Klingbrief January 2016
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Simply Complex
The Little Orange Book: Short Lessons in Excellent Teaching, by The University of Texas System, Academy of Distinguished Teachers

The Little Orange Book: Short Lessons in Excellent Teaching is modeled after Harvey Penick's Little Red Book: Lessons and Teaching from a Lifetime in Golf. Useful to novice teachers and veterans alike, this slim volume, written by sixteen members of the University of Texas System Academy of Distinguished Teachers, is full of short essays focused on great classroom teaching. The essays work across disciplines and, though aimed at college teaching, have immediate relevance to middle and high school classrooms. Both practical and inspiring, the essays offer a lively set of pedagogical tools (e.g., "What constitutes great feedback? When is group work most effective?") alongside useful reminders about the affective sides of teaching (e.g., "How do I romance students into engaging in my discipline? How can I ensure my classroom feels safe for students?"). New teachers might want to read the book cover to cover, and school leaders might use a specific essay to frame a discussion for on-site professional development or a conversation starter in a department meeting. Beyond its practical use, and most of all, The Little Orange Book is a testament to the complexity, beauty, and nobility of the teaching profession.

Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, NM
University of Texas System Academy of Distinguished Teachers, April 30, 2015
Klingbrief is a free, monthly publication of recommended articles, books, research reports and media selected by and for independent school educators.  The Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership provides graduate programs and professional development for independent school educators throughout their careers. For information about submitting to Klingbrief, please click here.
January, 2016 VOL 58

Coordinating Editor, Assistant Head, Upper School, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ

PK-12 Director of Studies, The Walker School, Marietta, GA

Klingenstein Center Director, New York, NY

Head of the Park School of Buffalo, NY

Assistant Head, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM

Visiting Scholar at the International Educational Research Centre at Kobe Shinwa Women's University, Kobe, Japan

English Department Chair, Windward School, Los Angeles, CA

Head of Lick-Wilmerding High School,
San Francisco, CA

Operations Manager, Klingenstein Center,
New York, NY

2.teenbrain_4 A Perfect Storm
Why Identity and Emotion are Central to Motivating the Teen Brain, by Emmeline Zhao

Studying the brain in order to better serve students has been in vogue for years now. Schools have shifted resources to social and emotional programs as well as to professional development for teachers and staff. But questions still remain as to whether we've adequately responded to the results of these studies and changed our practice. Emmeline Zhao's recent blog piece for KQED's MindShift offers timely guidance. Relying mostly on the work of University of California Berkeley's Ronald Dahl, the piece reprises the idea of Daniel Siegel, John Dewey, and others that adolescence, far from being a tragedy of an otherwise healthy existence, is actually the "perfect storm of opportunities." Specifically, the brain is updating itself and is uniquely inclined to "learning, exploration, acquiring skills and habits, intrinsic motivations, [developing] attitudes, setting goals and [establishing] priorities." What's new in Dahl's work, and has implications for middle and high school programs, is the emphasis on what drives students during this unstable time. Dahl argues that it's a feeling of "wanting and thirst" to "display courage and be admired." These primal, "bottom-up" drives present educators with an opportunity to facilitate a "learning spurt for heartfelt goals" that will shape students (and their brains) for the rest of their lives.

Jared Baird, Marin Academy, CA
kqed.org/mindshift, December 10, 2015
3.beyondgrowthmindset Unfixing the Growth Mindset
Beyond Growth Mindset: Creating Classroom Opportunities for Meaningful Struggle, by Brad Ermeling, James Hiebert, and Ron Gallimore

In this Education Week article, Ermeling et al. discuss that the growing trends of growth mindset and desirable difficulty must reflect meaningful struggle if they are to be effectively used. As more schools implement these proven principles, educators should be mindful of the difference between productive confusion and fruitless frustration, and seek to provide thoughtful challenges that students have the tools and background to accomplish. While avoiding the pitfall of presenting too great a challenge, teachers must also be aware that jumping in too early to save students from difficulties can undermine the learning process. John Dewey, an early proponent of effective struggle, noted that part of this process is to prepare students to hear and receive something of value as part of the learning experience. Teachers therefore should carefully plan how aligned inquiry and struggle fit into outcomes, create probing questions that lead to deeper knowledge, and allow for discussion within a structured lesson as a follow-up to meaningfully difficult challenges. As the authors state, student learning and growth will not come "from struggle alone."

Robert Jackson, Ed.M. candidate, The Klingenstein Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY
Education Week, December 7, 2015
4.selfish No Thank You
The Selfish Side of Gratitude, by Barbara Ehrenreich

The cultivation of gratitude has been hailed as the route to true happiness and the elixir for good health. It's no wonder that a concept backed by such profound promises would make its way into our schools. Of late, "gratitude" has been the subject of an NPR special and featured in celebrated publications such as Time magazine and Scientific American. Researchers who study the science of gratitude claim that developing a gratitude habit not only brings personal joy, but also strengthens the immune system and lowers blood pressure. Advocates recommend incorporating expressions of gratitude into daily life. Keeping a gratitude journal or regularly meditating on gratitude are commonly proposed as ways to make us feel good, but this outcome is precisely what the author of this editorial challenges. Gratitude may create a warm feeling, but it falls short when it fails to involve interaction - communication of loving or caring or taking action. The real challenge of gratitude is finding ways to express debt to those in our lives or the larger community who make our lives better. This quick read is bound to provoke thinking and raise questions worth pondering.

Pearl Rock Kane, The Klingenstein Center, NY
The New York Times, December 31, 2015
5.artsearlychildhood.preview State of the Art
The Arts in Early Childhood: Social and Emotional Benefits of Arts Participation: A Literature Review and Gap-Analysis (2000 - 2015), by Melissa Menzer

As the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) turns 50, it has published its recent review of research on the impact of arts participation in early childhood. This report will carry weight with schools, teachers, policy-makers and donors. The arts have a positive impact - that's no surprise. But here is an analysis that specifically ties music, drama, visual art, and craft to social and emotional outcomes not only for our youngest students, but also for older students who have had the enrichment of meaningful arts access. The evidence is in: participation in the arts augmented social skills development such as children's capacity for caring, empathy, sharing, creativity, independence, and relationship building. Also important for all children - including, significantly, for those on the autism spectrum - was the role of the arts in children's ability for regulation of emotion, with positive changes noted in affect, expression, and mood control. In the world of early childhood curriculum, there is often pressure to move toward the academic at the expense of the arts. This report brings rigor and clarity to the argument that skills and motivation can be instilled in young children through the arts, and that this early foundation holds fast the love of learning through the years.

Elizabeth Morley, Kobe Shinwa Women's University, Kobe, Japan
National Endowment for the Arts, December 2015
  Undoing Belittling
The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need From Grownups, by Erika Christakis

Judging from her new book, The Importance of Being Little, the field of early childhood can only hope that by stepping down from teaching, Erika Christakis will find more opportunity to share her thoughts in writing with a broader and more receptive audience. Her book is bold and provocative, and Christakis stands firmly on the side of child development. She argues that adults must respect children and nurture their humanity rather than focusing exclusively on early academic skills. Wide-ranging, accessible, and engaging, this book considers early childhood with a rare level of inquiry and gravitas. Her descriptions of the intellectual rigor required to teach young learners are poignant and compelling. Christakis focuses our attention on fundamental issues in early childhood education and challenges us to question the cultural devaluation of the teachers of our youngest learners. An astute observer of the educational zeitgeist, Christakis bravely unpacks prevailing assumptions and invites meaningful discussion about the intention and potential of early childhood education. As the first line in the book states, "The important thing about young children is that they are powerful." Beginning from there changes everything.

Cricket Mikheev, Sewickley Academy, PA
Viking Press, February 9, 2016
Honesty, Reflection, Vulnerability
Raising Race Questions: Whiteness & Inquiry in Education, by Ali Michael

In her book, which serves both as a series of interesting case studies, as well as an inspiring guide for teachers and school leaders, Ali Michael invites readers to add depth and clarity to their racial "lenses" in schools. Through actual inquiry studies with six white teachers, she establishes the following four premises: first, race inquiry is meant to make us all more whole. Second, one can have a multicultural classroom that is not antiracist. Third, teachers (especially white ones) must develop their own positive racial identities in order to teach students to do the same. Fourth, racial competence is a skill that can be learned. Michael is always careful to provide support and scaffolding in this often difficult and personal work. Her documented counsel of teachers leading their own inquiry studies show the honesty, reflection, and vulnerability necessary to engage in this work. In her effort to guide white teachers toward positive racial identities and antiracist classrooms, Michael adeptly balances inspiration and accountability. Raising Race Questions is an excellent choice for an all-faculty reading selection, not just the diversity committee.

Ryan Kimmett, Greene Street Friends School, PA
Teachers College Press, 2015
8.questioning   The Soul of Inquiry
The Power of Questioning: Opening Up the World of Student Inquiry, by Starr Sackstein

An award-winning English teacher in New York, writing this book directly to other teachers, Starr Sackstein focuses on practical ways, across disciplines, to "bring questioning and curiosity back to formal learning." Drawing from Dweck's growth mindset and Bloom's taxonomy, among other well-known frameworks, Sackstein explains and substantiates her conviction that teachers should "engage students in a learning dialogue" and "allow them to drive the way learning happens." Questions for Sackstein are the soul of inquiry (and at the heart of all learning), and her own experiences as a student, teacher, and parent inspire her passion for them. As much practice as theory, Sackstein's short, accessible book emphasizes the power of metacognition in learning, offering techniques and strategies along the way for student-centric (as opposed to teacher-centric) learning environments. In a further testament to her commitment to authentic inquiry, Sackstein has "done away with" grades in her own teaching practice. Sackstein's book will be thought-provoking for those new to inquiry-based approaches and a good refresher for those familiar with fishbowl discussions, Socratic seminars, Google Classroom, and the like.

Meghan Tally, Windward School, CA
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, December 28, 2015

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