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How Parents Can Help Ease the Transition from Eighth to Ninth Grade

Authored by George Higgins, Headmaster

Now that middle school is coming to an end and students know where they will be attending high school next year, there is a little preparation that can be done this summer to help facilitate a comfortable, successful move to a new school this September.  Fear, stress, and anxiety don’t have to be stumbling blocks even if they can’t be entirely removed. Which brings me to my first point: It’s perfectly natural for a new freshman to be intimidated about starting high school.  Even if he/she is masking it well, err on the side of caution and assume that there is some degree of anxiety going on behind the bright eyes.  Calmly and cautiously acknowledge anticipated concerns and discuss possible strategies or solutions for addressing these concerns. Make sure your child is academically prepared for ninth-grade classes.  Essay writing and reading comprehension are going to be crucial to every student’s success in high school.  Maybe a summer school English class would be a good idea to make...read more

Topics: high school, Summer, George Higgins

Tell Me a Story

Authored by Cavin Thuring, Technology Teacher

I’ve taught the course Audio Mixing Bootcamp for three years now.  I used to allow the students a lot of leeway in their choice of sounds they used in their mixes. I mistakenly assumed that this freedom would lead to great results. Although one or two students were especially gifted, most students were too enamored with their process to the point their mixes meandered and wandered with almost no point to sound decisions or any developed idea.  In order to get my students thinking and planning in a more effective way, I had to alter the projects. The most recent project was called “Tell Me a Story.”  Quite simply, I asked my students to use sounds (both effects and musical) to convey an idea or series of events.  I had hoped this would make them more deliberate in their choices and more conscious of an end result.  I thought the concept was simple, but it took them a while to get it.  They are used to stories being either watched or read - not listened to. Interestingly, the grades for...read more

Topics: audio mixing, storytelling, music, Cavin Thuring

A Summer Challenge: Let Your Voice Ring Out: Writing a Persuasive Piece Today.

Authored by Ian Rusten, History Teacher

In the age of selfies and 140 character social media posts, is the art of persuasive oration dead? Can a hashtag win the 2016 election? Do we want more than a soundbite? Sure, we can state our opinion, “I like (particular candidate),” but do we remember how to provide a reason for our claim and how to back up that claim with relevant evidence? Persuasion is the act of convincing someone to do or believe in something. Historically, orators such as Socrates, Winston Churchill, Frederick Douglass, John F. Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. worried not just about creating a speech with a single sentence to be repeated again and again on MSNBC, but wrote speeches and essays and articles with a message and a goal of convincing others to support their message. Images, too, have been powerfully manipulated or used to persuade the public. Think of the images of soldiers returning home in coffins and children decimated by Agent Orange which profoundly affected many Americans sitting at...read more

Topics: Ian Rusten, persuasive essay, writing

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