Thinking about … everything

One of the challenges of working in education is that there is always more to do, more to examine, more to learn.  One thing I have been thinking about lately is how I spend my time.  It is frustrating when you feel like you are constantly busy and yet you never feel caught up on your work. I read a tweet from Daniel Pink last year that suggested that instead of scheduling meetings and then trying to get your work done in between – try scheduling your work and then fit your meetings into your schedule.  In a school it is not quite a simple as Pink describes but I have tried this year to schedule time to work each week instead of leaving all of my non-meeting time open (for potentially more meetings to be scheduled!).  It has not solved the problem completely but I have felt more productive and less behind on my work.  Today I also experimented with a software called “Solid.”  Its goal is to keep your meetings focused, store notes, action items, and shareable details to everyone in the meeting.  In signing up for the software it asked to access my google calendar and immediate displayed this image:

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 2.20.42 PM

This picture is a summary of my schedule over the last year with weekly averages.  It is important to consider that there are weeks when I don’t have any meetings (winter break, summer vacation etc.)  making this data even more bleak and scary.  After reviewing this image, I decided that I need to do something about my schedule.  I have not idea what – but something  must change!


So many things to celebrate this time of year.  Congrats to Terry, CJ, and the entire cast of Sense and Sensibility for an amazing production.   Huge thanks to Lydia, Linda, and the events team for the lovely 25th Anniversary Celebration at the Lower School last weekend.  Congrats to the all of the fall sports teams as they finish up their seasons and good luck to those competing in championship play this weekend!

Reading of the Week:

Thinking of re-thinking the way we think about teaching – this article from the NAIS magazine is about the brain and how to incorporate what we know into teaching.

Inspiration of the Week:


Curriculum Committee Update

Our newly designed Curriculum Committee is off and running.  We have decided on the following goals for the 2015-16 School Year:

  • Accurately document the curriculum N-12
  • Continue to Develop the New Curriculum Committee/Department Structure by establishing structures and roles
  • Continue to implement and integrate technology to enhance teaching and learning 

The committee members are:

Chris Guides – Science, Al Vernacchio – English, Jim Rosengarten – History, Bill Darling – Math, Cristina Perez – Languages, Hilary Takiff Weiss – Arts, Bob Folwell – Physical Education and Health, Dianne Forman – Support Services, Mary Fran Torpey – Libraries, Dan Crowley – Technology, Robyn Richmond – Quakerism, Sheila Rohrer – Math, Don Denton – Humanities, Art Hall, Alexa Quinn, and Kelly Pierre.

Bold – indicates newly appointed Department Chairs

In addition to the above-stated goals, the committee is also discussing things like In-Service Days, Cyber Day, and Customized Curriculum, just to name a few. The group meets monthly and our meeting notes can be found here.

Reading of the Month:

I found this article on The 13 Most Innovative Schools to be an interesting look into education outside of the US.

October is Learning Disabilities Month!

Although this article is long, I found the first half very useful in thinking about how we give feedback to students and how it feels to them.

Inspiration for the Month:



Summer Learning… Had me a Blast!

Summertime is here, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I am excited to sleep in and hang out at the pool.  Although we all deserve a break this summer, as professionals we must also continue to grow in our practice.  We owe it to ourselves and our students.

Just as choice is important for our students, there are many ways that you can engage in professional development this summer:

  • Read a book, blog, or article about teaching, the brain, or children – you won’t run short of options.
  • Watch videos – YouTube has more than you may realize on teaching.  You may want to try searching “the greats” like Grant Wiggins (RIP) or maybe someone in your content area.  I love Dan Meyer’s talks about math education for example.
  • Talk to other teachers.  You can do it in person or electronically – and you can use it as an excuse to have a great lunch or another cup of coffee.
  • Attend one of our Summer Learning workshops, movies, appy hours, or online discussions.

There is no requirement – except to engage.

Good luck and Have a Blast! (cue the Grease music here)

If you want a great app to make some fun posters for your classroom, next year check out this link.

Fit Bit for Educators

I finally made the leap and purchased a fit bit.  I realized I am too sedentary at work (and at home for that matter) and am hoping that a device on my wrist may inspire me to get moving.  Yesterday was my first day wearing the band.  I checked it way too often – in part to see if I could get the thing to work.  You would be amazed how hard it was for me to figure out what “tap twice” actually meant.  At the end of the day, I came in way under – only 6350 steps.  I decided not to go for a 10:00 run to make up for the missing steps.  Instead, I made a goal to take more steps throughout the day tomorrow and see if I can improve.

In thinking about my failure to reach the goal of 10,000 steps, I realized that back in my days of full-time teaching I would have easily made the goal.  Walking around the classroom for six to eight hours a day I must have taken at least 20,000 steps!

Then I thought…  what if we had a “fit bit” for teaching?  What if we could wear a band that reminded us that we had not called on everyone in the class?  What if the “fit bit” for teaching beeped when we had not given enough wait time for students to answer?  What if it vibrated when we had lectured for too long? It sounds crazy, but then it is also crazy that I am wearing a band on my wrist to remind me not to be lazy.

Important Dates:

Here is the schedule for our Post-Planning Week in June.

Reading of the Week:

Our own Josh Weisgrau had a blog published on Edutopia last month.  Please take a few minutes to read his article.

In this article we are all reminded what to say or not to say in front of students in addition to the importance of coding.

Thanks to Dottie for finding this article on Formative Assessments.

Brain Reading of the Week:

This article discusses strategies for working with students who have ADHD.

Inspiration of the Week:





Spring Swing

Happy Weekend!

It was easy to appreciate the beautiful weather today after the past few months of cold and wet weather.  My kids spent much of the day playing outside. They were so excited to run around in shorts and play in dry (ish) grass.  For me, it was heaven to get them out of the house!  I hope each of you were able to enjoy a bit of the spring weather today and possibly tomorrow as well.

I will be at Tower Hill School as part of their accreditation team starting tomorrow through Wednesday.  This will be my first time doing an accreditation for PAIS and I am very excited to learn about the process from the “other” side.  I will be busy most of the day but will be checking email periodically, please do not hesitate to be in touch if you need anything.

We are in full swing with hiring season so thank you to everyone who has taken the time to meet with candidates, give feedback, and work with Taylor and I as we tackle tricky schedules. Many candidates have commented to Mike and I on the warm and welcoming culture at FCS so thank you for showing them what a wonderful place it is to work and learn.  We have a few more weeks before we will be done so keep up the great work and thank you in advance for your time with the upcoming candidates.

Reading of the Week:

In this article from Independent School Magazine blog, the question is raised whether students are disabled or schools.

Did you ever wonder why so many students cannot sit still?  This article describes the physical needs of our students to move – often!

Brain Reading of the Week:

Thanks to Dottie for sharing this article on how the dyslexic brain works with math.

Inspiration of the Week:

inspriration again

So Many posts so little time…

I have been collecting great articles but have not had time to post!  Here is a quick list of what I have been reading.

I am away the rest of this week at the NAIS Conference in Boston and then on Saturday I will be at the NEMNET Diversity Hiring Fair at Springside Chestnut Hill.

I will be available via email so please let me know if I can do anything to help.

Reading of the Week:

This post describes what students wish you would consider before you assign homework.

This article in Ed Week describes how to make differentiation work.

Speaking of Formative Assessment – this is a great link with 5 tools to help you see if they understand.

LD/Brain Reading of the Week: (Thanks again to Dottie!)

This article describes how the executive functioning brain works.

Inspiration of the Week:


It’s That Time of Year…

Mike Keaton and I attended our first hiring event over the weekend.  This event was aimed at recruiting diverse candidates to independent schools and although we did not interview many candidates, those that we did meet seemed very strong.  Mike and I will also be attending the following events to recruit faculty/staff:

Feb 13-14   Carney Sandoe Hiring Forum (Boston, MA)

Feb 19    St. Joe’s Hiring Fair

Feb 26-27 NAIS Link (Boston, MA)

Feb 27 – Bryn Mawr College Hiring Fair

Feb 28 – NEMNET Hiring Fair (local)

March 6  Earlham College (Indiana)

In addition to the travel above, I will be in Los Angeles this week presenting at the OESIS Conference “Back to School: Classes of the Future” from Thursday – Sunday.  I also had the pleasure of attending and presenting at EduCon this past weekend.  EduCon is a different type of conference in that it is about conversations more than presentations.  It is held at Science Leadership Academy downtown and I encourage others to attend in future years.  Please let me know if you are interested.

Next week the Administrative Team will be at an ADVIS workshop concerning diversity on Wednesday and at an administrative retreat on Thursday.  Needless to say, it is that time of year when I sometimes feel like I am away more than I am around.  I look forward to seeing everyone tomorrow and I hope everyone enjoyed their two snow days.

Reading of the Week:

Mindset, Intelligence, and so much more – this article discusses success in school versus intelligence.

Brain Reading of the Week: (Thanks again to Dottie for passing this along)

This article talks about the importance of taking brain breaks and has some great ideas of how to incorporate them into your classes.

I found this article on myths about neuroscience to be especially interesting.  It certainly debunks many of the things I was told were true.

Inspiration of the Week:

In light of my attendance at EduCon below is a great graphic describing two ways to approach Project Based Learning.



Happy New Year

Although we are not quite through the first half of the school year, winter break always feels like the mid-year mark to me.  When we return from break and get back into the groove of the year many of us begin to put an eye to the next year. On the administrative side we start to make plans, set calendar dates,  work on hiring, and focus on completing our goals for the year.

Summer camp sign ups typically begin in January as well so it is hard not to think about summer plans and the hopes and dreams that come with that time of year.  I was surprised when I found myself beginning to plan out some of my summer trips over the break and realized that you too may be beginning to make plans.  In that vein, I thought the following dates may be helpful for your to know:

The official last day for teaching faculty will be Wednesday, June 17th.

New Faculty/Staff Orientation begins the week of August 17th – all faculty and staff report on August 24th, school begins on Tuesday, September 1st.

Reading of the Week:

Read an article about why creative people have messy minds.

I know many of you saw this article on why so many youngsters have trouble sitting still in school.

Video/Brain Work of the Week:  Thanks to Dottie for this video on the brain and literacy!

Click Here

Inspiration of the Week:

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Thanksgiving – Thank Goodness!

So here we are… a break!  I know many of us are excited to see family and relax.  At Thanksgiving I try to be truly thankful for everything I have but most of all for my students and the opportunity to be a teacher.  Growing up I used to go to sleep dreaming about being a teacher.  I feel so fortunate that I am living my dream.  I am thankful for many things but at this time of year I try to be thankful for my profession, my colleagues, and my students.  Have a great break!

Reading of the Week:

I love this post about a teacher who changed to make her students love school.

This post from Teaching Tolerance discusses how to “teach Thanksgiving.”

Inspiration of the Week:

if you

Sitting Still and Stress

The Art of Stillness is a TED Book on… well… sitting still.  As with all TED Books, it is a one sitting type of read and has a thought provoking companion TED talk.  I read the book over the weekend and continue to contemplate the following passages:

“Researchers in the new field of interruption science have found that it takes an average of twenty-five minutes to recover from a phone call.  Yet such interruptions come every eleven minutes – which means we’re never caught up with our lives.”    Chapter 4

“Yet it’s precisely those who are busiest, I wanted to tell her, who most need to give themselves a break.  Stress is contagious, studies have found. ” Chapter5

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”  Chapter 1

As we go from one busy season, the opening of the school year, to what is for many of us another busy season, the “holiday” season, how can we choose the right thoughts, give ourselves a break, and let ourselves get caught up with our lives?  I certainly don’t know the answer but if you do please let me know.

Reading of the Week:

With so many articles on the advantage of reading/writing on paper vs. technology I found this article to be helpful in presenting the other side of the argument.

Kids do well if they can is a short article that remind us the importance of empathy and foundational skills in all aspects of life.

Video to watch:

This video discusses strategies for helping students who struggle with attention.

Inspiration for the Week:

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