Not Long Enough

May 28, 2013 by Bill Ivey

Spearth Day was born of a series of compromises, but has become one of the key dates in the waning weeks of our school year. Many years ago, the students asked for a special day to celebrate the mailman who played such an important role in their lives (today's students, for whom email is old-fashioned and texting is routine, would probably find this odd). We called it "M and M Day" for "Mail Man Day," and besides presenting him with a card and gifts when he finally showed, we played an all-school game of Capture the Flag and found other ways to celebrate. Over time, M and M Day evolved and became more organized - for one thing, the tradition of the talent show was begun. Meanwhile, earlier in the spring, Earth Day remained a day off for service - cleaning up local parks and rivers, clearing trails, and so on. The two days were eventually combined into one, and the name "Spearth Day" comes from "Spring-Earth Day." We spend the morning doing various service projects on- and off-campus, have the Talent Show after lunch, follow that with games and booths organized by classes and clubs, dedicate the yearbook and pass out copies, and end with a barbecue. This year, for a special treat, there will be a dance performance by the Senior IB dancers.

Filed Under: Spearth Day, Teaching, Alumnae, School Happenings, On Education, Bill Ivey, Celebrating Holidays, Beautifully different, On Parenting, community, In the Classroom, Performing Arts, performing, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Graduation, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School

A Moment of Peace

May 22, 2013 by Bill Ivey

132 - Kristin. 134 - Kim and Francie. 136 - Donna and Jenny. 138 - Amanda and Hillary. And so on.

Filed Under: Middle School, Alumnae, Houseparenting, Bill Ivey, Beautifully different, community, Boarding School, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School

How Far We've Come

May 20, 2013 by Bill Ivey

I was arriving a little later for school than I usually do, but I was nonetheless pretty sure it wasn't typical for a large group of students to be walking down the driveway. Maybe something special was going on at the barn? Or perhaps a science class was doing a lab by the pond? Suddenly, it hit me - it was our very first group of IB diploma candidates, walking down to Sally and Hank's house to take the first-ever IB exam in our school's history. I smiled and waved encouragingly, trying to make eye contact with as many students as possible, and wondered to myself at how so many truly significant moments appear so normal at the same time.

Filed Under: Teaching, School Happenings, exams, Bill Ivey, invigilation, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Graduation, International Baccalaureate, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

... Like We're People

April 29, 2013 by Bill Ivey

Every August, my hometown hosts one of the great 10K races in New England, the Bridge of Flowers Classic. Hundreds of runners, from local kids to world-class elite racers, line up on the Iron Bridge while seemingly half the town lines up to watch them or goes to take their stations to volunteer and help out. On several oocasions, Greg Snedeker (our jazz and classical music teacher) and friends set up out on the course to provide musical support. It's always fun and festive, and a wonderful way to spend the morning.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, On Education, Bill Ivey, Beautifully different, community, Acceptance, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

Nails in the Coffin?

April 25, 2013 by Bill Ivey

As many of you may know, and to no one’s surprise who follows women’s basketball, Brittney Griner, a 6’8” Senior from Baylor, was the first player to be chosen in the 2013 WNBA draft and will play for the Phoenix Mercury. With only three rounds and only 12 teams drafting, very few players are invited to attend in person, but of course Ms. Griner was there, all smiles, in a white tuxedo.

Two days later, during the course of an interview with “Sports Illustrated,” Ms. Griner was asked why she felt sexuality was no big deal in women’s sports. She responded, “I really couldn't give an answer on why that's so different. Being one that's out, it's just being who you are.” Asked if making the decision to come out had been difficult, she said, “It really wasn't too difficult, I wouldn't say I was hiding or anything like that. I've always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn't hard at all.” Though the interview received a fair amount of attention on social media, it received attention more for the low-key “no big deal” feeling to the moment than for the news itself. As Wesley Morris said in his article “Brittney Griner and the Quiet Queering of Professional Sports,” “Maybe it was amazing for its utter whateverness.”

Filed Under: Brittney Griner, Middle School, women in sports, gender, Sports, gender stereotypes, athletics, On Education, Bill Ivey, Beautifully different, Gay-Straight Alliance, On Athletics, Acceptance, diversity, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

Echoes of Silence

April 19, 2013 by Bill Ivey

In the echoing silence, I thought I could hear closet doors that had opened a crack softly but quickly shutting again. We were at a faculty professional development session on supporting lesbian and bisexual students, and an earnest young houseparent had just explained to the facilitator that we didn't have any issues around sexuality among the faculty and staff because no one was gay. Seriously? I thought to myself. How could we even know? Just because no one has dared come out?

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, gender, day of silence, LGBT Support, On Education, Bill Ivey, Gay-Straight Alliance, diversity, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Anti-Bullying, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

Once You Get to Know Them

April 16, 2013 by Bill Ivey

It was Monday, April 15, 2013. Tax Day. Patriot's Day. And a normal school day at Stoneleigh-Burnham. During Morning Announcements in my Humanities 7 class, the notion came up that Patriots' Day was a day off for most residents of Massachusetts and Maine and, after some good-natured grumbling, the students got down to work. Out of a class of 10, seven students wanted to read from their independent writing, and the entire class listened carefully and patiently to over an hour's worth of readings, bringing insight and empathy to their comments and suggestions. The rest of the period continued in the same vein, and later on my French 2 students would be similarly willing to work to understand at a deep level how you distinguish when to use the imparfait and when to use the passé composé instead.

Following this class, I went to Reception to meet the students who were travelling with me to volunteer at the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society. As we loaded up the car, one of the girls mentioned there had been some sort of an explosion in Boston and, thinking of the Boston Marathon and my cousins who were running in it and my brother who often is involved with it, I lent them my phone when one of theirs died so they could look up what happened. They stuck to the facts, which were still sketchy at the time - two explosions, some injuries - and we moved on to talk about other things.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, On Education, Bill Ivey, diversity, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Boston marathon bombing, racism, Education

Incontestably Human

April 15, 2013 by Bill Ivey

Recently, one of my Facebook friends posted that she was riding in a taxi when the driver told her, "You know, you're very lovely, very classy for a black lady." Flabbergasted (her word), she responded, "Well, I'm sure you THOUGHT that was a compliment, so thank you." During the Facebook conversation that followed this retelling, one of her friends commented, "Educating people out of their disillusion, fear, and stereotyping is a difficult thing, no?"

Filed Under: gender, On Education, Bill Ivey, Sexism, Beautifully different, diversity, All Girls Education, Phillips Academy, Feminism, In the Classroom, Women in media, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, racism, Education

Thank You, Public Schools

April 08, 2013 by Bill Ivey

Thanks to John Norton of MiddleWeb for publishing this article by Bill Ivey and for granting us the right to publish a portion of it and link to the original.

Filed Under: Middle School, MIddleWeb, Teaching, On Education, Bill Ivey, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education, Admissions

Every Single One

March 25, 2013 by Bill Ivey

It was early in my second year at Pine Cobble School. Though all my students had arrived in the classroom, it wasn't yet time for class to actually start and I was mentally going over my goals for the day while the students, all in eighth grade, talked among themselves. One of them was going on at some length about what a pain his mother was, and a second, whose parents were divorced, jumped in with “You think you've got it bad? I've got two mothers!” A third student, caught up in the moment, topped that with “Oh yeah? Well, I've got three mothers!” There was a brief pause and then the second student said scornfully, “What are you talking about? You can't have three mothers!” The third student, whose parents were also divorced and whose mother was in a lesbian partnership, looked at me with a note of desperation on his face. “I think,” I stated unequivocally to the class, “the boy knows how many mothers he has.” My student's face relaxed into gratefulness as two other students nodded approvingly and the second boy's face struggled through confusion for a few agonizing moments before bursting with realization.

There's no question that we set a tone in our classrooms, and that tone can make all our students feel welcomed. Or not. The choice is ours. Of course, if we really and truly love all our students there isn't really a choice. And with each choice, one act at a time, we can build a welcoming classroom culture that endures from year to year. One keystone moment for me was the first day of my third year at Pine Cobble School. I was going over the usual course outline and classroom routines with my sixth grade French class when a student raised his hand and said, “I heard you don't let people say 'You're so gay' in your classroom.” “That's right,” I responded warmly and with a smile. He nodded and smiled back, and I thought back to the first time someone had used that expression in my classroom and I had responded firmly but quietly, “Please don't say that again.” “Why not?” the student asked and, taking this as a genuine question and not a challenge, I answered, “Because I have friends and relatives who are gay and the expression is insulting.” I didn't have to have very many more conversations before the expression disappeared entirely from my classroom. And now, it was clear why.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, gender, On Education, Bill Ivey, diversity, All Girls Education, Feminism, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, MIddle Level Education Month