Latest Head of School Posts

November 07, 2013

This blog might put you to sleep

Our kids are losing sleep, and it is affecting their ability to innovate, create, think and achieve all because of FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out.

At the annual conference for the Association of Independent Maryland Schools (AIMS) on November 4, I introduced Dr. Larry Rosen. Rosen is Professor and Past Chair of the Psychology Department at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He is a research psychologist with specialties in multitasking, social networking, generational differences, parenting, child and adolescent development, and educational psychology, and is recognized as an international expert in the “Psychology of Technology.”

Dr. Rosen spoke on a range of topics critical for teaching our newest generation of students, “The Connected Generation.” One topic that struck me was based upon his research on the level of anxiety students have when they cannot connect to the world to chat, text, message, check Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and so on. This anxiety, especially prevalent in heavy users of connectivity devices, is in part over their fear of missing out. So they have to check their phones, often and at times obsessively. Rosen said that research validates that phantom phone vibration is a real syndrome as people experience a vibration in their phone indicating a text as having been received, but it is not really there.

This anxiety surrounding connectivity is now permeating students’ sleep. Rosen said that pre-teen and teenage students need 9 hours of sleep a night and are getting only 6.1. Even with long sleep ins on weekends, kids are running a sleep deficit, and that deficit is a debt that goes unpaid. It affects their ability to think, think creatively, and achieve.

When kids sleep, their brains do a lot of important work: their brains consolidate what they have received (learned), they trim away things unnecessary, and... » read more

October 22, 2013

Smarter

Smarter.

Indian Creek’s new marketing campaign has its roots in the 40-year history of our school, our daily practice of teaching and learning, and our aspirations for the next 40 years.

Historically, Indian Creek has taken a smarter approach to teaching and learning by rounding our practice in research. Our teachers practice both the art and science of teaching – the art comes through intuition and inspiration; the science comes from an intentional, research-based practice.

Further, our daily practice includes both teaching and learning that engages students and focuses on deep understanding at the highest level. It includes a unified and integrated curriculum that leads students to the highest level of achievement.

Finally, our marketing campaign identifies our lofty aspirations: provide not just great academic outcomes, but also develop the essential non-cognitive skills, such as curiosity and optimism, that truly lead to success.

We think our intentional practice is a smarter way to go to school.

We are also unveiling a new logo that embraces our past, our present and our future. The tree that has been our logo has served us incredibly well and has identified Indian Creek as a place that nurtures and develops talented students. Our new logo embraces our image of The Eagle and shows our strength, our character, our confidence, and our bold vision of the future.

I am very excited about our new marketing materials because I believe they are a true reflection of us, of our school, our faculty and staff, our families, students, and alumni.

I invite you to use the information about our brand and help us tell our story throughout our community. I invite you to join our Eagle on the mountaintop to shout out the name of Indian Creek School, who we are and what we do.

I ask your help in communicating our mission, our vision and our value. And with that bumper... » read more

October 17, 2013

Smart schools and smart students and stress

When you’re happy (and you know it) you can do more than clap your hands  … you can learn. And if you are unhappy, under stress, and frustrated, it can be very difficult to learn. Like many things, this seems like common sense, and like many things, as we research the brain we find good evidence to support that common sense.

Two experts in the field of neuroscience have written about the importance of positive emotions and learning, and not surprisingly, both of them are part of the professional development series at Indian Creek this year.

Dr. Judy Willis, neuroscientist, educator and author was with us on September 4 and 5. Willis says that feelings like embarrassment, boredom, or frustration — not only fear — can spur the brain to enter the proverbial “fight or flight” mode. Furthermore, she says, in this mode, it becomes difficult to store memories thus inhibiting learning.

Dr. Mariale Hardiman, also a neuroscientist, educator and author, will work with faculty on October 25. She is assistant dean of the Urban Schools Partnership at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education. Hardiman says it makes sense to cultivate the learning atmosphere as much as the learning itself. “Reducing stress and establishing a positive emotional climate in the classroom is arguably the most essential component of teaching,” Hardiman wrote.

Families who know our school understand that building a positive learning environment is an intentional part of how Indian Creek fosters learning and promotes achievement. According to Dr. David Rock of the Neuroleadership Institute, “There is a large and growing body of research, which indicates that people experiencing positive emotions perceive more options when trying to solve problems, solve more non-linear problems that require insight, [and they] collaborate better and generally perform better overall.”

In... » read more

September 13, 2013

Looking for grit on the piano keys

I am not a very good piano student. Actually, I am no longer a piano student. I started last year and despite an excellent teacher, I struggled not just with the learning, but with the practicing. In the end, one day I just stopped. That isn’t much like me, and I have reflected on why I did not persevere, why I lacked grit.

I thought of this when I read a recent interview with Angela Lee Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania. Duckworth has studied grit for the past decade. In a recent interview in Educational Leadership she spoke about her research. She said this: “Grit predicts success over and beyond talent. When you consider individuals of equal talent, the grittier ones do better.”

Well, that certainly led me to spend some time reflecting on grit not just for myself, but for students. Why do some kids demonstrate it more than others? How do parents foster it in their children? How can a school intentionally help students develop it?

I thought about the intertwining characteristics of resilience, optimism and grit. I took some easy definitions: resilience is the ability to bounce back; optimism is the ability to look at a situation and see a positive outcome; and grit is the ability to engage in focused effort. Wrap them together in that order for a positive outcome and it looks something like – I tried, it didn’t work; I was determined to try again; I knew if I worked hard I could do it; I practiced and practiced and practiced.

I spent some time on that phrase … “I knew if I worked hard I could do it.”

When Dr. Judy Willis spoke to the faculty on September 5, she talked about a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset.”

Think of it this way: Do you believe that you are... » read more

July 25, 2013

Summer Magic

I hope this blog post finds each of you well and enjoying summer.

I normally don’t write during the summer, but while we are on break, it is important to note that “school” goes on. Throughout the summer, administrators and their support staff are on campus wrapping up one year and preparing for the next, our facilities crew is incredibly busy, camps are in session, and it may not be “school” in the traditional sense, but we are open for business, just a quieter form.

But it is not too quiet … there is still magic at school because there are still kids at school, meaning camp. I was wandering out of Amy Benson’s office this week when I was confronted by a camper and a camp counselor. The camper, perhaps four years old, and wardrobed in pink commanded “Bibbidi, bobbidi, boo … I turn you into a frog.”  Not knowing quite what to do, I hopped.

The counselor implored her to change me back, and so with the same magical incantation, she turned me into a rabbit. I still had to hop. The counselor exercised her authority and released me from the charm, and I was able to walk down the hallway unencumbered by webbed phalanges, but with an extra hop in my step.

School goes on during the summer, there is still wonderment, and we look forward to seeing your students.

Enjoy the summer days,

Rick

» read more
April 23, 2013

Working on a definition of success

I was in Baltimore today to hear Paul Tough speak. Tough is the author of the recently published book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. Tough is also the author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America (2008) as well as numerous articles on education, child development, poverty, and politics. Tough was speaking at the Ninth Annual Distinguished Speaker Luncheon hosted by Advocates for Children and Youth.

Needless to say, I was very excited to hear him speak. I don’t want to recount his entire presentation, which highlighted many points in How Children Succeed, however, five points jumped out at me:

  • Tough says that schools have been emphasizing the wrong skills by focusing almost solely on cognitive skills, and further on intelligence. Tough says other skills are more important for success, and he mentioned throughout his talk (and in his book) grit, curiosity, optimism, conscientiousness, gratitude, self-control, and zest.
  • Tough spoke on the biology of stress, and that the best weapon against stress was parents. He said there are two critical times when a supportive environment best combats stress: early childhood and adolescence. He mentioned specifically that middle school, when students are developing meta-cognition and reflecting deeply about themselves, is the time that a supportive environment can best affect the negative impact of stress.
  • Similarly, Tough also said that kids are protected by parents, teachers, and culture from failure, and yet we know that success comes out of failure. His point was clear; we need to help kids learn how to manage failure so they can later succeed.
  • In a point about persistence, Tough talked about the importance of play in early childhood and how extended playing “Make Believe” is an example of using play to build persistence as children work out the... » read more
April 17, 2013

Achievement, Success, and Celebration

… Cornell University, University of Chicago, New York University . . .

In the April 15, 2013 newsletter, Indian Creek School published an article highlighting the recent college acceptance list for the Class of 2013. The diverse list indicates that our students are continuing to apply and be accepted at the colleges and universities that are their first choices and the right fit. We congratulate the students of our Class of 2013 for their academic success and their acceptance into a broad spectrum of colleges. Our students are achieving; your children are succeeding; our school is celebrating! 

… Boston College, Barnard College, United States Naval Academy . . .

Indian Creek is focused on student development from Lower School to Middle School to Upper School and matriculation to college and university. We have an exceptional team of teachers, staff and administrators, who do a great job of mentoring each of our talented students to reach, to strive, and to achieve. I thank you for your role in making all of this possible. 

… Rutgers University, Virginia Tech, University of California – Berkeley, University of Maryland (UMBC and UMCP) . . .

Indian Creek is continually focused on student development from Pre-K to 12 and beyond. Students cannot prepare for Advanced Placement exams in a year, or in four years, nor can they prepare for college success just at Upper School – it begins early. In Lower School, students develop critical thinking and learning skills and knowledge that are the foundation upon which they build each year and each grade for future achievement. This development continues into Middle School as students focus on 21st century skills through... » read more

February 27, 2013

Students Post Growth in AP Results

On Wednesday, February 20, The College Board released its annual report for its Advanced Placement program.

The College Board reported that the number of high school graduates taking an AP test rose, as did the number of students receiving a 3 or better on the 5-point scale, with 3 the minimum required for course credit.

The College Board reported that the percent of all high school graduates taking an AP test rose from 30.2 percent in 2011 to 32.4 percent in 2012.

In comparison, in 2011, the percent of ICS graduates taking an AP test rose from 60 percent in 2011 to 78 percent in 2012. That is an 18 percent increase.

And the trend continues. For 2013, we expect 84 percent of the Class of 2013 will have taken an AP class.

The College Board also reported the percentage of all high school graduates who had a score of 3 or better rose from 18.1 percent in 2011 to 19.5 percent in 2012.

In comparison, the percent of ICS graduates having received a score of 3 or higher rose from 49 in 2011 to 59 percent in 2012.

The list of AP classes we offer this year includes AP Calculus, AP Physics, AP Biology, AP Environmental Science, AP European History, AP US History, AP Government, AP Language and Composition, AP Literature and Composition, AP Art History, AP Spanish, and AP Psychology. AP French and...
» read more

February 08, 2013

Knowing How We Know

I am proud to recognize John and Lisa Morton, parents of alumni and grandparents of a current student, for their generous donation to support ICS and an opportunity that I deem important to advance our mission. 

Their generosity has enabled our school to create the “John and Lisa Morton Professional Development Speaker Series” which will bring leading researchers, educators, and professional speakers of the highest caliber to our campus.  

The new Speaker Series is an intentional and thoughtful professional development program that will bring our entire faculty together, over the next 12 months, for shared and collaborative professional development experiences. This full faculty or “institutional professional development” will enable our whole school to move forward together. Moreover, the gift provides funding for a professional development series meaning that we can do more than provide one single event, but instead we are developing a series of events that build upon and strengthen one another. This type of extended learning opportunity will be transformational for teaching and learning at Indian Creek.

I am pleased to announce that this gift will in part help foster our partnership with The Center for Transformational Teaching and Learning at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School as well as connect us with other researchers and educational leaders in the field of cognitive research. Our first event is on February 15: “Beyond All Kinds of Minds (AKOM): A Workshop in the Principles and Strategies of Neuroeducation.”

Our focus for the Speaker Series will be to apply research in cognition and neuroscience to our teaching and learning so our faculty can do their best work for your children. I believe that by applying the most current educational research into the everyday teaching and learning in our school we can best elevate student achievement.... » read more

January 31, 2013

Brain Rules and Brains Rule

I have been, well, I guess I should say all of us have been, reading and talking about brains lately. It would seem obvious that teachers would talk a lot about brains. Since after all, we do spend a good bit of time working with kids’ brains.

But it is not as obvious as it might seem. For a long time, schools kind of took brains for granted. Teachers poured stuff in and kids were supposed to pour stuff out. Seemingly, that was what we called “education.” Perhaps some schools still do that. In more enlightened times we spoke less of pouring in and more of drawing forth. That sure seems better, but we have evolved well beyond that today.

I am not sure I can pinpoint the date, but at some point people who studied brains started to focus on how brains learn. It was at that undefined moment that we began a much more interesting conversation about neuroscience in education. Clearly, if we understood better how people learn, then we could do a better job of teaching, and kids would have a much better time learning.

Indian Creek School has in its roots a history of using educational research to improve teaching and learning – let’s call that “applied research.” In 2001, we became part of one of the first organizations to really apply neuroscience in education, and that was All Kinds of Minds (AKOM). Since then, every two years we provide our teachers a five-day course in AKOM so that all of our teachers have received a foundation into applied neuroscience in the classroom. Your students have benefitted from this.

As we have done this for all of our teachers, in the past few years our teachers have been drawn to national conferences on brain research in education, and they have returned inspired, and have integrated their new learning into the classroom.

The experiences of these teachers in conferences, and other teachers through their professional course... » read more

More recent posts

October 22, 2013

Smarter

Smarter. Indian Creek’s new marketing campaign has its roots in the 40-year history of our school, our daily practice of teaching and learning, and our aspirations for the next 40 years. Historically, Indian Creek has taken a smarter approach to teaching and learning by rounding our practice... » read more
October 17, 2013

Smart schools and smart students and stress

When you’re happy (and you know it) you can do more than clap your hands  … you can learn. And if you are unhappy, under stress, and frustrated, it can be very difficult to learn. Like many things, this seems like common sense, and like many things, as we research the brain we find good... » read more
September 13, 2013

Looking for grit on the piano keys

I am not a very good piano student. Actually, I am no longer a piano student. I started last year and despite an excellent teacher, I struggled not just with the learning, but with the practicing. In the end, one day I just stopped. That isn’t much like me, and I have reflected on why I did not... » read more
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