Banishing Bullying: Ten Disciplines of a Learning Leader

Late in the fall two middle school teachers came to my office with a dilemma: “We don’t want to be guilty of grade inflation, but the grading system isn’t fair. Sara, for instance, works really hard. She always does her homework and participates in class. She is actually a great student, but she is math-phobic. She keeps failing her tests. We don’t know what to do.”

I asked, “Well, you say she is a great student. What does that look like? What does ‘participates in class’ look like?”

“She’s just great at working with others.”

“Yes, but what does that look like? If we can describe it we can measure it, if we can measure it, we can grade it.”

“Well, she builds on other people’s ideas…” Continue reading

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Keeping Our Eyes on the Long Haul

Large, mature oak and locust trees arched over the booths of the farmer’s market in Lincoln Park, Chicago. I tried to picture what these trees looked like when they were a hundred years younger. The gentle September sun brought out all the colors of oranges, apples, baby clothes, carriages and chatting mothers all arrayed on the bright green grass, and the still, blue sky brought people, grass, food, and trees together with the bricks, glass, concrete and cars of the city.

The earth meditated as I walked up North Clark Street past all these blessings toward the intellectual epicenter of an educational revolution still in progress Continue reading

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Just Say Nothing

We want our children to grow up to be decision makers. We also want them to make good decisions. How can we get them to do the right thing and treat them as if they know what they are doing at the same time? How can we treat them as if they know what they are doing, when we half know that they don’t?

As I was saying goodbye to early childhood teacher Gretchen Ott on my last day at Children’s Day School, she reminded me of a very important technique. She said: “A long time ago I learned the trick of not saying anything. If a student did something I knew he knew was wrong, I would just give him a look. I’m still perfecting my look, and I wish I did it more.” Continue reading

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Can I Trust My Teen?

A number of years ago, as I was driving north with my nineteen-year old daughter, she said: “Dad, you never gave me the No Smoking Lecture.”

“I know,” I replied. “I always trusted you.”

“But I needed it.”

“What do you mean, you needed it?”

“You do know I smoked, right?”

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Graduation Lunch with the Eighth Grade

Our graduating class went to lunch with me last Friday. I can’t imagine a more delightful group of 14-year-olds to be caught in a restaurant with. You’d think that after all these years together they might have run out of things to talk about, but of course not. The intensity

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The Story of the Three Little Girls

Once there were three little girls, Kathy, Lilly and Susan. They were all new to my school in the seventh grade and had come from different schools. But in eighth grade, when they were together, they turned themselves into a gang that was mean to other kids with increasing frequency and ferocity. Teachers knew it was happening, but the girls were clever and slippery. We could rarely catch them in a teachable moment or a punishable act. The most we could do was talk to them. As you can imagine, that didn’t change anything.

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