March 2011

This morning at all-school meeting, I shared this video with our students and school community.   It was particularly fitting to do so today, I explained to the assembly.  The video features author Steven Johnson explaining the incredibly important value of on-line networking in the development of better thinking and “good ideas.”

Appropriate it was, today, because we had visiting our campus three educators from out-of-town, two from Phoenix and one from Atlanta. They were here at our school to share and develop further their own “good ideas,” and all three had come to us, in one way or another, via communications along on-line networks such as Twitter and blogging.

I encouraged our students, after the video’s conclusion, to reflect upon the ways in which they were using online networking in ways beyond the merely social: were they using it, or could they be using it more effectively (and safely, of course), to communicate with others who shared their passions and hobbies and with whom they could share their own “good ideas,” and through this intellectual networking, better develop new “good ideas.”

This morning we were visited for four hours by Bo Adams.  Mr. Adams is the Head of the Middle School at Atlanta’s Westminster School, and is conducting a sabbatical research project upon best practices in “Schools of the Future.”

It was our great pleasure to host him; over the course of the morning he took several pictures and shot several short videos, and tweeted out many observations.  (You can follow Mr. Adams at @BoAdams1)

Below I have pasted in his tweets, some of his photos, and links to his short videos.  Enjoy.

Backdrop to St. Gregory School (photo, left)

What a beautiful school, tucked at the foot of a mountain range. Just met @jonathanemartin 1st time…thx to twitter months ago.

Reading student newspaper, the Gregorian Chant – hot off the press

Sample of new course at St. Gregory… Historical Innovations in Art, Music, Theatre. Newspaper mentions inter-departmentalization

Inch wide and mile deep #gregviz

In World 9 talking atomic bomb: active discuss, images on SmartBoard

Two weeks ago we shared with students our changes in the high school curriculum, and the slide show covering those changes is above.  (The presentation was in prezi, but wordpress doesn’t support prezi embeds, so, sadly, it has been converted to powerpoint).

As Dr. Michelle Berry, our History department chair, said in enthusiastically introducing the presentation, “We have lots of changes— and I think they are pretty cool.”

The excitement to me among our students is pretty apparent; one of our student journalists came in to interview me recently, and as I articulated the reasons for the changes, her eyes grew wider.  I worried she was appalled, and inquired of her, and she told me no, not at all: “I am so excited about these changes: this is really great.”

These innovations in our curriculum have come quickly, after a rich January conversation at our school’s Academic Committee meeting emerged somewhat spontaneously after a provocative question about the importance of providing students more choice and having offerings that might be more exciting to them.

In the course of that conversation and subsequent ones, nine values and/or goals have emerged informing and underpinning the new curricular structure.

What is the new format?  We are moving away in most of our departments from a four year defined curriculum sequence of year-long, generic (or non-specific, non-“branded”) survey classes.

Instead, it might be said we are aping a collegiate curricular format, continuing with the year-long survey courses in grades nine and ten, and then replacing what was the default, (single option year-long survey in grades eleven and twelve) with semester electives, in most cases more than one in each department each semester, which are topical, more narrowly defined subjects of study. (more…)

Increasingly, I am writing posts for other blog-sites, and I have an inconsistent practice: sometimes I repost them here to 21k12, and sometimes I do not.  When I don’t, I’ll try to make a habit of providing links here for folks who primarily read me via this 21k12blog.  (If you follow me on Twitter, you know I always tweet out the links to posts elsewhere).

Yesterday, my first post for edSocialMedia went up; edSocialMedia has a tag line: Exploring the Role of Social Media in Education, a topic about which I am both intensely curious and very enthusiastic.   I am pleased to have been welcomed there as a contributor.

The post is entitled: “Dilemmas & Tensions of Blogging: Learning from Montaigne.”  Check it out if you are interested.

In the past ten days I have also posted two pieces to Connected Principals which I did not double-post here:

  • Salman Khan, Transformer— this post has generated far more discussion and debate in the comment boxes than nearly any other post I have written to date.

Happy reading, and, as always, I welcome and appreciate your comments.

A few months ago I read a great post by my valued Connected Principals colleague, David Truss, entitled No Office Day.  Periodically, Dave, who heads an international school in China, deliberately spend an entire school day not in his office but in classrooms.

Today I finally took that day, and have now every intention of doing so at least monthly for the rest of my career (please try to hold me to this intent, and know too of my intent to lost 20 more pounds: these are challenging resolutions to abide by).

Here is my report, in a post that also seeks to enhance my blogging style with more pictures than usual: I know I have to make my posts more visually appealing.

My first classroom visit was to Sr. Rabinowitz’s Spanish classroom; I was greeted as I came in with a Buenas Dias, Como Esta?

I answered, of course, Muy Bien, y Tu? This 7th grade classroom was in the course of transitioning to a new exercise, a dialog they were to conduct and trasncribe into their notes; one of the great things was the entire set of directions for the exercise  were given, of course, en espanol– nearly the whole class is conducted this way.


Yesterday I had the great pleasure of sitting to hear a “pitch” from a group of four students proposing a new green energy patio area as a laptop recharging station.  The students are all participants in our new Innovation course, called Design/Build Technology Innovation, taught by our excellent Physics instructor Dennis Conner.

This is the proposal the students submitted in advance of their “pitch.”


  • Use the Maintenance Building as a “base” for a solar panel recharging system.
  • (Set up display that monitors energy output from the panels.
  • Construct a ramada/patio area that showcases these technologies.
  • In future, we would like to add a wind turbine to the power system.


  • We would like to use the storage closet next to the storage room(old photo lab) to house electronics that should be shielded from the elements.
  • We would like to use the roof of the building to try various orientations of solar panels. (more…)

In recent months I have written almost half a dozen posts about Khan Academy and how it can and will influence changes in the way teaching and learning happens in our school. In my NAIS recap last week, I wrote about the excitement created by Salman Khan’s TED-style talk, which was clearly for me and many, many others a major highlight of the conference.

That talk by Khan is now available: he repeated it, seemingly to my observation nearly exactly verbatim, at the TED conference, and the TED people have been kind enough to post it online, and I share it with you here.   It is a worthwhile 20 minutes, to be sure.

Last Thursday night we hosted a screening of the new film, Race to Nowhere, and a panel afterwards.  I have already shared my own reactions to the film; here I want to share those of our panelists and from our students.

Michelle Berry, Ph.D, History Department Chair, St. Gregory

There is a critique in the film that the educational system is reactionary, comparing us to other countries, like: we are not doing as well as Finland.  I think that one of the things we need to do is figure out what we want education to be. What is the point of education?  I heard the “H word” a lot,  happy– what does it mean to be happy?   That is the point of education: to get students excited about what they are learning even if means working at home.

I am not sure why in this film why reading seems to be such a really  rough thing which nobody wants to do: that they’d rather do skateboarding than reading.

This is partly because we  made it homework instead of home-fun. (more…)

Thursday evening, our school hosted a screening of the documentary film Race to Nowhere and a panel discussion afterwards.  Here I am offering my own first reactions to the film; in subsequent posts I intend to share some of our panelists’ responses and explore the suggestions from the film’s website, End the Race.

The film asks and addresses what are for this parent and educator some of the most central and essential questions about K-12 education and child-raising; it does so in ways stimulating, provocative, compelling, redundant, one-sided, and emotionally manipulative.

The essential questions, then, to my observation, in the film include the following:

  • What is K-12 education’s  ultimate purpose?
  • What is the role of happiness and self-fulfillment (or self-actualization as our panelist Dr. Davis asked) in the priorities of K-12 education? (more…)

As part of our fundraising auction event last night, this video was produced by our fine sophomore student, Derek Jobst.  The video is a truly lovely view of our school, captured in the voices and expressions of our students and teachers.   I hope you enjoy it.