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Culture and Foreign Language Learning

Authored by Daniel Shabasson, Spanish Teacher

The idea of introducing culture to the foreign language classroom has gained in traction since I started teaching Spanish. Many language instructors agree that some culture should be incorporated into the instruction as long as it furthers the learning of the language. However, there is little agreement about how much culture should be taught and whether students should be tested on their knowledge of the culture or merely tested on their proficiency with speaking, reading, and writing the language. There is always the risk that putting too much emphasis on teaching culture, and testing on it, could distract from learning the language, which I believe always should be the primary focus of any foreign language course. Then there is the question, which culture should be taught?  For example, there is no one single culture common to all Spanish speakers. Spanish is spoken in various countries by various peoples with different ethnic and religious backgrounds and different historical...read more

Topics: Daniel Shabasson, Spanish, culture, foreign language

Why Students Change Schools

Authored by George Higgins, Headmaster

Many of the reasons a person wants to change schools during the academic calendar year are the same as wanting to utilize services in The Tutoring School: Family is transferred to NYC Want to live in NYC to pursue interests outside of school Want to acclimate to the city to be better prepared for a college in the city Current school isn’t a good match (too easy, too rigid, too big, etc.) Unhappy at boarding school and want to come home Public school isn’t working out well Have been home due to extended illness and cannot return to previous school Personal challenges necessitate a fresh start Are being bullied or cyber bullied and want a safer environment Current school can’t accommodate scheduling needs Not enough support for specific learning needs Current learning environment not optimal for student’s needs Feel like the current school is “factoring” you out Violated a school rule and asked to leave Not happy with the student body Not happy with the faculty Not happy with the...read more

Topics: high school, transfer, rolling admissions, George Higgins

We Are the Universe Experiencing Itself

Authored by The Beekman School

In my Astronomy class at The Beekman School, I often refer to a scene in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos series, where he states that humans are the universe looking back at itself. I explain that this is traditionally referred to as an anthropic statement. It’s also not far from the old kabbalistic adage that the universe exists because God wished to behold God, not the declaration that all is the lila of Shiva - the play of consciousness. The only difference between the assertion in Cosmos and the traditionally metaphysical ones is a point of reference. One emphasizes humans as front and center to Totality, while the other, more traditionally metaphysical ones put Totality first, humans second.  But these nonetheless regard at their core a consciousness that is behind creation. Although many a scientist will abhor a model of the Universe that involves a necessary consciousness component, the idea just does not seem to want to go away. I noticed that there were a few mentions recently...read more

Topics: panpsychism, astronomy, philosophy

What Makes a Private High School the “Best"?

Authored by George Higgins, Headmaster

Try buying a new stereo system and every salesperson will attempt to have you purchase “the best” equipment.  But so many factors go into that decision.  You quickly learn that there is no best stereo, and the more you learn about what’s available, the more you begin to fine-tune your search.  The same is true when you’re trying to find the best NYC private schools. Start by making a list of what is important to you.  If cost is a factor, include financial aid in your search.  Pretty much all of the Manhattan private schools say they have small classes.  But how small?  If you are coming from a public school, 15 or 20 students in a class may feel small.  If you’re in a private school already, you probably have about 12 to 14 students on average in a class so six or seven students might be what’s appealing to you. Whatever your expectations are, there are enough good choices in New York City to offer you an acceptable match in your school search for “the best”.  To help in your quest,...read more

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

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