Threshold

May 27, 2014 by Bill Ivey

Last Monday, my Humanities 7 class seemed tired. Many of them had gone on the Boston Harbor cruise the night before at the invitation of Cardigan Mountain School, and had gotten back late. Others seemed to be having a post-weekend drop in energy (to be fair, it was 8:00 in the morning). Others, I’m sure, were fine, but (ironically) they were quieter about it than those who were tired.

So, we spent extra time on Morning Announcements, taking all their questions about the upcoming three weeks and the many special events, ensuring they felt they had as good a sense as possible of what was coming up. We moved on to Morning Reading, with Olivia reading Julia’s short story for her and Emily reading her own poems. I had earlier decided to extend Morning Reading if need be by including an installment from Wonder, the book the students had chosen for their unit on “judging” and in which we had just read the climax. The next section of the book involved preparations for fifth and sixth grade graduation, and the resonance in the room with what these students were thinking and feeling was strong.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective

Happy Dance

April 16, 2014 by Bill Ivey

In the iPad era of the middle school, I no longer even blink when I see groups of Humanities 7 students dancing, arguing and shoving, theatrically hugging, or animatedly discussing seemingly random things to do next. And they no longer reflexively explain, “It’s okay, Bill, it’s Humanities.” Chances are, they are working on a video to support their independent writing or as part of a Focus Question presentation. And while I can imagine a scenario where I might have to talk with them about return on investment of time, so far, they have done a great job of maintaining an appropriate balance.

I did, however, blink at least once when Emily asked me to do a happy dance. Certainly, I had seen her taking kids off one by one (occasionally two by two) and shooting 10-second clips of dancing. And certainly, I have never flinched when asked to be part of any of their videos, which usually entail me pretending to be a mean teacher. However, dancing is something else altogether. I am incredibly shy about my dancing, in part because even kind and well-meaning people have begun to laugh when they see me dance. I *think* it’s because, as a musician, I pay too much attention to the subtle interplays of rhythm, melody, and harmonies, and end up trying to express way too much. That’s my excuse, anyway.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, student voice, On Education, Beautifully different, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

Truly Blessed

March 18, 2014 by Bill Ivey

Before Spring Break, Sophie, one of the 8th graders asked me if I had liked the play she had helped write in 7th grade. “Refresh my memory,” I said, and she responded with a twinkle in her eye, “Cross-dressing old man?” It all came rushing back to me. “Oh, yes,” I said. I remember your play was really solid when you took it from my class to the Theatre 7 class, and then it still went through several revisions. In fact, I knew about a lot of the revisions, and I was still surprised during the performance! But it was solid all the way through. People loved it.” And then, with a sideways glance at the 7th grader who was sitting right there, “People always look forward to the 7th grade plays.” Sophie said, “That’s right! All the former 7th graders come,” and I added, “And not just former 7th graders. People who were never in the middle school tell me they look forward to the 7th grade plays.” “It’s a rite of passage for 7th grade,” Sophie commented as the younger girl took it all in.

It takes an incredible amount of courage to put your voice out there not only as the performer of a play but also as the author, especially when you are actually a co-author with up to four other people who are just as creative and passionate as you are and have equally strong opinions about every word. That day was going to be the first time the Humanities 7 class read their scripts to Julia and Kim, who will be co-directing the plays this spring, and that, too, takes a great deal of courage. Julia and Kim were both excited to learn about all the possibilities that the plays provided, and they also both had a number of insightful suggestions.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, On Education, community, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

Sleeves Rolled Up

February 11, 2014 by Bill Ivey

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the Center for Teaching Quality is holding a book chat on Why Gender Matters by Dr. Leonard Sax, the founder and executive director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education. (NASSPE) His work is centered on the notion that understanding gender differences enables us better to help our students learn.

Filed Under: Teaching, gender, All-Girls, gender stereotypes, The Girls School Advantage, On Education, Annie Murphy Paul, Girls Schools, All Girls Education, Feminism, In the Classroom, Scott MacClintic, Education

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

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

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

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