We had our first snow day since 2010 this week. By the luck of the draw, I was the dean on duty on Wednesday night, so I was behind the desk as our day and boarding students positioned themselves for what was shaping up to be a likely day off. Not surprisingly, there were local boarding students who chose to go home and enjoy the day off with their families, but what was refreshing was the number of day students who wanted to spend the night in the dorm so they could enjoy the fun on campus. We spend a lot of time trying to dream up weekend activities to bring day students here. It turns out that 8″ of snow is all it takes. I can’t blame them. With no homework due the next day, the dorm becomes a giant slumber party with more friends than your parents will let you have over, and our campus offers better sledding than the surrounding suburban neighborhoods. Freshmen in particular seemed eager to be snowed in with their friends. This leaves me feeling optimistic about the future of our community.
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A giant pileup on the PA Turnpike today got a lot of attention. A former colleague of mine from the Hun School was stuck in the jam, so she used Facetime to lead her class from her car. I missed it, but apparently she was featured on CNN! That kind of dedication makes for good press for Hun, independent schools in general, and teachers everywhere, so I’m proud to be even tangentially connected to it. But in truth I’m also jealous. I want my school to distinguish itself for its adoption of technology; enough that we would be recognized for it, too. My grand blogging proposal to shake up the English department’s summer reading assignments was greeted with more enthusiasm and acceptance on Tuesday than I was expecting. Now I need to actually make it happen, and in a hurry! It’s a daunting task that will require hours upon hours of work, and I’ve brought it on myself. The potential pitfalls are frightening, too, but I’m oddly at peace. Perhaps the dozen or so Twitter chats I’ve participated in this year in which countless English teachers have shared their successes (and entire schools’ successes) with student blogging have helped boost my confidence. Hurray for the PLN!
#isedchat Thursday night was on the topic of blended learning, flipped classes, MOOCs and such. I mostly just lurked since I have so little to share (. . . so far). But I wanted to play devil’s advocate a little to hear how blended learning supporters respond to the critics. I asked if independent schools are “giving up our biggest assets,” such as small classes and strong communities, by embracing these new technological delivery methods. Scott MacClintic of Loomis-Chaffee (who consistently sets me straight at #TABSchat) responded: “The question is…are those “assets” going to be worth 40K as we move forward? A real question to consider, in my honest opinion.” [I’ve cleaned up Scott’s capitalization to account for the long-reads format.] This is precisely the intellectual challenge that has been obsessing me for the last two years. If you are interested in the answer, close your browser (or WordPress app) and go get a copy of Rita Gunther McGrath’s book The End of Competitive Advantage. The answers are in there.
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Dilemma for the weekend: Grade all of my sophomores’ persuasive essays, or binge watch all of Season 2 of House of Cards? Nevermind; I’ll do both. Nina, if you’re reading this, NFLX deserves the $400 share price.
My freshmen are finishing up their wonderful short stories. These compositions are a high point of the year for me. I’ve noticed the last couple of years how many of the students choose to feature psychology as an important plot element. They like writing about mental patients. Is that the influence of The Catcher in the Rye? Or maybe The Chosen, which we read earlier in the year? Or are our students lives, even at age 15, touched by people they know who are struggling with serious psychological illnesses? Perhaps it’s time for us to think about offering IB Psychology. It bugs me a little bit that the text our Religion Department uses in our Spiritual Practices class is so anti-Freud, and we don’t counter it by teaching Freud anywhere in our curriculum. I haven’t looked at the IB Psych curriculum; maybe it is nearly Freud-free (which would be like a plot line from The Chosen come true). Either way, this is a chance to embrace technology. We could offer IB Psychology through the IB’s online course partnership with Pamoja Education.