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What Goes Into the Classroom?

Authored by Ian Rusten, History teacher

Many of us are looking for a school with classrooms where students and adults seek the truth, expand their minds by embracing challenging ideas, and build empathy by seeking to understand the ideas of others.  As a result of my over twenty years of experience as a history, government, and economics teacher, I have come to believe that students should believe the material they learn matters and that their education has a purpose. They should also recognize that knowledge is a great power – the power to become critical thinkers who learn new ideas and perspectives, who listen deeply and thoughtfully respond.  I believe that schools should provide an opportunity to learn through the exchange of ideas and dialogues, because this is how classrooms thrive. To achieve this, I believe classrooms must be rooted in trust and encourage participation & cooperative learning, as well as high expectations. When students play an active role in their learning, they are more inclined to learn and...read more

Topics: high school, diversity

Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee: Time to Take a Look Back

Authored by Gabriella Skwara, history teacher

As a World History teacher at The Beekman School, I love introducing students to British History and the colorful rulers that people its pages. In part, my fascination stems from the way in which tradition and novelty are continually interwoven within the traditions of the British monarchy. We got to witness a glimpse of this as the United Kingdom celebrates Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee during a four-day bank holiday weekend that began this past Thursday. Elizabeth II has now reigned for 70 years, and as such is “the Queen” whom the world immediately equates with Britain. In many ways, the verses that the poet Philip Larkin penned on the occasion of her Silver Jubilee in 1977 ring more true than ever: In times when nothing stoodBut worsened, or grew strange,There was one constant good:She did not change. While the Queen’s health kept her from fully participating in the events surrounding the weekend, she was the same universally recognizable woman when she appeared on the...read more

Topics: history, Gabriella Skwara

Working with 2e Students

Authored by Robin Mishell, Director of Learning Support

The Beekman School faculty recently completed a 3-part professional development workshop given by The Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education. The focus was on twice-exceptional (2e) students. What is 2e, you may be wondering? Some children are highly gifted in areas such as writing, math, or music. Others have learning challenges such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyscalculia, or memory, processing, and executive functioning concerns. 2e kids fit into both categories. They have exceptional ability and disability. They excel in one area, but they face learning or developmental challenges as well. These kids can be tough to understand and motivate. Kids may use their strengths to cover their struggles, or their challenges may mask exceptional abilities. Identifying 2e kids can be tricky. There is no universal standard for “giftedness.” It is often up to individual schools to determine if kids are gifted and challenged at the same time. If a child is extremely...read more

Topics: 2e, twice exceptional, teaching, Robin Mishell

Summertime Fun for History Buffs

Authored by Ian Rusten, History teacher

The end of the school year is upon us again! I have been eagerly making plans for my summer adventures and slowly gathering a stack of books that is getting taller and taller. As I have said before, summer reading does not have to be a compensatory list of books that students dread reading and save for the last possible second.  Summer can (and should be!) a time to really dig deep into a topic of interest. I highly recommend choosing one topic (say, the rising polarization of politics in America) and reading and watching many different texts on the topic. Since, in the fall, we will be racing toward the midterm elections, I wanted to think of a question to drive my thinking, reading, and listening this summer that might connect to the elections. The question that really came to mind is: How did American politics become so polarized? I compiled a few readings, videos, and podcasts on this topic. If you choose to dig into this topic with me, let me know what you think!     “What It’s...read more

Topics: Summer, history, Ian Rusten

Choosing Texts for a Psychology Class

Authored by Daniel Shabasson, Psychology teacher

So you’re going to teach psychology to high school students. The first step in planning your course is to select the text or texts to be used. There are two ways you can go. The first is to use a good textbook as the primary reading material. You will need to decide what sections of book to cover. Psychology is a vast topic and you cannot cover everything in depth. You can decide for the students what you will cover, or you can leave it up to the students. You find out what interests the students and let that guide you. I find the latter to be preferable. Unless you are teaching an AP class and there are specific topics you must cover, an introductory class should be aligned to student interests. Otherwise, the students will not relate to the material. Some students will be more interested in topics that address the concerns they have about their own psychological well-being and allow them to gain insight into their personal struggles. Others may be interested in psychological...read more

Topics: psychology, Daniel Shabasson

Learning to File Taxes in High School

Authored by Linli Chin, math teacher

April 15th*. Tax Day. Just the mention of this date evokes the same feeling in most adults; stress, fear, anger, and frustration. According to research conducted by The Pew Research Center in 2013, the majority of adults (56%) feel either hate or dislike doing their taxes. *April 18th this year because of Good Friday/Passover For those in that group (31%), the main reason for hating or disliking it was that it was “complicated or involved too much paperwork,” while 24% find it inconvenient and time-consuming. As Benjamin Franklin wrote to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” In 2019, over 250 million people filed federal taxes. Seeing as how almost every working adult is required to file their personal income taxes, high schools should teach students to complete their taxes as part of the curriculum before...read more

Topics: Linli Chin, taxes

The Importance of Receiving a "Bad" Grade

Authored by Derek Barnett, STEM teacher

We’ve all been there. We stayed up late studying the night or two before an important exam. We worked on all the assigned practice problems, studied with friends, and finished up our last few flashcards. Only to receive the exam covered in red ink, as if Jackson Pollock graded the assessment.    As a student and high school teacher, I have a unique advantage at seeing both sides to these bad grades. I argue that many students and parents fail to see the value or opportunity in one of these “GPA destroying” exam grades. Hopefully, this article will help change the perception of these grades and provide a framework to improve.    I received my first earth-shattering grade while in organic chemistry at college. At this point in my academic career, I felt that I mastered my studying strategy; cram the night before and memorize everything. The 48% I received told me otherwise. At first, I denied it was my grade. I thought the professor must have mixed my grade up with another student....read more

Topics: grades, GPA, college, Derek Barnett

Starting Your College Search: A Spring Guide for Juniors

Authored by Krista Sergi, Director of College Guidance

Even though the first college applications deadline won’t come around until about mid-October, now is the perfect time to start thinking about college. Spring break is right around the corner, and it’s a great opportunity to take the time to visit colleges in-person or virtually. But how do you visit colleges if you have no idea what you want to major in or where you want to study? Well, this is the guide for you. Step 1: Brainstorm the Basics In order to decide where to start looking, first answer the following questions: What is my geographic range? I always tell my students to think in terms of hours away from home as opposed to selecting certain states, because that could unintentionally knock out great schools before they even see them. For example, within a four-hour drive of Beekman here in New York City, students can visit colleges in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. As a lifelong New Jersian, it pains me when my...read more

Topics: college prep, college, Krista Sergi

The Coronavirus and its Toll on our Mental Health

Authored by Gabriella Skwara, Health teacher

It was lovely getting to meet many parents in person again after the long hiatus of remote and hybrid instruction.  This past semester has been full of these happy reminders of more normal times. With all that being said, it is still important for us to acknowledge how much things have changed and that change is never easy, regardless of whether it is for the better or the worse. In fact, life changes rank amongst the key stressors that humans have to cope with. The Washington Post recently ran an article containing statistics on how teens had been impacted by the pandemic and interviewing high school students about their experiences during this past year and a half. The students’ various thoughts about last year as well as this year’s return to in-person schooling largely echoed what Beekman students have reported feeling when we discussed the topic in my Health class last semester. While a return to fully live instruction has largely been a source of joy for students, there is a...read more

Topics: mental health, academics, coronavirus, Gabriella Skwara

Finding Your Inner Poet

Authored by Robin Mishell, English teacher

Poetry has been my lifelong friend who always shows up at the right time. My English I and II classes have just begun their Poetry Unit. I look forward to gently nudging the scholars to find the poet inside themselves. Growing up, poetry came into my life with artists like Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Lowell. When I was earning my undergraduate degree, I studied under Jorie Graham who later won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. I still keep a personal note to me from Jorie as a reminder of how one teacher can introduce you to a whole new way of thinking about words. In the spirit of Six Degrees of Separation, one of my best friends met Jorie when he was a private student of Tess Gallagher, who was one of Jorie's best friends. Rüdiger has lived his entire life as a poet. He understands and interprets the world through the lens of poetry. His sensitivity has brought him success as a published writer and father of a young daughter with Down Syndrome who is also now a published...read more

Topics: poetry, writing, English, Robin Mishell

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