Klingbrief March 2016
top-img-01 logo top-img-02 top-logo top-img-03

Small Change
Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, by James M. Lang

James Lang, a regular columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education and also director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College in Worcester, MA, has written a first-rate book on quick, minor adjustments teachers can make in their practice. Both grounded in research and easy to implement, Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning should be on the shelves of all teachers, novice and veteran alike. Lang organizes the book in such a way that the reader can delve deeply into the research behind the pedagogy or just look at the techniques and easily experiment with them at any time. Lang summarizes and cites research from other important books on teaching - like Make It Stick by Roediger, McDaniel, and Brown - digesting a wide variety of educational findings in short chapters and then giving helpful suggestions for practical implementation. Divided into three sections - Knowledge, Understanding, and Inspiration - the book invites teachers to use it in any order they choose, depending on what kind of teaching problem they seek to solve. Lang has given educators, at both the college and secondary levels, a great gift in Small Teaching.

Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, NM
Jossey-Bass, March 7, 2016
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.
March, 2016 VOL 60

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

schools_in_transition Safe, Equitable, Nurturing
Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools, by Asaf Orr and Joel Baum

As more and more students embrace a gender identity that may differ from their biological sex, schools must be prepared to align their practices in order to provide safe, equitable, and nurturing learning environments for these brave students. This useful guide not only covers the basic structures that help ensure an inclusive school community, but also it offers clear definitions of the terminology surrounding gender identity. As stated in the introduction, "This guide highlights best practices while offering strategies for building upon and aligning them with each school's culture." Topics such as student records, student information systems, names and pronouns, confidentiality, dress codes, facilities and approaches for working with unsupportive parents are addressed. Useful for parents, faculties, board members and administration, as well as for older students, the guide is clear, concise and practical. What's more, in the words of Superintendent Janice Adams, who wrote the introduction, the report helps us understand how to do this work as "advocates" rather than "activists" by focusing on "the needs of the transitioning child."

Eric Temple, Lick-Wilmerding High School, CA
ACLU, Gender Spectrum, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, National Center for Lesbian Rights and National Education Association, August 3, 2015
stress Stressing the Stressors
Stress in America: The Impact of Discrimination, by the American Psychological Association

Each year for close to a decade, The American Psychological Association has published their Stress in America Survey results. The 2015 report includes a special focus on the impact of one particular stressor: discrimination. The report highlights the connection between discrimination and stress, along with the resulting impacts on relationships and overall health. This is a report where every finding carries purpose and import. It could become the basis for student analysis, staff development, educational policy setting or curriculum prioritizing. With focuses on specific aspects of discrimination that include gender identity, sexual orientation, finances, race, ethnicity, disabilities and access to emotional support, this survey opens a wide window to an unquestionably clear view of discrimination as reported by a large, representative sample of adult Americans. There are bright spots - the majority of adults feel confident in their problem-handling skills, and they expect good things to happen to them rather than bad. At the same time, there are trends that call for serious attention. For example, 25% of people report feeling fairly or very often that difficulties were piling up so high that they could not overcome them, compared to 16 percent in 2014 saying the same. There is nothing vague in the message of this report. It makes thinking about stress and its impact both more salient and more urgent.

Elizabeth Morley, Kobe Shinwa Women's University, Kobe, Japan
American Psychological Association, March 10, 2016
strategies.preview Reach them with Research
Strategies for Reaching Quiet, Disengaged, Struggling, and Troublemaking Students, by David Cutler

In this straightforward Edutopia blog post, author and mid-career teacher David Cutler differentiates between quiet, disengaged, struggling and troublemaking students and tailors advice for reaching each type of student based on both his classroom experiences and strategies suggested by experts. For example, Cutler suggests allowing disengaged students to select their own essay topics in order to help them discover relevance in writing assignments. And he brings to the surface one of Susan Cain's most important insights for educators: even well-meaning teachers often try to "turn introverts into extroverts" instead of celebrating the strengths - and benefits - of introversion. In applying to his own professional growth the work of Cain, Will Richardson, Rick Wormeli and Alan Kazdin, Cutler provides succinct guidance for how educators can grow their practice with the help of research-based literature. Readers may wish to consider this brief post as an entry point for deeper exploration of the ways to serve each of these unique types of students and as a template for how to integrate the best current thinking into the daily work of teaching.

Christopher Lauricella, The Park School of Buffalo, NY
Edutopia, March 22, 2016
bilinguals More Languages, More Benefits
The Superior Social Skills of Bilinguals, by Katherine Kinzler

At a time when English is rapidly becoming an even more dominant global language and technology offers instant translation applications, questions abound about the necessity and priority of teaching additional languages in schools. Yet as Katherine Kinzler reports, her recent study at Cornell University as well as an important study last year at the University of Chicago both testify to the benefits of multilingualism. Cognitive advantages, including improved executive function, go hand in hand with improved social skills - especially the ability to consider someone else's perspective. Children experiencing multilingual settings "have to think about who speaks which language to whom [and] who understands which content." Furthermore, while the Chicago study shows that multilingual children are better at communication, the Cornell study reveals that the environment where multiple languages are spoken is the key. Experience of the language, rather than strict bilingualism, confers the advantage. As Kinzler summarizes, "Multilingual exposure, it seems, facilitates the basic skills of interpersonal understanding." This short article helpfully overviews the two studies and offers further evidence that our world language programs can and do serve the larger missions of our schools.

Meghan Tally, Windward School, CA
New York Times, March 13, 2016
list A Vital Reminder
The List, by Sarah Stillman

As adults in schools contend with the many ways that technology has changed the lives of teenagers, Sarah Stillman's New Yorker article "The List" is a sober reminder of the ways that federal and state laws around the issue of child pornography can be inadequate and harmful when working with teenagers who engage in sexting or common sexual conduct with other teens. Stillman describes the lives of several young people who ended up on the sex-offender registry because of the ways that these laws are written; their lives continue to be devastated as a consequence. As administrators and teachers seek to create safe environments, free from sexual misconduct for all students, Stillman's important and harrowing investigative journalism is a vital reminder of the inadequacy of current laws as well as the ways that public shaming and punishment is now vastly more probable because of the Internet, rendering some teens powerless to reinvent themselves and escape the stigma of an act they might regret and which they committed at a young age.

Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, NM
The New Yorker, March 14, 2016
  Untangling Myths about Raising Girls
Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, by Lisa Damour

Though Michael Thompson hailed it as the "girl equivalent of Raising Cain," Lisa Damour's Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood is more than the counterpoint to his seminal work on boys' development. In her book, Damour draws from extensive research, as well as her experience as a professor at Case Western and a psychotherapist at Laurel School's Center for Research on Girls, to frame seven distinct phases in a young girl's life. "Too often," she says, "we make raising a teenage girl sound like a roller-coaster ride: the whole family hops on, white-knuckles their way through and the parents hope that after all the ups and downs their daughter steps off at the end as a healthy, happy adult." Damour upends this "tangled" narrative by showing that there is a pattern to female development, explaining the many predictable ways girls behave as they part with childhood, join new groups, contend with emotions and adult authority, consider the future, enter into romantic relationships and learn to exercise self-care. Damour is wise to add distinct recommendations as to "when to worry," as well, empowering teachers and parents to both understand and support girls at school and at home.

Jessica Flaxman, Charlotte Country Day School, NC
Ballantine Books, February 9, 2016
The Search for Balance
High Stakes Schooling: What We Can Learn from Japan's Experiences with Testing, Accountability and Education Reform, by Christopher Bjork

Worldwide, educators often look East in their search for answers to the question of balance between academically rigorous curriculum and engaging teaching. Japan is a worthy case study, with its decades of experience in high-stakes testing as well as the more recent acknowledgement that there are costs associated with test-based, incentivized learning approaches. Japan introduced elementary education reform over 15 years ago that relaxes the stakes for elementary students, testing the hypothesis that high academic performance needs to be tied closely with two factors that are not test-driven - strong human relationships within schools and attention to students' social, emotional, and intellectual needs. In this new book, Vassar professor of education Christopher Bjork uses classroom ethnography to research this reform and to answer questions relevant to teachers everywhere: Does testing overburden students? Does it impede innovation and encourage conformity? Can schools be reshaped to nurture creativity and curiosity while still maintaining high academic performance? Bjork takes us inside Japanese classrooms to see what teachers are doing, how students are learning, and how new policies affect the potentially withering impact of test-driven classrooms. Early indications make clear that talented teachers are the key to shifting the emphasis from rote learning and test prep to the deeper investigation of ideas. Clearer still is the necessity for schools to support such teachers' growth and autonomy.

Elizabeth Morley, Kobe Shinwa Women's University, Kobe, Japan
University of Chicago Press, December 11, 2015

To submit comments or suggestions, or to request that the newsletter be sent to a colleague,
contact Cynthia Uejio, Operations Manager at klingbrief@tc.columbia.edu.

To support Klingenstein Center scholarships and program endowment, please make your gift here.


The Klingenstein Center
for Independent School Leadership
Teachers College, Columbia University
Box 125
525 West 120th Street
New York, New York 10027

facebook_icon_1  Twitter_1