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Why Are You Even Going to College?

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

For all the hype about college, get this: The top 10 richest Americans with college degrees are worth $506 billion (top three: Gates, Zuckerberg, Ellison); but, the 10 wealthiest Americans without college degrees is not far behind at $400 billion (top three: Bezos, Buffett, the Koch brothers).  Source: https://college-education.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=006844. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel (worth: $2.6 billion) has a low opinion of higher education, as is evidenced by his program "The 20 Under 20 Fellowship" (http://thielfellowship.org/). It actually pays students to drop out of college and develop their promising ideas; every year, 20 students get $100,000 for the privilege—not bad considering the skyrocketing cost of tuition.  Nevertheless, it’s wise to take Thiel’s low view of higher education with a grain of salt. In 2015, college grads earned 56 percent more than high school grads, according to the Economic Policy Institute; thus, a college degree can’t be a...read more

Topics: college, James Vescovi

How can a school create a flexible schedule and which students benefit from a custom curriculum?

Authored by George Higgins, Headmaster

Parents and students think of the school day in much the same way everyone thought about it decades ago.  Classes begin early in the morning and students finish in the mid-afternoon.  While this plan may work for a majority of students, there are a significant number of students who have difficulty with fitting into the traditional school day for a number of reasons.  This is why some schools have developed the ability to create an individualized curriculum. There are students with professional obligations that interfere with the school day, students who change schools mid-year and the syllabi don’t match with the new school, students with health or personal issues that cause conflicts with a school’s schedule, and students who move to a new city from different countries where the educational systems doesn’t match ours in the United States. Being able to create a custom curriculum becomes the key to success for many of the students struggling to fit into more traditional school...read more

Topics: flexible curriculum, individualized learning, George Higgins

The Right Blend

Authored by Kate Bendrick, Math Teacher

Most of us can remember being subjected to word problems, whether it was a happy challenge or a moment contributing to a lifelong math anxiety. A coffee merchant has two types of coffee beans, one selling for $3 per pound and the other for $5 per pound. The beans are to be mixed to provide 100 pounds of a mixture selling for $4.18 per pound. How much of each type of coffee bean should be used to form 100 pounds of the mixture? Why do I need to know this? Who decided what the right blend is anyway? Blended learning uses both digital and traditional classroom approaches to education. But, just like the coffee, there are endless ways to create a blend. Information in the second decade of the naughts is free, abundant, and overwhelming. Teachers used to be the font of knowledge, an oasis, the landscape around them dry and desolate as far as the eye could see. Now, young people are caught in an information jungle, desperately hacking their way through the poorly-worded, the misrepresented...read more

Topics: Kate Bendrick, blended learning, flipped classroom, ALEKS

An Incredible Journey

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

It should come as no surprise that, when the year ends, students and teachers are ready to part ways. The phrase, “If we never meet again, it’ll be too soon!” resonates with both parties. However, the saying doesn’t have to suggest a topsy-turvy year of mutual dissatisfaction. Rather, it can speak of something positive—the difficult yet rewarding path to personal growth. A school year is not like a marriage that, traditionally and ideally, lasts for a lifetime. An academic year is a journey with a beginning and an end. If you’ve ever taken a two-week hike with a friend down the Appalachian Trail, you know by day twelve that you’ll be glad to return to your respective homes.  Similarly, teaching at Beekman is very much a journey for student, teacher, and tutor alike. And this year—having had to take a leave of absence for health reasons—I am missing my annual journey. All schools brag about diversity, but having sent my children to three different ones, I can forthrightly tell you that...read more

Topics: high school, flexible scheduling, diversity, James Vescovi

History or "Just a Story"?

Authored by Gabriella Skwara, History Teacher

Some history is easy to document. We have a wealth of primary sources to reference, and proof is as easy as pulling up news footage. But how do we teach the history about which we can't be quite sure, where we may not have any written documents, or where the records that exist are inherently suspect? Some Beekman students have been grappling with this question as they examine the Viking world through reports written by British monks who lived in terror of their raids, Arabic travelers with whom they traded, and most importantly through the sagas and myths that were only recorded long after the Viking era had effectively come to an end. The Vikings represent a unique example, since many of the facts that we commonly associate with them happen to be pure fabrication. First, we should refer to them as the Norse; Vikings is the incorrect term, albeit one that even the experts frequently default to. Furthermore, while visually compelling, their famed horned helmets are entirely fictional....read more

Topics: Gabriella Skwara, Norse, Vikings, history, Archeology

Aren’t Most High Schools College Prep Programs?

Authored by Krista Sergi, College Guidance and Outreach Coordinator

Like most specialized fields, education has its buzzwords. You’ve probably heard a few of them: grit, data-driven, student-centered, inquiry-based, flipped classroom, etc. Despite taking different approaches to education, all of these new perspectives on what teaching and learning could look like seem to be adding up to one big conclusion: college. As a result of the cultural emphasis Americans place on college, a plethora of “college prep” programs and “college prep” high schools have seemingly sprung up to meet the needs of students. Are these programs new? Were high schools not preparing students for college before? While the answer to this is not straightforward, what is important to keep in mind is that this title, “college prep,” is just there to let you know that when students finish the program or graduate from the school, they will have certain skills and/or knowledge necessary for success during college. If, then, all of these programs and schools are emphasizing college...read more

Topics: college prep, high school, Krista Sergi

Teaching Swift at Beekman

Authored by The Beekman School Technology Teacher

Last year we at Beekman added an introductory course in coding to our computer offerings. Since we are an iPad-based school, I settled on using the Swift programming language developed by Apple. Swift immediately got the attention of a lot of people, including companies such as IBM – and, believe it or not, Google. Swift also is a good development platform for iPad apps.  With Swift, I could teach introductory coding one year, then app development the next year. As luck would have it, while looking at apps that teach programming, I discovered Apple was just introducing Swift Playgrounds. Swift Playgrounds is a series of guided, interactive tutorials that teach the fundamentals of coding utilizing a lot of animated graphics. I was intrigued by the way Playgrounds looked so I decided to dive in. I had my students download the app to their iPads and we spent the entire semester engrossed in learning Swift. How did it turn out? Well, a quote by one of my students pretty much sums up the...read more

Topics: Swift, iPad, coding, Apps

Testing for the Speed of Light with Your Microwave!

Authored by Linli Chin, Math and Science Teacher

"Don’t try this at home!" This is the usual lament heard on TV or internet programs to warn against imitating a dangerous activity that you just saw. However, for my blog post today, I will be writing about something you should try at home! A fun, engaging experiment that enables you to determine the speed of light as Galileo Galilei, Hippolyte Fizeau, and Albert Michelson all did. As a high school math and science teacher, it’s always fun to take the science out of the classroom and into the home have a science and math activity that can involve the whole family during Thanksgiving break, winter break or summer vacation! To perform this experiment, you will need your microwave, a bunch of marshmallows laid out flat on a microwave-safe surface, and a toothpick to poke the marshmallows with. Since microwaves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, it travels through space at the speed of light (c) which is approximately 3x10^8 m/s or about 670,616,629 mph. They lie just after radio...read more

Topics: Linli Chin, speed of light, physics, waves, activity

Teaching Students "Loneliness"

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

At The Beekman School, English teachers are given the freedom to personalize the curriculum by reading literature that’s not on most high school syllabi. While we don’t neglect the classics, we do spend the first week sizing up a class to determine what texts students might find especially engaging. One novella that has never failed me is Englishman Alan Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959). Protagonist Colin Smith has become a teenage petty criminal since the death of his working-class father. Not only has his company awarded the Smiths a pittance as a death benefit, but Colin’s mother is lavishing the money on her “fancy man,” whom she’s seeing before her husband’s demise. Colin feels rage, but has no productive way to channel it. After getting caught burgling a bakery, he is sent to a “borstal,” the British equivalent of a juvenile home. The school’s governor (akin to headmaster) discovers that his new arrival has a phenomenal gift for long-distance running...read more

Topics: James Vescovi, English, novella, teaching

Some Tips for High School History Students

Authored by Ian Rusten, History Teacher

As a high school history teacher, I am frequently asked if I have any tips for high school history students.  Yes! Be an intentional, critical and analytical reader. Look deep into topics.  Read from multiple sources.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to wonder, to change your mind. Research can be a daunting task--especially on complex topics. But now, more then ever, we have to learn how to become critical consumers of information. It may seem that all you have to do when you want to learn about a topic is to open the relevant Wikipedia page and spend a few minutes reading. Voila! An expert on the topic has been born. Not so fast! While there is absolutely nothing wrong with using Wikipedia as the first stop on the research path, it is important to dig deeper, much deeper, on the topic.  An intentional, critical, analytical reader looks at the Reference section of the article (even a Wikipedia article).  He or she asks questions like: Where did the author find their information? Is...read more

Topics: Ian Rusten, history, research


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