An Essential Question: Why Do I Teach?

JANE ATTAH, GRADE 2 TEACHER: Essential questions are meant to be thought provoking and should lead to other questions – questions that stimulate our minds to continuously ask how and what teaching children should be all about.

I know with certainty that all teachers have been asked why they choose to teach. The response is guaranteed to be different and personal for each educator. While some of us like to teach younger, and elementary age children, and others prefer middle school, high school, or college, all of us are fortunate and blessed to step into the classroom, with the goal of working towards fulfilling this essential question.

The more time and years I spend in the classroom, the more I make self-reflection a part of my teaching journey. In Gloria Durka’s book The Teacher’s Calling, she elaborates on teaching as a vocation and how those who teach can tap into their hearts and discover their true purpose for teaching. After fifteen years in the classroom, I can state with absolute conviction that I have found my vocation. Here is how I continue to find unending joy in teaching.
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My Thankfully Unfinished Deep Dive Journey

BRUCE SCHWARTZ, DIRECTOR OF THE IDEA AND DESIGN LAB: 10%? Possibly.  However, it certainly can’t be more than 15%.

Approximately one year ago, I was asked to lead Peck’s nascent Idea & Design Lab (ID Lab).  Yes, at first, I was freaked out. Then, I became excited. Then, freaked out. Then, excited. You get the picture; however, you may be asking why the roller coaster ride of emotions?

Having been on the planning committee for the lab, I had an insider’s perspective on what this leadership role would entail. Likewise, I knew what the ID Lab would mean for The Peck School as we continue to embrace, promote, and foster the use of the design process for student-centered learning across the K-8 curriculum. Thankfully, we had an expert team of people on the committee to offer informed perspectives, insights, and experiences.

The Peck School has a nationally recognized professional development program, known as the Deep Dive. Well, I was about to dive very deeply into some highly unchartered waters!

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Is Parenting the Extremity of Love?

DAISY SAVAGE, HEAD OF UPPER SCHOOL: Across the last few weeks, I have been thinking here and there about parenting (it’s an occupational hazard). With three children in their 20s and years of work that have allowed me to watch hundreds of other parents, I like to think that I know something about it. But honestly, the more I reflect, the more I see the role of ‘parent’ as the proverbial onion: you’re always peeling it and discovering yet another layer. And while that layer usually looks familiar, it is still new and somewhat unexpected.

The more I reflect, the more I see the role of ‘parent’ as the proverbial onion.

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Nurturing Problem Solvers and Reimagining Math

This is the second in a series of blog posts highlighting the “Deep Dive” Professional Development Process at The Peck School in Morristown. Faculty members with more than three years of experience are expected to take a Deep Dive every four years to participate in a meaningful, reflective activity or project that will benefit them personally, as well as their students and the school. The goal of the Deep Dive is to have a lasting and direct impact on their teaching craft and curriculum.

TRANSFORMATIVE LEARNING THROUGH PROBLEM BASED MATH: A DEEP DIVE WITH AMY PAPANDREOU
BY CHRIS STARR – DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH

“There is one thing I’ve observed in my years of teaching. Too often, students are taught how to do things without being taught how to apply what they are learning to solve real world problems,” says Amy Papandreou, Upper School Math Teacher. So when Amy heard about the Anja S. Greer Conference on Math and Technology at Phillips Exeter Academy last summer and its focus on “Problem Based Learning (PBL) in the Math Classroom,” she knew it was the professional development opportunity for her.

Too often, students are taught how to do things without being taught how to apply what they are learning

Problem-based math is an approach that jump-starts the development of the skills essential to mastering higher-level math. Traditional mathematical concepts are still covered, but the problem-based approach makes learning math more intellectually rigorous and creatively engaging. In math, as in life, there may be a variety of ways that a solution can be reached. By capitalizing on this notion in the math classroom, teachers can encourage ingenuity in learning math while discouraging students from quitting on a problem when they feel they aren’t on the right track, or locating the “right answer”.

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A Laser Focus on Professional Development

The National Association of Independent Schools recently highlighted Peck’s Deep Dive process by adding an “Online Exclusive” to their Fall edition of Independent School magazine. The story chronicles the chair of The Peck School’s Art Department, Mark Mortensen as he takes a Deep Dive into incorporating the Epilog Mini 18 Laser Engraving System into his woodworking program, and the resulting ripples this professional development had to students and teachers at Peck.

Read about Mark’s exciting Deep Dive Journey here.

In addition to the annual observation and reflection on their teaching methods, faculty members at Peck with more than three years of experience are expected to take on what Chris Weaver, director of curriculum and faculty development, calls a “Deep Dive” every four years. The Deep Dive year gives teachers an opportunity to participate in a meaningful, reflective activity or project that will benefit them personally, as well as their students and the school. The Deep Dive is meant to have a lasting and direct impact on the teaching craft and curriculum.

Stay tuned in the weeks ahead to our guidedbyvalues.org school blog for continuing chronicles of faculty Deep Dives…

 

 

Lessons from the Ocean About Managing Emotion

My heart goes out to each and every child, returning and new, with his and her trepidations, anxieties, excitements, consternations — you name it!

DR. ZAN STRUEBING, SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST: One of my dear friends and colleagues always told me, “Sometimes having too much empathy can be a hazard.” This statement is never truer for me than on the first days of a new school year. Every year, I enter the new adventure with my most empathic heart on my sleeve, and my family would be happy to tell you that it’s an emotional roller coaster.

My heart goes out to each and every child, returning and new, with his and her trepidations, anxieties, excitements, consternations — you name it! The one certainty is that each and every student walks through the doors of our school with a myriad of emotion. Some are just better at buttoning down and masking those emotions. While all of us as adults fall into the trap of feeling we have somehow “succeeded” when we minimize or avoid first day tears, we are simply deluding ourselves if we believe that many are not “raining” or trembling on the inside.

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All I Really Need to Know I Learned in the Woodshop

MARK MORTENSEN, ARTS DEPARTMENT CHAIR: Thirty years ago, American minister and author Robert Fulghum published a book of short essays, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. His credo would become a New York Times bestseller: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours and so on. Simple advice from kindergarten to help steer complicated adult lives.

In my quarter century in Peck’s woodshop, I’d learned a lesson or two from my experiences there.

Countless parodies followed extolling lessons learned from pets, trees, the Internet, Star Trek, and even zombies. It occurred to me that, in my quarter century in Peck’s woodshop, I’d learned a lesson or two from my experiences there.

 

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in the Woodshop

  1. Be squareI spend a fair amount of time maintaining Peck’s woodshop power equipment. One thing I check often is the “square” of a tool. Blades, miter gauges, drill bits, and sanding disks at 90° angles to fences and tables will help create projects that are plumb and level. Square corners make for tidy, stable, and aesthetically pleasing construction.Being square also means being fair and honest. Fair to oneself, honest in all one does, ethical in one’s dealings with others. It’s not always easy, but being square makes for tidy, stable, and pleasing relationships.

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Coming to Terms with Failure

Have you noticed that as parents we are reluctant to allow our children to fail? If they forget their sports uniform, we will travel to school and drop it off to save them from missing sports in the afternoon. We check their backpacks to make sure they included all of their assignments to save them from a late homework grade. When we receive a report from school that they were engaged in inconsiderate behavior toward a classmate, we defend them and doubt the validity of the claim. We tend to take many teachable moments and turn them into “saves”.

We tend to take many teachable moments and turn them into “saves”.

Sometimes I wonder whom it is we are saving. Is it really our children? Or are we actually saving ourselves from what we see as our failure as parents? If my child doesn’t play in today’s game, how will that reflect on me as the parent who failed to send her son to school with his uniform? If my child loses points in class for homework not handed in, am I worried what a disinterested/incompetent parent I will appear to the teacher?

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