Welcome to the Headmaster's Blog where you'll find updates, thoughts, and events regarding Saint David's School, the education of boys, and other items of interest. This is by no means meant to be a complete account of all that happens at Saint David's. Please refer to the school's website for more complete details -- it's more a Headmaster's musings.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cape Cod Trip--Special Program by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Seventh grade boys and their teachers have safely returned from their week-long adventure on Cape Cod.  This year was particularly special as the boys were treated to a Science program at Cape Cod Sea Camps led by two scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  Dr. Heather Benway presented comprehensive research that she and her colleagues have been working on regarding ocean acidification caused by the water's absorption of carbon dioxide.  She engaged the boys in several related hands-on activities in which they tested ph levels after exposing water to carbon dioxide.  According to their teachers, the boys were enthralled and spellbound by the presentation and related activities.  Dr. Dave Gallo, an oceanographer, then led a session on volcanic and life-form activities that occur on the floor of the Earth's oceans.

These presentations piqued the boys' curiosity and they eagerly set to investigating and testing the concepts discussed in a series of complex and exciting experiments organized by the scientists. Learning to be strong stewards of the environment begins with an understanding of the forces at play in the environment.  Understanding CO2 and its impact on the world's oceans is one of the many important issues these boys will confront in their futures.

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An Early Start: Mentee Round Table

This morning, before any boys arrived, the day for 17 Saint David's teachers began very early with a Mentee Round Table in the Smith Room.  It was the second session in a multi-session series of early morning meetings of all teachers new to Saint David's.  Begun three years ago as part of the Faculty Initiative, the mentorship program is one of the core components of our professional development program at Saint David's.  For their first three years at the school, each new teacher is assigned a mentor.  Together, the mentor and mentee observe each other, critique each other, and participate in sessions like this morning's coordinated by the Dean of Faculty.  The curriculum for these sessions and our mentorship program in general revolve in part around Doug Lemov's1 work in Teach Like A Champion.  The aim of our program at Saint David's is to keep it grounded in practical techniques and strategies that are immediately applicable in the classroom and that result in optimal learning for our boys.  This morning's topic was "Classroom Management" with a special focus on "tight transitions."  By keeping transitions tight we can increase instruction time and decrease time spent on lengthy, ill defined transitions in the classroom.

The principal aim of the Faculty Initiative is to attract and retain exceptional people.  Research shows that an important aspect of any initiative with this aim corresponds directly with an institution's commitment to providing continual high quality professional development opportunities.  We have also found that the keystone to a successful program lies in the school assuming more of the responsibility ourselves.  Instead of only sending teachers out to workshops, Saint David's has developed and continues to refine, an in-house professional development infrastructure.   In addition to the mentorship program and Round Tables like today's, and the new Supervision and Evaluation program, we also have guest "experts" currently working with and "coaching" teams of teachers--in mathematics, reading, and athletics, for example--over prolonged periods of time, refining their craft, instructional techniques, and teaching strategies.

Saint David's recognizes that the best and most successful teachers are never done learning their craft.  The session ended with a synthesis of "Five Habits of Highly Effective Teachers" by Neil Bright.

1. Doug spent a professional day with the faculty two years ago.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Six Goals; Two Games

And so our beautiful afternoon on Randall's ends with Red holding Dalton to 2 goals with a final score of 2-0, and White convincingly defeating Dalton 4-0.

Red fought hard to the final whistle with a stellar game played by Red Keeper HT. White's goals were scored by AH off a great cross, DD off his left foot wide, PDC on a free kick 25 yards out, and HE chipped one in during the first half.

Great soccer--good heart, strong play--by both Saint David's teams.

Photo above is of boys from both teams shooting around post game.  The shadows are long.  The day draws to a close.

At the Half

It's the half at Randall's Island where Saint David's Red is working hard to hold Dalton in check. Score at the half is 1-0 Dalton. White, more dominant in their game, leads Dalton at the half 1-0.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Quick Visit

TC, '11 dropped by today to visit.  Parents' Weekend at St. Paul's in Concord, NH allowed for an extra day off school, so TC decided to visit his Alma mater.  BP, '08 is TC's senior advisor and WH, '10 round out the Saint David's Alums up at St. Paul's.  His transition has been great.  He's enjoying JV Soccer, his classes and lots of new friends.  His most challenging assignment to date is being asked to write an essay for a Humanities class using only monosyllabic words.

Pictured is TC in my office this morning.  He's happy.  After our chat, we walked down to the Hume Library where Mr. Imbelli was meeting with current 8th grade parents on the secondary school application process.  TC stayed to chat with the parents.

He promised to be back for Thanksgiving and Young Alumni Homecoming Chapel and Dinner.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A New Horizon ... For Saint David's School

The promise of a brighter future eludes many New York City children, especially those from low-income families.  Recognizing this and empowered by our mission and strategic goals, Saint David's School is finalizing plans to begin a new program that draws boys from neighborhood schools to Saint David's for 6 weeks in the summer.  Designed to encourage students from a diverse low-income population to explore new worlds and to realize their full potential, the program will serve children from local public, charter and parochial schools in our neighborhood.  

Academic skills maintenance for qualified boys will be the principal aim of this new program.  "Summer slide" in academic skills is well documented in children from low-income families due in large part to lack of access to summer learning opportunities.  By launching this new summer program, Saint David's will be reaching out to our extended community, contributing to the greater good by ensuring that these children re-enter their respective schools each fall ready to learn.

Our plan is to begin with the first class of 15 kindergarten children this summer and add a new class of 15 kindergarten boys each summer for the next 9, until reaching full enrollment (K through 8) of approximately one hundred children in 2021.  Our affiliation with a national network of like programs, ensures that our small impact is magnified significantly.

The obvious benefits to our extended community will be augmented by equally significant benefits to our immediate community.  Saint David's teachers, alums, parents and boys will have an opportunity to work and learn with a broader cross-section of our neighborhood, building bridges and making connections.  Isn't this what summertime is all about?

Funding for the program is under way.  If you have an interest in learning more, or would like to get involved, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

TCC, BINGO and Boys

Today after school, twelve 6th grade volunteers walked north on 5th to 105th to spend their early evening with residents of Terence Cardinal Cooke's 6th floor.  After introducing themselves, the boys organized a game of BINGO with the residents, calling the numbers and helping the residents participate and enjoy their shared time together.

For many of the boys it was a new experience and one that took a few minutes to adjust to.  As time unfolded, though, they began to settle in.  An air of comfort filled the common room within minutes and the typical sounds associated with BINGO began to be heard -- laughter, a little ribbing, the "ahhs" and of course, the occasional "BINGO!"

Toward the end of our time, one of the elderly residents pulled me aside and exclaimed in hushed tones, "I hate BINGO, but I just love looking at the boys.  They are so nice!"

In the first shot above, two boys call, and below, a long shot of the main table can be seen.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Seventh and the Cape

Seventh graders accompanied by their brave teachers departed on-time this morning for a week's excursion on the Cape.  It is a crystal clear day here on 89th Street with temperatures hovering in the low 60s--a great day to travel!  One could almost get the feeling that the boys were heading off to Bermuda or the Keys, if you only looked at GM's colorful board shorts, and not Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the fall! but they'll have a blast and learn something too!

The week is packed with a whale watching expedition, a hike of  Great Island, a bike trip through Province Lands, square dancing with the girls of Chapin, Clam Bakes, and drawing classes, s'mores, ghost stories, journal writing, lectures on marine wildlife, mapping, science experiments, sports, and nature focused math problems. 

The boys will also meet with a research scientist and learn about her work investigating ocean acidification--and then they'll be home.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Riverdale Country School

Secondary School Counselor Mike Imbelli and I visited Saint David's alums at Riverdale this morning.  My ongoing goal is to visit every Saint David's alum at their high school before they graduate--collecting valuable anecdotal data about their experiences transitioning to secondary school and eliciting critical reflections on their time at Saint David's.  Along the way, I also learn about what's happening at these schools and spend time with their heads--always enlightening.  

We have two seniors, Shin and Lucas, three juniors, Daniel, Peter, and Austin, one sophomore, Nicholas, and one freshman, Colin, currently attending.  The boys all felt challenged and happy.  Shin and Lucas are deep in the College application process while Colin is adjusting to the challenges of his newly acquired independence.  Nicholas and Austin are savoring their recent football victory over Fieldston and fellow alum Sam H., while Daniel and Peter are in the thick of it.  In our wide-ranging conversation we covered an enormous amount of ground and walked away with good ideas for further enhancement of our program and a comforting sense that the boys are off to a great start to their year.

Rigor Redefined

We are exploring "rigorous pursuit" at Saint David's this year.  In a 2008 Educational Leadership article and subsequently in various forms and in several publications, Tony Wagner from Harvard's Change Leadership Group, wrote a piece entitled Rigor Redefined.  In it, he wrote of even the best schools failing to prepare students for successful careers and citizenship in this new century. I've included two of his recent books.

After extensive research, including conversations with several hundred business, nonprofit, philanthropic, and education leaders and observational visits to many schools across the country, Wagner identified two overarching themes--the ability to ask questions and engage others in "good discussion"--to be fundamentally critical.  He also developed seven essential skills:

1.  Critical Thinking and Problem Solving.  At the core of these skills is the ability to ask the right questions at the right time.  “Yesterday’s answers won’t solve today’s problems.” In today's much faster paced world this is even more important than it has been in the past.

2.  Collaboration and Leadership.  Technological advances, especially in the virtual arena have changed the definition of team.  Teamwork is no longer defined by physical proximity.  The ability to influence--leadership and collaboration are essential.  I would add to this the ability to recognize and appreciate difference in language, culture, race, religion, etc. 

3.  Agility and Adaptability.  This includes flexibility, adaptability to change, or ability to be a change agent.  Skills associated with learning and adapting will be more important than the technical skills themselves--because they change so frequently now.

4.  Initiative and Entrepreneurialism.  In essence, this boils down to learning to avoid "risk aversion" and develop a willingness to attempt, fail, and learn.

5.  Effective Oral and Written Communication.  Communication is the key: verbal skills, written skills, presentation skills--clear and concise.  What's the take-away should be obvious in the first 60 seconds.

6.  Accessing and Analyzing Information. The ability to access, determine the legitimacy of, and synthesize large quantities of information and subsequently apply the results of the above to successful completion of a task or solve a problem.

7.  Curiosity and Imagination.  People increasingly want unique products and services.  They need novel solutions to the problems of the day.  Fostering, recognizing and celebrating creativity, imagination and divergent thinking is increasingly important.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Childrens' On-line Behavior

ChildrenOnline is a group we have frequently invited to Saint David's.  Here is some of their latest research on the activities of children on-line.  It may be of interest to you.

Alums Return for a Quick Hello

The recent Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah provided many Saint David's alums an opportunity to visit their Alma mater.  I was able to catch just a few with my camera as they checked in with friends and teachers throughout the building this Thursday last. Lucas, '09, pictured left, currently at Riverdale, wants to pursue architecture and is now looking at colleges.  Marco from Dalton, Patrick from Trinity, Danny from Horace Mann, James from Packer, Matthew from Trinity, William from Poly, Colin from Riverdale, and the Wellands from Horace Mann, all from '11, were very excited to return for the first time since graduating in the spring.  Not pictured, Dylan, '10 from LaGuardia School for the Arts, and Jon, '10 from Trinity also dropped by.  The day before Daniel '09 also popped in.  He's looking at premed schools in the north east.

We saw no blood, just big smiles.  They are all enjoying their respective high schools.  It was great to have them back, if only for a moment.