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Are Letters of Recommendation Pointless?

Authored by George Higgins, Headmaster

As the head of a high school, I read and write more than my fair share of letters of recommendation and I have frequently found myself asking if what I’m composing, or what I’m reviewing, carries enough importance to merit the amount of time and energy that goes into it. Yes, there are weaker and stronger letters, but have you ever read a recommendation that didn’t recommend the person? Our society has become so sensitive to legal actions that I wonder if anyone really says all that they honestly feel when asked to write a letter for a person who you know is not exemplary. If that’s the situation, then what is the usefulness of these endorsements when their accuracy is questionable, at best? I recently had to retrieve the academic records for a former student of ours who graduated in 1966. The head of the school had written him a recommendation letter, which concluded with the following statement: “On his good days, his interest can be engaged and his intelligence stimulated.  During...read more

Topics: George Higgins

Discovering the Universe

Authored by Linli Chin, Science Teacher

One of my earlier memories of my dad was watching him fill a small tub in the driveway with water on a clear day  as he explained to us, his daughters that were just starting out in elementary school, that we were going to witness a solar eclipse through the reflection of the sun and sky in the water. We were instructed not to look directly at the sun because while the solar eclipse was happening it would sear our eyes, but I kept getting restless and turning my head towards the sky. My dad came up with a solution; he got a roll of film negatives from the house and told me that I could look at the sun only if I used the negatives as a filter. The whole experience of seeing the sun engulfed in broad daylight and the sky turning pitch black seemed surreal - as if happening in slow motion. Why did it happen? Where did the sun go? What was blocking the sun? These questions were the building blocks of my lifelong love of science and the pursuit of understanding our vast universe.  Watching...read more

Topics: science, Linli Chin, Brooklyn Botanic Garden

How to Evaluate Summer School Programs – Tips for parents on how to choose a good summer school

Authored by George Higgins, Headmaster

Now that we’re getting close to the end of the academic year, there are parents and students coming to the conclusion that they need to start thinking about summer classes for high school students in NYC.  Whether it’s summer high school science programs or summer math classes for high school students, finding the optimal setting takes advance planning and now is probably a good time to start looking. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re searching for summer classes in NYC: There are lots of places offering advancement, remediation, or review.  Make sure the program you select is accredited. If the program is accredited and you plan to repeat or advance a subject for credit, check with your child’s current school to make sure that they will recognize this credit once the summer program has ended. What are the start/finish dates?  How many days per week does the class meet? How long is the class?  What hours does the class meet? Are classes available so students can advance...read more

Topics: Summer School, Summer, George Higgins

The Benefits of Analog

Authored by James Vescovi, English Teacher

For Professor Carol E. Holstead, the “moment of truth” about note taking came when she found her students continually using social media during lectures. “I could not compete with Facebook and YouTube, and I was tired of trying,” she writes in “The Benefit of No-Tech Note Taking,” which appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Competing with the Internet is a problem that all professors and teachers struggle with, including here at Beekman. Like any piece of technology, laptops and iPads can be used well or misused. In Holstead’s case, she instituted a policy that allowed students to only take notes by hand during lectures. Like other educators, she found that when her students took notes by computer, they transcribed every word; when they took notes by hand, they recorded facts and ideas in their own words. Research has shown the benefit in longhand note-taking. In one study published in Psychological Science, 327 student on three campuses watched a TED lecture while taking...read more

Topics: note-taking, technology, retention, James Vescovi

When Should You Consider One-On-One Education?

Authored by Maren Holmen, Director of The Tutoring School

The concept of personalized learning is a major movement in education right now—largely discussing treating students as individual learners, not as one big herd to move along the same path at the same rate at the same time.  This idea is not new, but with the aid of new technology, it is becoming much easier to enact on a large scale. With this movement comes a new wave of schools and learning centers that focus on one-on-one education.  This is the ultimate in personalized education—right?  Sometimes, but not always.  When are one-to-one classes the right option for your student? When it’s difficult to follow a regular schedule.  There are students who are pre-professional artists or athletes, or who regularly travel with their parents on extended trips.  For these students, the flexibility of scheduling a one-to-one class means that they can make continued forward progress with their education. When a student is coming back after a long leave of absence.  For students who are...read more

Topics: personalized education, personalized learning, small classes, Maren Holmen

Preparing for High School - What To Do Before You Get There

Authored by Maren Holmen, Director of The Tutoring School

Once you’ve sent in your applications and are starting to receive acceptance letters, you’re done, right?  Wrong!  Now you need to prepare yourself for what to expect in high school.  And there’s plenty of work to be done there. Learn how to use your technology for academic, not recreational, purposes.  You probably know more about how to take great selfies on your dad’s iPad than he does.  But do you know how to take notes on a document on your iPad?  Do you know how to access the extended keyboard on your calculator app?  The more technology comes into the classroom, the more students are expected to use technology in their learning.  Make sure you know how to do more than send emojis to your BFF. Develop a method of organizing materials for each subject/course.  Many teachers (myself included) require their students to keep notebooks that are used solely for that class.  But some people like having a binder with separate sections to keep themselves organized.  You might have...read more

Topics: high school, prospective student, Maren Holmen

Performing Empathy: Shakespeare in the Classroom

Authored by Michelle Koza, English Teacher

I did not understand the power of kinesthetic learning until I taught Shakespeare through performance. Last year I participated in a Folger Shakespeare Library professional development at BAM, in Brooklyn, and it transformed my experience of Shakespeare and deepened my understanding of why the study of literature is so important. The program convinced me that the best place to experience Shakespeare is from the inside. What interpretation is the actor levying upon the text to make her actions justified? This is what I like to call the work (i.e., labor) of literature. All the decisions the actor makes are grounded in the text, and the performance makes the abstract quite physical—intimate, even. Performance-based reading leverages different modes of thinking, intellectual and kinesthetic, to promote students’ comprehension, critical thinking and understanding of character. The experience was transformative for me, and I saw how powerful this approach could be in the classroom. I was...read more

Topics: Shakespeare, Michelle Koza, performance, kinesthetic learning

Why Summer School is Important for the Atypical Student

Authored by Maren Holmen, Director of The Tutoring School

Summer school is much-maligned. There are relatively few students, parents, or teachers who look at summer school as a golden opportunity, and so it always gets a bad rap. But there is a reason why there are a number of articles, blogs, and listicles about how to fight the “summer slide.” If this loss of knowledge over the summer (or any long absence from school) is so prevalent and known to be detrimental, why do people still hate summer school? Maybe it’s because it seems pointless for many students—and, I suppose, given our current education model, it is not necessary for a number of students. However, for those students who are “atypical,” summer school is that chance to make sure that the coming school year isn’t as difficult as the previous one. Who are these “atypical” students, though? English Language Learners (ELLs): If a student is not a native English speaker, the expectation that they will take classes with those students who are can be daunting. ELLs can benefit...read more

Topics: Summer School, Summer, Maren Holmen

How to Evaluate Summer School Programs – Tips for parents on how to choose a good summer school

Authored by George Higgins, Headmaster

Now that we’re getting close to the end of the academic year, there are parents and students coming to the conclusion that they need to start thinking about summer classes for high school students in NYC.  Whether it’s summer high school science programs or summer math classes for high school students, finding the optimal setting takes advance planning and now is probably a good time to start looking. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re searching for summer classes in NYC: There are lots of places offering enrichment, remediation, or review.  Make sure the program you select is accredited. If the program is accredited and you plan to repeat or accelerate a subject for credit, check with your child’s current school to make sure that they will recognize this credit once the summer program has ended. What are the start/finish dates?  How many days per week does the class meet? How long is the class?  What hours does the class meet? Are classes available so students can...read more

Topics: Summer School, George Higgins

Flipped Math

Authored by Kate Bendrick, Math Teacher

I recently bought a kindle book for $0.99. It was written by a friend’s mother, and I was pretty excited that the Internet can reduce barriers to publishing to the extent that I can buy from a friend on Amazon.com. Imagine that book was $99,000.00. Would you buy it? The history of education is a largely a story of scarcity. Around the time of the earliest universities, books were extremely expensive. Before the printing press, written material had to be copied by hand, meaning that books were, well, scarce. The very word “lecture” comes from Latin root of the word “read.” Surprising, given anyone who has been to a lecture knows that it’s more about talking (or being talked to, rather) than reading. But at its origin, a lecturer would read from a book to students. The best access they had to the book’s material was orally, not visually, since 30 people can listen to a single book being read. Fifty years ago, the scarcity was not so much in paper or prevalence of books, but in...read more

Topics: flipped classroom, math, mathematics, Kate Bendrick

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