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You Know What the United States is Missing? An Adjective

Authored by Anastasia Georgoulis, History teacher

Those of us who watched the Super Bowl (or tuned in just for the highly-anticipated commercials) probably saw the Chrysler ad featuring Bob Dylan. If you were able to rebound quickly enough from the idea of the master of folk music hawking a car – despite previous instances of “selling out” – you heard his opening question: “What’s more American than America?” My high school history teacher would reprimand us every time we referred to this country as America. Apparently it was reflective of an imperial past and connoted an unquestionable hubris. After all, the U.S. is but one country in the two vast continents home to all Americans. Now I’m the history teacher explaining to students how referring to the U.S. as America won’t earn them friends in Canada, Mexico, or South American countries. BUT, if you take the question “What’s more American than America?” and attempt to make it more politically correct, you will find yourself in the midst of an incomplete task. Go ahead, fill in the...read more

Topics: Bob Dylan, Super Bowl, America, U.S. History, teaching, Anastasia Georgoulis

Beekman: The Best Value for Your Education Buck!

Authored by George Higgins, Headmaster

Choosing a private school is a complicated task.  School websites are a great resource in aiding that choice by pointing out a school’s attractive features such as location, curriculum, and class size.  However, skillfully-crafted messages can also be misleading.   Parents encounter well-spun descriptions of programs and professionally-captured photos.  But what is often a major concern to parents is tuition.  It’s also important to learn just how small those “small classes” are and how many hours students really need to spend with a tutor/teacher to adequately cover a course’s syllabus when it’s not part of a fixed class schedule. Let’s consider the popular topic of small class size.  If you’re coming from a public school (which are frequently overcrowded), 15 or 20 students in a class sounds small.  At Beekman, the average class size is 7.  That difference may not seem great, but a student in a class of 7 gets twice the individual attention from the teacher than in a class of 15. If...read more

Topics: private school tuition, small classes, choosing the right school, George Higgins

Teaching Faulkner: A Snopes You Can Believe In

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

For me, the best way to teach William Faulkner is to begin with the Snopes, that ornery, duplicitous, barn-burning family of itinerant farmers, blacksmiths, bigamists and bank presidents.  Faulkner does not come naturally to most high school students, and he can be particularly hard to decipher for born-and-bred urbanites, too many of whom see his backwoods people as little more than players in a freak show. The key is to get students beyond a character’s eccentricities to his or her nobility. Faulkner imbued in his people (even the dishonest ones) with a commendable ability to endure the tragic. If you can get students to cross that Rubicon, you’ll find they’ll begin to get Faulkner, even laughing with the characters as opposed to at them. My introduction to the Snopes family begins with two handouts: (1) a map of Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County; and (2) the Snopes family tree, both of which will help students find their footing in Faulkner’s world. Next, I show a 40-minute...read more

Topics: Faulkner, literature, English, teaching, James Vescovi

Teen Creed

Authored by Vanilla Macias-Rodriguez, Science Teacher

Teen Creed Don't let your parents down, They brought you up.   Be humble enough to obey, You may give orders someday.   Choose companions with care, You become what they are.   Guard your thoughts, What you think, you are.   Choose only a date Who would make a good mate.   Be master of your habits, Or they will master you.   Don't be a show off when you drive, Drive with safety and arrive.   Don't let the crowd pressure you, Stand for something- Or you'll fall for anything.   Stored somewhere in my parents' garage is the corkboard that used to hang in my teenage bedroom and later in my college dorm room.  On that corkboard, pinned with a pink thumbtack, is a 3 x 5 paper card.  Printed on this card is the Teen Creed you read above.  It is misshapen and discolored from being close enough to my mirror to be repeatedly coated with Aqua Net as I fixed my hair each morning. Now in my 30’s, I see that if I had only heeded these words instead of giving them a passing glance every now and then...read more

Topics: teenagers, life lessons, Vanilla Macias-Rodriguez

When Students Tire of the Written Word

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

New Yorker essayist Joseph Mitchell once wrote, “When things get too much for me, I put a wild-flower book and a couple of sandwiches in my pockets and go down to the South Shore of Staten Island and wander around awhile.” It is the first line in “Mr. Hunter’s Grave,” which relates Mitchell’s discovery of an old African-American burial ground still lovingly tended by a local minister.  In the same way, when reading and interpreting literature gets to be “too much” for my students, we, too, depart for someplace new—the woodcut novels of Lynd Ward. This usually occurs in mid-April, with summer looming on the horizon. Ward, who died in 1985, was an illustrator of adult books (such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein) and children’s books (including Caldecott winner The Biggest Bear). In the 1930s, he wrote and illustrated with woodcuts six adult books of his own. He dubbed them “wordless novels,” and they depicted both the daily and the existential struggles of artists and working people....read more

Topics: English, teaching, art, James Vescovi

Online Courses - What They *Don't* Tell You

Authored by Maren Holmen, Academic Liaison

We’ve all heard about online courses; ads tout them as the best way to accrue credits on your schedule, and they seem like a handy and cost-effective alternative to traditional classes. But it’s important to understand what you’re really buying into before you make a commitment. Even the best, most well-intentioned students struggle to complete online courses. I recently spoke with a parent about her daughter. I have first-hand knowledge that this girl is a serious student: she turns in all of her homework on time, she goes above and beyond in her assignments, and she is never late for class. She had attempted to take online courses early in her high school career because she takes performance classes 3-4 hours every day, making a traditional school day virtually impossible. Online courses seemed like the perfect option. Soon, however, this serious A-student got behind in her coursework and was in danger of failing! When there is no structure, other commitments start to encroach on...read more

Topics: Online course, tutoring, flexible scheduling, Maren Holmen

What's More Beautiful Than a Great Story?

Authored by Michelle Koza, English teacher

Why do we tell each other stories? For the English teacher, the similarities between fiction and our own lives are clear: both have protagonists and antagonists, characters, relationships, and conflicts. Like the novelist, we develop motifs and metaphors that color our experiences. Though these account for the “hows”, what of the “why”? The readings we have done in my Advanced English class suggest some answers. Whereas in our own lives there are no do-overs, in literature there is always room for following the alternate route. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Czech writer Milan Kundera, the author speaks directly to the reader.  The characters, he claims, are born of his own experience (how could it be otherwise?), but make different choices. Novel writing (and reading!) is an exploration of potentials. And in our silent conversation with the author, we peer into these alternate lives, hoping perhaps to find some version of ourselves among the pages.   Nietzsche’s The Birth of...read more

Topics: storyteller, English, Michelle Koza

Faculty Q&A with Visual Technology Teacher Cavin Thuring

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

Growing up in New York City, Cavin Thuring had always been proficient at math and physics and entered college planning to major in either—or both. After arriving at college, however, he changed course, setting his sights on a degree in linguistics, though eventually came to the realization that the life of a linguistics professor was not for him. He finally decided he wanted to major in art (at the time he was two courses shy of a B.S. in Mathematics and 4 courses of a B.S. in Linguistics). “I’d always loved drawing and the arts. It just seemed inconceivable to me as a career of it.” He graduated from Harvard College in 1989 with a degree in visual and environmental studies, relishing his class in drawing, design, and animation.   Cavin returned to New York and began working for a small production company where he wore many hats: animation, video and film editing. His goal was to make enough money to enroll for a graduate degree at CalArts in Los Angeles. By the early 1990s, however...read more

Topics: technology, faculty, teacher, James Vescovi, Cavin Thuring

What Should You Look For in an Alternative High School Program?

Authored by Maren Holmen, Academic Liaison

There’s a lot of buzz around the term “alternative high school.”  Students (and their parents) who are not performing well in a more traditional setting are looking for other educational options that don’t sacrifice instructional quality.  But what should you be looking for when researching alternative education? Identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses.  Is it just one or two subjects that are difficult, or is it multiple courses?  How does your child approach homework?  Is your child better at learning experientially, visually, or aurally?  Look through old comments on report cards or other teacher correspondence to get some guidance based on a history of educator observations. What works for one situation may not work for all situations.  As new initiatives like the Common Core cause many parents and students to search for options that aren’t as dependent on assessment, changing to another program that doesn’t have any assessments isn’t always the solution.  Some students do...read more

Topics: alternative high school, alternative education, transfer, Maren Holmen

How *Not* to Forget Everything over Winter Break

Authored by Maren Holmen, Academic Liaison

Hooray!  Winter vacation is almost here!  Students throughout the country will be running out of school in the next week and gleefully forgetting everything that they’ve learned in the past four months of school.  Everyone needs a break, but here are some easy tips that will keep that information from melting away: Ask teachers for enrichment work.  Most teachers have worksheets that review material they’ve covered in their classes, and they are happy to share these with their students (or steer parents in the right direction for workbooks, online resources, etc.)  Some are even willing to give extra credit for work done over the break. Do a little bit every day.  This is something that teachers tell their students constantly: it is better to do work little by little over multiple days than to cram it all into one marathon session.  Whether you are learning a new language, tackling a big paper, or studying for a major exam, you will be far more successful (and retain a lot more) if...read more

Topics: vacation, studying, students, Maren Holmen


We are welcoming students to class this spring either via a hybrid in-person/online learning model in NYC (following our Spring Break), or via fully remote, synchronous online classes.  Learn more about our response to COVID-19 >