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Deciding Whether or Not to Take AP Exams

Authored by Maren Holmen, Director, The Tutoring School

As parents and their children worry more and more about how hard it is to get into college, they look for additional opportunities to distinguish themselves from the rest.  Advanced Placement courses and exams have become one of those things high school juniors and seniors take to show that they are competitive.  Every year, however, I field inquiries from frantic parents who are looking for a tutor or a place for their child to take these AP exams, in large part because “that’s what everyone does.”  Before you stress out about where your child can take an AP exam (either because your school doesn’t offer this particular exam or because your child is home-schooled) or commit to paying for endless hours of tutoring, there are a few things to consider: What’s the goal: to get college credit or create a more competitive college application?  In a perfect world, both things would be nice; however, many people are focused on one or the other.  AP courses can be taken without taking the...read more

Topics: Advanced Placement, AP exams, college, Maren Holmen

Using Technology to Exercise the Mind - Part II

Authored by Cavin Thuring, Technology Teacher

In a follow up to my last blog regarding how significant a role creative software can have in the development of a person’s mind, I’d like to share an illuminating example.  Here at The Beekman School we offer various creative courses, and one of them is a course in the fundamentals of design using Adobe Illustrator as the software tool.  I assigned a project so challenging to my students that they have listed it as the most difficult task they have ever done.  All I asked was for them to mimic each other’s style for one of their projects. I wanted to get them thinking outside the box regarding their design solutions. Every day of the project I received comments ranging from, “This is so hard!” to, “Why are you making us do this?”  Why indeed?  To expand their minds, break down assumptions, and force new perceptions. After a week of this, the project came to an end.  The students were relieved and asked if they could go back to their old style of design.  I said yes, and the next...read more

Topics: Cavin Thuring, technology

Why Do We Tell Each Other Stories?

Authored by Michelle Koza, English Teacher

We all have stories. Sometimes we think that our stories are not valuable or interesting, but if our inaugural Chirp Café last week taught us anything, it’s that this just isn’t the case. The room was packed to the rafters with spectators who were there to listen to students tell their personal stories of transition and change. I started Chirp Café as a venue for students to share their stories. At first, I was afraid it would flop. What teenager would be brave enough to get in front of a crowd of their peers and share their feelings? It seemed a non-starter. But how wrong I was! The kids loved it. Our students come from all over the country and the world, and it’s a culture shock when they get here. I experienced it myself. As an American born and raised abroad, it took some adjusting when I finally decided to make the United States my permanent residence. So I shared my story. I didn’t fit in as a high school kid, and continued to struggle when I went to college. But at the same...read more

Topics: English, storytelling, Chirp Cafe, Michelle Koza

Using Technology to Exercise the Mind

Authored by Cavin Thuring, Technology Teacher

Virtually all schools have a technology requirement.  Common sense tells us that this is because our world is increasingly dependent upon technology, and it’s important to be able to utilize it.  Here at Beekman, however, we go beyond the basics and learn technology through the execution of “fun” software.  This is certainly more engaging for students, but there are more benefits than meet the eye. People learn programs like Adobe Photoshop in order to manipulate images for work, play, or artistic exploration.  And while it’s not too difficult a program to learn, it does take time to master it.  Every Photoshop project is truly a problem that has to be solved, no differently than a math or science question.  At The Beekman School, we offer several computer courses, one of which teaches Adobe Photoshop in order to explore the fundamentals in Digital Imaging.  It is a challenging but fun class.  And I stress to my students that although it may seem simple compared to some of their other...read more

Topics: Photoshop, Digital Imaging, Cavin Thuring

Private School Rankings and the High School Myth

Authored by George Higgins, Headmaster

Are you starting to look for a school next year?  Just like the college admission game, getting into a private high school in Manhattan can be a strategizing and stressful experience.  Although there isn’t a report like the one U.S. News & World Report publishes so parents can see top ranking schools, there is an unspoken hierarchy passed among parents and other education professionals as to which schools are “the best.” Given the ease of the Internet, most parents would begin with a Google search.  Something like “ranking nyc private schools.”  And guess who shows up at the top: paid advertisers!  (If you’re not careful, or don’t know the ins-and-outs of how Google works, you might miss that subtle line across the page or ignore it as irrelevant.) What follows below the line is a listing of organizations that work with all of the private schools and should be unbiased in their rankings.  What do you think they have to say to parents who want to know who’s at the top?  One website...read more

Topics: New York City private schools, high school rankings, George Higgins

You’re a Unique Person; We’re a Unique School!

Authored by George Higgins, Headmaster

Do you ever feel like you just don’t fit in at your school?  Mean kids, exclusive cliques, lunchroom gossip, bullying in the halls, unfriendly teachers, no one listens to you and no one cares?  Most teenagers feel that way at one time or another, but when the atmosphere at school becomes so oppressive that it’s keeping you from performing at your best, it’s time for a change. Your school day takes up the majority of your daylight hours.  Feeling miserable while trying to learn is not the optimum environment for success.  NYC private schools can be a challenging, even intimidating place for prep school teens.  Even the best prep schools face the challenge of trying to meet the needs of each individual.  We are a college prep school with over 85 years of experience in creating an academic program and facilitating a social setting that promotes the qualities that a wide variety of students have deemed important during their high school years. The Beekman School, founded in 1925,...read more

Topics: The Beekman School, personalized education, personalized learning, New York City private schools, George Higgins

Learning Outside the Classroom

Authored by Linli Chin, Math Teacher

Learning can take place anytime, anywhere. Most of our learning in math occurs while we are at school, but a student’s ability to grasp and concretely understand the concepts can differ significantly from one child to the next. While some students are able to fully comprehend the given concepts with a short explanation coupled with an example, others may require further assistance in order for them to fully master the concept. While the teaching that takes place in class tries to accommodate all students, when your child is struggling to keep up, what are some available resources to help them? A tutor can be helpful if your child needs personalized attention and is struggling in the class, but that can be quite costly. There are plenty of other options available online, some free and some for a small fee, that can support the learning done in class should they require minimal additional support. Here are some of the websites that are helpful to both parents and students in order to...read more

Topics: Linli Chin, web-based learning, mathematics, flipped classroom

What it Takes to Learn Your Way: A Personalized Approach

Authored by Maren Holmen, Academic Liaison

This post is part of a series inspired by Dream School: NYC, a SundanceTV docu-series that follows 15 New York City teenagers who left high school and are now trying to get back on track to graduate. The Beekman School partnered with the show to help customize the learning experience for the students. Follow this blog to learn more and participate in the social media conversations using the hashtag #LearnYourWay. After watching last week’s final episode of “Dream School: NYC,” I wanted to reflect on what we’ve learned from this experience. This has been a challenging journey for all parties involved: students, faculty, parents, mentors, and partners such as The Beekman School.  But it has also been a rewarding one. When I was first asked to be part of the filming process for the show, I wanted to decline. They say teaching is an art, but I know that, from the outside, the process of teaching doesn’t look like art. It’s ugly and weird, and teachers have to be willing to put their...read more

Topics: Learn Your Way, Dream School, The Beekman School, Maren Holmen, personalized education

Beekman: Teaching to the Individual

Authored by The Beekman School

Our national school system, public and private alike, is designed for keeping a group of students as homogeneous as possible.  Even with all of the claims of “teaching to the individual” that a traditional school makes, there has to be a level of keeping everyone in the class at the same pace, leaving some students behind and holding others back.  How, then, can you truly teach to the individual? At Beekman, we have a variety of resources to support students for whom traditional course progressions don’t work. A portion of our students come from unconventional or foreign educational backgrounds. Our flexibility in course leveling is why we can have a 10-year-old taking Calculus on a protracted schedule. For some, finding the right placement can be an ongoing challenge. When it’s a young, precocious student, the challenges can be insurmountable. Over the years, we have had several young pupils who did not fit into the classroom settings at other schools. They were advancing too quickly...read more

Topics: individualized learning, teaching, education, alternative education, The Beekman School

A Reader's Guide to Race Relations

Authored by James Vescovi, English Teacher

The riots in Ferguson, Mo., over the summer showed us that race remains a hot topic in the United States. While reading newspapers can aid our understanding of race, fiction and poetry can also shed light on this important issue. The Harlem Renaissance yielded many important works about race, and those remind us that a lot of the issues prevalent decades ago are still with us today. Here are five books I have taught over the years that I find particularly effective in revealing this complex issue to high school students: 1. Passing (1929) by Nella Larsen tells the cautionary tale of Clare Kendry; she is married to a white man who is unaware of her African-American heritage. Clare’s childhood friend, Irene Redfield, just as light-skinned, has chosen to remain within the African-American community. By the book’s end, both have had to confront lies they have told others and their own deep fears. 2. The Blacker the Berry (1929) by Wallace Thurman was among the first novels to address...read more

Topics: Harlem Renaissance, James Vescovi, Langston Hughes, literature

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