Friday, April 29, 2016

Marc Prensky: Education to Better the World

Dear all,

This is an interesting 23 minute video about how good schools should be giving 21st century students a better education. As you watch you will see many aspects of what we do at ISHCMC included in this talk. You will also hear how our mission fits very well with this perspective of education.

Have a good weekend,


When Kids are Bullied What Can Parents Do?

It’s no mystery that being bullied hurts. Whatever form the abuse takes—whether it’s being tripped, teased, excluded, mocked, insulted, gossiped about, or ridiculed, in-person or via social media—the target suffers. Beyond the short-term pain, such mistreatment can have lasting mental and physical health effects as well, reports the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Parents also struggle. Though desperate to help their ailing child, parents can’t lurk in hallways and lunchrooms waiting to protect their off-spring from social harm.
Compounding the difficulty is the child’s own resistance to calling in Mom and Dad for aid. “Kids don’t want to be viewed as rescued by their parents,” said James Dillon, a retired school principal and author ofReframing Bullying Prevention to Build Stronger School Communities. They also recognize that a parent’s anger might make things worse.  And when the peer nastiness dwells in the child’s online world, adults are often clueless and shut out of this alternate universe. As one beleaguered middle school principal told me about the social machinations that play out on Facebook, Instagram, and Kik, “it’s like they live under the sea. They are living in a different world than we are, and we don’t know it.”
Given these challenges, what can a parent do to help ease a child’s misery brought about by bullying?
Pre-empt as much as possible. Parents need to be proactive in helping prevent bullying incidents. With social media, that means setting limitson kids’ online use, monitoring it when possible, and being clear about family rules for Facebook, Instagram and the all the rest. What’s most important, says Dr. Debra Koss, a child psychiatrist, is talking to kids about social media, in all its changing forms, and keeping that conversation going. When kids make it home after school, don’t limit the conversation to academics and classmates. “Ask how it’s going on social media, not just ‘how’s school,’” Koss advises. “If parents are proactive, it’s easier to respond when bullying happens,” she added. Pre-emption also means modeling civil behavior and sound relationships, so that kids don’t accept rudeness and aggression as acceptable social conduct.
Encourage them to talk. And listen patiently when they do. Having open exchanges is vital, so that parents can help their children navigate the mysteries of growing up and forming relationships. Young people need guidance, and parents are best suited to offer it, provided they actively encourage conversations. They might also share stories about their own path to adulthood, advises Lauren Pardo, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist. “Telling them about our mistakes, our failures, our embarrassments, our experiences, why there are positives in making yourself vulnerable,” Pardo says, can also dispel the notion that feeling confused and hurt is wrong or weird. What about during the teenage years, when kids separate and close up? “You can still model healthy relationships and healthy social media use,” Koss said.
Help them build a positive identity. “Many kids often think that they might deserve, or must endure, the bullying,” Dillon said. Parents and other adults need to assert unequivocally that no one deserves to be bullied, and that no one need suffer through it. Help the child identify existing strengths and find new ways to express and develop them, including outside the school environment. When kids have activities beyond school in which to spend time and make friends, they have new opportunities to strengthen their shaken identities. Volunteering, taking martial arts classes, pursuing the arts—any healthy activity outside school can be a refuge for kids who suffer in the classroom. “Building competence and confidence outside of school is part of this positive identity,” Dillon said.
Teach them how to calm themselves and problem-solve. Even young children can learn how to quiet themselves and to take problems apart and come up with rational solutions. Nancy Willard, director of Embrace Civility in the Digital Age, suggests that parents help children go through a series of mental exercises as a way to figure out next steps. For example, once calmed, children can be asked to identify their goal, select strategies to get there, evaluate that strategy for likelihood of success and coherence with the child’s values, and then, after trying it out, reassessing the strategy for effectiveness. This collaborative problem solving, which can be done with a parent or caring teacher, helps children think things through and learn how to self-regulate. Willard provides a free program for schools that teaches kids these and other important skills.
Foster gratitude. Bullied children may not be feeling thankful for the good things in their lives, but their outlooks will brighten if they spend time expressing gratitude. Years of research, much of it carried out by Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, have shown that consciously focusing on one’s good fortune can lift mood and improve relationships. Parents can encourage children to demonstrate gratitude in many ways, including writing a thank you letter to a deserving adult and keeping a daily gratitude journal. Behaving generously, even by those most in need of it, builds good feelings within the giver.
Seek professional counseling if necessary. “Some adolescents are going to be more vulnerable to bullying and its impact,” Koss said. Parents need to pay close attention to children who already prone to anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges, as bullying may exacerbate those conditions. Kids who won’t open to their parents about a problem at school might be more willing to talk to a counselor who is skilled at listening.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Do we make the most of out time with our children?

Dear Parents,

Here is a very sentimental piece that raises questions about the time we spend with our children. As parents we often think that we have years with our children but those years race by and before we know it our daughters and sons have grown up and walked away. I think and research shows, that it is very important to make time everyday for our children and that we should make the most of every minute that we have them. It is a win / win situation that we all gain from in the long run.

Have a lovely weekend,


child walking along road

A Daddy's Letter To His Little Girl (About How Fast She's Walking Away)

By Kelly M. Flanagan

Dear Little One,

We have this unspoken ritual, you and I.

When we pull up to the curb at school, and you disembark for another day in kindergarten, we both know I'm going to idle there and keep an eye on you, until you disappear around the corner of the building. Some days, you walk briskly, never looking back.

Other days, you meander, turning and waving goodbye repeatedly.

Then, last week, when we pulled up to the curb, I said, "Sweetie, we're here really early today; you'll have plenty of time to play," and you said something that squeezed my heart a little too hard:

"We have plenty of time for you to watch me walk away, Daddy."

Oh, Sweetie, if you only knew: that's what I have done, am doing, and will be doing for your entire life... watching you walk away...

I remember a summer morning at a playground, when, for the first time, you ran toward the slide and didn't look back. I remember wishing you needed me, and sadly-gladly knowing it was good you didn't.

I remember that first kindergarten morning, you disappearing into the big, cavernous school, teeming with strange kids. I remember losing sight of you in the hallway of crowded children and knowing it was the first of many times I'd lose sight of you in this crowded world.

I remember the first time you asked me to drop you off at the curb. I remember the purpose with which you walked toward the school, ponytail bobbing, backpack bouncing, not looking back. Five years old, walking boldly around the corner, as if twenty-five was just around that corner, too.

Oh, Sweetie, I know I'm watching you walk away.

I just don't feel like there is plenty of time for it.

A month ago you needed me in the pool with you. Today, I watched you swim from end to end with no help at all. You are walking away, and you are swimming away, too.

Three months ago you needed me to read you bedtime books, but something clicked for you recently, and now you're reading Pinkalicious as if you wrote it yourself. You're walking away, and you're reading away, too.

A year ago, you depended upon me for lunches. Now, after school, you climb right up on the counter and make a sandwich out of a holy mess of PB&J. You're walking away, and you're climbing and creating away, too.

Before long, that first date will knock on our front door.

And I'll watch you walk away.

I'll watch you grow up and look more and more like your mother -- you have her chin and lips and cheeks and that same lone-spiraling curl which kisses the corner of your right eye on its way down. But unlike your mother, who seems like she isn't going anywhere, I'll watch you walk away.

First, down graduation aisles.

Then, probably, a wedding aisle.

You'll turn the corner into jobs and paychecks and, if your current passions are any prediction of your future decisions, you will turn the corner into motherhood and nurturing and caring for children of your own. I'll watch you walk away into your own season of parenthood, into your own season of letting go.

Then, I pray, one day as you're idling at the curb and your little one walks away -- turning one more corner into his or her own life -- you'll think of me. I hope you'll pick up your phone and give me a call. I hope you'll walk back home, so we can talk.

About how there is not even close to plenty of time for watching the walking.

About how we get distracted and forget to watch.

About how we wish it away and choose not to watch.

About how we can't create more time, but we can cultivate the quality of our time.

About how we can watch more carefully.

Dear Little One, I pray one day you'll walk back home, so I can let you know: I watched you walk away as closely as I knew how.

Yours then, now, and forever,


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Something Extraordinary Is Happening in the World, And Most People Haven’t Noticed

Most of us haven’t quite realized there is something extraordinary happening.
A few months ago, I freed myself from standard-procedure society. I broke the chains of fear that kept me locked up into the system. Since then, I see the world from a different perspective: the one that everything is going through change and that most of us are unaware of that.
Why is the world changing? In this post, I’ll point out the eight reasons that lead me to believe it.
1. No one can stand the employment model any longer.
We are reaching our limits. People working with big corporations can’t stand their jobs. The lack of purpose knocks on your door as if it came from inside you like a yell of despair.
People want out. They want to drop everything. Take a look on how many people are willing to risk entrepreneurship, people leaving on sabbaticals, people with work-related depression, people in burnout.
2. The entrepreneurship model is also changing.
Over the past few years, with the explosion of startups, thousands of entrepreneurs turned their garages into offices to bring their billion-dollar ideas to life. The vortex of entrepreneurship was to find an investor and get funded — to be funded was like winning the World Cup or the Super Bowl.
But what happens after you get funded?
“Isn’t it absurd that we, 7 billion of us living in the same planet, have grown further apart from each other?”
You get back to being an employee. You may have brought in people not sharing your dream, not in agreement with your purpose, and soon it’s all about the money. The financial end becomes the main driver of your business.
People are suffering with it. Excellent startups began to tumble because the money-seeking model is endless.
A new way to endeavor is needed. Good people are doing it already.
3. The rise of collaboration.
Many people have figured out that it doesn’t make any sense to go on by yourself. Many people have awakened from the “each man for himself” mad mentality.
Stop, take a step back, and think. Isn’t it absurd that we, 7 billion of us living in the same planet, have grown further apart from each other? What sense does it make to turn your back on the thousands, maybe millions, of people living around you in the same city? Every time it crosses my mind, I feel blue.
Fortunately, things are changing. Sharing, collaborative economy concepts are being implemented, and it points towards a new direction. The direction of collaborating, of sharing, of helping, of togetherness.
This is beautiful to watch. It touches me.
4. We are finally figuring out what the Internet is.
The Internet is an incredibly spectacular thing, and only now — after so many years — we are understanding its power. With the Internet, the world is opened, the barriers fall, the separation ends, the togetherness starts, the collaboration explodes, the help emerges.
Some nations saw true revolutions that used the Internet as the primary catalyst, such as the Arab Spring. Here in Brazil, we are just starting to make a better use out of this amazing tool.
Internet is taking down mass control. The big media groups controlling news by how it suits best what they want the message to be and what they want us to read are no longer the sole owners of information. You go after what you want. You bond to whomever you want. You explore whatever you may want to.
With the advent of the Internet, the small are no longer speechless. There is a voice. The anonymous become acknowledged. The world comes together. And then the system may fall.
5. The fall of exaggerated consumerism.
For too long, we’ve been manipulated to consume as much as we possibly can, to buy every new product launched — the newest car, the latest iPhone, the top brands, lots of clothes, shoes, lots and lots and lots of pretty much anything we could our hands on.
Going against the crowd, many people have understood that this is way off. Lowsumerism, slow life and slow food are a few types of action being taken as we speak, pointing out the contradiction of how absurdly we have come to organize ourselves.
“With the advent of the Internet, the small are no longer speechless. There is a voice. The anonymous become acknowledged. The world comes together. “
Fewer people are using cars. Fewer people are overspending. And more people are swapping clothes, buying used goods, sharing assets, cars, apartments, offices.
We don’t need all of that they told us we needed. And this consciousness of new consumerism can take down any company living on the exaggerated end of it.
6. Healthy and organic eating.
We were so crazy we even accepted eating anything! It only needed to taste good, and everything would be alright.
We were so disconnected that companies started to practically poison our food, and we didn’t say anything!
But then some people started waking up, enabling and strengthening healthy and organic eating.
This is only going to get stronger.
But what has this got to do with economy and work? Just about everything, I’d say.
Food production is one of the basic fundamentals of our society. If we change our mindset, our eating habit and our way of consuming, corporations will have to respond and adapt to a new market.
The small farmer is getting back to being relevant to the whole chain of production. People are even growing plants and seeds inside their homes as well.
And that reshapes the whole economy.
7. The awakening of spirituality.
How many friends do you have who practice yoga? What about meditation? Now think back, 10 years ago. How many people did you know by then who practiced these activities?
Spirituality, for too long, was for esoteric folks — those weird-like and mystic people.
But fortunately, this is also changing. We’ve come to the edge of reason and rationality. We were able to realize that, with only our conscious mind, we can’t figure out everything that goes on here. There is something else going on, and I’m sure you want to get hold of that as well.
You want to understand how these things work — how life operates, what happens after death, what is this energy thing people talk about so much, what is quantum physics, how thoughts can be materialized and create our sense of reality, what is coincidence and synchronicity, why meditation works, how it’s possible to cure some ailments using nothing but bare hands, how those alternative therapies not always approved by regular medicine can actually work sometimes.
Companies are providing meditation to their employees. Even schools are teaching the young how to meditate. Think about it.
8 . Un-schooling trends.
Who created this teaching model? Who chose the classes you have to take? Who chose the lessons we learn in history classes? Why didn’t they teach us the truth about other ancient civilizations?
Why should kids follow a certain set of rules? Why should they watch everything in silence? Why should they wear a uniform? What about taking a test to prove what you actually learned?
We developed a model that perpetuates and replicates followers of the system, that breed people into ordinary human beings.
Fortunately, a lot of people are working to rethink that though concepts such as un-schooling, hack-schooling and homeschooling.
Maybe you’ve never thought of that and even may be in shock. But it’s happening.
Silently, people are being woken up and are realizing how crazy it is to live in this society.
Look at all these new actions and try to think everything we were taught so far is normal. I don’t think it is.
There is something extraordinary happening.
Gustavo Tanaka  is a Brazilian author and entrepreneur, trying to create with my friends a new model, a new system and maybe helping to create a new economy.

Just in case you haven't heard of hack schooling here is a good TEDX given by a teenager

Friday, April 8, 2016

Mekong megadrought erodes food security

Drought is hammering Vietnam's agriculture, including crops like rambutan seen here being transported in the Mekong delta.

The worst drought ever recorded in Vietnam is stoking fears of a food security crisis. In a meeting with government officials next week, researchers with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)’s Asia regional office in Hanoi will unveil maps showing how water scarcity and climate change may imperil key crops—rice, cassava, maize, coffee, and cashew nuts—across the country. 
"The severity of this year's drought will have a profound impact on Mekong delta agricultural production,” says Brian Eyler, deputy director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C.
As of mid-March, nearly a million people in central and southern Vietnam lack access to fresh drinking water, according to a recent United Nations report. And supplies of rice, the main staple crop, are in jeopardy. Saltwater intrusion in the Mekong delta has destroyed at least 159,000 hectares of paddy rice so far, with a further 500,000 hectares at risk before the onset of the summer monsoon. The Vietnam government has approved $23.3 million in emergency funds to compensate hard-hit farmers and provide water tanks and other critical provisions. Meanwhile, the Vietnam Red Cross Society has been mobilized to provide assistance in provinces where local health clinics are struggling to deliver essential services due to insufficient freshwater.
Concern is focused on the Mekong River, Southeast Asia’s longest waterway and the lifeblood of the region. The river originates on the Tibetan Plateau and flows south through China’s western Yunnan province, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam before spilling into the South China Sea. According to the U.N. report issued last month, “Since the end of 2015, water levels in the lower Mekong River have been at their lowest level since records began nearly 100 years ago.” The United Nations estimates that the water level flowing through the Mekong and its lower tributaries last month was down 30% to 50% compared with average March levels.
Water levels customarily drop during the dry season, resulting in saltwater intrusion from the South China Sea. But last year, because of unusually sparse rainfall, the saltwater intrusion began 2 months early—tainting groundwater and rice paddies as far as 90 kilometers inland, according to the United Nations. Most rice growers in the region get at least two yields annually out of the delta’s fertile soil, Eyler says. “Typically this time of the year, farmers there will have planted the first crop,” he says. “But currently most fields are dry and the earth cracked.”
Several factors reduced the Mekong to a trickle this year, says Leocadio Sebastian, regional program leader for the International Rice Research Institute’s office in Hanoi. “El Niño contributed to the drought by reducing rains, and this may be exacerbated by climate change,” he says. Upstream dams, a perennial concern in Southeast Asia, have also constricted flow. Under normal flow conditions, Sebastian says, “the river’s fresh water drives more saline water back to the sea.” China, which has often come under criticism from environmentalists for building and financing dams on the Mekong, is now attempting to ameliorate conditions: It is currently releasing water from a major Mekong dam in Yunnan, the Jinghong hydropower station, to alleviate shortages downstream, the state news agency Xinhua reports.
On 12 April, a CIAT research team assembling maps will brief Vietnamese officials on projected vulnerabilities from climate change. The bottom line, says CIAT’s Clément Bourgoin, is that “the coastal Mekong region may become less suitable for some agriculture,” especially rice, because of warmer summer temperatures and saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels.
Rice varieties with enhanced tolerance to salt and drought may rescue some farmers, but the use of modified seeds “must be matched” with good climate modeling, Sebastian says. “Even ‘drought tolerant’ rice doesn’t tolerate the worst possible droughts.”

Thursday, April 7, 2016

When Kids Lead Their Parent-Teacher Conferences

How a New Hampshire school gives its students more responsibility—and freedom—to shape their academic lives

PITTSFIELD, N.H.—Pushing up the cuffs of his plaid shirt and adjusting his glasses, the ninth-grader Colton Gaudette looks across the small classroom conference table.
“Welcome to my student-led conference,” he says.
“Thank you for inviting me,” answers his mother, Terry Gaudette, sitting next to Colton’s adviser and biology teacher.
This meeting, which happens twice a year, has replaced the old format of parent-teacher conferences at Pittsfield Middle High School, a rural New Hampshire campus that takes a “student-centered learning” approach to schooling. With this model, students are given more freedom to connect their individual interests to their academic learning and future goals. Teachers are considered collaborators and coaches, and students are expected to shoulder more responsibility for their school lives—including organizing all the details of these twice-yearly conference with parents and advisers.
Pittsfield began shifting to this student-centered approach after being rated one of the state’s lowest-performing high schools, and qualifying for a federal School Improvement Grant in 2009. It’s also part of a coalition of 13 New England schools that share another $5 million federal grant, and was awarded $2 million from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation in 2012, specifically to foster student-centered learning.
“Kids have to be honest with themselves and I think that’s fantastic,” said Paul Strickhart, who teaches math at Pittsfield and is Colton’s faculty adviser. “They have to own up to why they’re not passing a class, or, if they’re doing well, they have to be able to identify what’s contributing to that and how they can keep going.”
The student-led conferences are also a way to teach skills you can’t learn from a textbook: organization, long-term planning, confidence with public speaking, collaboration and self-reflectioneven how to shake hands and make introductions in a more formal setting. That aligns with a larger goal for Pittsfield’s studentsto move beyond rote knowledge to develop the kind of critical-thinking skills needed for “real world” success, said John Freeman, the district’s superintendent. The unique conference format has helped to kick-start family engagement, helping the combination middle-high school to better serve its 260 students and the rest of the former mill town’s 4,500 residents.
Indeed, from New York to Washington State, student-led conferences have been praised for breathing new life into an otherwise perfunctory process. According to school officials and families at Pittsfield, before the new format was adopted a few years ago, turnout for the traditional parent-teacher conferences was dismal—less than 20 percent participated. Now, more than 90 percent of parents regularly show up.
Students are responsible for writing a letter inviting their parents or guardians to attend, coordinating with their faculty adviser to schedule the conference, and preparing a portfolio of their academic work. The conferences typically last about 30 minutes, including time for parents to ask questions and for the faculty adviser to give feedback on the presentation. Students are expected to discuss their academic, social, and emotional progress and outline their short- and long-term goals.

At the classroom table, Colton lays out samples of his schoolworkshowing some of his strongest work and several assignments with which he had less success. In English class, Colton says he had an easier time crafting his literary analysis ofLord of the Flies than the subsequent assignment for The House on Mango Street. He’s working hard to keep his grade up in geometry, and intends to earn at least a 3.5 (out of possible 4) for both semesters. His geopolitical-studies class is going well, as is computer-assisted draftinghis blueprints for a set of shelves turned out better than his first effort designing a stone bench.
Colton also shares the results of several questionnaires the school uses to help him learn more about his personality and learning style. The results: “I’m empathetic, artistic, and kind of shy,” Colton says. His strengths include music, writing, and hands-on learning. The personality assessments bolster the plans he has for the future: He wants to study creative writing in college and potentially launch his own comic-book company. So his biology teacher encourages Colton to look for more opportunities to connect his artistic interests with his academic learninghe could have gone further with an in-class assignment asking him to describe the life cycle of a cell, for example.
“I felt down when I got that [assignment] back and you wrote that we could be more creative,” Colton says. “I want to try that.”
At the conclusion of the conference, Colton thanks the adults for participating, and says he is feeling good about where things stand for him.
“That was very well done, very thorough,” his math teacher tells him.
His mother is also impressed.
“You’ve been so nervous about thisI think you did an excellent job presenting,” she says. “And you know how to better prepare yourself for some of this academic work.”
“How many of us appreciated, as a student, being talked about in the third person as if we were invisible?”
At Pittsfield, students are expected to begin preparing for the conferences about a month ahead of time, using a checklist to mark off each of the requirementsincluding confirming the meeting times with all of the adults, reviewing their portfolios, and preparing answers to the self-reflection questions. Lauren Martin, a Pittsfield senior, said even though it means more work for her, she prefers the revised format to the traditional conference, which didn’t usually include the students. Instead, she would have to wait at home for a replayand then only get her parents’ perspective on the discussion.
Now, as each semester progresses, Lauren said she’s keeping an eye out for projects and papers she wants to add to her portfolio. “It gives me more control of what I share,” Lauren said. “I know more about my academics than the one teacher who’s my adviser, so it’s up to me to decide what I’m going to include from each class.”
While not a new idea, the student-led conference is an approach that’s “gaining speed and traction,” said Monica Martinez, an education strategist and senior scholar for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. (The Hewlett Foundation is among The Hechinger Report’s many funders.) The co-author of a book of case studies examining school approaches to “deeper learning,” Martinez said the student-led conferences can be a powerful tool for improving students’ engagement with their learning process.
“How many of us appreciated, as a student, being talked about in the third person as if we were invisible?” Martinez asked. “When it’s just the teachers and parents participating in the conference it can end up as ‘we’re going to dictate what you’re good at and what you’re not good at.’ That’s taking away the power.”
Emily Richmond / The Hechinger Report
That being said, a student-led conference by itself won’t mean much, Martinez added. “The school must be really transferring ownership to the students and making it clear that kids have plenty of opportunities to reflect on their work.”
Jenny Wellington, an English teacher at Pittsfield, agrees. The schoolwide shift to student-centered learning is one key reason that the conferences work, according to Wellington. In class, students get a say in choosing their academic projects, which not only makes them more excited about working on their assignments but also about presenting them at the conferences once they’re completed. She added that parents can also still getting in touch with teachers at other times to ask questions or to request meetings.
Pittsfield’s teachers said the conferences are also an opportunity to observe students’ interactions with their families, and those moments can be an important window into understanding their attitudes and classroom behavior. Conferences don’t always go smoothly. Wellington said she’s observed meetings in which a student’s stated post-high-school career plans vastly differed from what their families had in mind. For example, one student was hoping to attend an out-of-state college, while her parent expected her to stay local or perhaps prepare to work in the family business.
“That can be heartbreaking,” Wellington said. “You see the parent maybe trying to push the kid in a direction that the kid doesn't want to go in, and as their teacher you didn't know that dynamic was happening at all.”
In such instances, Wellington tries to encourage the families to use the conference as an opportunity to talk through their differences. Ideally, the result will be a plan of action that incorporates the student’s goals while fostering parental support.
To be sure, those kinds of negotiations work best when teachers know their students well. And Pittsfield’s small size certainly helps. But Wellington, who taught middle school for six years in New York City, said she could also see it working in a larger school setting provided there is a reasonable student-teacher ratio.
“I get to shape my own life starting here at this school.”
Pittsfield tries to accommodate parents’ requests to schedule the student-led conferences early in the morning before class or in the evenings after they finish work, Wellington said. That’s a better use of her time, she said, than the standard procedure at her old school in the Bronx, where classes would be canceled for a day and parents had to show up during that timeor not.
“Usually the parents who did make it to the conferences weren’t the ones you needed to see. It would be a quick conversation with me saying, ‘Your kid is doing great, keep it up,’ and that was it,” Wellington said. “Now the parents are hearing directly from the students  it’s a completely different kind of conversation, and it’s so much better.”
While the successes and benefits of the student-led conferences are widely acknowledged, there is still room for improvement. Parents of older students have been through the process enough times that it’s becoming familiar and even rote, said Derek Hamilton, Pittsfield’s dean of operations. More families seem to be having regular conversations at home with their kids about their day-to-day academic progressa very positive development, he addedbut that means there isn’t as much new information to share in the conferences.

To combat that fatigue factor, Pittsfield is looking for ways to make the conferences more explicitly about the student’s post-graduation plans and goals and to “raise the stakes” for their presentations as they advance by grade—maybe by asking juniors and seniors to present in front of a larger audience, including community members from outside the school, rather than just sitting at a table with parents and teachers.

In the meantime, it’s clear that the basic logistics of the existing conferences are teaching the students important lessons, contends Hamilton.
“You’d be surprised how many kids struggle to fill out an envelope to invite their guests to a student-led conference,” Hamilton said. “People laugh sometimes about the cliché of ‘21st-century skills’ but these are things every one of these kids is going to need to know how to do in their adult lives.”
Colby Wolfe, a freshman, has taken advanced math classes since the seventh grade and said he hopes to follow his mother—an investment banker—into a career in finance. During his most recent student-led conference, his adviser told the family that the reports she’s gathered from his other teachers are highly positive. Because Pittsfield allows students to take advanced classes once they’ve mastered their required grade-level content, Colby will have accumulated enough credits by the end of freshman year to be ranked as a mid-year sophomore.
Part of the reason Colby’s doing so well academically, he said, is that he gets to choose projects that most interest him and relate to his post-high-school goals, for example one project where he looked at the financial aspects of professional sports, incorporating academic work from several different classes.
“I get to shape my own life starting here at this school,” Colby said. “I have to say I think that’s pretty cool.”
While it was largely an upbeat conversation punctuated by moments of genuine humor—his father joked that “this is the most I’ve ever heard you talk at one time”—Colby didn’t gloss over the facts. He said he’s finding some aspects of his English class challenging (his grade is the equivalent of a solid B while he’s getting an A in math), including a recent assignment that required him to connect a fiction reading to real-life experiences. He was also disappointed not to have stronger marks in Spanish.
When his adviser mentioned that Colby could speak to the Spanish teacher about his concerns, the high-school freshman respectfully rejected the suggestion—at least for now.
“I think I can bring my grade up by doing better on the assignments,” Colby said, looking around the table at his parents and adviser. “I want to try that first.”

Monday, April 4, 2016

Robyn Trevyaud is back talking to us about the Digital World

Dear all,

Robyn Trevyaud is working with administrators, teachers and students again this week. Today Robyn shared lots of new ideas with administrators and coordinators that will help us guide students. Below is a very good TED talk by Sherry Turkle that will certainly make you as parents think about how you model the use of technology with your family. She calls for a more self aware relationship with yourself, your friends and your family. She suggests that it is time to have sacred areas in the home where conversation has to prevail. Lots to think about in the video for every one of us.

We have given two slots in Robyn's programme for parent workshops that will help you understand the world that your daughters and sons are growing up in. Don't miss this opportunity.

Thursday 7th of April, 1:45 ‐ 3:15 pm: Sexual Imagery and the Internet:
During this workshop a short film, ‘The Impression That you Get’ will be viewed. It explores
the influence of easily accessible pornography and sexualised content on young people
growing up today. This resource analyses the use of and effects of pornography by young
people through their eyes and supports honest and supportive discussion about it. How do
we raise sexually healthy kids when we live in a world with seemingly endless streams of
Internet pornography? The Internet provides young people with unprecedented access to a
number of amazing resources – artworks, news articles, tools to support learning, and apps
to stimulate engagement. But the Internet is also a portal through which young people have
unprecedented access to sexual imagery and pornographic material. Tackling this topic feels
understandably uncomfortable for many parents. However, if we agree that the stakes are
high, the issue of sexual imagery and pornography online unquestionably merits our
consideration. This workshop is a unique opportunity for us to do that.

Friday 8th of April: 08:30 – 10 am: Digital Footprints and Photo Sharing:
Social media sites make photo sharing easy and it can be a great way to keep in touch with
friends. But children don’t always think through what they post, and the possible
consequences. There is a real danger that photos posted for friends to see may ultimately be
accessed and shared by an audience outside their control. Our digital footprint, i.e. every
action we take online, can be searched, shared and seen by a large invisible audience. This
information can migrate, persist and resurface years later, usually out of context and with
the real possibility of impacting friendships, scholarships, and employment opportunities, to
name a few. This workshop will consider the implications of digital footprints and photo
sharing. You will be provided with some ideas to help you and your family discuss this very
important topic.