Today, we can actually let the world into our classrooms. I'd love to see what other people are doing... what they are doing that I can take to improve my own performance and to help my own students.

Nancy McKeand at Random Thoughts posted today about a website, Making Teaching Public, which is dedicated to helping make what happens in the classroom transparent, to the benefit of everyone involved.

Nancy makes an interesting observation: "As I have made my teaching more public ...I have fewer moments that I wouldn't want others to see." Being transparent has made her a better teacher.

I can hardly wait to get back into the classroom. For the last couple of days I've been teaching/facilitating a 3-hour block on stress & change management, but it's just not the same as the daily contact, the daily grind, with students.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Not a good sign

Danger - Thin Ice
Originally uploaded by idg.
Yesterday I mentioned that I haven't heard a peep from Saint Swithins Nestled in the Appalachians. I still haven't... but now they've re-posted and re-advertised the job for which I interviewed.

That's not a good sign.

& I was getting very comfortable imagining I was working there...

Monday, April 09, 2007

I'm anxious

Bates School
Originally uploaded by Larry the Biker.
I'm anxious. Saint Swithins Nestled in the Appalachians has been deathly silent; Saint Swithins Along the Big River decides tomorrow who to call to campus for interviews.

I don't like only having two irons in the fire.

And I am reminded that years ago, when I taught at Saint Swithins in the Wide Valley, I'd interviewed for the job in May. Things seemed to have worked out then; I trust they'll work out now.

Doesn't mean I'm still not anxious, however.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

High School Sex (according to researchers, that is)

I'm really not sure what this means in the real world since I haven't had the chance to digest it, but it sure looks interesting.

From Newswise:
For the first time, sociologists have mapped the romantic and sexual relationships of an entire high school over 18 months, providing evidence that these adolescent networks may be structured differently than researchers previously thought.

The results showed that, unlike many adult networks, there was no core group of very sexually active people at the high school. There were not many students who had many partners and who provided links to the rest of the community.

Instead, the romantic and sexual network at the school created long chains of connections that spread out through the community, with few places where students directly shared the same partners with each other. But they were indirectly linked, partner to partner to partner. One component of the network linked 288 students – more than half of those who were romantically active at the school – in one long chain. (See figure above for a representation of the network.)

James Moody, co-author of the study and professor of sociology at Ohio State University, said this network could be compared to rural phone lines, running from a long main trunk line to individual houses. As a comparison, many adult sexual networks are more like an airline hub system where many points are connected to a small number of hubs.

“We went into this study believing we would find a core model, with a small group of people who are sexually active,” Moody said. “We were surprised to find a very different kind of network.”

The results have implications for designing policies to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents, he said.
Okay, aside from STDs, does this tell us anything?
While many students were connected to much larger networks, they probably didn’t see it that way, Moody said. In fact, they probably had no idea of their connections to the network.

“Many of the students only had one partner. They certainly weren’t being promiscuous. But they couldn’t see all the way down the chain.”

The surprising thing about the network at Jefferson High was the near absence of cycling –- situations in which people have relationships with others close to them on the network, Moody said.

The lack of cycling seems traceable to rules that adolescents have about who they will not date. The teens will not date (from a female perspective) one’s old boyfriend’s current girlfriend’s old boyfriend. This would be considered taking “seconds” in a relationship.
I wonder what else it tells us about relationships, non-romantic in nature, with adolescents? What implications does it have when building a school community? What ought schools be doing differently based on this research?

I have more questions than answers.

Hit tip to Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish. And, like Mr. Sullivan, I figure the headline will generate plenty of traffic from Google. Too bad nearly everyone who comes here for that search string isn't going to find what they're looking for.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sunday, April 01, 2007

No Child Left Behind; No Child Propelled Ahead

Originally uploaded by evetsggod.
Several weeks ago, I read a great bit at Teach42 about what things would be like if high school were organized like No Child Left Behind. Steve at Teach42 first saw this at Hoagies Gifted.

There are eight main points... here are just the first two:
1. All teams must make the state playoffs, and all will win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable.

2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time and in the same conditions. No exceptions will be made for interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL.
You've really got to read the whole thing...

There are rumblings that perhaps No Child Left Behind is, finally, going to be left behind itself. From Leader Talk, we learn Sweeping Changes in NCLB and DoE. Chris Lehmann tells us,
Apparently, there are some major announcements coming out of the Department of Education this week. According to a friend of mine at the DoE, "Queen of All Testing" Margaret Spellings is on her way out to be replaced by Doug Christensen, State Education Commissioner of Nebraska. Christensen is best known for creating the STARS (School-Based Teacher-Lead Assessment Reporting System) program, a portfolio-driven system for meeting NCLB requirements.

Politically, this can only be interpreted as a major shift in priorities for DoE. The rumors are swirling that Bush doesn't think NCLB will pass reauthorization, what with the increasing GOP opposition to the bill. Bush has long put NCLB out there as one of the major pieces of his domestic agenda, and despite opposition from teachers unions, parent groups and others, he and Sec't Spelling have long championed NCLB as both "good policy and good politics."
Mr. Lehmann also posts part of the comments which will be made by Dr. Christensen sometime later this week:
I have found that in schools where classroom-based assessment is led by teachers in collaboration with their administrators, that cultures develop where personal and professional renewal lives and thrives. I have found in schools with classroom-based assessment to be places where passion is back and it is welcomed. I have found that classroom-based assessment creates places where the passion is back and in these schools it is okay to be passionate about our work; our profession, our kids--all of our kids. And, I have found classroom-based assessment to create places where the professional spirits of educators can thrive and places where their hearts embrace each child and every child. Aren’t these the kinds of places where all of us would like to live and do our work?
We shall see.

All I know is that one of the reasons I would never teach in a public school is the over-reliance on NCLB and interference from too many layers on what goes on in the classroom. If teachers are professionals, then let them be professional. Does the federal government micro-manage accountants or doctors or lawyers? Sure guidelines exist, but not like in public education.

In the last several weeks, I've met with two heads of schools who have both been adamant about one thing: we teach not to fill heads with facts, but we teach so that our students can think, can analyze, and can communicate. We must focus on the essential questions, and the essential questions are not measured by standardized tests.

For those who don't recognize the picture, that's the Department of Education in Washington, DC. I saw it several months ago on a trip to Coast Guard Headquarters; the Department of Education is located near L'Enfant Plaza, home to the Department of Transportation, the former department for the Coast Guard. I saw those wooden structures and wondered what they were. I think somebody wants the staffers at the Department of Education to think they're working in a school house.