Thursday, June 5, 2008

Social Promotion

Please note the new poll asking your opinion on the promotion of students who have not achieved grade level mastery of the curriculum. Please give add your vote to the poll and use the "comments" option below to elaborate on your position.

Color War & Controversy

I have been told that the topics covered on my blog have been too value neutral and could use a little dose of controversy (more like my newsletter messages, I am told). So, I figured I'd use our recent very successful Color War to raise a rather controversial issue. As a former Camp Director, I remember wistfully thinking year in and year out "if only we could have Color War every day..." After all, during Color War kids daven like never before, they participate in every activity, they discipline themselves, they give a maximal effort, exemplify leadership, teamwork, and sportsmanship, and that's only the beginning. Here in school, while on a lesser scale, it was no different. Our students rose to the occasion in the most impressive fashion.

So, what's controversial about that? Well, have you ever considered what motivates kids to perform during Color War? What prize, what reward, what incentive do they receive to give it their best? None. Sure, they get points or lose points but the objective is simply to win is known as intrinsic motivation as opposed to extrinsic motivation. Some, such as the noted author Alfie Kohn have argued that intrinsic motivation is far more effective in producing meaningful and long lasting results than any means of extrinsic motivation could ever be. Perhaps, then, Color War should be a clarion call for us as parents and us as educators to think, and perhaps rethink, the means we use to motivate our children and our students to perform at their best.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Dominion of Choice

There is no better way to capture the power and inspiration of Linda Hooper's message to our school community at the recent Scholarship Banquet and to our high school students the morning after, than to share the poem with which she closes each and every lecture she gives on the story of her students and the now famous Paper Clips Project in Whitwell, Tennessee:

I came into this world without being asked

And when the time for dying comes

I shall not be consulted

But between the boundaries of birth and death

Lies the Dominion of Choice

To be a doer or a dreamer

To be a lifter or a leaner

To speak out or remain silent

To extend a hand of friendship

Or to look the other way

To feel the suffering of others

Or to be callous and insensitive

These are the choices

It is in the choosing

That my measure as a person

Is Determined

-Gertrude Hildreth Housman

World's Fair

The sights, sounds, and tastes of countries from around the world came together in this year's World's Fair. It was a school wide multi-cultural multi-sensory learning experience provided by the talented young men and women in our 7th grade under the able leadership of this year's MHA / FYOS Teacher of the Year, Ms. Whitney Huey. Well done!