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Results tagged “New York Times” from Boarding School Blog - onBoarding Schools

Organization, routines, how to organize one's day- these are all fundamental parts of the boarding school experience. Current research tells us that they may be even more important that we think. 

I've been telling families for years, that there's nothing magic about going to boarding school. It's a different way of going to school with one of its foundations being a structured, organized, routine day that students internalize and carry with them.

David Brooks highlights two new books in his May 1st column- The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin- both of which make the case for practice, discipline, and routine as the root of genius. Americans like to believe in the myth of genius as the root of great success, but it turns out that that most mundane of duties- practice- might actually be the root of achievement.

"The latest research suggests a more prosaic, democratic, even puritanical view of the world. The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It's not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it's deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft...

The primary trait she (the developing genius) possesses is not some mysterious genius. It's the ability to develop a deliberate, strenuous and boring practice routine.

Coyle and Colvin describe dozens of experiments fleshing out this process. This research takes some of the magic out of great achievement. But it underlines a fact that is often neglected. Public discussion is smitten by genetics and what we're "hard-wired" to do. And it's true that genes place a leash on our capacities. But the brain is also phenomenally plastic. We construct ourselves through behavior. As Coyle observes, it's not who you are, it's what you do." (NYT)
It turns out that my long-time colleague and friend, academic dean (at Wolfeboro,The Summer Boarding School), Joyce Ferris has been right all along. For years she's given what's known has her "P- Speech" before final exams- an exhortation to pick-up your pencil and actively practice, practice, practice. She's been right all along.

Photo credit: Mani 's lounging world

Good Teaching is Committed Work

chalkboard.jpgThe New York Times ran a conversation (Teaching: No 'Fallback' Career) covering a subject that regularly comes up at our house and, currently seems to be on many peoples' minds as they consider the stability of civil/public service careers- "maybe I'll go into teaching?" In the framework of a struggling private sector, it's a nice sentiment; it sounds good; people think the schedule is good; it's indoor work and, for some reason, people perceive at as an easy, second-tier profession that anyone can practice without too much difficulty.

After all, we don't pay teachers particularly well and they certainly aren't accorded much social status. But with the collapse of finance and the contractions of other industries, 'maybe I'll teach?"

My wife and I shake our heads in wonderment. "Do these people have any idea what a classroom is like? I'm dumbfounded by how little people seem to know about classrooms and, sometimes, irritated by the opposite side of the same coin, how much they think they know about a profession that they've never pursued.

I have been a high school teacher and administrator and my wife still is a high school math teacher and has been an administrator. My argument against such sentiment usually begins something like- "X has no idea what's it's like to live and function among high school students for your entire work day. There's no way he/she can spend their day not speaking adult." Or, my other primary observation on the topic- "So-and-so finds no amusement or joy in kids being kids. The first time that a student responds like a teenager instead of an adult so-and-so will explode."

Most adults aren't built for teaching based on the basics of the situation- being an adult in the student or kid world all day. I haven't even needed to address teaching practice and thinking to get most adults to think twice about their teaching sentiments.

To teach well, one has to love being among kids- all day. Be professionally adaptive and adept. And, operate with a heightened sensibility of service. It's not about you.

In "Teaching: No 'Fallback' Career" The New York Times collected the thoughts of five education professionals on the subject of moving into the classroom.

Their observations should prompt our thanks for those who make the classroom their profession and give pause to those who believe the classroom easy.

Pam Grossman professor of education at Stanford University:

"...Because all of us have spent thousands of hours in classroom observing teachers, we may underestimate the skill required to engage a group of children or adolescents and ensure that they are learning. Much of the teaching we do in everyday life, as parents or employers, involves telling or tutoring. As parents, we help children with math homework, test them on their vocabulary words, answer their questions. But teaching is much more than telling, and teachers have to know more than right answers.

Good teachers must also be connoisseurs of error. Over time, good teachers can anticipate predictable errors and misconceptions, understand the logic behind the error, and help move students toward a deeper understanding. Work on the teaching of mathematics at the University of Michigan has demonstrated that what they term "mathematical knowledge for teaching" distinguishes teachers from mathematicians and more effective teachers from less effective ones..." (NYT)

Patrick Welsh English teacher at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA:

"...The notion that anyone can teach is pure myth. No matter how much one may know or how altruistic one may be, some people are just temperamentally unsuited to teach and are toxic for kids. The problem is that it is difficult to identify those types.

....It won't take you long to know whether you love teaching. As nervous as I was, it took me about 10 minutes after first walking into my first class some 40 years ago to realize that for me the classroom is a magical place where I wanted to work. At the same time if you realize you don't love it, do your students a favor: get out and look for another line of work..." (NYT)

Kenneth J. Bernstein teaches social studies at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Greenbelt, MD. He blogs about education and other subjects as teacherken at Daily Kos:

"...it took me until my third year before I was fully competent, even though the students, parents, fellow teachers and administrators were all pleased with what I was doing. I learned to rethink each lesson, from class to class as well as from year to year, and to adjust my lesson plans according to the students in each class.

That's the hard part, thinking more about the students than about the content. It is probably the biggest challenge for many career switchers. One doesn't have to be their buddy, but one has to build relationships of trust..." (NYT)

I asked my accomplished math-teacher wife to chime on this post and she adds this series of thoughts:

"Manager. Entertainer. Mathematician. Care. Performance. Preparation. Knowledge. Teaching always appears easy to the outsider. Poor teachers make it seem easy because they do nothing. Effective teachers make it seem easy because they make teaching seem effortless. Either way, the public is duped. The only way to understand the level of commitment and expertise necessary to be a good teacher is to do it yourself. Do it for a minimum of three years. Then, decide if A.) it's the place for you and B.) if it's easy."
Photo credit: Bright_Star
If you believe in a boarding or independent school and you can afford to make a financial contribution, give now. Independent schools- just as colleges and universities- are working through endowment decreases and pressure. With increased financial aid demand, creating an even greater strain on institutional savings and finances.

If independent school is part of your or your family's nature and you can do it, make sure to make any gift possible this year.

The New York Times recently ran a piece titled "Colleges Ask Donors to Help Meet Demand for Aid." The higher ed situation and independent school situations are similar.

"Faced with one of the most challenging fund-raising environments anyone can remember, colleges and universities are appealing to donors to help meet the swelling demand for financial aid...

The incoming student body for the fall of 2009 will have higher financial needs than in the past," said Clay Ballantine, Hampshire's chief advancement officer. "I tell donors these are excellent students and we want to take financial concerns out of their decision-making process, and we're looking to you to provide a gift that will help us do that."

Photo credit: vanhookc
Julliard is putting its Music Advancement Program on indefinite hiatus with fundraising under pressure. The program will complete it second year obligation with current students but has canceled auditions and will add no new students this year. The Music Advancement Program brings music lessons to kids who don't normally have access to music training.

Professional pianist and Juilliard alumnus Ronen Segev told the New York Times (Juilliard Curtails Program That Serves Poor Children), "It's really heartbreaking... it means a lot to these kids."(NYT)

Joseph W. Polisi, Juilliard's president, likens the strategy to pruning so that the plant will bloom with new growth and life during the next spring explaining to the NYT:

"I was the guy who started it 20 years ago, and I believe deeply in it...It's an extremely important part of me and Juilliard'... Mr. Polisi said he hoped to raise money to restart the program, on a smaller scale, in two years."
Although geared for college admission, one recent New York Times article and a new blog on their site provide some good thinking and advice- parts of which are applicable to private school admission.

The article first- "Paying in Full as the Ticket Into Colleges," lays plain for all to see that, with tight financial aid offerings colleges are accepting more students whose families can pay in full. This has always been the case at or near the bottom of college applicant pools, but the practice is creeping further up the ladder into the realm of highly qualified applicants.

As we've always argued, you can increase your aid opportunities by applying to a school in which your abilities and desires place you toward the top end of the applicant pool.

The Choice: Demystifying College Admissions and Aid is a new NYT blog exploring college admission and financial aid through the voices of students and professionals. Even though it's geared toward college admission, the issues, experiences and thinking are similar to private school admission. Keep in mind that college and private school admission are not the same.  I recommend it as a thought provoking read. You'll find some thinking and commentary applicable to private school admission.

Photo credit: Gwen's River City Images
I read a couple of articles over the past few days that, combined, provide a good pictures of the thinking, priorities and sacrifices that families are grappling with in their 'public or private' school decisions. With a generally more conservative outlook about future earnings and home equity gone as a banking option families are struggling mightily to reach the best decisions about schools.

Two articles provide insight into the two sides of the education coin:

The New York Times article, "The Sudden Charm of Public School," looks at family thinking and finances that underlie a migration into the public school system by families who previously assumed that private school would be their choice. The exact numbers are unspecific and anecdotal, but the number of families thinking through this process is clear.

In the current climate can we, and, should we send our kids to private school?

From the NYT article:

"There is no way of knowing just how many would-be or current private school parents are turning to the public schools. But there is no question that the city's public kindergartens are experiencing a groundswell of interest...

The growing undertow from private to public emphasizes just how desperate some families have become.

Moving your kid out of private school is usually one of the last things to go," said Kathy M. Braddock, a partner at Charles Rutenberg Realty. "You give up vacations and cars and take away summer camp first.

But I hear people evaluating everything now. I know lawyers who have been laid off, Wall Street people, the Madoff victims. These are people who never thought they would be in a financial situation where they would have to start making certain choices.

...saying you're interested in sending your kids to public schools used to be a taboo among a certain group of people....Now it's actually kind of cool and in vogue."
The NYC Private Schools Blog paints the opposing view. In a post titled, "Private School Not a Luxury to Most," the author paints a picture of the willingness of parents to prioritize and sacrifice for private education.

Much of the article comes from a Wisconsin Rapids Tribune article looking at one mom's desire and willingness to sacrifice so that she can afford private school tuition and efforts of the area catholic schools to create aid and financing options. 

As Beckie Rogers told the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune:

"It's pretty much a given tuition rates go up every year...But as a parent, I prioritize and give up other things. This is a necessity for my family."
The reality of the public versus private equation in the current admission cycle lies somewhere in the middle. With no sound data, we don't know how many families will choose their public or private education options. We know for sure that economic stress has increased the value and importance of the public side of the equation. We know, with certainty, that uncertainty has private school admission officers working to demonstrate the value of the product and looking harder at their cost structures and aid and financing options than they have in quite some time.
Heading 'necessity is the mother of invention,' Pingree School's Trevor Leahy set his mind to recouping any advantage that he could achieve within the rules. Hockey rules recently mandated smaller sizes for hockey net minder pads. While the offensively minded thought this a great idea (goalie pads were starting to cover far too much of the net face), goalies, like Trevor, were miffed asking why should the net-minders give-up their advantages?

If a skater can tape his stick blade with black tape in order to hide the puck, Treavor reasoned, I should be able to paint and design my pads with the design of the goal net so as to confuse skaters about the edges of my pads.

A patent application and a deal with Stomp Manufacturing later, and the GoalieFlage is a reality.

There's no way to measure the effectiveness of the design, but one teammate tells the New York Times (Against Goalie Trevor Leahy, It's Nothing but Net) that he finds the design effective by disorienting his shooting.

As for Trevor, he's now pondering a career in sports marketing or design.  As he told the Times:

"It would be unbelievable to get some kind of job out of this...I would love to get my stuff out there and then see other kids wearing it and think, wow, I designed that." (NYT)
Let's hope the hockey powers-that-be don't send Teavor's creative thinking the way of the A-11 football offense or Steve Avery's antics.  Creativity makes the game fun.
I almost let this comment go, but it's too good to pass-up. Last Thursday (3/12) David Brooks focused his column on President Obama's education reform an efforts (No Picnic for Me Either). While Brooks pushes, prods, and argues that Mr. Obama needs to move educational policy to recognize and reward great teachers, I was particular struck by two paragraphs in the piece where Brooks recognizes great teachers as the ones who build healthy relationships with their students.

"...The Obama approach would make it more likely that young Americans grow up in relationships with teaching adults. It would expand nurse visits to disorganized homes. It would improve early education. It would extend the school year. Most important, it would increase merit pay for good teachers (the ones who develop emotional bonds with students) and dismiss bad teachers (the ones who treat students like cattle to be processed).

We've spent years working on ways to restructure schools, but what matters most is the relationship between one student and one teacher. You ask a kid who has graduated from high school to list the teachers who mattered in his life, and he will reel off names. You ask a kid who dropped out, and he will not even understand the question. Relationships like that are beyond his experience..."
When families ask me, 'why private or boarding school?'  My answer invariably is a treatise on relationships. Relationships fundamentally differentiate the boarding/private school experience.
The annual fund, donor contributions and the capital campaign go on even during this unsettled economy. The New York Times published an interesting piece yesterday- 'In Uncertain Times, Donors Hold Back.'  Donors, author Jan Rose points out, are as fearful about economic uncertainty as the rest of us.

Richard Kohan, a partner in the private client services group of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Boston told Rose a "psychology of conserving assets at present" creates a conflict in which preservation can trump a potential donors' desire to give.

However several potential strategies for soliciting donations allow potential donors to retain high comfort levels- multi-year pledges, donating professional services, creating larger donor pool making smaller donations, planned giving and the tax benefits of loss taking contributions.

Donors are currently inclined to answer no when asked. But, with some creativity and perspective, there are ways to bring the solicitation to yes.

A suggestion that I've made in conversation with advancement officers that I know- (a variation on the more- but smaller donation theme)- is that this is a great time to broaden your donor base. Communicate the need; make the case for participation; and ask for smaller amounts. These kinds of strategies build community fiber- inclusion, and participation that make the institution and future giving stronger.

Rosen closes her article with a comment from William G. Droms, professor of finance at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University  "People who need charity need help now, dig deeper to give if possible.

Exeter Addresses Lower Endowment

In just about any other year, you'd think it would be nuts for a money manager/management team to get congratulated for having an endowment fund lose 22% of its value. 2008 was no run of the mill year for market and endowment declines.

Phillips Exeter Academy's endowment managers held loses to 22% beating the S&P 500 by 15%- a hard hit but a roaring success in light the overall market. Unwavering in its commitment to financial aid and affordability, Exeter is committed to its staff and students and is working reduce it's operating budget by 8% in the coming year.

As one of the biggest fish in the pond, Exeter will always be scrutinized. No matter what, you've got to admire and appreciate the on-the-table transparency of their situation and efforts to contain their budget.

Read more about this on the New York Time's DealBook blog post.

Catholic Schools Struggle to Find Their Raison d'être in a Changing World

American catholic schools' enrollment has dropped by more than half from its peak of 5 million more than 40 years ago (New York Times - For Catholic Schools, Crisis and Catharsis). If you pay any attention to numbers and the health of institutions, a decline of more than 50% gets your attention. In the case of catholic and parochial schools, the Church, catholic families, and parishes are asking a multitude of questions about the nature of catholic education, catholic schools, and how they- all- should, plan for, and move into the future.

"....recently, after years of what frustrated parents describe as inertia in the church hierarchy, a sense of urgency seems to be gripping many Catholics who suddenly see in the shrinking enrollment a once unimaginable prospect: a country without Catholic schools.

From the ranks of national church leaders to the faithful in the pews, there are dozens of local efforts to forge a new future for parochial education by rescuing the remaining schools or, if need be, reinventing them. The efforts are all being driven, in one way or another, by a question in a University of Notre Dame task force report in 2006: "Will it be said of our generation that we presided over the demise" of Catholic schools?" (New York Times - For Catholic Schools, Crisis and Catharsis)

Everyone involved believes that catholic education matters and contributes to the American educational and social fabric. The trick is and will be to create a niche for catholic schools that keeps them bright, viable and of high quality.

As is often the case the best solutions are creative and responsive to local needs. Alumni are being asked to play larger roles. Student financing has become an openly discussed and planned for topic. Lay boards are being created to oversee educational matters. In Memphis, the diocese cultivates private donors and foundations for funding. And, in the most jarring local change:

"The Archdiocese of Washington was so desperate to save seven struggling parochial schools last year that it opted for a solution that shook Catholic educators to the core. It took down the crucifixes, hauled away the statues of the Virgin Mary, and -- in its own word -- "converted" the schools in the nation's capital into city charter schools." (New York Times - For Catholic Schools, Crisis and Catharsis)

I'm certain that this struggle is no fun for anyone involved. But, I can't help but believe that long term good will come soul searching and creative solutions. As an interviewee intimated in the article, many catholic and non-catholic school families and alumni assumed that catholic schools would be around forever. But changing times and circumstances always pressure and challenge the viability of all institutions.

Surviving schools will come out of these challenges sharply focused, with sound educational and financial plans and able to communicate the value of their education to families.

The challenge for any and all private schools is maintaining and building a viability to the ever changing world. If you don't stay connected and relevant to what families and children require, you become irrelevant and families can find a more valuable education elsewhere. As a private or parochial school you've got to do two things:

  1. Make yourself the best choice

  2. Stay affordable to your constituency
It's not boarding school admission, but it's an interesting read about the different ways and roads to want what's best for you kids.

Lisa Belkin contributes a nice synthesis of a parent's takes on the college admission craziness. In her post to the New York Times Motherlode column she brings together three perspectives that circle around:

"Who is right? The parent who sees the application process as a life experience, and thinks that offering a crutch might help them now, but cripple them in the future? Or the parent who says "we're not in Kansas anymore," and feels that all the work put in and learning done during high school will not be enough without advice and guidance on navigating the increasingly competitive system?"
Her piece contains links to three other pieces.

Photo credit: Aaaron Michael Brown
New York Times reporter Martin Fackler quotes a phrase that many of us in the tuition driven world know but seldom utter; "Korea (South) experienced a study-abroad bubble." In his January 10, 2009 article "Global Financial Crisis Upends the Plans of Many South Koreans to Study Abroad," Fackler elucidates the now fading convergence of the strong won and competitive desires of Korean parents that came together to create what I call a study abroad migration.

Fackler cites a Korean Education Ministry figure of 350,000 South Korean students studying abroad in 2007 with the largest contingent in the United States.

"South Koreans have become the largest group of foreign students in the United States, according to American government statistics, outnumbering even those from China, with a population much larger than South Korea's 48 million people."  (Fackler, NYT)
American boarding schools and colleges & universities have enjoyed strong numbers of full-tuition Korean students seeking experiences and advancement through western style education. But this well of relied-upon tuition may be beginning to dry-up.

Korean families are now assessing and scrutinizing study abroad opportunities in light of the weak wan and global financial crisis. The competitive desire to keep-up and advance still drives many families, but it's being tempered by reality. One year programs have become more attractive for families that can still afford an international experience.

Some academics worry about the possibility of increasing inequality with only the wealthiest families sending their students abroad.

"Upper-middle-class families will still have the ability to send their children abroad, even if it means great sacrifice," said Oh Ookwhan, a professor of education at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. "This will allow them to stay ahead of less fortunate families."

Faculty Who Connect: Perhaps the Greatest Private School Strength

It's a bit of a feel-good story- student who was a complete pain in the a**; returns to his alma matter after becoming successful; thanking the faulty member who reached out and connected; and making a sizable donation.

From Dirk Johnson's New York Times article:

"In the early 1980s, James J. Liautaud was a trouble-making student at Elgin Academy who ranked near the bottom of his high school class. He drank beer. He smoked cigarettes. He skipped class.

The dean, James Lyons, recognized the rebellion as insecurity, and saw what others did not - a student from a financially struggling family, trying to fit in at a prestigious school among wealthier, more polished peers. The dean, who had a working-class upbringing himself, put his job on the line. "If he goes," he told the faculty, "I go."
Faculty connection is a great strength of private schools- boarding and day. Faculty connect; nurture; and find the diamonds in the rough- even when it takes some patience, effort and risk.

As Mr. Liautaud told the Times, "It's a real simple deal...Jim Lyons believed in me."

The rough diamonds don't always turn out to be as wildly financially successful as Mr. Liautaud, but the number of rough diamonds uncovered, nurtured and smoothed by dedicated private school faculty is countless.

Applying On-line Doesn't Mean Waiting Until the Last Minute

Tamar Lewin published a piece this past Wednesday in the New York Times covering the clog of applications in the pipes of on-line application systems.

We know from experience that a good number of families wait to submit their applications until the last possible moment. (We used to run the on-line application system that many boarding schools use.) Families often assume that submitting applications on-line allows them to submit applications later in the process and that it will always be glitch free.

Wrong. Give two seconds of thought to the topics and we can all think of a few possible problems- families dealing with an internet connection issue, credit card processing problems, forgetting to press the all important save button. You get the picture.

While on-line applications offer all sorts of advantages- convenience, easy editing, etc. Don't wait until 11:59PM of the application deadline. Be prudent; give yourself some padding and extra time.
Donald Frey (Wake Forest University, Economics Professor)  and Lynn Munson (formerly, National Endowment for the Humanities) wrote an op-ed piece in today's Boston Globe challenging the conventional wisdom of eternal saving and endowment growth. They make the case that colleges and universities would make better more effective use of endowment monies by committing to spending more- putting the money to use.

They assert that the rainy day has arrived:

"Since colleges and universities pay no taxes on their endowments or on the income they earn, the public has a keen interest in knowing whether schools are adopting payout policies that make sense. The rainy day so many colleges and universities have saved for is here. The question is whether these institutions will have the wisdom to step up spending in response."
This argument means little to most boarding schools with modest endowments. However, for the extraordinarily well-endowed boarding schools, it's perhaps fair to ask, "how can the endowment be put the best use during tight times" and "might we consider spending endowment monies differently in future prosperity?"

I've included this link to an earlier New York Times article for background reading of large boarding school endowments.
From hearsay to media reporting, the subject has found the light. The economic slowdown has, and will, affect private schools and their families. In an earlier post, we noted Trinity Pawling School Headmaster, Arch Smith's open, honest letter on the matter; his was the first public discussion from a school administrator that we'd seen on the topic. In the tight world of New York City private schools, the financial climate has prompted several schoools to publish similar letters addressing admission, financial aid, and school fiscal health.

Winnie Hu and Alison Leigh Cowan wrote "Private Schools Say They're Thriving in Downturn" in November 28th's New York Times. Alongside the article, the Times provides copies of letters from seven schools addressing the current financial situation. You can download each as a pdf file.

The article title proves more optimistic than the content. While some schools may indeed live through these times unscathed, the latter 2/3 of the article features the ways in which schools are working lower costs and live in leaner times.

I find the honesty and candor reassuring and comforting. We can work with the problem when it's out in the open. Let us know what you think about this challenge by leaving a comment. We'd love to add your thoughts & ideas to the conversation.

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