Small School, Big World - One Mission

May 03, 2012 by Bill Ivey

Family Weekend this year was inspiring in many ways. Developing student voice is a fundamentally important aspect of the core mission of our school, and there was evidence of that everywhere you looked. My Humanities 7 students took turns standing up and reading their poetry to probably the largest assembled group of parents and family members seen in any classroom over the weekend, perhaps a little softly on the first poem, but always more loudly and clearly on all the rest once the warm supportive applause of their peers and families washed over them. Each poem was absolutely unique to that student and yet, taken as a whole, they revealed truths about who the class is as a whole and for that matter what it is like to be a 7th grader in today's world.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, School Happenings, gender, Family Weekend, On Education, Bill Ivey, Boarding and Day, Parenting, On Parenting, community, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education, Admissions

The Art of Silence

April 26, 2012 by Bill Ivey

On the day our school was observing the Day of Silence in support of LBGT people, I happened to be away at a conference. I had thought of the perfect lesson plan for Humanities - the kids would listen to 4'33" by John Cage. For those who may not know it, this is the composition wherein the performer makes absolutely no sound with her or his instrument. Silence, as it were - only not exactly, because listeners still experience whatever sounds may happen to exist in the performance space. The name comes from the total length of the piece.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, School Happenings, On Education, Bill Ivey, Boarding and Day, Girls Schools, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, performing, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

Breaking the Silence

April 23, 2012 by Bill Ivey

Tires screech as a car full of teenage boys swings around to get a closer look, barely decipherable bellowed comments ringing across the parking lot. I clutch my small bag of groceries a little more tightly, willing myself to maintain a blank face and an even pace, wishing for the first time in a number of years that I didn't enjoy parking far away from the store entrance so I could get in a bit of a walk. My stomach clenches with the familiar tension, and I wait for the usual relaxation. It doesn't come. And suddenly I know why.

Filed Under: Middle School, Grades 7-12 and PG, gender, LGBT, hate crimes, LGBT Support, On Education, Boarding and Day, All Girls Education, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Anti-Bullying, Education

Hungering for a Better World

April 13, 2012 by Bill Ivey

For those unfamiliar with it, The Hunger Games is a book by Suzanne Collins that describes a dystopian future wherein children representing their geographical district, known as Tributes, fight to the death for the (sarcasm on) entertainment (sarcasm off) value. There are three books to the series, and of course the eagerly anticipated movie "The Hunger Games" was just released. As a middle school teacher who follows members of the #nerdybookclub on Twitter, I couldn't have missed the release date if I tried as many of my friends were braving the masses at midnight showings as crowded as they were festive.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, Bill Ivey, Boarding and Day, diversity, All Girls Education, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, racism, Education

Room For Change

March 29, 2012 by Bill Ivey

I glance up and notice the little plastic clasp screwed into the underside of the shelf of our TV stand. The pointy part, that stuck into the clasp and prevented the door from being opened without extreme intellectual and physical effort, has long since been removed. Not so the memories of putting it on in the first place, which my wife and I did around the same time we added the gadgets to every cabinet door in our apartment above the library, plugged plastic shields into all the outlets, stuck soft protectors on every furniture corner we owned, and generally ensured everything was as safe as possible for the imminent arrival of the child that turned out to be our son. Long before he thought or even knew about crawling, we had done everything we could think of to protect him from any dangers we could imagine.

As our children grow up, of course, we continually and deliberately work to ensure they can eventually take care of themselves. It may be bittersweet at times, but if our true goal is that our kids grow up to be happy and confident, balancing self-reliance and connectedness, we really have no choice. Yet, the same instinct that leads us to prepare our apartments months ahead of when we really need to is never far from the surface, as my parents periodically remind me whenever my brothers, my sisters, or I are going through hard times in one way or another.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, On Education, Boarding and Day, Parenting, Girls Schools, On Parenting, College Prep, All Girls Education, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Graduation, College Acceptances, Admissions

Change Is Inevitable; Shaping It Is Optional.

March 26, 2012 by Bill Ivey

We need to stop telling young people what they shouldn't say or do and start teaching them -- and ourselves -- the social and emotional literacies they need to challenge the way they see themselves and each other. (...) Only then can we hope to turn homophobia from an easy insult to a powerful analytic tool for mining our own fears, insecurities, and discomforts with difference. - Mary L. Gray (“Stop Blaming Dharun Ravi: Why We Need to Share Responsibility for the Loss of Tyler Clementi”)

The good news: Teachers can play a critical role in the move towards racial consciousness and, yes, harmony. - José Vilson (“Trayvon Martin and the Implications for Teacher Perceptions of Students”)

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, Bill Ivey, Boarding and Day, All Girls Education, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

Looking After Each Other

March 22, 2012 by Bill Ivey

“And finding each other, then looking after each other, is well worth doing.” – Bud Hunt

Even with 140 characters or less, you can tell on Twitter when people have been moved. Sunday, March 4 was such a moment as teacher after teacher retweeted Bud Hunt’s extraordinary blog, “On Love and Infrastructure,” often adding short comments such as @AndreaZellner’s “<3 this One to favorite and return to.” Mr. Hunt closes with five fundamentally important questions: “So how do you build love and care into your systems and infrastructures and learning environments and experiences? How are you doing so in a way that doesn’t over simplify the complex backgrounds of the people and communities you’re learning from and with? How are you looking for ways to increase the love and care in your systems? What are you loving in front of your students and colleagues? What would they say gets loved in your spaces?”

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Alumnae, school, Grades 7-12 and PG, School Happenings, On Education, Bill Ivey, Boarding and Day, community, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

99% Perspiration

March 14, 2012 by Bill Ivey

Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration. - Thomas Edison [wikiquote.org]

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, NAIS 2012, On Education, Bill Ivey, Boarding and Day, NAISAC2012, All Girls Education, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Innovation, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

Real World Issues

March 02, 2012 by Bill Ivey

The 2012 National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference has begun, with Sally in attendance representing our school. On Thursday on Twitter, someone named Bo Adams commented on remarks by Pat Bassett, the President of NAIS: “Pat Bassett shows exemplars of innovative school practice. What is common denom? Stus working on REAL WORLD ISSUES! #naisac12”

My mind immediately flew to an email I received this afternoon from Humanities 8 teacher Karen Suchenski. One of her students, in researching a project on slavery, had come across an abhorrent, racist website that was essentially built around “creative” and constant use of the n-word. The class was properly outraged and wanted to do something about it. She was wondering what I thought.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, NAIS, Pat Bassett, On Education, national association of independent schools, Bo Adams, naisac12, Boarding and Day, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, racism, NAIS Conference, real world issues, Education

Living in Their World

March 01, 2012 by Bill Ivey

Every so often, we middle school teachers will note something happening around us and quietly comment to each other how it’s crazy and sad that more people don’t get how wonderful this age group is. Today was the kind of day where I could have said that so often that even the most understanding of my colleagues would have ended up screaming, “I know, I know!” The seventh grade homeroom was bursting with off-the-cuff, humorous remarks and announcements. The Humanities class gave a collective gasp during morning reading. One of the play-writing groups exulted in reaching the stage where they could print out scripts to read to the class for input. Another group had clearly moved past yesterday’s setback and was working steadily to revise their own script. My advisees begged convincingly for Dunkin’ Munchkins (a surprise) and homemade ice cream (not a surprise) for our last advisory of the term. The Wednesday guitar class focused in on “Sweet Home Alabama” and showed how far they had come from the fall when they were still asking me several times a class how to finger chords, and they played so much and so hard that I had to end class a few minutes early to give their fingers a rest. Life Skills students who were ready for their presentations enjoyed a study hall while the others worked on their own and I consulted with the kids to set up a schedule for the presentations to happen. One of the 8th graders came back upstairs after lunch and asked special permission to use her laptop and do some work, which I allowed for as long as I was going to be up there myself. A French student proudly told me how hard she was worked last night making index cards to study for the final. And all this is just a sample of moments

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, NYC, On Education, Boarding and Day, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, racism, Education