“Spy Hacking” Game Brings Algebra to Life
The woodworking course at our school is without a doubt a favorite. The sense of pride that students feel as we all admire and utilize their finished pieces is palpable. While I am certain that each course begins with explanations of how to operate the machinery safely and effectively, it is clear that students dedicate the majority of their class time to measuring, building, and constructing.
The Top 10 Reasons to Send Your Child with Learning Differences to Summer Camp
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, Gladwell makes the case with statistical evidence that the single greatest factor in a child’s academic achievement is not race, socio-economic status, or even IQ scores…but rather the level to which students have a structured academic experience during the summer. Quite simply, students who have regular academic work over the summer – never mind attending a summer program like that offered at Eagle Hill School – achieve academically at a rate that far exceeds their peers. Give your child the opportunity to experience a summer program that balances academic work with a fun camp experience, and you will have truly optimized your child’s academic, physical, and social development leading to profound and lasting positive effects. For students diagnosed with a learning disability, such as dyslexia or ADHD, this additional support can make a tremendous difference during the academic year and long term.
From time to time, I find myself in social settings revealing my current vocation as a teacher. As I share that I predominantly teach Biology, there are often times one of two reactions. One is a mildly patronizing appreciation for working with young people (it is a noble pursuit, so I’m told). Another is a response when people almost shudder at the notion that I teach a subject which plagued their own schooling experience. Both of these equally amusing interactions cause me to reflect about what it is that I actually do as a science educator (or more optimistically, what I like to think that I do).
Last weekend, a colleague and I participated in the Southeast Writing Center Association. We visited K-12 teachers and university faculty in Columbus, GA at Columbus State University. He and I were invited as presenters at a featured session to give a talk on Learning Diversity and on how teachers might practice learning diversity in emergent writing studios.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.