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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
Here's a plug outside our usual area of expertise and attention. We usually don't do this kind of piece, but we're great fans of The Fresh Air Fund. Year in and year out they provide terrific summer opportunities to kids in need of a break from the city.

The long and short- The Fresh Air Fund is looking for staff members to work with kids in summer camps. They're looking for camp counselors, waterfront and recreation people, nurses, ropes course instructors and coordinator program manager types. You can apply online. These are great summer opportunities for school people. Please pass them along.

If you're unfamiliar with The Fresh Air Fund, I urge to learn more. They do tremendous work.

Find them on: Twitter, Youtube, Digg, Facebook, Delicious, StumbleUpon and of course their site or watch this short video on the Fresh Air Fund camp counselor experience:

Update: Checkout this post (Video of Culver Academies' Black Horse Troop and Equestriennes Riding in the Inaugural Parade) to watch the Culver students ride past President Obama's viewing stand during the Inaugural Parade.

The Black Horse Troop and Equestriennes from AQ Member School, Culver Academies received an invitation and will participate in the Obama-Biden Presidential Inaugural Parade January 20th. This will be the 15th time that the team has participated in the inaugural parade.

The Boys' Black Horse unit counts 14 inaugural parades with the Girls' unit totaling five previous appearances. Culver's participation in inaugural parades dates back to Woodrow Wilson's inaugurals.

Learn more about this honor by reading Culver's press release on the Troop inaugural participation.

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.
Twenty-two of my thirty-two years in independent schools were spent in day schools, some very good and some fairly mediocre, but all of them had good students with dedicated teachers. Their debate teams did well; the football teams reigned supreme. Most went on to colleges and parents were fairly pleased with their investment. However, it wasn't until I went to my first boarding school as an assistant headmaster that I realized that these are schools that take education to another level. And by that, I don't mean that boarding schools are repositories for more advanced placement or honors classes, nor am I suggesting that the college placement was any better. All of those are features of schools that can be found anywhere. Where a school defines itself is where its soul is, and the soul of a boarding school lies in its development of a unique community of adults and students all living together; sharing a common purpose as defined by the mission of that school. Such schools are places that are not defined by the culture of the immediate surrounding community but by the multitude of experiences of their students, many of whom come from regions of the country and the world unknown to the average independent day or public school student. Boarding schools are places where students develop an appropriate sense of independence that all parents inherently wish for our children. Boarding schools, by their very nature, encourage and guide their students to learn to develop those emotional intelligence skills we often find so elusive in a seventeen year-old.   

How these schools do this is something that can only be discerned by walking the campus and spending time listening and observing. Doing so, one will find, for the most part, motivated students with a common purpose happily engaged in the lives of each other. Artificial barriers to understanding and acceptance tend to disappear; social cliques can be rare; and intellectual risks can be taken without fear. The possibilities for expanding the education of a child beyond the classroom are enormous. As an example, I often think of a boy who came to us some years back as a sophomore from a local public school. We soon found that he had an extraordinary voice, but his talent had been unrecognized by his school. Freshmen rarely get recognition for their talents in large schools, often because they are too fearful to even attempt to share their talent. Yet, he was auditioning for our school musical and, yes, he had an extraordinary voice. He went on to become the highlight of our entire theater program and is now on a full scholarship studying opera at a conservatory back East. I do not believe this would have happened had he not transferred to a boarding school like ours.  

Imagine a place where your son or daughter rooms with a student from Malawi or Kiev. Imagine students with a range of religious backgrounds living in the same hall together. If we have learned anything of the events of this new century, it is that the days of cultural isolation are over - we are all so interconnected. It is inevitable that our children, when they become adults, will be faced with a completely different kind of world - a world that requires a different sort of individual. I am not certain children can learn that worldview without venturing beyond the block they live on. Boarding school students experience the world through classmates and teachers who come from cultures and places different from their own. They are poised for success in the new, global environment. Experience a boarding school and you will understand.  

Leo Marshall serves as the Director of Admission and Financial Aid at The Webb Schools in Claremont, CA- a coed, boarding school offering grades 9-12.
Michael Cooper, Brewster Academy's Head of School, sent the extended Brewster community (I'm a 1991 grad) a letter yesterday detailing a Lakes Region land gift valued at $6.3 million.

The gift, made by former Fidelity Investments President James C. Curvey and his family, consists of over 11 acres of lakefront property. The Curvey family intends the gift to provide scholarships to students in the greater Alton/Wolfeboro area.

Dr. Cooper wrote about the scholarship program and additional opportunities made possible by the gift:
Scholarships will go to three local students (in the greater Alton & Wolfeboro area) per year for their four years at Brewster, starting with the first three in the fall term of 2009. Ultimately, 12 students at a time will benefit from this gift.

In addition to honoring the Curvey family legacy of supporting educational opportunities for talented students, the donation expands the Academy's lakefront resources and provides the setting for more hands-on educational opportunities that will enhance current offerings such as Fresh Water Ecology, Environmental Science, Character Leadership, and other experiential learning programs.

Congrats to the folks at BA. The generosity of the Curvey family is sure to benefit the BA community over the years to come.
Florida Air Academy faculty member, Lania Rosengren, recently attended the award ceremony as a nominee for Science Teacher of the Year- a national contest sponsored by Discovery Education and the 3M Foundation. She was one of five finalists for the award.
Rosengren challenges and entertains her students by presenting lessons through rap in the classroom. As Ms. Rosengren told
"Every year I perform at least one rap for my students about the subject we are learning. I find a song and make up the lyrics. I dress up, and a lot of students do not even recognize me. When they figure it out, they go crazy! When I perform, a lot of students want to rap along with me, dance and there's a lot of laughing and cheering. I encourage them to try and rap along with me as I pass out the lyrics. I try to make my lessons interesting enough for the students to want to learn and this is one way I found that really works."
Ms. Rosengren also receives great accolades from her colleagues at Florida Air. Antiny White, FAA's Principal, told
"Lania is a wonderful example of how creative and innovative methods can really transform the learning process. She has high academic standards, and she makes science fun for the students. That's everything you want in a teacher. We're excited for her that she's receiving this kind of national recognition."

The SAT Conundrum

The Boston Globe ran short exposition article looking at the current state of the 'drop the SAT' movement. All of the standard anti-SAT arguments appear- inaccurate predictor of college success, tilted in favor the wealthy (cultural exposure and test prep), use the SAT but assign less value to it in the admission process, no SAT requirement broadens the applicant pool.

Appropriate use of the SAT arguments run in counterbalance- the test accurately predicts college success, the test is only one factor in the admission process; the SAT is the only national measurement we have.

The ongoing 'yes or no' saga surrounding the SAT will never resolve itself given the plurality in college admission procedures. Small liberal arts colleges with a high ratio of staff to applications- and plenty of money for the admission office- can afford the time and effort necessary to evaluate a student's complex picture of achievement and potential. Major state universities don't have the luxury of time, money, and staff. For big schools, the SAT is an imperfect, albeit consistent, yardstick

The problem boils down to this. Without a defined curriculum- dare I say, a national curriculum- colleges with large applicant pools and smaller admission staffs (public universities) need a common yardstick. The common yardstick is blunt and unequal in its application. In many large public university settings, neither the time or money is available for complex admission evaluation.

It all comes down to household income. Household income is also the single strongest correlation to high SAT scores. If you come from a wealthy family, you're more likely to be interested in and qualify for a small liberal arts college. There's something very insular, circular, and unhealthy about this self-reinforcing pattern.

How do you get into this world and cycle if you don't have a lot of money?

More pressing than whether or not to use the SAT in the college admission process should be a mission to design our schools so that household income becomes a weak correlation to SAT scores and smaller factor in academic achievement-- a holy grail.

My Introduction to Online Tutoring

I'm a relative newbie when it comes to web tutoring so I was more than happy to hop on a call with the owners of to learn about their online tutoring company.

ziizooTutors that partner with ziizoo set their own rates and students grade the quality of their work, which in turn is posted to the public tutor profiles. Think e-bay for tutoring.

It's a simple (and from what I gathered) effective way to ensure delivery of quality services to each and every client. Of course, the other thing I found very cool is their web platform that combines web 2.0 tools like instant messaging and online whiteboards.

Most tutors focus on the core academic courses (i.e. Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, High School English, etc.), but a few list SSAT prep as an offering. Let me know if you decide to check them out. I'd love to hear how ziizoo works for you.

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