Of Note: An Educational Philosophy for All Time

    It's Okay to Be a Different Kind of Parent During the Pandemic. by Mary Katharine Ham
    The Atlantic, April 8, 2020

    "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." Joan Didion's wise words are cited powerfully in Mary Katharine Ham's recent essay in The Atlantic, "It's Okay to Be a Different Kind of Parent During the Pandemic." Recounting her own experience of instantaneous yet lasting change when her husband died in a cycling accident in 2015, Ham gives readers, including parents and educators, permission to navigate the COVID-19 crisis on their own terms. Observing the many different but equally panicked pleas from parental posts to social media including "I'm not a stay-at-home mom" and "I'm not a homeschooling dad," Ham offers lessons learned the hardest way – from grief. Applicable also to educators who care deeply for their students, colleagues, and schools, Ham counsels, "when something outside your control changes your life, it's what you do with what you can control that really shapes [your] children." As schools continue to contend with closure, and educators continue to teach while shifting their practice to online learning, supporting the social-emotional well-being of students, and partnering with parents who are anxious at home, such stories of resilience are particularly fortifying. Echoing the wisdom of others who have confronted challenges in the past and persevered to new strengths, Ham voices an educational philosophy for all time, with crisis as our collective teacher.

    Submitted By Jessica Flaxman, 120 Education Consultancy, Belmont, MA


    A Lucid, Accessible Antidote

    Letters From An American by Heather Cox Richardson

    Too few academics live their intellectual lives in the public sphere, but Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor at Boston College, has committed herself to writing a brief, daily "Letter to Americans" that summarizes, analyzes, and comments on the news of the day. Her prose is lucid, accessible, and engaging, and she scrupulously provides her sources at the end of each piece. A product of independent schools herself, Professor Richardson models for us how academic study can serve the public good as she commits herself to fact-based analysis as an antidote to the disinformation that abounds around us. For any citizen, but especially for educators who want to enable their students to stay informed and clear-eyed, Professor Richardson provides daily information that helps us to stay current and to see our politics with a more nuanced understanding of how events in the past have led to the dramatic and unnerving history through which we are living. Additionally, Professor Richardson offers live chats via Facebook where she answers questions and explains to laypeople the history and mechanics of, for example, the electoral college. We owe a debt of gratitude to her for her lived commitment as a historian and her effort to clarify and deepen the collective understanding of our own historical moment.

    Submitted By Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM


    On the Frontlines (of Education)

    Teachers Are Anxious and Overwhelmed. They Need SEL Now More Than Ever. by Christina Cipriano and Marc Brackett
    EdSurge, April 7, 2020

    In their article, Christina Cipriano and Marc Brackett strongly advocate for "a greater focus on teachers' health and well-being," especially at a time when so many around the world are coping with a dramatic shift to online teaching. The authors base their opinions on the findings of a recent survey in which they tried to "unpack the emotional lives of teachers." That education providers are in as much need of SEL as their students was made clear by the fact that "anxiety" was the most frequently used word amongst teachers asked to describe their emotional state. According to the authors, teachers' emotional well-being should be a priority not only due to the current pandemic, but also because of systemic issues that continue to plague the education system. Surveys conducted in the past, along with a growing body of research, paint a dismal picture of teachers' emotional well-being. It took a pandemic for governments and citizens alike to recognize the importance of healthcare workers. One hopes that it doesn't take a global education emergency for policy makers, school administrators, and even parents to become cognizant of the needs of those who are on the front lines of education.

    Submitted By Shrey Nagalia, The Doon School, India


    A Wider Divide

    Locked out of the virtual classroom by New York Times Editorial Board
    The New York Times, March 27, 2020

    As the coronavirus pandemic forces a re-examination of online and distance learning, lack of access has emerged as a glaring issue. In a recent op-ed, The New York Times editorial board examined the widening digital divide, spotlighting the problem's new urgency as the country pivots to remote schooling. While 12 million children already lacked home internet access before the pandemic, "the daunting challenge of trying to get distance learning up and running comes as school districts are already struggling to feed students who rely on school breakfasts and lunches to stave off hunger." The column notes instances of schools responding quickly and creatively to these issues. KIPP Charter Network, for example, used its buses to deliver food and drop off curriculum packets. Overwhelmingly, however, the article exposes the inequity of access as many districts are unable to provide laptops or tablets and internet hotspots. The article suggests that closing the digital divide "will require a momentous effort on the scale of the federal project that brought electricity to darkened regions of the country during the New Deal." The further down the tunnel we get in this pandemic, the more momentous this effort might have to be.

    Submitted By Perry Eaton, Ed.M Candidate, Klingenstein Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY


    Children Don't Need Perfect Parents

    What Happened to American Childhood? by Kate Julian
    ​The Atlantic, April 17, 2020

    Kate Julian's latest piece in The Atlantic is required reading for parents and educators alike, building on and essentially replacing Jean Twenge's widely-read article published three years ago in the same publication ("Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?"). In it, Julian explores the increased anxiety of our age and the fact that, more and more clearly to researchers and psychologists, anxiety is the gateway to other mental health problems. Contagious but treatable, anxiety often starts in early childhood and can be tackled with treatments including cognitive behavioral therapy. Overall, Julian explores our proclivity for "insulat[ing] our children from distress and discomfort entirely," quoting therapist and author Lynn Lyons: "The more fearful parents become, the more they continue to do the things that are inadvertently contributing to these problems." Key to the article is the research and teaching of Yale professor Eli Leibowitz who clarifies that parents are not causing children's anxiety; they are accommodating it. Julian also quotes authors William Stixrud, a clinical neuropsychologist, and Ned Johnson (who owns a tutoring business): "Children don't need perfect parents, but they do benefit greatly from parents who can serve as a non-anxious presence." Julian cites how often parents opt for short-term gain and long-term pain (instead of their opposites) because they are overtaxed, short on time, and under-supported by our society. Advice from the piece includes giving children (of all ages) "experience tolerating discomfort" and "a sense of personal competence." Familiar and new at once, Julian's article will no doubt be widely-consumed and widely-discussed in the months ahead. 

    Submitted By Meghan Tally, Windward School, Los Angeles, CA


    Synchronous and Asynchronous; Equity and Compassion

    Flexibility, Wellness, Sustainability: GOA’s Review of School Schedules for Learning Online & Compassion, Equity, Rigor: GOA’s Review of Grading Policies for Learning Online by Eric Hudson
    globalonlineacademy.org,  April 10, 2020 & April 14, 2020

    Schools responding to COVID-19 have had to make deeply impactful decisions quickly with limited information. To help provide additional context for what schools are doing, Global Online Academy's Eric Hudson wrote up an analysis of responses to a survey that was completed by 89 independent and international schools. These two documents, "Flexibility, Wellness, Sustainability: GOA’s Review of School Schedules for Learning Online" and "Compassion, Equity, Rigor: GOA’s Review of Grading Policies for Learning Online," are timely and invaluable resources for school leaders as they think about important decisions ahead, both for this spring and the uncertain summer and fall. The first resource contains specific models of synchronous and asynchronous schedules; just as important, it acknowledges that many schools have revised their schedules by getting feedback from school constituents, reflecting on it, and making changes. The second document outlines a range of grading approaches, with some schools citing equity and lack of teacher experience with online learning as reasons to go entirely pass/fail while others aim for continuity in grading practices leavened with compassion. As school leaders think about how to lead, and not just react, in these complex times, these articles should be read and reread for inspiration and guidance.

    Submitted By Andrew Housiaux, Tang Institute, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA


    For Educators Committed to Social Justice

    School colors by Brooklyn Deep
    September 20, 2019

    New York City has the most segregated schools in the United States. The issues surrounding desegregation started long before the desegregation movements in the southern areas of the United States. School Colors is a narrative podcast that delves deeply into the impact of race, class, and power on the schools in Brooklyn, NY. The emphasis of the first episode is on the communities of central Brooklyn, particularly the historic 19th century free black settlement called Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Many of the same conversations centered on integration and distribution of resources are discussed and have changed very little over the last 150 years. What did these early communities do to educate their children? How did they respond to the disparity of funding? How do families and children choose between schools that offer subpar education and schools where children are hated? A must listen for all educators committed to social justice, the podcast episodes examine the impact of decades of systemic discrimination on generations of black students in central Brooklyn and the efforts made by educators to fight for the students despite the ongoing obstacles.

    Submitted By Kalimah Fergus Ayele, Ed.M Candidate, Klingenstein Center, Teachers College Columbia University, New York, NY


    High Up On the List of Good Things

    The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Megan Cox Gurdon
    Harper Collins, January 15, 2019

    With an urgent desire for normalcy in a time that doesn’t provide for it, we look for possible answers to an almost impossible question: Can we make meaning, strengthen relationships, and build memories while we shelter in place for safety from COVID-19? The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction offers a modest proposal in a well-articulated, researched, and inspiring way. Author Megan Cox Gurdon writes a passionate defense of reading aloud in family groups, cozy twosomes, multi-generational clusters, and even those who have long been reading to themselves. While the book was published months before the world heard of COVID-19, it speaks now to a new normal that pervades almost every hour of the day. Referencing cognitive science and the results of ethnographic research, Gurdon highlights the mental health and wellness value of being read to. And she is realistic. It doesn’t need to be an hour – it can be the enchanted 15 minutes, if that’s what is available. It is an invitation to parents, and to teachers supporting the now-at-home-together family, to expand or to take up again the accessible, inexpensive, and invaluable intervention of reading aloud regularly. There are solid current and classic suggestion lists from wide cultural perspectives, but the highest value here is not, despite the subtitle, something miraculous. Rather, it is the timely reminder of a familiar truth: years from now, when we are asked what we remember about these days, the irreplaceable comfort of reading aloud and being read to from an unforgettable novel or picture book might well be high up on the list of good things.

    Submitted By Elizabeth Morley, Jackman Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario


    Does it Change What Learning Looks Like?

    Meaningful Online Learning by Nada Dabbagh, Rose M. Marra, and Jane L. Howland
    Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, January 1, 2019

    There has always been a respect for those who have created interesting and challenging online courses. To that end, Meaningful Online Learning presents a framework in which educators can create and employ effective strategies and outcomes for online learning by defining qualities that can serve to make online learning meaningful. Recent events have tasked educators with transforming their physical classrooms into virtual ones, while simultaneously keeping their curricula rigorous, authentic, active and engaging. Dabbagh, Marra, and Howland help us answer the question, "does this change what learning looks like?" Whether physically in a room with your students or working with them in a virtual setting, teaching becomes meaningful when it creates opportunities for "students [to do] things and also [to think] about what they are doing." Regardless of the setting, an engaging and interactive environment makes learning effective and transferable, and therefore meaningful. The authors stress the importance of using technology as part of the action, and not just as a means to an end. In other words, technology should enhance the students’ experience, not merely replace what they would otherwise experience in the classroom. 

    Submitted By Stephanie Haaz Behrens, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Bronx, NY

KlingensteinCenter Teachers College Columbia University

Contact Us

525 West 120th Street
New York, NY 10027

Have a question or want more information about our programs?

Fill out our contact form and a member of our team will respond promptly.