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Authored by Vanilla Macias-Rodriguez, Science Teacher

“Units are life or death!” I tell my students. I often use the following example: Let’s say we’re all on a boat and Mary falls overboard. I turn to you and yell, “Quick, get me 12 of rope or Mary will die.” You bring me 12 centimeters but I needed 12 feet and alas, glug, glug, gurgle, gasp, poor Mary is dead. Units are important. There are twenty four hours in a day, four cups in a pint, twelve inches in a foot, one thousand meters in a kilometer, one hundred centigrams in a gram and to convert from Celsius to Kelvin, you add 273. You should be familiar with these English and metric system units, but do you remember the mole? If you do, thank a Chemistry teacher. My favorite unit is the mole. One mole is equal to 6.02 x 10^23 atoms. This unit is one that many of us don’t use in everyday life, so you might not be familiar with it unless of course, you’re a chemist. I don’t love this unit for the help it gives me in my day-to-day, for, even as a Chemistry teacher, I don’t use it every...read more

Topics: Vanilla Macias-Rodriguez, Mole Day, Chemistry

People are Fundamentally the Same

Authored by Gabriella Skwara, History Teacher

Why should we study history? There are many potential answers to this question, but one of the most crucial is the way in which history helps us to better understand ourselves by illustrating just how universal our experiences and behaviors are. My favorite way of bringing this fact home is through having students look at primary source documents, and allowing them to figure out for themselves what the documents are telling us. Document Based Questions (DBQs) are a core element of history classes and tests, and can frequently prove challenging. However, sometimes the meanings are clearly comprehensible at first glance. In Early World History, students get the experience of reading some of the earliest letters available, those from ancient Sumer and Mesopotamia (written around 2000 BCE).  We anticipate that these texts will be incomprehensible from a modern perspective, until we begin reading and students immediately recognize themselves.  A father admonishes his son about being a...read more

Topics: Gabriella Skwara, history, ancient history, DBQs

When is the Right Time to Write the College Essay?

Authored by Krista Sergi, College Guidance

Every year when families of sophomores and juniors meet with me, many parents express to me how “behind” their child is in the college process and how stressed everyone is about that.  At that point, I always ask, “Behind whom?” “Everyone else.” While there is definitely a timeline involved in the college process, that timeline is also intensely personal for each student. Comparing that process with someone else’s process is not only stress-inducing, but it can also be detrimental to a student’s unique college application. As a student of adolescent developmental psychology, I have learned to wait on one key aspect of the college process: the personal statement.  Teens are living through an intense period of social, emotional, and cognitive development, which means that a lot can change over the course of a school year.  The junior year is often one of the most challenging experiences for students; the workload increases in volume and difficulty, and college entrance exams only add...read more

Topics: Krista Sergi, college

Cultivating a Differentiated Classroom

Authored by Kate Bendrick, Math Teacher

Growing up most classes weren’t a good fit for me. Early on I found my math work pretty straightforward, which is part of what led me to my eventual role as a math educator. Fast-forward a few years however, and the jump from too easy to too hard happened swiftly and unexpectedly. I found myself unprepared, with few study skills established, and even worse, the impression that because I was being challenged, that meant I was “bad at it”. Jumping from too easy straight into too hard, the classroom that was “just right” eluded me for the majority, or dare I say all of my education. Differentiated Instruction in the Classroom For me, this inconvenience led to a math complex. Luckily it started at such a late age that I was able to work out of it on my own. For many, the instruction in a classroom, designed for no one in particular, can have detrimental effects that last a lifetime. Differentiated instruction, like many things, dates further back than its popularity would make it seem. As...read more

Topics: individualized learning, mathematics, Kate Bendrick

Princess/Teacher/Citizen Scientist

Authored by Vanilla Macias-Rodriguez, Science Teacher

When I was young and adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my simple response due to my love of Christa McAuliffe, Princess Diana, and the aunt I still look up to today was: princess/astronaut/teacher.  In 1986, my elementary teacher rolled a TV into the Science Corner and my classmates and I tearfully watched Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher trained to go into space, die in the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion.  Due to the early development of a strong case of self-preservation, I narrowed my future career choices to just princess/teacher.  In 2011 Prince William got married to Kate and I really wasn’t that in to Harry, so here I am, 20 years in to my teaching career.   I love teaching.  Let me clarify, I love teaching science.  It’s such an exciting topic.  However, if I had become a princess, I think I’d take up the cause of encouraging more students to enter careers in science.  I’d probably spend the hours I was not parading around in a tiara on websites like...read more

Topics: Vanilla Macias-Rodriguez, science, teaching

Memoirs for the Summer

Authored by Ian Rusten, History Teacher

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!) the perfect time to explore new genres or to revel in old favorite genres. Some of my favorite genres to read are memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies. I particularly love reading about people who have left a lasting impact on the world. Sometimes, like Darwin, these figures are well known, but I also love to read about lesser known people like Irena Sendler and Bryan Stevenson. I have compiled a list of a few memoirs, autobiographies, and biographies that I thought you might enjoy reading over the summer. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (there is a version that is adapted for young adults) by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Meale This biography is the story of a boy who figured out how to bring electricity and running water to his drought ravaged village in Malawi. It is a riveting story of a boy who used innovative methods to...read more

Topics: Ian Rusten, history, memoir, summer reading, biography, autobiography


Authored by The Beekman School

Over the years while teaching at The Beekman School, I’ve come across a common misconception my students have about meditation. They see it merely as a passive act of relaxing and letting go of all thought. While those may be aspects of the end result of the practice, historically there is nothing intentionally passive about meditation. The etymology of the word itself is “to think” and has always been understood that the process is a very active engagement with the mind.   Meditation comes in many forms which intend to achieve seemingly various goals. Traditionally, though, the goals of these practices were towards some transcendent experience of a communion or an absorption in the divine - an unchanging noumenal reality. The process to achieve that is by learning to control and focus the mind.   Often students who misunderstand what meditation practice is will complain about experiencing sleepiness when they meditate. Barring exhaustion, if practiced correctly (as traditionally...read more

Topics: meditation, mindfulness

Game of Thrones: Anticipating the End

Authored by Gabriella Skwara, History Teacher

“Did you watch it?” Several students greeted me with some variation of these words on Monday. The “it” referred to the new episode of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones. No explanation was necessary, as my students and I clearly knew that there was only one topic that might warrant such interest on a Monday morning. I had indeed watched “it,” and was eager to exchange thoughts and predictions based on those 50-odd minutes the night before. I’m teaching an elective on “The Real Game of Thrones” this semester, so it makes sense the students would talk to me about it, but we certainly weren’t unique. Audiences worldwide are debating political machinations in Westeros and wondering who will be the last man and/or woman standing and thus win the Iron Throne. Game of Thrones reminds us of a distinct thrill that is lost in the process of discussing shows as a fait accompli after “binge-watching” them over a long weekend. Listening to students dissect complex plot points and the...read more

Topics: Gabriella Skwara, Game of thrones, history, elective

Lifelong Love of Learning

Authored by Vanilla Macias-Rodriguez and Linli Chin, science teachers

The Beekman Science Department attended a professional development workshop at Rockefeller University this week. The gorgeous East Side campus boasts 82 research labs and 200 graduate students. It is also home to the RockEdu Science Outreach program. In addition to providing a wealth of science information and activities on their website, the RockEdu program hosts teacher professional development, lab experiences for students during the school year, weekend and summer months and a Science Cafe on the third Friday of every month where attending students can hear a scientist present their latest findings, ask questions, and network with other science enthusiasts. The workshop we attended was titled “The Biochemistry of an Egg Sandwich.” The goal of the workshop was to learn new ways to teach tough concepts like biochemistry by relating the information to the macromolecules you’d find in an egg sandwich. Proteins found in eggs and cheese, lipids found in mayo and avocado, and...read more

Topics: science, teaching, Vanilla Macias-Rodriguez, Linli Chin

Doing it Write

Authored by Michelle Koza, English Teacher

Most students I’ve encountered in my teaching career have profound anxieties about writing. As a teacher of English, I have wondered about how to crack this problem. Over the summer, I had a transformative experience with the New York City Writing Project, a for-teachers, by-teachers organization that has writing at its center. Working with the Project caused me to question many things about my own teaching and beliefs about writing. One of the biggest takeaways from my experience was the realization that most of the writing we ask our students to do is for performance. If every time they write something they can expect to be assessed, no wonder writing is fraught with so much anxiety. I decided to decouple writing from performance. I decreased the number of formal writing assignments I collected and graded, but I increased the overall amount of writing my students did. Students spend a lot of time in my classroom writing, but this writing is often the prelude to discussions or part...read more

Topics: Michelle Koza, writing, informal, formal, NYCWP


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