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Examining Life Thoreau-ly

Written by Jessica Geary

Teacher at Eagle Hill School

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This was by far the best year for apples that I can remember. The apple trees on our campus in Central Massachusetts were heavy under the weight of the sweet fruits, and I took advantage of them personally, as a parent, and as a teacher, as often as I could. With my borrowed 10-foot fruit picker, my children and my “Thoreau” students and I collected well over a hundred pounds of apples from September to December. We fulfilled our “apple a day” requirement; read about the historical and literary importance of apples; closely observed and journaled about an apple’s texture, appearance, flavor, smell, and eventual decay; took a tree-core sample, collected and organized fruit from each tree, and enlisted the help of professionals to identify the varieties and age of the trees on our school’s campus. This gastronomical and pomological gluttony had a profound effect on me.

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The Struggle is Real

Written by Elise Johnson

Elise Johnson is a resident counselor and academic advisor at Eagle Hill School. She earned her MS Ed. in School Counseling from Purdue University and a BA in Theater Studies and English from Northern Illinois University. Her primary interests in working with adolescents include: emotional resilience, career development, social justice,the arts and leadership development.

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I often hear students express the sentiment of “the struggle is real.” Some even wear it on their sweatshirts or hashtag it on social media platforms. Rounding corners and coming face to face with adolescent changes and sensitivities, varying expectations in the classroom (and at home), complex social situations involving issues of diversity and contradictions to society’s civic responsibilities can leave students feeling overwhelmed. The struggle becomes even more complicated as students embark on a journey toward understanding their learning diversities, as well as figuring out how to advocate for their needs. So, yes, the struggle is most certainly real.

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This New Year, Commit to Unlearning Disability

Written by Dr. Matthew Kim

Editor of Learning Diversity - Matthew Kim teaches composition and is co-chair of the English department at Eagle Hill School in Hardwick, MA. He received his Ph.D. in English Studies from Illinois State University, where he studied writing studio pedagogy with Professor James Kalmbach. He received his M.S. in Rhetoric and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University, where he studied digital literacies with Professors Cynthia and Richard Selfe. At Michigan Tech, Matthew helped create and sustain sites of literacy instruction for college faculty and K-12 teachers. In 2004, Matthew received the NCTE ACE award for his research on the intersections of digital literacies and learning disabilities. In 2010, he received the Maurice Scharton award at Illinois State University for his community literacy project with students involved in the Community Colleges for International Development program. Along with teaching writers’ workshop, college writing, and technical communication, Matthew directs the Central Massachusetts Writing Collaborative which is an organization he created in 2013 to bring innovative, fun writing programming to public school students in grades 6-12 and professional development workshops on writing studio pedagogy to public school teachers.

 

 

The Learning Diversity blog has now been online for several years. We continue to reach a diverse readership, including secondary school educators, college faculty, parents, non-profit organizations, and, of course, students. It being January, and being the new editor of Learning Diversity, I am making my New Year’s resolution to renew my commitment to unlearning disability and, in its place, relearning learning diversity. I would like to urge you to make or renew the same commitment.

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Failure: The New Recipe for Success?

Written by Jason Przypek

History Dept. Chair at Eagle Hill School and Former Editor of Learning Diversity.

I think we can all agree that failure is a pretty bad educational outcome. Doesn’t get much worse really. Of course, touting student failure as the new recipe for success is pretty trendy right now (seemingly riding the coat-tails of the “grit” movement) and seems to be everywhere promoted via pithy quotes from Thomas Eddison and Samuel Beckett. There’s no shortage of serious pundits either who talk about the need to let students fail. And of course they have a point. Everyone needs to learn the life lesson that we don’t always get things right on the first try; sometimes you have to keep trying before you get it right.

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The Individual and the Classroom

Written by Sara Kaplan

English Teacher at Eagle Hill School and Former Editor of Learning Diversity.

When thinking about the philosophy of teaching, there was one particular aspect of the text that struck me throughout the second half of On Liberty by John Stuart Mill, which continually resonates for me in the context of my own life: the need for balance while and during the act of expressing one’s individuality. Mill presents his notion of balance through the usage of detailed examples and within the context of living in a just society, but I am specifically interested in the notion of individuality as “a cultivation of self” and the ways in which the individual can achieve growth and progress within a democratic society that intrinsically embraces assimilation and conformation. I’m also curious about his ideas concerning the opinion of the majority and how he asserts that the voice of the majority is not necessarily useful for promoting individual freedoms, which of course (because I've written about it so often in these blog posts) leads me consider those implications on schooling.

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The Problem-Solving Humanities Classroom?

Written by Jason Przypek

History Dept. Chair at Eagle Hill School and Former Editor of Learning Diversity.

 

Photo by Amber Elliot

Math is an abstract subject which, to the novice especially, can easily become divorced from its real-world applications, devolving into a mechanical, step-by-step following of procedures. That’s one reason the problem-solving approach as outlined by the Lesson Study Alliance is so attractive. The concept is simple: present students with a “real world” problem they can relate to (one example, from a Japanese school, involved calculating the crowdedness of rabbit cages of various sizes and shapes), ask them to come up with ways to solve it, solicit ideas, compare and discuss the ideas. Students then write down what they learned. It is beautiful in its simplicity. It is student-centered. It is hands-on. It is engaging. It encourages thinking for oneself. It is pretty near everything a teacher might want, but can it work in a humanities classroom?

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Engaging Reluctant Learners

Written by Sara Kaplan

English Teacher at Eagle Hill School and Former Editor of Learning Diversity.

In secondary education, many of us engage with “The Problem,” as we call it, on a daily basis. “The Problem” happens to be one that many educators have most likely considered as they have worked to implement their curricular ideas on students who seem less than engaged; that is, how do we, as teachers, aid students in learning for the sake of learning? Is the act of teaching students to practice acts of intrinsic autonomy possible? Are they developmentally ready to delve into conceptual frameworks that presuppose a familiarity with multiple perspectives? It is a conundrum, to be sure, made even more complicated when considering students who have diagnosed neurological disorders that cause them to learn differently from the so-called average student.

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Does Homework Help or Hurt?

Written by Jason Przypek

History Dept. Chair at Eagle Hill School and Former Editor of Learning Diversity.

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In Defense of the Introvert Student

Written by Jason Przypek

History Dept. Chair at Eagle Hill School and Former Editor of Learning Diversity.

This post is from guest contributor Anthony Westcott.

photo by Shayla Beley

 

In the last few years, a good deal of dialogue has been generated in the media about the idea of introverts navigating a society that values extroversion. A best selling book by Susan Cain from 2012 called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking spotlighted the issue, and it was followed by a popular “TED Talk” of hers, as well as a raft of other books in its wake such as Laurie Helgoe’s Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength, and Jennifer Kahnweiler and Douglas Conant’s The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength; just in the last month, there was a New York Times op-ed piece written by Vanessa Barbara about living as an introvert in the highly extroverted culture of Brazil. And this has been good news for introverts such as yours truly. While I think my passions for reading and writing led me to a career teaching English, it may seem ironic to others that an introvert should choose to spend each day interacting with classes of high school students. However, as these books will tell you, many introverts learn how to develop a form of extroverted behavior to fit into a role that demands it. Just think of famous actors like Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood who light up movie screens but are soft-spoken, even reticent individuals offstage. Indeed, many of my students would characterize my teaching personality in a classroom as dynamic but it’s the work of a performer, not the true self on display. The tradeoff for my psyche is daily lunch periods spent away from both colleagues and students solitarily plowing through books, recharging for an afternoon of more face time with kids.

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Should Students Have Phones in the Classroom?

Written by Jason Przypek

History Dept. Chair at Eagle Hill School and Former Editor of Learning Diversity.

Here's an article on an apposite topic for our times by colleague and guest contributor Jane Alwis.

 

Educators and school administrators appear to be split over the use of cell phones in the class room and in fact many schools currently have a difficult fight on their hands to enforce a ban they have in place on students carrying their personal phones to classes. Despite school policies requiring students leave their phones at home or leave them in school lockers, many students still insist on carrying them in their pockets. Asking teens to go without their phone is like asking them to go without a limb. If I had been asked my opinion of students carrying phones to class a couple of years ago, my answer would have been a resounding ‘no’, however I am now an avid supporter of embracing the technology that my students embrace. The new cell phones are convenient, user friendly and can do most things that a computer can do. They also have the advantage of being highly portable. At this time with the growing number of cell phone providers offering unlimited data plans for relatively little money, the average teen is connected where-ever he/she goes. I am not advocating that students should be entitled to run around with their phones all day doing as they wish, however it seems to me that they are a tool that can be used for the benefit of our students if we are willing to learn their capabilities and educate our students in the proper use of the technology for educational purposes.

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What is Learning Diversity about?

Learning Diversity is a blog hosted by Eagle Hill School where educators, students, and other members of the LD community regularly contribute posts and critical essays about learning and living in spaces that privilege the inevitability of human diversity.

The contributors of Learning Diversity come together to engage our readers from a variety of disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, biological sciences and mathematics, athletics, and even residential life. Embracing learning diversity means understanding and respecting our students as whole persons.

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