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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

Beauty in Simplicity: Why I Teach Hemingway

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

The first beautiful thing about teaching Ernest Hemingway’s short stories is that a teacher is pretty much guaranteed that every student has read the assigned story by class time. That’s because Hemingway is so readily accessible, so seemingly simple. In fact, when I teach “Indian Camp,” the first story in the collection In Our Time, I tell students, with a straight face, that Hemingway wrote like a nine-year old. The tale is about a baby on an Indian reservation delivered by the father of the young protagonist, Nick Adams.   Called in in an emergency, Dr. Adams performs a Caesarian section with a jack-knife and sews the mother up with fishing line.  Hemingway writes, “His [Nick’s] father stood up. Uncle George and the three Indian men stood up. Nick put the basin out in the kitchen.” Pretty simple language. Had those lines been written in a creative writing class, the teacher might suggest that the student combine the first two sentences—you know, tighten things up a bit. But...read more

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

Faculty Q&A with English Teacher Michelle Koza

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

Michelle Koza comes to The Beekman School from the trenches of New York City public schools.  Born in Brazil to a Brazilian mother and an American father, she grew up loving books and left her home country in 2001 to attend Boston College, where she earned a B.A. in 2005. After working for a year, she attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, earning an M.L.S. in library science. In 2008, she was chosen to become part of New York City’s highly selective Teaching Fellows Program, which placed her in some tough inner-city high schools. How did you get into teaching? Even as a child growing up in Brazil, I knew that I wanted to read literature and bring great books to students for a living if I could.  When I landed in college in the United States, I set my sights on becoming an academic, though I soon saw that, with the job market flooded with English Ph.D.’s, it was going to be a tough road. So what did you do after graduating? In college, I’d worked in a fine arts library. My love...read more

Topics: English, private school, teaching, James Vescovi, Michelle Koza

Faculty Q&A with English Teacher James Vescovi

Authored by The Beekman School

James Vescovi loved to write stories since the time he could hold a pencil. He grew up in Michigan and attended Miami University, majoring in English. After spending a year abroad, he earned a Master’s degree in American literature at Columbia University and then worked for twenty-five years as an editor and freelance writer before coming to Beekman. How did you end up becoming an English teacher? At the age of fifty, I’d been working for twenty-five years as a writer and editor and needed a career change. I’d been doing some adjunct teaching at City College and I loved it. A move into teaching seemed the right step. How does your previous career affect your teaching? Teachers complain that their students can’t write. I can tell you that the same is true among so-called professional writers. I wrote and edited thousands of stories, so I know how clear, interesting prose reads. If a student submits a dreadful first draft, I’m unfazed. I can determine quickly what she needs to do to...read more

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

Faculty Q&A with Math and Physics Teacher Linli Chin

Authored by James Vescovi, English Teacher

Known for her hands-on teaching, Linli Chin grew up in Malaysia. While she enjoyed all subjects, from an early age she remembers the principles of chemistry, math, and physics coming easily to her. After attending college in Malaysia and at Fresno State University in California, she earned a B.S. at Baruch College with a degree in business and industrial psychology.  During college, Linli had done internships in the financial sector of the business world, but found the environment not to her liking.  “Most of the people lived to work. I love my work, but I like to enjoy other things in life,” she says. In 2000, she began tutoring in math and physics at The Tutoring School and, working one-on-one with students, discovered how much she enjoyed helping young people understand how the world around them works.  A year later, she was hired as a full-time teacher at The Beekman School and has never looked back.   You have a reputation for being a hands-on science teacher. Can you give an...read more

Topics: physics, faculty, q&a, bowling, pi, James Vescovi, Linli Chin

Newton's Laws of Bowling

Authored by Linli Chin, Physics teacher

Name a game that can be enjoyed by the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, the tall and the short, male and female alike, and that list will be fairly limited.  One that makes it to the shortlist would be BOWLING!  It is a time-tested game that has been enjoyed by millions around the world in various forms.  The one that we are most familiar with is ten-pin bowling in our neighborhood bowling alley. Growing up with a family that loved bowling, the game has always had a special meaning for me.  It reminds me of good times, camaraderie, cheerfulness and sometimes, playful heckling.  I wanted to share the experience with the students in my classes, since, along with the fun and laughter of the game, there is also a lot of science to explore.  This year (as with every other year I have taught at Beekman), I brought the students in my Physics classes to play a game of bowling, where we saw Newton’s Laws of Motion in action!  We had a great time trying out the...read more

Topics: bowling, physics, field trip, Linli Chin

"It's Not Fair!"

Authored by Cavin Thuring, Computer/Technology teacher

Teenagers are obsessed with fairness. Every parent with a teenaged child knows that the slightest hint of a perceived injustice will cause a child to yell, “It’s not fair!”  And as parents and educators, we know full well that our decisions and actions will be scrutinized on whether they are fitting and balanced.   But why are teens so wrapped up in fairness? Conventional wisdom teaches that fairness, or more broadly, the issue of right and wrong, is a learned response to observation.  After all, notions of fairness seem to require an advanced understanding of behavior.  But if that is the case, why do children get caught up in issues of fairness so early on in life? It may be that fairness isn’t learned, but rather it is innate.  Children may be born with at least a basic understanding of right and wrong.  Although there are many studies that suggest children prefer nice behavior, a couple of studies taken together stand out in their suggestion that babies have an incipient...read more

Topics: fairness, psychology, teenagers, Cavin Thuring

It’s Time for Teenagers to Hold Adults Accountable

Authored by Anastasia Georgoulis, History teacher

On Tuesday, November 5th, Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio and Republican candidate Joe Lhota will compete for the position of New York City mayor.  Most of our students do not meet the age requirement to vote for either candidate.  Too many students will use this restriction of their age to justify their indifference to the upcoming election.  Indifference, in this case, would be the wrong choice. Every teenager not yet 18 needs to recognize the influence they carry within their social and familial circles. They also need to acknowledge their future’s dependence on the current choices of the adults in their lives. It’s time for teenagers to hold adults accountable. If you still question whether this election could affect you, ask yourselves the following questions: Do you want job security following college graduation? Are you okay with paying rent that takes up more than 1/3 of your monthly salary? Do you trust the police force? Should the city ban sugary drinks? Has the subway...read more

Topics: election, vote, de Blasio, Lhota, New York City, politics, history, Anastasia Georgoulis

Interview Today, Start Tomorrow: Beekman's Unique Admissions Process

Authored by George Higgins, Headmaster

One comment that we often hear during interviews for new students is the speed of our admissions process: interview today, start tomorrow.  Prospective parents and students come in expecting the typical lengthy application process, during which a school’s administration purports to determine whether or not the student is a good fit.  I’d like you to consider a different approach.  Most students who apply to The Beekman School are coming to us from programs that have already been preparing them for a college education.  Since core academic subjects in all such schools tend to be relatively standard, it’s understood that a student coming to Beekman is usually already at (or at least close to) grade level in a college preparatory program.  We have found throughout our experience that we do not require an artificially prolonged process to determine that the student is ready to make the academic transition to our school.  The only question is whether or not the student is ready. When I...read more

Topics: private school, New York City private schools, admissions, transfer, George Higgins

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