NotesOnGrief


    Of Note: Life, Not School

    Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Knopf, May 01, 2021

    Like so many, renowned Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie lost a beloved member of her family last year, and although she can't be sure that her father died of COVID-19 when he quickly passed away within three days of falling ill, she can't help but wonder. Author of Americanah, We Should All be Feminists, and The Danger of a Single Story, Adichie now offers a slim, salient story of 2020 in her most recent work, Notes on Grief. The book is short and fleeting, a perfect expression of the impossibility of finding the right words to express the incredulity, the permanence, and the weight of heartfelt loss. Because her father died during the early months of the pandemic, she could neither be by his side as he died nor travel to Nigeria to mark his passing. Her grief did not dissipate, but compounded: "Grief is a cruel kind of education," Adichie writes, "You learn how ungentle mourning can be, how full of anger." It is also a teacher, she argues, helping us to "learn how much grief is about language, the failure of language and the grasping for language." Notes includes haunting and heartening images – seeing her father's silent face and motionless body on Zoom, on the one hand, and vivid memories of his laughter, turns of phrase, and pride in his daughter's literary feats on the other. In Notes on Grief, Adichie concretizes what so many felt during the pandemic: that life, not school, is often where the hardest lessons are learned, and where adaptation is the true portal to survival.


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


    JED-Foundation


    What Could Be More Important?

    Jedfoundation.org by The JED Foundation
    May 14, 2021

    The JED Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to protecting the emotional health of young adults across the country. What could be more important these days? Even before the global pandemic hit in March of 2020, suicide was the leading cause of death among young people ages 18-24, and as Independent School leaders, we can all attest to the dangers of the mental health crisis in our schools today. JED meets schools where they are, offering services to benefit students, but schools need not engage formally with the JED program to benefit from their expertise. The Mental Health Resource Center offered on JED's website provides information to help teens and young adults navigate everything from stress reduction to what to do if they believe that a friend is at risk of suicide. Helpful, easy-to-digest advice about, for example, scheduling study breaks, time to be with friends, and time to exercise provide fodder for health classes, advisor groups, and community letters. Also on the website, and particularly helpful for high school educators and college counselors, is a link to "Set To Go," a resource for helping high school students prepare for a healthy transition to college and adulthood. The need to build and rebuild safe communities in our schools is ongoing; engaging in partnership with JED, or at least reviewing its abundant free resources, will bolster existing programs and help us to know that we have done all that we can for the students, faculties, and families in our care.


    Submitted By David C. Flocco, Ed.D., Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ


    SuperCourses


    Sensing the Possible

    Super Courses: The Future of Teaching and Learning by Ken Bain
    Princeton University Press, January 1, 2021

    In his most recent book, Super Courses: The Future of Teaching and Learning, Ken Bain writes about the revolution in course design happening right now in colleges, universities, and high schools across the country and in China and Singapore. Drawing on decades of research on student motivation and cognitive science, the educators Bain cites have created evidence-based courses that engage and transform learning. Bain underscores the research design principles that undergird specific courses, and he provides ample evidence that the design principles – and not, for example, new technologies – give these courses their power. Every course exemplar offers inspiration as well as clarity regarding design. Particular courses like the University of Virginia's "Books Behind Bars" is an example of a Russian literature course that embeds service learning for students in ways that are profound, meaningful, and deeply engaging. Olin College of Engineering, another example, was designed from the ground up to be a school that offered a new, research-based, transformational college experience. Bain writes in an accessible, clear, and lively manner, and as such, all educators, from kindergarten to higher education, will be able to connect with the sense of the possible these "Super Courses" provide. Independent school leaders at every level might profitably utilize this book, as a whole or in sections, as a way to frame new course design and curriculum review within their schools.


    Submitted By Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM


    MakingTheHiddenVisible


    Sustaining and Enhancing Critical Work

    Making the Hidden Visible: The Lived Experience of DEIJ Practitioners in Independent Schools by Sudipti Kumar
    Explo Elevate, May 3, 2021

    "Making the Hidden Visible: The Lived Experience of DEIJ Practitioners in Independent Schools" is essential reading for independent school leaders. The report, written by Explo Elevate's Director of Research Sudipti Kumar, offers both qualitative and quantitative insight into the experiences of DEIJ practitioners at independent schools. Kumar notes that 31% of independent school students are students of color, but 69% of schools don't have a dedicated DEIJ coordinator. Optimistically, though, she cites NAIS data that job postings for DEI coordinators increased by over 100% in the past year. The report presents 10 key findings with further delineation into leadership, school culture, and strategies, all buttressed with qualitative insights from interviews with 30 DEI practitioners. Additionally, Kumar points to the many impediments to creating more equitable school communities while offering a bevy of helpful tips and strategies for sustaining and enhancing critical DEIJ work within schools. Most pressing are concerns about practitioner burnout, lack of administrative support, and confronting institutional history. More generally, avoiding insincere, "curated" diversity efforts and creating space for genuine transformative change remain challenges, but the data and insight in this illuminating resource will certainly help schools continue their evolutions.


    Submitted By Jonathan Gold, Moses Brown School, Providence, RI


    FailureToDisrupt


    Unrequited Transformations

    Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can't Transform Education by Justin Reich
    Harvard University Press, September 15, 2020

    What will the legacy of remote and hybrid learning models be? Will the new technologies many schools adopted out of necessity lead to transformational changes in teaching and learning? Justin Reich's book, Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can't Transform Education, provides some possible answers by chronicling the unrequited transformations of educational technology innovations of the last two decades. A learning scientist and edtech researcher, Reich expertly analyzes the possibilities and challenges of large-scale learning models and edtech initiatives by examining their underlying pedagogical theories and applications in school contexts. Though innovations such as MOOCs, algorithm-guided learning tools, and peer-guided learning forums promised to disrupt teaching and learning, Reich notes, such novelties grounded in traditional pedagogical approaches or modified for traditional schooling models have failed to result in transformation. In fact, they often reproduce inequalities in access and achievement for marginalized students. Reich avoids the myth of edtech as a silver bullet of educational reform; instead, he advocates for incorporating new technologies into reform efforts grounded in systems theory and community-centered collaboration. As schools emerge from the pandemic, educators and leaders can use Failure to Disrupt as a guide for realistically evaluating edtech innovations while remaining open to their possibilities.


    Submitted By Alice Laskin, Ed.M. Candidate, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    ThinkAgain


    Required Unlearning

    Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know by Adam Grant
    Viking, February 2, 2021

     Educators are in the business of growth and learning, which usually requires unlearning ideas that have proven to be wrong or limited and seeking out new visions, plans, and programs. "Unfortunately," as Adam Grant says in Think Again:The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know, "when it comes to our own knowledge and opinions, we often favor feeling right over being right." What follows is a witty and accessible yet deeply-researched and challenging exposition of why precisely humans find it so difficult to relinquish opinions, and just as important, what research indicates may be ways to help ourselves and others rethink ideas. Grant divides his work into three parts, tackling by turns how individual people can rethink their own views, what methods work (and which do not!) in challenging the views of others, and what practices create cultures of learning and unlearning in groups and organizations. Whether they are engaged in classroom teaching or administration, educators will benefit from the particular gift of this book: Think Again offers clear tools for diagnosing why someone might resist changing their mind as well as conversation styles for sidestepping resistance when the topic of "thinking again" arises .


    Submitted By Matthew Spotts S.J., Ed.M. Candidate Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    eRacedEpisode19


    Bonded by Bluntness

    eRACED: a podcast, Episode 19: Racial Literacy 101: Building An Essential Skill with Charles Adams by Lisa Johnson and Collette Bowers Zinn
    March 11, 2020

    If you're ready to listen to and learn from the unabashed voices of black women and their equity practitioner guests, then pull up a chair and get comfortable. Actually, get uncomfortable – eRACED afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. In animated conversations with each other and with prominent leaders, Bowers Zinn and Johnson shed light, provoke thought, and offer candid perspectives without apology. They discuss DEIJB issues while moving fluidly between their roles as parents and professionals, describing themselves as "two black moms bonded by bluntness, tenacity, and an unwavering commitment to creating communities of support." Charles Adams, Co-Founder of Lion's Story, joins Episode 19 to explore the essential skill of racial literacy and its importance in human development. Racial literacy is defined as the keen ability to recognize, recast, and resolve racial encounters and narratives. Adams asserts that parents and educators must carefully consider the "dosage and timing" of conversations with children about race and racism, never shying away from the painful complexities, while also preserving childhood joy. The podcast concludes with an admonition that schools embrace their moral obligation to train educators to detect and respond to racism, just as they prepare for fire drills and mandated reporting.


    Submitted By Wanda Holland-Greene, The Hamlin School, San Francisco, CA


    LanguishingFlourishing


    After the Extraordinary, Awe in the Ordinary

    The Other Side of Languishing is Flourishing. Here’s How to Get There by Dani Blum
    New York Times, May 4, 2021

    The Harvard University Human Flourishing Program began looking at the qualities and characteristics of well-being long before Covid-19 changed the emotional, physical, and social ground we stand on. But its research findings could not be more meaningful to this particular moment when hope is beginning to surface for some, and the need for the stabilizing forces of wellness is at peak for most. This New York Times article brings a timely and meaningful glimpse of what the Human Flourishing Program has identified as contributors to wellness found across large populations, in diverse circumstances, and with and without stable external resources. The data pointed to the benefits of “savoring and celebrating” as vital to reinforcing personal agency over daily life. Taking time to observe and collect tiny victories and small moments can make outsize differences to mental health and robust readiness for post-pandemic life. A gratitude ritual, a “five-minute favor,” awe in the ordinary, intentionally deepening social connections – these and other simple suggestions, freely available to all, help to re-establish the frameworks for social connection and positive mindset many depended on pre-lockdown. With the end of the school year in view, school leaders have opportunities to consider what it might take to celebrate a most challenging year, and to then create the environments in the familiar contexts of their own homes and schools so that flourishing might take hold. And as summer opens, the question, “What do I want to do with my time?” may have answers that can be supported and realized in new, purposeful, and long-lasting ways.


    Submitted By Elizabeth Morley, Dr. Eric Jackman Lab School, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario

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