2009-2010 School Year

June 7, 2009

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

As the year draws to a close it’s time to consider what went well, what didn’t and how we can make things better for next year. As a school, there is a lot that we should be proud of this year. We put on and visited more shows than ever, our championship basketball team was undefeated and New York Cares recognized LoMA as a “standout school” for our community service. All of our students are headed off to college in September, the great majority upstate, but some as far as California and Florida. Academically, our January Regents results in English were outstanding, and with all of the tutoring going on around here, I expect this June’s results to be just as strong. More broadly, as our pass rates were very high, fewer students are being left back, and at the high end, so many of our juniors are doing well about a half of them will be taking college classes next year. To ensure that even more students are ready for college work, I think we need to work on raising the expectations of what are students can do in the classroom and for homework next year. I also think LoMA’s students have some work to do in treating each other with more respect. That’s what I think, now I want to know what you think from the survey below.

Study hard for your Regents and finals. Everyone is invited to graduation on June 24th at 11:00 and I’ll see everyone on the 28th at 8:40 to pick up school report cards and settle accounts.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

 

John Wenk

 

  1. What was your favorite LoMA experience this year? ____________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. What was your favorite subject? Why? ________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. What did you like best about your extracurricular activity this year, or what new activities should we have for next year?_______________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. If you could change one thing about your experiences this year, what would it be?_____

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. What can we do differently as a school next year? ______________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. What was the best trip or performance you went on? Why – be specific? ____________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. What challenged you the most this year? ______________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. What are three major lessons you learned this year? ____________________________

 

1.____________________________________________________________________________

 

2.____________________________________________________________________________

 

3.____________________________________________________________________________

 

 

  1. What do you hope for next year? ____________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

 

May 24, 2010

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

I’ve been reading a book called 21st Century Skills that discusses what a consortium of business leaders think will be the skills that individuals need to be succesful in the future. The basic point of the book is that for the last 100 years our industrial society has been able to provide most people decent wages for factory labor. These jobs required the most basic reading and writing skills, timliness and the ability to follow the orders of supervisors. With jobs like these available, most people throughout American history could earn a decent living without attending college, knowing how to write an essay or understanding math beyond basic functions. In my own family for instance, my father never attended college and my mother was a high school dropout, but they were able to buy their own house, put five kids through college and retire comfortably. Today, the computer repair job my father did for 35 years requires a masters degree, and the crossing guard job my mother did pays a fraction of what it used to. This trend for jobs in America is accelerating. Work that does not require college pays less and less and professions that pay well require more and more education.

 

According to the book’s authors, employers are requiring more education because they say the new jobs require 21st Century skills that only college can provide. A survey of 400 hiring executives revealed that these skills are: oral and written communication, critical thinking and problem solving, professionalism and work ethic, teamwork and collaboration, and leadership and management. Coupled with these skills, they are looking for employees who show initiative and are appropriately sociable.They define initiative as the ability to moniter, prioritize and complete tasks without direct oversight. They expect that people will work indepently to advance their skill level as a lifelong process. They define social skills as the ability to know when it is appropriate to listen and when to speak and to conduct themselves in a respectful, professional manner.

 

As a school, we need to work on inculcating these skills in our students everyday. That is why teachers should never accept simply satisfactory work from students as full of potential as ours, why we must insist that students listen repsectfully to one another and why we encourage so much cooperative learning. It is also why extracurricular activities are such an integral part of our school. Last week our undefeated basketball team and sensational theatre ensemble demonstrated that these 21st Century skills can be learned on the stage or the court as well as in the classroom. Through hours of rehearsals and practice, they demonstrated the initiative that leads to success, and working with Kate, Ms. Gutman and Murphy they learned to carry themselves professionally and work collaboratively as a team. And I know that learning these lessons felt great for the kids.

 

The main message I took away from the book is that more and more of America is becoming a land of winners and losers. For those with the 21st Century skills and a college education, there will be more interesting and fullfilling jobs. The rest of America, however, will be working menial jobs for less money and fewer benefits. Last week our baskeball team and theatre ensemble showed us what it takes to be winners.

 

 

Work Hard,

May 25                        4:00     Basketball Playoffs

May 26                        1:00     All freshmen attend Restoration at NYTW

May 27                        11:00   LoMA students perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. All Sophomores and Juniors will attend and be dismissed at 1:00.

May 31                        Memorial Day – School Closed

 

John Wenk

 

 

 

          

                    

May 17, 2010

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

A friend of mine used to be the personal assistant for P. Diddy and Trece knew his driver. What they both agreed about was that he had a tremendous sense of urgency about everything he did. It was like he had to be the best in everything every minute of everyday. My friend sacrificed her personal life as she would work 18 hour days rushing with him from meeting to meeting till he wore her out after just six months (and she was a very hardworking, ivy-educated, young woman). That’s when he started his reality show to hire a replacement who would even harder and longer for him. I think all succesful people have the same sense of urgency and disdain for wasted time. I can’t imagine Obama spending hours on Facebook trolling for pretend friends or Oprah arriving late for a meeting looking for where she put her pen and paper. I’m sure that they have P. Diddy’s sense of urgency in everything they do.

 

I’ve been noticing this same theme in several of the books I’ve been reading about good schools: The most succesful classes are those where the students and teachers have a sense of urgency. All of the researchers agree that in the best classes, students work from bell to bell, have to write lots of notes quickly but carefully, complete large amounts of reading, writing and problem solving in class and for homework. As I’ve seen in other schools where I’ve worked, poor teachers don’t mind when student arrive late, don’t stress them during class and expect little homework from them. They lack a sense of urgency.

 

Everyone kows that Millie, Trece and I have this sense of urgency. It’s why we yell at students to improve their attendance, get to class on time and not to spend too much time in the halls. When I visit classes, I’m looking for urgency in the work habits of LoMA’s students: Do they get right to work when the bell rings; are they taking notes; particpating in class discussion; turning in homework? The good news is that, for the most part, I’m seeing teachers who demand this sense of urgency and students who respond well by working hard bell to bell.

 

With only nineteen days left in the year, this is the most urgent time of the year, particularly for Regents classes. To help students succeed on their Regents, the following teachers are offering extended tutoring sessions after school, during advisory and reading period: Ms. Johnson, Ms. Thomas, Mr. Timberlake, Ms. Lachnit, Ms. Hernandez, Ms. Mehta and Ms. Louisdhon. Check with the inidivdual etacehrs to see what room they will be in. Any students may attend these sessions, but they MUST sign in with thier advisory teacher early enough to report to the tutoring room before 8:40 for advisory tutoring or 12:03 for reading tutoring. It they are still wandering the halls after the late bells ring or have not signed in with their advisories first, they will be sent back to their advisories and MAY NOT attend tutoring.

 

19 days to go,

 

John Wenk

 

May 15                                    Tech Club

May 20-22                   7:00     Chorus Line

May 20                        6:00     Parents’ Association Meeting – nominations for officers

May 31                        Memorial Day – School Closed

 

 

May 10, 2010

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

When I was in college, I served on SUNY Cortland’s Judicial Board. With other students, teachers and administrators, we would judge cases of academic dishonesty. As professors would only bring up cases for which they had plenty of evidence, we tended to find most of the students guilty of cheating, usually in the form of plagiarism. The punishment was usually a failure for the entire course without any financial reimbursment but was sometimes more severe-expulsion.

 

Compared to college, we are much more lenient at LoMA. The first time students who are caught cheating or plagerizing they receive a 0 on the assignment. If the assignment is a test, essay or project it will probably result in a failure for the marking period. Cheating on a final or Regents exam can result in a full course failure. Students who cheat repeatedly are more severely punished, as it then becomes a disciplinary matter. In most cases, however, the worst punishment is probably the one the student doesn’t see directly. We are a small school whose teachers meet everyday to discuss student achievement. When a student cheats, I and all of his teachers and counselors find out. It is possible for that student to regain his reputation, but it will generally take some time before we cease to think of him as a dishonest cheater.

 

 One of the problems with this policy is that students aren’t always clear exacctly what can get them into trouble. In short, cheating is an attempt to deceive or mislead somebody, especially for personal advantage. Plagiarism, a form of cheating and stealing, is the process of copying another person's idea or written work and claiming it as original. In most cases these are obvious, but sometimes it gets more confusing. See if you can identify the following cases as (1) stealing, (2) plagiarism, (3) neither or (4) neither stealing nor plagiarism but not too smart.

 

___ Simply cutting and pasting a sentence from Wikipedia into an essay.

 

___ Cutting and pasting a whole page from a book into your homework with an appropriate parenthetical notation indicating who the original author was and where the book came from.

 

___ Working with someone on your homework so that she does the first set of problems and you do the second.

 

___ Using something you wrote in tenth grade English for a paper in your senior year.

 

___ Working with your classmates on a test if she did not give you specific permission (even of she let you do so earlier).

 

___ Changing the words but summarizing the main ideas in an essay.

 

___ Working collaboratively with your classmates in tutoring to complete a science lab.

 

As students face the additional preassures at the end of the year we generally have noticed increased amounts of cheating. I have told teachers to be on the watch more and turn in all suspected cases.

 

To end on a more positive note, Mr. Roe is starting a technology club next Tuesday, the 18th at 3:45.  Also, Ms. Johnson is stepping up the Regenst Review preparation tomorrow in her room at 3:00. As the so much of the 9th grade curriculum is on the exam, it is vital that all tenth graders and eleventh graders who have not passed the test get to tutoring.

 

Work Hard, Be Honest,

 

John Wenk

 

May 18                        Tech Club

May 20                        Parents’ Association Meeting – nominations for officers

May 31                        Memorial Day – School Closed

 

 

         

May 3, 2010

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

I used to go to horse racing when I was younger. There are some dull times between races, but what always made it worthwhile was watching the horses race down the home stretch. The home stretch is the last straightway on the track where the horses stretch out every stride as far as they can to make it across the finish line. It is the part of the race where the horses push it the hardest and give it everything they have. Horses that started off in the back of the pack come alive and show how great they can be before they collapse across the finish line.

 

With one week left in this marking period and one marking period left, we are now in the home stretch of school year. Students who have been trotting along with a 70 average can push themselves up to an 80 or even 85 as they see the finish line ahead and push themselves through this last seven week stretch. But the key to a good home stretch is that you have to run it differently then you have run the rest of the race – you have to give it your all. It is not enough to simply say that you’re going to try harder or study more. You need to make a specific plan of how you will change and improve or it’s not going to happen. For instance, some of the things you might need to start focusing on might be:

 

  • Completing every homework assignment every night. To do this you might need to break out your planner and start using it more faithfully. You may also need to give up something to make the time to succeed for the final stretch (TV, the phone, hanging out).
  • Taking more complete notes in class. You also need to review those notes every night so that you can remember facts and details better.
  • Many students can raise their grades a few points simply by being more thoughtfully involved in classroom discussions. The more speak you up in class and ask questions the more you will understand and even enjoy the class.
  • Tutoring becomes more important now than ever, especially in Regents classes.
  • Set up study groups so that you can complete your homework and prepare for tests with friends. You can meet in the library or many teacher’s room to study before you go home in the afternoon. Then you won’t have to worry about your homework later.

 

These are just some of the things I have thought about. Which of these can help you? What else can your advisory think about that will help you get the most out of the final stretch?

 

In every race there are always one or two horses that make the push into the home stretch too late. They start coming from behind strong and look like they are going to take the lead, but give too little too late to win the race. Don’t be that horse.

 

Give it everything you have,

 

 

John Wenk

May 7                          End of the marking period

May 20                        Parents’ Association Meeting – nominations for officers

May 31                        Memorial Day – School Closed

 

 
 
April 26, 2010
 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

This weekend about half of LoMA’s teachers representing every department and level of experience will head upstate for our annual retreat. Since before the school opened, LoMA’s staff meets over a weekend every spring to evaluate how the school is doing and what we need to change for the coming year. The new plan is then discussed with the parents, students and teachers on the school leadership team and written into our comprehensive education plan. As far as successes, LoMA’s faculty, students and parents have given us a lot to be proud of this year:

  • Our first school progress report ranked us in the top ten schools citywide for improvement in student achievement.
  • This year’s seniors are graduating with far more science, math and advanced placement (AP) credits than ever.
  • Our junior class’s success on the English Regents this past September was amazing, and I expect great Regents results from everyone this June.
  • Our students put on more shows than ever this year - they were all inspiring and professionally exceuted.
  • Our course pass and attendance rates this year are much higher than last year and the numbers of pink slips and suspensions are down significantly.
  • Our Parents’ Association is more organized and active than ever.
  • With our new bathrooms, laptops, Smartboards, the improved auditorium, and our wireless upgrade, our facilities are improving despite the budget cutbacks.

 

As well as we are doing, however, there is always room for improvement. Our increasingly succesful students place on obligation on us to find new ways of raising standards while making sure that no one gets left behind. To meet this challenge in such a small school we need to make better use of on-line learning. We are already commited to offering 15 online AP courses for responsible and succesful seniors next year. Beyond this, we hope to offer more on-line AP classes to underclassmen as well as additional courses in other areas of interest. Within the traditional classrooms, I think that we can do more to improve the critical thinking of our students through more rigorous assignments and classroom discussion. It is not enough for us to be the school of the most improved students, I want LoMA’s students to be even smarter and more succesful when they get to competitive colleges. That will require more effort on their part, but with LoMA’s great teachers and more effective use of technology, I know they can do it.

 

That’s what I think we need to work on, but the purpose of the retreat is to get everyone’s input. So, if you have other ideas for how we can improve LoMA in this time of fiscal austerity, let your advisor, me or another faculty member know and we’ll see what we can do.

 

Work Hard,

 

John Wenk

 

May 7                End of the marking period

May 20               Parents’ Association Meeting – nominations for officers

May 31               Memorial Day – School Closed

 
 
 
 
April 18, 2010

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

When I was in high school my parents and teachers used to always complain about how much time my generation would spend watching television, and they were right. Through junior high school and the first part of high school, I would watch three or four hours of really bad TVa day – Gilligan’s Island, The Love Boat and The Brady Bunch. I wonder what I would have done if I had all of the choices that kids have today.

 

A new study by the Kaiser Foundation examined that question. It surveyed 3000 students and found that the average young American spends more than seven and a half hours each day using computers, watching television and playing video games. And that doesn’t even count the additional hour and a half the average student spends texting or the half hour he or she’s on the cell phone. In looking at the effects of all of this, they did find some of good news. For instance, kids who use these forms of media the most exercise just as much as light media users. Yet more often, they found that elctronic use correlated with more problems. Students who rarely used these forms of media reported feeling happier more often, got in trouble less and were less likely to report being bored or sad. Ironic, huh? Furthermore, while every students has told their parents that they need a computer to do better in school, they found that students who consumed media three hours a day or less were twice as likely to get good grades (above a 75) than student who consumed more.

 

This is not to say that all electronic use is bad. It is a reality of 21st Century life and has vastly improved communication. But, like all things, moderation is the key. Staying connected with friends through Facebook can support healthy friendships, but only if you actually take time to develop those friendships through activities more meaningful than continual texting. Playing sophisticated video games can improve some problem solving skills, but will shut down other parts of your brain if that is all that you do, and there are worthwhile video sites (I particularly like ted.com), but most can be addictive wastes of time. Ultimately, I feel that time spent playing sports, performing, working and doing activities with friends is more meaningful and fun than anything done staring into a screen. That is why we require students to take part in extracurricular activieties, and why colleges accept people who play real sports over Wii players. Now the research backs us up in finding that more active people are indeed happier, smarter and better adjusted.

 

Put down the screen and do something,

 

 

John Wenk

 

April 22                       Spring Fling

May 7                          End of the marking period

"By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail."
             -- Ben Franklin

                                            

April 12, 2010

 

Dear LoMA Community,

 

I have a confession to make. I didn’t do my homework for last week’s class. I’m taking a drama class at the CUNY Graduate Center, and I was supposed to see a play for homework so that we could talk about it in class. By the time I called for tickets it was sold out. I just sat in the back of the class when everyone was analyzing it and talking about how great it was and hoped that the teacher wouldn’t call on me and I’d be caught. It was the worst class that I’ve been in years because I found myself playing the role of “poor student.” I was bored, went to the bathroom just so I could walk around the hall, tried to change the topic of the class conversation to something I knew about and thought about throwing spitballs at the teacher (not really). It was such an unusual role for me because I usually find the professor interesting, have lots to contribute to the discussion and learn a lot. But that’s because I’ve always been prepared.  What a difference it made when I was unprepared.

 

The whole thing reminded me of something my little brother Timmy said to me years ago. He had been a terrible high school student. He sat in summer school every year and the dean had our mom’s phone number on speed dial because he was in trouble so much. I even remember the assistant principal coming to our house once when he was really in trouble. When he finally graduated my parents forced him to go to community college (it was the only school that would accept him). He continued doing poorly there. Then one day he called me at my college to tell me he had made an incredible discovery: when he did his readings his classes started to make sense and he actually started to enjoy school.  He changed his major from restaurant management to English and became the avid reader that he is today. Because he was so far behind, it still took him six years to graduate, but he finally did so with honors. He continued his studies in law school and is a lawyer today. He regrets all of the time that he lost out due to his poor studies which had prevented his attending a more prestigious law school, but still appreciates his discovery that learning can be fun, and easier, when you actually do the work.

 

As I visit classes, I see the great majority of students engaged in their classwork, but I worry about what is happening when they leave class. As students rise up in schooling, they are expected to take more and more responsibility for their own learning by completing their reading, writing and computing indepedently at home. I hope that LoMA’s students learn now what it took college to teach my brother: school is easier and more fun when you actually do your homework.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

 

John Wenk

 

April 15           6:00     Parent Association Meeting

April 22                       Spring Fling

May 7                          End of the marking period

 

                                                        

                                                        

                                                                                                                                               
March 21, 2010

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

I was very lucky to have been raised by a mother who grew up wealthy and walked away from it to marry my middle class Dad. She may have been raised on yacht with servants, but I never remember going to restaurants or shows until I got my own job when I was twelve. When I would complain about this to her, she would say that money doesn’t bring happiness, a few close friends and family do. While I did not believe it then, several new books and my travels have proven her right.

 

Cambodia is the most surprising country I have ever visited. Its history is among the most horrific of any country as it was heavily bombed by the US during the Vietnam War, and then Pol Pot, one of the cruelest dictators in history took over. He killed a fifth of the population, destroyed the schools and hospital, eliminated money and most outrageously of all, tried to outlaw love. He’s now dead, but Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in the world – most villages use car batteries for electricity, many children are hungry and poorly clothed and there are few stores in most towns as there is so little money or product. But here is the ironic part – it calls itself “the land of smiles,” and it’s true. Everyone there seems to smile all day long. It is the friendliest place I have ever visited. People would come up to me when I was waiting for a bus or boat and practice their English, ask about America and introduce me to their families. Unlike other countries I’ve visited, there would never be a request for money. Watching them in the markets, temples and schoolyards it seemed to be the happiest place in the world, certainly happier than an expensive NYC club or luxury hotel.

 

A 1978 study written about by Elizabeth Kolbert in last week’s New Yorker confirms this disconnect between wealth and happiness from a different angle. The researchers studied two groups of people: lottery winners and victims of devastating accidents that had left them paralyzed. They asked each group a battery of questions about past, current and future happiness. They also asked them about how much pleasure they took in tasks like shopping, reading, joking with friends. They found that even though the victims regretted their accidents and the winners celebrated their luck, in nearly every measure, the victims reported greater present happiness, finding more pleasure in daily activities, and had higher hopes of becoming happy in the future.

 

This study led to many other studies that confirmed its findings that that “people routinely mispredict how much pleasure or displeasure future events will bring.” One reason for this is that people rapidly adjust to changes in their situation and return to their prior state of happiness or unhappiness. For instance, once they get a raise, they quickly get used to having more things and the same problems. Or, think about the day after Christmas, are your really so much happier than you were the day before it? My point is not that money is a bad thing, it’s just not going to change your temperament.

 

Don’t wait for your happiness to come to you, create it every day,

 

 

Mr. Wenk

 

March 22                                             Report Cards Distributed

March 25                     6:00                 American Ballet Theatre Performance

March 29-April 6                                Spring Break

April 22                       4:30                 Spring Fling Dance

 

 

                                                                                                                      

            March 15, 2010

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

Students of the 21st Century seem particularly proud of their ability to multitask. Many of them are confident in their ability to text, carry on a conversation, complete their homework and watch TV simultaneously. Psychologists are now researching just how well people can multitask, and they are finding that, while some people are better at it than others are, everyone has a limit, and people are generally poor at knowing their limit.

 

Generally, the less thought an action requires the easier it is to multitask it; habits are a good example of this. I now drive so much that it has become a habit. I can generally drive, change radio stations and carry on a conversation simultaneously. However, if I’ve made a wrong turn or am dealing with terrible road conditions, I have to turn off the radio and tell everyone to be quiet so I can concentrate on solving the problem. Many a new driver, on the other hand, has gotten into trouble because he thought he could do too many things at once, and accident rates are going up for all drivers who think they can talk on a cell phone and drive at the same time.

 

Schoolwork may not be as dangerous, but the same principle applies. If it is a rote assignment that requires no thought, it can probably be done while watching TV and talking with friends. The problem comes when the work requires a student to actually think, and the student completes it as if it is rote work. These students may get enough words or numbers on the page to get credit for the assignment, but if they did not concentrate on it, they did not learn a thing. The teacher, however, assuming that students learned from the assignment, will include the similar problems, terms or concepts on the next test. Guess what happens.

 

Clifford Nass, a psychologist in Stanford University compared smart students who were proud of their ability to multitask with those who did one thing at a time. He found that the latter group did much better on analytic tests. He believes that people multitask less as a way of doing what we really want to do than as an avoidance tactic. Instead of procrastinating, the new solution to homework avoidance seems to be to complete it minimally while doing something more mindless, or as Sir Joshua Reynolds wrote, “There is no expedient to which men will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.”

 

Labor on,

 

Mr. Wenk

 

March 18                     5:00-5:45        Parent Association Meeting – Curriculum Night

March 18                     5:45-8:00         Parent-Teacher Conferences – report cards distributed

March 19                     1:00-3:00         Parent Teacher Conferences – report cards distributed

March 25                     6:00                 American Ballet Theatre Performance

March 29-April 6                                Spring Break

April 22                       4:30                 Spring Fling Dance

 

 

                                     

                                                        

                                                        

                                                        

March 8, 2010

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

Chancellor Klein has announced that this is Respect for All Week in all NYC public schools. He has launched this initiative because he sees too much disrespectful behavior throughout the city. It is a problem here at LoMA too. Don’t take my word for it; in the annual surveys, LoMA’s students rate our school very highly in nearly every category. The exception, year after year, is student-teacher and student-student respect. Last year 64% of our students said that students do not treat their teachers with respect and 74% reported that students treat their peers disrespectfully.  Renae, Corey, Ms. Garfield and I have visited specific classes to talk about this and teachers have been trying to shut it down, but ultimately it is up to LoMA’s students to change their behavior when our faculty is not looking.

 

Most of the time, people are not even aware that they are being mean or disrespectful. They are able to perpetuate this delusion because before anyone puts someone down, they come up with some kind of self-serving rationalization such as “we were just playing.” In reality, the bully was playing with someone’s emotions and self-esteem, but the victim was hurting even if she was defensively laughing along at the time.

 

Another popular rationalization takes the form of “he did it to me first.” This one is a bit more understandable, but is just as futile. As Gandhi said, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Nothing has ever been fixed by being mean to someone who is mean to you; in fact it makes things worse as disrespect escalates into threats and violence. I do, however, understand the impulse to be disrespectful with someone when angry, frustrated or hurt and giving into impulses feels good for a moment. Most of the time, though, we come to regret our impulses after the fact when we’ve had time to think about what we’ve said or done. An old-fashioned, but still effective, trick is to silently count to ten when you feel your emotions overwhelming you. It gives you a chance to think about what you say before you shout something regrettable to a teacher, friend or parent. Saying something thoughtful instead of emotional is a more powerful way of getting what you want.

 

Ultimately, the cure of disrespect is this kind of attention. It’s not easy to always be respectful. That is where we need to rely on each other. All of LoMA’s students, not just the bullies, need to take responsibility for raising the level of respect here. They can do this by talking sense to friends when agitated, walking away from bullies instead of joining in the laughter and turning to staff members when things get out of control.

 

This year’s surveys will be coming out in a few weeks. Let’s see how we do. Together we can create a community that respects one another  - a more caring family.

 

 

Think first,

 

 

Mr. Wenk

 

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

As Black History Month comes to snowy end, I am proud to see what our school is doing to commemorate the positive impact that African Americans have had on our nation. Ms. Johnson and I are completing an expanded unit on African history in our global classes, Ms L and Ms. Urquhart are developing a comprehensive unit to explore the civil rights movement through history and the arts and last week we took seniors and forty of the top students in acadmics and attendance to see Memphis, a musical about how race influenced the birth of rock and roll. Of course the biggest commemoration of the achievements of Black Americans was last week’s Black History Celebration magnificently organized by Brandon and Ms. L with the help of Ms. Gutman, Ms. Concepcion and Ms. Garfield. The show was brilliantly structured so that each act honored a different phase of Black history: the Harlem Renaissance was represented by Langston Hughes, Billy Holiday and the Charleston dance, Motown was remembered as a birthplace for many of America’s first popular musicians including Michael Jackson who was commemorated in the penultimate act before the show closed with some old school hip-hop and a tribute to Black woman. Not only were all of the performances out standing, but also the substance of the show was historically rich, thoughtfully presented and edifying to all of us.

 

As with all of our great shows, it was not easy to create a production of this quality. The students involved stayed after school late and sometimes into the night 3 or 4 days a week for the last six weeks. They continued rehearsals at Henry Street and each other’s homes through vacation and demonstrated teamwork through their support of each other. Just like the artistic and literary heroes they were celebrating they put in the hard work and kept the focus that success demands. They demonstrated the truth that we heard in the talk-back after seeing the play Memphis when several of the actors spoke about how difficult it is to make it to Broadway. They said the key to their success was taking classes so that they cold continue to hone their craft and to keep on trying, no matter what the odds.

 

I think this is one of the themes of Black History Month. A few years ago I went to Memphis, the city, to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. The exhibits there focused on the determination and bravery that was required to end legal segregation in America. I viewed videos of dogs attacking peaceful protestors, white people shoving African Americans who sat at “white only” lunch counters and vitriol the nine black students had to face as they walked to an integrated school in Little Rock Arkansas. There was also an exhibit on the hundreds of Rosenwald Schools from the beginning of the Twentieth Century. This network of schools, founded by Booker T Washington and the owner of Sears stores, educated tens of thousands of Black children during the Jim Crow era. Black families would have to pay tuition, and the conditions in the schools were often spartan, but the education was often first-rate despite the terrible racism of the time. It was inspiring to think of what African Americans had to go through to get an education back then.

           

Despite the good work of these known and unknown heroes of Black history, discrimination is certainly not over. President Obama Governor Patterson, Oprah Winfrey are still too exceptional, but we all – Black, white, Asian and Latino - can follow the path they blazed. Each of them credits education as the route to their success. This is why LoMA’s teachers must demand the best from their students everyday. Instead of settling for complacency LoMA’s students must turn in high quality work, read challenging books and study hard. The team that worked so well together to create last week’s show demonstrated that the way to success is through determination, focus and thoughtfulness. When we bring these values to our schoolwork, we all will be exceptional.

 

Work hard,

 

 

John Wenk


                                                       

February 27, 2010

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

I have recently completed some statistical research of factors that affect a school’s graduation rate. After looking at dozens of variables such as eighth grade test scores, the quality of the teachers, how much students like the school, I found that the most important factor, by far, is a school’s attendance rate. If students don’t come to school, no matter how smart they are or how popular the school’s programs are, they don’t graduate. I bring this up because until the holiday break, LoMA’s attendance had been running just below 90%; since then it has fallen about 5% and cutting is on the rise. We need to change this now as we head into five solid weeks of instruction before the next break.

 

I was especially disappointed by the high absence rate on the day after the snow day just before vacation.  As the MTA was running on schedule and the sidewalks were cleared, students who took off that day for weather were just looking for an excuse not to have to come to school. It is far too easy for too many of our students to find any excuse not to come to school, especially when there are so many more important reasons to come to school every day.

 

  • The most important reason is that instruction does not stop when you are absent. With up to thirty students in a class, teachers have to go on with the show. Students who miss a day of instruction are more likely to get confused, miss items on a test and never complete homework what may show up on the Regents. As these absent students fall behind, they fall into a vicious cycle that drags them down and out of school. Every student who ever dropped out of high school began his fall by missing a day, then a week, then a lifetime of school.
  • Colleges and employers see every student’s transcript with absences and latenesses. If you were an admissions counselor and two students had roughly the same grades but a different numbers of absences and latenesses, which would you accept? The reason employers and colleges take absences so seriously is that poor attendance indicates that a person doesn’t care sufficiently about his work performance and supporting his colleagues. When we hire staff at LoMA, one of the things we look at is attendance.
  • As a positive incentive, every student who had 100% timeliness and attendance is invited to leave school early this Wednesday to attend the Broadway show Memphis. For the last three semesters, we have been taking these dedicated students on a trip every term.

 

Students who come to school and leave early or cut a class pose an even worse problem as LoMA is responsible for these students from 8:20-3:00 every day. As we have seen this problem rise, Trece has found a way of using the school’s attendance program to tell if a student has cut a class by the end of the day. Every morning teachers will now receive cut reports for the previous day. After they verify these reports, the computer will call the homes and cell phones and send out emails to the parents of any student who cut. In addition, teachers will then give these students a zero for the day. I have told these teachers to make sure that the zero means something significant enough to sufficiently punish recalcitrant students. Therefore, if students miss a class for any approved reason, you must tell the teacher that day or the computer will mark them cutting.

 

Woody Allen famously said, “90% of life is just showing up.” He was exaggerating, of course, but his point about having to be present to be successful is still true. We need to stop the cutting and minimize absences now before it brings too many students down.

 

Work hard,

 

Mr. Wenk

 

February 25                 6:00     PA Meeting

February 25                 6:30     Black History Month performance

 

 

February 8, 2010

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

Welcome to the new semester. In all of your classes you have a fresh start to get the highest grades possible. If you want to change or add extracurricular activities, you can see Ms. Gordon (otherwise we assume you are staying with the same activities). Beyond your regular afterschool activities, we have a whole lot of exciting events happening this semester which I want to share with you.

 

This year’s musical will be A Chorus Line. It’s a bit like American Idol in that it’s the story of a couple of dozen singers and dancers auditioning for a new Broadway show. It incorporates more dancing than most musicals so Ms. Gutman will be working closely with Kate to create the choreography. Auditions are scheduled for Tuesday, March 2nd and Thursday, March 4th from 3:00-6:00 both days. The play goes up May 20th-22nd.

 

Under the guidance of Ms. Sheahan, New York Cares begins a new semester of community service this Tuesday, the 9th  at 3:00 in rm. 336. Last semester the group visited a nursing home, an elementary school and made blankets for babies. This semester first trip will be on the 23rd.

 

Our first Celebration of African American Heritage is February 25th. Ms.L and Brandon have worked with a group of dedicated students to come up with a show that will be entertaining and edifying.  We’ll have two performances, one for students in the afternoon and another for everyone at 6:30.

 

LoMA will have another opportunity to showcase their talent at our Fifth Annual Talent Show on March 12th at 6:00. Applications are due on February 12th. See Craig, Mr. Fry or Ms. Concepcion to get one.

Our dancers have been working hard for a few big events.  They will have an evening performance on March 25th, in collaboration with American Ballet Theatre, before they perform with them at the Metropolitan Opera House on May 27th. Everyone will get to see that performance as well as hear our musicians perform as a part of the Annual Majors Show on June 9th at 1:00. The drama students will also perform scenes in the black box theatre.

 

LoMA’s championship basketball team start their season next month. I’m sure they’ll be playing better than ever with the encouragement of our new cheerleading squad.

 

Our seniors will have plenty to do in their final semester at LoMA.  On February 24th seniors who are in good shape with their internships will be taking a trip to see the Broadway Musical Memphis two days after that, they, they are off to Pinegrove Dude Ranch for three days of paintball, horseback riding swimming in the indoor pool, skiing and late night dancing. One of the best parts of the weekend is that they will get to experience what dorm life in college is like. Finally, on June 24th  we get to commemorate their greatest success at Graduation. As always, the entire LoMA family is invited to celebrate their academic and artistic accomplishments.

 

I’m proud that for such a small school LoMA is able to offer its students such a wide array of fun, worthwhile activities. It would be a waste for LoMA’s students to miss out on such wonderful opportunities.

 

Get involved,

 

Mr. Wenk

 

February 13-21                        Winter Vacation

February 25                 6:00     PA Meeting

 

 

January 25, 2010

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

As the upperclassmen know by now, this is the time of the year for our semiannual survey. As a part of our ongoing effort to improve LoMA, I want to know from our students how we can make our school even better. Please be honest as your answers are anonymous; and be thoughtful as I share these results with all of LoMA’s staff and we take what you say very seriously. For instance, last year’s number one complaint was the condition of the bathrooms.

 

Good luck on your midterms and Regents,

 

John Wenk

 

January 25                               End of Term

January 26-February 1            Regents’ Week

February 2                               First Day of New Term

 

 

1.      What are you most proud of accomplishing this year? ____________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

 

2.      What did you like best about your extracurricular activity this year? ________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

3.      If you could change one thing about your experiences this year, what would it be?

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

4.      If you could change one thing about LoMA, what would it be? (be realistic)__________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

5.      What works well for you in advisory? ____________________________ ____________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

6.      What would you like to change about your advisory? ____________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

 

7.      Who is an adult at LoMA who has had a big impact on you? In what way? __________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

8.      What do you hope for next semester?_________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

9.      How could your teachers improve their instruction? _____________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

10.  What is something you teachers do very well? _________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 
January 11, 2010
 
Dear LoMA Family,

 

Ms. Deutsch guided me to a website about Daniel Pink’s new book, Drive. Pink’s last book, A Whole New Mind, taught me about how the brain works, and his new book is about motivation. As an example of what motivates us, he uses two questions: “What’s your sentence,” and “Was I better today than yesterday?”

 

Clair Booth Luce, one of the first female congresspersons, asked the first question to John F Kennedy after he became president.  By asking him, “What’s your sentence?” she was asking about how he identified himself. She pointed out that Abraham Lincoln’s sentence would be that he freed the slaves and George Washington’s would be that he established the presidency. When I think about the question, I hope that my sentence will be that “John Wenk worked with a brilliant team to create a school that cares for all of its students.”

 

This question reminds me of a piece of advice from Joseph Campbell, a wise mythologist. After studying thousands of myths from around the world, he deduced that that happiness comes from following one’s passion. The problem is that so many people seem to have trouble finding their passion or they lack the perseverance they need to follow it sufficiently, but the most successful people in the arts, education, business and sports are those who devote their time, effort and skills to their passion. That is why half the Oscar or Grammy Award speeches you hear begin with the line, “Don’t give up on your dreams.”

 

Pink’s second question reminds me of my mother would ask me every evening “What did you learn today?” She did not just mean in school, but in life. With this attitude, a day in which we don’t learn something or grow in some way is a wasted day. Ideally, this question should connect to the first – to your passion. For me, as I go home each night I reflect on what I learned about individual students or staff that can help me support them better, or I think about how my lesson may have worked or failed so that I can teach better the next day. When I stop growing as a teacher, I know it will be time to quit and find a new passion.

 

When Alicia Keys was a student of mine, I could tell that she asked these two questions all the time. Not only was she the hardest working student in her class, but she entered ninth grade with a tremendous drive and passion to become a great musician. She stayed late at school all the time practicing at the piano, studying music theory and working with her choral teacher. By eleventh grade, she was traveling to Rome to sing for the Pope. Today, listening to her latest songs, we can all tell that even after she became a superstar she is continuing to learn – to hone her craft.

 

I look forward to seeing the same professional success from one of LoMA’s students someday. I don’t yet know that student’s name, but I do know what questions he or she is asking herself every day.  

 

Work hard,

 

 

John Wenk

January 18                               Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 25                               End of Term

January 26-February 1            Regents’ Week

                                        

 

                                                                                                                                January 4, 2009

 

Dear LoMA Family,

I've just finished reading a book called Subtractive Schooling and the Politics of Caring by Angela Valenzuela. The main argument of this book is that “caring” means something very different for students and teachers. When students think about whether or not their teachers care, they mean, "Do they care about me my life outside of school? Do they care whether or not I learn in class?" When teachers think about caring, however, they usually think only in terms of their schoolwork "Are my students completing their homework and behaving in class?" Neither viewpoint is right or wrong. We need teachers to care for their students as much as the students care for their schoolwork. I think that we’re nearly there which is why I like to say that LoMA is a school that cares.

From what I see, the teachers at LoMA really do care a great deal about their students. They have told me how much they enjoy advisory because it gives them a chance to get to know their students. Every teacher gives up their free time to tutor students and works late trying to come up with interesting ways to teach that will make learning fun. Also, every Monday through Thursday LoMA's teachers and counselors have lunch together to discuss how to help individual students. At these meetings each faculty member brings up the names of students he or she is worried about and we all discuss ways to help that student succeed. Caring isn’t always what it seems though. For instance, sometimes the best way a teacher (or principal) shows caring is by disciplining students for actions that can hurt their learning or the school community.

On the other side, I've been impressed to see that most of the students at LoMA do seem to care about their school work. Just in the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen many students (especially juniors and sophomores) coming in for tutoring, meeting in study groups and doing their best. The results seem to be good for the most part, as students have learned that the more they study, the more thoughtful they are in completing their homework, the more they pay attention in class the higher they will score. Unfortunately, too many students are still satisfied with a passing grade. As colleges will see this month’s report cards, some students need to work even harder to get the 83 or A.

For students do care about school, but are not yet doing as well as they could be, LoMA’s teachers are willing to stay after school and give up their lunch periods to tutor their students and help them complete class work and homework. They will continue to search for interesting ways to teach material that students might not find so interesting, and they will continue to recognize that LoMA kids are more than just students. They have problems, successes and relationships outside of school that make them fascinating, wonderful people. Our teachers will do this not because they have to, but because they care.

Work hard,

 

 

John Wenk

December 24-January 3          Holiday Vacation

January 18                               Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 25                               End of Term

January 26-February 1            Regents’ Week

 

December 21, 2009

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

 It’s kind of amazing that every nation, religion and ethnic group in the world has holidays of one form of another. Whether they are about celebrating religious events, famous battles or simply the changing of the year, every culture throughout history designates a few, special days a year as times to break from routines in order to do something special with family and friends. As everyone has eleven days off from school coming up, minus some homework time, I hope that all of our students take the time to do something special with their family and friends.

 

In my own family, it has always been the children who have created the rituals, as my mother has always been something of a scrooge around the holidays (she just wants a wreath on the door and to be left alone). In response, my brother, sisters have taken over. My sisters and Colombian in-laws do most of the cooking, my father and I go crazy decorating the house and my brother “surprises” us every year by stuffing of the stockings with silly “surprise” gifts. This year, we are adding a new twist to the festivities as we are all going over to my Dominican in-laws for Christmas dinner. My point is, it is up to you to create your own holiday customs and traditions that make your own holidays special to your own unique family, however you define it.

 

What is true for making your family events special is just as true for making your friendships special this season. The cast of Metamorphoses came back from their karaoke cast party last week totally pumped up because it was something out of the ordinary as was the amount of time, effort and talent that they put into their amazing production. Like our championship basketball players last year and our Black History Month team this year, they have learned that friendships become hardened through the cauldron of effort. Collecting “friends” on Facebook, gossiping in the halls with classmates and texting inane messages are no way to make lasting, meaningful friendships – you need to put effort in to special things that create memories.

 

Take some time over the vacation to actually get together with your friends for something different: visit the lions at Bronx Zoo (it’s pay what you want on Wednesday), the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History Museum or the Egyptian temple at the metropolitan Museum of Art (these last two are always pay what you want). Go skating in Central Park, video gaming at Dave and Busters or bowling at the Port Authority. I used to teach in a town of 500 people upstate. The students there always complained that there was nothing to do, and they were jealous of city kids who had so many options. The shame is that too few city kids take advantage of all that is offered to them. Don’t waste your opportunities. Ask someone today if they want to get together over vacation, and then do something special.

 

Play hard,

 

 

John Wenk

 

December 24-January 3          Holiday Vacation

January 18                               Martin Luther King Jr. Day


Congratulations to the cast and crew of Metamorphoses  for an outstanding production!


 

 
 
 
 
December 14, 2009

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

There was good news and bad news in the second marking period’s report cards, and it cut largely on grade level. As anyone who looks at the honor roll board can tell, our freshmen are doing very well at LoMA. Several of them are scoring in the high 90s, the majority are getting the 83 and relatively few of them are failing. There is more good news coming from our seniors. Even though many of them are finishing up their College Now classes at John Jay College and they all have internships, they are earning their best grades ever and only about six of them are in danger of not graduating, mostly due to missing extracurricular credits or internship hours. After four years with us, they have figured out how to juggle busy schedules and still complete homework and attend tutoring.

 

The juniors and sophomores, however, are a real concern. While many of them are doing well, based on this last report card, 29 tenth graders and 25 juniors are on my list as being in serious risk of being left back. There is no secret to who’s on my list - if a student fails three classes in any one term, it is not likely that he or she will be promoted. There are three main reasons why students are on this list:

  1. They do  not complete homework every night
  2. They fail to turn in projects
  3. They are excessively absent or come to school late

 

It is ironic that so many of these students are failing, and so many other students are failing to meet their goals because LoMA’s teachers have never taught better or worked smarter. Most teachers are keeping their grades on line, posting their homework, offering tutoring for extended hours and implementing more creative lessons, but none of this matters if the students do not care enough to complete their work to the best of their abilities every day and night.

 

Because there is room for improvement in every student’s report card, every advisor has extra copies of report cards. Students should use these to set specific goals for each class and a plan for how to meet these goals. There are five weeks left in the marking period; it is not too late for anyone to improve his or her grades, but soon it will be.

 

 

Work hard,

 

 

John Wenk

 

December 17                           6:00  Parents’ Association Meeting

December 24-January 3          Holiday Vacation

December 7, 2009

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

Albert Einstein famously said that being crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Scientists in Portugal have recently been studying why this happens by experimenting with rats stuck in ruts that make them repeat the same mistakes repeatedly. They have found that our brains are wired to deal with stress by digging ourselves deeper and deeper into ruts instead of thinking of new solutions.

 

For these experiments, the scientists put their experimental rats under physical and mental stress. For instance, they caged some them with very aggressive rats and electrocuted others.  After four weeks, these stressed out rats were less able to find their way out of mazes as they took the same dead end routes again and again. They also became obsessive about pressing a bar for more food, even when they had enough. Unstressed rats apparently usually only “ask” for as much food as they need. As one scientist stated, the stressed rats became “cognitively predisposed to … run laps in the same dead end rat race rather than seek a pipeline to greener sewers.”

 

I have seen agitated students do this all the time. When they get in trouble, they keep on repeating the same inane comments (like, “I don’t care”) or pacing the halls rather than sit and calm down in an office. It is as if their brain is making them repeatedly hit their head against the wall rather than look up and find their way around the wall.

 

Less agitated students (and adults) also spin their wheels down into the same kind of rut of repeating stupid, counterproductive habits. Most of the time we are looking for immediate relief of stress rather than a true solution to what is causing the problem. For instance, because we may repeatedly gossip to win friends in the short term, we fail to make friendships that are more lasting because we are so untrustworthy, or we fail to complete projects successfully due to he immediate gratification of procrastination. What makes the problem worse, according to the researchers, is that “We’re lousy at recognizing when our normal coping mechanisms aren’t working. Our response to stress is usually to do the same bad habit five times more, instead of thinking maybe it’s time to try something new.”

 

Our students will receive one solid bit of evidence of whether or not they need to do something new this week when they receive their report cards. If they see disappointing grades two marking periods in a row, they need to stop hitting their heads on the wall and look for a way around. That may be attending tutoring, changing the way they complete homework or spend more time with flashcards than Facebook.

 

Fortunately, we are not rats. As difficult as it is, humans can become self-conscious enough to recognize when their habits are becoming self-destructive, and they can break these bad habits. As part of brains seem to want to keep on making the same mistakes over and over again, I think the answer may be to find friends, teachers and counselors who can show us our own ruts and guide us out of them. now is the time to do it.

 

Work hard,

 

 

John Wenk

 

 

December 10-13                      Performances of Metamorphosis by LoMA Theatre Ensemble

December 17                           6:00  Parents Association Meeting

December 24-January 3          Holiday Vacation

November 30, 2009 

Dear LoMA Community,

 

This week marks the end of the second marking period; you have just five days to get your grades up.At this point, you should have a sense of how you are doing in all of your classes. If you are not sure, ask your teachers today. This is especially important if you failed a class last marking period, because if fail again this marking period it will be a real challenge to pass for the term and if you fail more than three classes for the term the year you will have to repeat the entire year.  If you are in danger of failing any of your classes, see your teachers during lunch or after school so that you can get the help that you need to pass for the term. Most of you, however, are not and should not be worried about passing your classes; you are striving for an 85 or 90 or higher. It is just as important for you to make the same solid push this week to ensure that you have done everything possible to earn your top grades in every class.

 

As I passed out PSAT scores to our sophomores and juniors last week, I was reminded that good grades will not be enough to get all of our students into competitive colleges. As our school progress report shows, through tutoring and second chances, our caring teachers are able to get our students to turn in sufficient work to pass their classes and even to excel on the Regents. The SATs, however, measure something a little different. They are not designed not to test what students know, but to predict how well they will do in college. These are not quite the same things. In order to succeed in college, students need to be able to independently compute difficult math problems and independently read long, difficult, boring chapters in textbooks. In other words, the SAT tests whether students have been doing difficult math homework on their own and how much they read. While the SAT classes Edgies, The Door and LoMA offer will boost students’ grades a bit, the only real way to do well is to practice math and reading every day. In fact, the best SAT course is to read the New York Times as a habit. Five years ago, the College Board, the group that writes the SAT, finally admitted what I always knew – the vocabulary for the SATs comes from the New York Times. Because students who get into the habit of reading it outscore their peers, we get the subscription for our students. When you see a copy sitting in the hallway, grab it and get smart (reading it is required).

 

Another thing that LoMA does to improve SAT scores is Drop Everything And Read. Homework and class books are not enough; students need to read at least an hour a day in order to raise their reading level one grade. DEAR time is supposed to be a teaser to encourage students to continue reading their independent books at home and on the subway. Finishing a book every two or three weeks is a good goal for everyone, adults and kids. It is only with this sustained practice that our students will see their reading level improve enough to succeed on the SAT.

 

You may fool your teachers on an occasional homework and get lucky on some tests, but the SAT is harder to fool. Its focus is on skills, not knowledge, and the only way to improve skills is consistent, rigorous practice. When you take it, it will show every college recruiter just how much you have read and how seriously you have taken your homework. It is not the kind of test you study for as a junior or senior - you prepare for it all your life.

 

Work hard,

 

John Wenk

 

 

December 3                 6:00  School Leadership Team meeting

December 4                          End of Second marking Period.                       

December 17               6:00  Parents Association Meeting

December 24-January 3       Holiday Vacation

 

 

November 23, 2009

Dear LoMA Family,

 

Last Monday I wrote about how important it is that schools teach academic, practical and social confidence in order to build the cultural capital of their students. That very day, we received validation that LoMA is doing just that when the mayor released the school progress report. The progress report uses complicated formulas to determine how well schools are helping their students. It’s a value added assessment, which basically means that it measures how well students improve while they are in school based on Regents scores, graduation rates, attendance figures and school survey results. A school needs to score a 70 overall to receive an A. I am proud to report that LoMA received a 94.7. This puts us in the top ten of New York City’s high schools and beats every other arts school! We received such an outstanding score because of how much the entire LoMA family cares about hard work and success.

LoMA students rated their teachers very highly in these areas on last year’s survey. Eighty-seven percent of them said that their teachers encourage them to succeed and 93% said that they expect them to go to college. Best of all, to make sure they succeed in college, 93% of our students report that LoMA’s teachers have high standards. I could not agree with our student more; LoMA’s dedicated, wise, compassionate teachers are the best I have ever worked with. I am constantly impressed by the creativity of their lessons, the competence with which they implement them and their patience in working with every student. They work long into the evening tutoring students and developing meaningful lesson plans, and they give up their lunch periods for “kid talk” so they can strategize collaboratively to ensure each student’s success.  

LoMA’s counselors also participate in every “kid talk” session. They see their primary aim as ensuring that every child is available to learn every day despite the stress that they may feel from home, school and their neighborhoods. They have been so successful because they take a holistic approach in working with teachers, families and the unique needs of each student. We have not been successful with every student, but no student has ever been lost slipping between the cracks of our support team.

Beyond the guidance team, LoMA has a large, dedicated, thoughtful support team of school aides, paraprofessionals and an amazing secretary. They all keep the school functioning smoothly and care for every LoMA family member. Whether it’s providing food and supplies, keeping students safe or just making sure that everyone is noticed, they keep us all together, working towards success.

While there was no direct grade for it on our progress report, every year our school quality review praises the work of our community based partners. Henry St., Edgies, ABT, LoVE, Oppenheimer mentoring, Fidelity Future Stage, NYTW, NYU, the Door and Aspira have all gone out of their way to provide the kind of high quality programming that encourage our students to care more for their learning and make better choices.

Of course, our progress report scores would not be so high if our students did not score so well on the Regents, come to school every day and graduate on time. Time and time again, they have shown that they care enough about success to be punctual, come to tutoring, and complete their homework. You all see me walk into classes all day long. Most of the time I don’t say anything because I am proud of what I am seeing – students focused on learning. I can see it in how they take notes, sit up straight and pay attention, work collaboratively and ask intelligent questions. I see it in their problem solving, performances, essays, tests and in every report card I read.

Now that our school’s first progress report indicates that we are one of the best of the city’s 350 high schools, more people are going to be seeing what I have been watching so proudly. On the day that the report card was released, a recruiter for Syracuse University came to my office. He told me that as he was so impressed by LoMA’s school progress report and our quality review  that he would like to offer admission to some of our students. As our students continue to excel, these opportunities will occur more frequently. It is one more thing we have to give thanks for this week, and this Tuesday I will be cooking the feast so that we all can give thanks in style.

 

Good work everyone,

 

John Wenk

November 24               4:30                 Thanksgiving Day Feast for the entire LoMA Family

November 26 and 27                           Thanksgiving Vacation

December 4                                         End of second marking period                                                                                                                        November 16, 2009

 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times has written a couple of essays on the importance of college and the challenges many students are having at completing college. I think his ideas are important because here at LoMA our mission is to ensure that every student graduates with what they need to succeed in college. In these articles Brooks argues that for many students graduating from college is a huge challenge. It is but I know that all of our students can do it if they remain focused, dedicated and united.

 

In the first essay, Brooks wrote about how important college is today as college graduates earn nearly twice as much as high school graduates, and people with professional degrees earn nearly twice as much as those with college degrees. Even more importantly, college seems to help in many other areas of life. For instance, college grads have half the divorce rates of people who only graduate from high school. College graduates seem to have different life styles in many areas as well. High school grads are twice as likely to smoke as college grads. They are much less likely to exercise. College grads are nearly twice as likely to vote. They are more than twice as likely to do voluntary work. Finally, they are much more likely to give blood. So, it seems from this data, that graduating from college can help to make you richer, healthier and more stable in your relationships.

 

Now the bad news, it seems that more and more it is only rich kids who are earning college degrees. Students in the poorest quarter of the population have an 8.6 percent chance of getting a college degree. Students in the top quarter have a 74.9 percent chance. As Ross Douthat notes in The Atlantic Monthly, a child growing up in a family earning over $90,000 has a 1 in 2 chance of getting a college degree by age 24; a child in a family earning $35,000 to $61,000 has a 1 in 10 chance; a child in a family earning under $35,000 has a 1 in 17 chance. The reason for this discrepancy is not about paying for college. In my eight years as college advisor I discovered that the poorer a student is, the less trouble she has paying for college. In New York State, there is plenty of college aid for poorer students. The problem seems to revolve around what Brooks calls four pillars of cultural capital.

 

  • Academic Competence. Students are not going to be able to thrive in college if they graduate from high school doing eighth-grade work. Too many students get through high school without being able to read their textbooks independently, solve complicated math problems or read a novel a week. At LoMA your teachers will push you hard so that you will graduate with these skills.
  • Economic confidence. Poorer students are risk-averse. Often overly intimidated by college costs, unwilling to take out student loans, too quick to leave school to get a job, they wind up underinvesting in their education. We will help you to understand the finances of college.
  • Social Confidence. Elite schools have become bastions of privilege. Poorer kids often feel uncomfortable at such places, particularly if they are in a minority. One way to overcome this is through their greater knowledge of the world, particularly the elite world of the arts. As a graduate of an arts school like LoMA, you will have a specialized knowledge of the museum, theatre and cultural world of New York that few college students’ posses. This will buy you social capital on any elite college campus.
  • Practical Competence. Surveys show that poorer students understand the importance of college and want to attend. But many adopt a magical worldview, imagining that success will somehow come to them out of the blue. The only way to get to college is through determined, consistent work beginning in ninth grade. Keeping an organized notebook, reviewing your notes each night, completing your homework, staying focused in all of your classes will determine if you succeed in college. It’s not magic!

 

In our former school, PPAS, Ms. Schaller and I both served as college advisors. Each year over 90% of our students would get into four year colleges including schools like Harvard, University of California and Georgetown University. For the ten year anniversary of PPAS we invited hundreds of graduates back to the school. I had the biggest smile on my face that glorious night as I listened to them tell us all about their success in college, graduate school and in their careers. It was my proudest day as a teacher. Now I am already looking forward to LoMA’s ten years from now. I know that if my students can remain focused on their schoolwork, give their best everyday and develop and love and respect for learning they will develop the cultural capital they need to be just as successful.

 

 

Sincerely yours,

 

 

John Wenk

November 19              6:00                 Parents’ Association Meeting and Computer Workshop

November 24              4:30                 Thanksgiving Day Feast for the entire LoMA Family

November 26 and 27                          Thanksgiving Vacation

December 4                                         End of second marking period

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     November 9, 2009

Dear LoMA Family,

 

Students probably need to memorize more stuff in high school than at any other time in their life, but too few students think about how memorization actually occurs. Just as an athlete or dancer needs to understand how the body works, students need to know more about metacognition or how thinking occurs. When it comes to memorization, most psychologists agree that there are basically two types of memory – long and short term.

Short-term memory is very limited and can usually only handle about seven digits at a time, which is why phone numbers were designed with seven digits (before we grew to need area codes). Try it - you can probably remember seven random digits for a few minutes, but few people can memorize more than nine. However, there are ways to cheat in order to memorize more than seven pieces of information. The most common way is to group the digits so that they can connect to prior memory. For instance, your mind will treat 212 as a single digit because it is so common to you, but not 978. Another trick is to find patterns such as the 7 7’s of a popular car service – 777-7777.  Students can transfer these memory tricks to school when then understand the patterns of history (such as civilizations begin in river valleys) or when science class taps into a students’ prior knowledge (such as cold fronts are more likely to bring rain showers).

As important as short-term memory is, long-term memory is much more vital for school success. Long-term memory storage is like a file cabinet. The problem is that many of us are very poor filers. We generally file in one of four ways:pairs (names and faces; words and definitions), procedures (what trains to take to get to school), categories (types of music) and patterns/rules (orders of operation). Just as there are tricks for short term memory, there are many strategies that can help improve long term memory.

·         For students who have trouble with pairs, drill can be very effective. I had a huge mental block when I was trying to remember 8 x 7 = 56. In third grade, my mom made me miss my favorite TV show and write down that equation 50 times. I will never forget it again.

·         Flashcards are an excellent tool for memorizing pairs. When my brother was studying for the bar, he used thousands of flashcards. It worked, and friends of his who didn’t use them failed.

·         Procedural memorization problems can be overcome by writing out the steps in creative ways. For instance, drawing out the steps to solving a math problem can help visual learners to remember how to solve a quadratic equation.

·         Filing different category items can also be made easier through creative charts which is why so many LoMA teachers use graphic organizers in their lessons.

·         Understanding how patterns can work can help memorization. For instance, much of history falls into the pattern of cause and effect. Therefore, whenever a student studies a new historical event, he should strive to make sense of it through its causes and effects.

·         Mnemonic devices such as Roy G Biv for the colors of the rainbow help to create easily memorizable patterns.

In addition to these techniques, here are some other tricks good students have been using for generations:

Ø  Draw as many descriptive pictures and charts in your notes as possible. We remember these better than words.

Ø   Talk to people about what you are learning. This is why students who come to tutoring, talk to their parents about school or engage in study groups tend to do much better in school.

Ø  Consciously make connections between what you are learning and what you have learned before.

Ø  Consciously make connections between what you are learning and real life examples.

Ø   As long-term filing works best just before you go to sleep, late evening is the best time to study.

Ø  Attention and memory are closely connected. If you are paying attention to music, the TV or cell phone when studying, you are wasting your time.

Ø  Underlining and highlighting material while reading bolsters engagement and thus memorization.

Ø  If you can summarize something in your own words, you are much more likely to remember it than when you use someone else’s word.

 

It is important to remember that having memory difficulties is different from being stupid. Many of us have great memories for some things (faces, dance steps or sports facts) and poor memories in other areas of our life. What makes the difference is not how smart you are. It is whether you care enough to take the time to use these techniques on a regular basis.

 

Work hard,

 

 

John Wenk

                                      

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   November 2, 2009

Dear LoMA Family,

 

Last week I wrote about how successful people are able to defer gratification. This week I want to talk about my favorite psychological experiment about this issue – the famous marshmallow study. In this 1962 experiment, Stanford University Professor Walter Mischel asked preschool children to pick a favorite treat from a tray containing marshmallows cookies and pretzel sticks. He then left them alone in a room after telling them that if they did not eat the treat, they would be allowed to eat two treats when he returned. A hidden camera recorded what happened when he left the room as the kids struggled with temptation. Some covered their eyes or turned away so they could not see the treat. Others kicked the desk, tugged at pigtails or stroked the marshmallow like a tiny stuffed animal. One boy looked around, twisted his Oreo cookie apart, licked out the stuffing, put it back together, and smiled happily. The average amount of time that the children were able to wait was about three minutes, but about 30% waited the full fifteen minutes required for the double reward.

 

In this longitudinal study, he then tracked these students through high school. He found that the students who were able to delay the gratification had fewer behavioral issues, longer attention spans, lower body-mass indexes, fewer problems with drugs and alcohol and scored an average of 210 points higher on the SATs. There was more at work here than marshmallows and Oreos. People with poor impulse control and an inability to invest in the future will not be as successful as those who grab for immediate happiness. They do not save money, commit to exercise and good diet and make sacrifices for friends. In school, they have trouble studying on a regular basis, read less and lose focus during class. They promise to attend tutoring and then run off to hang out with friends after school instead.

 

The marshmallow experiment does offer some hope though. Mischel found that the students who closed their eyes, hid their treat and sang to themselves were able to wait the full fifteen minutes. One of the keys to avoiding temptation is to hide it. This is why college students study in the library rather than their dorm rooms, why it is important to turn off one’s phone, TV and Facebook account when working and  to choose one’s friends carefully so that they support your long term goals instead of leading you into the temptation of immediate gratification. It’s not that successful people don’t want to have as much fun as other people, they have simply learned how to arrange for the fun around the work, and in return they will have many more opportunities for good times in the future.

 

 Work hard,

 

 

John Wenk

 

 
 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              October 26, 2009

Dear LoMA Family,

 

I was impressed with how many students made a strong push last week to get all of their work in before the end of the marking period. The flipside of that observation is that too many students had put off their work until the end of the marking period. Steven Kotler wrote an interesting article in Psychology Today last month about why people procrastinate and what can be done about it. He found that there were four factors that relate to procrastination:

  • E = The expectation or confidence that we will be successful at a given task.
  • V= The value we give to a task – how much fun it is and what it means to us in the long term.
  • D= Our ability to delay gratification
  •  I=Our impulsiveness

 

To understand how they relate to one another, he came up with a formula to measure procrastination where U stands for the effort to effort to complete a task: U = (E) * (V)/(I) * (D). This means that the likeliness of procrastination depends on our confidence of success multiplied by the fun/importance of the task divided by how badly we need the reward for finishing it multiplied by how easily we are distracted. For example, if students feel that they cannot complete their homework, that they won’t be graded for it and that it is not important, then they are not very likely to complete it. However, the largest predictor of procrastination is impulsivity. This confirms other reports that impulsive people tend to be more violent, poorer and less successful.

 

Steel gives some strategies for counteracting procrastination:

  • Exercise your willpower as if it were a muscle through meditation and self-affirmation. Remind yourself of your values (i.e. school is important to me) when you feel your impulsivity rise.
  • Reduce distractions when working on a task by shutting off cell phones, televisions and music
  • Structure projects so that you can increase your confidence of completing them. You can do this by completing homework during tutoring, breaking big projects into smaller chunks and asking for help when needed.
  • Visualize success at the start of a project in order to make future goals vivid.
  • Just do it - when a task makes you anxious, don’t give in to the emotional relief that avoidance provides. Acknowledge the negative feeling and jump into the task anyway. Once you get started, it is amazing how much easier it is to finish a project than you thought you thought.

 

We have all felt the siren call of procrastination, what makes some people more successful than others is what they do to avoid answering the call.

  Work hard…today,

 John Wenk

 

October 29                  Parent Teacher Conferences   5:45-7:45 Report Cards Distributed

October 30                  Parent Teacher Conferences 1:00-3:00

November 6                Freshmen and sophomore trip to H Chen Dancers at La Mama they will be

                                    released from there

 
 

Dear LoMA Family,

 

Five weeks ago, I wrote about the experiment I wanted to conduct to extend our honeymoon through the first marking period. The experiment has been moving along fairly well and the results will become apparent next week when the grades come in. Based on the following observations, I am confident that they will be excellent:

 

  • The great majority of our students are coming to school every day as attendance rate is an impressive 90%.
  • While some students (mostly freshmen) are getting excessively chatty, serious infractions remain rare. Fewer students are receiving pink slips and only a handful of students have been suspended.
  • Nearly all of our students have already gone on successful trips this year - a college trip to Connecticut, a theatre trip to see New York Theatre Workshop’s production of Aftermath and a freshmen day at the Museum of Natural History have all gone swimmingly. Not only were students well behaved, but they also seemed interested, curious and thoughtful about their experiences.
  • The extracurricular events are packing students in. I saw 40 students responding to letter to Santa in New York Cares, over talented 40 students tried out for this fall’s production of Metamorphosis and 30 flexible students are showing up for yoga. The chess club is hosting its first tournament on October 29th, and more kids are learning sign language every week.
  • Tutoring sessions seem productive and full. The freshmen, in particular, seem to have learned quickly how beneficial small group and one on one instruction after school can be for boosting grades.

 

When the marking period ends this Friday, teachers will start tabulating those grades, and I expect that parents will see some high achievement when they come to pick up report cards at parent teacher conferences next week. If students are not sure of their grades, they should check with their teachers before or after class time today. That way, they may still have time to complete enough missing work or extra-credit to raise their grades.

 

I am proud of how well loMA’s students and teachers have worked to extend the honeymoon. If my hypothesis from last month is right, we will now see high enough high grades that students will see the positive effects of their hard work and continue to give school their best effort for the rest of the year. It is up to you to prove me right.

Work hard,

 

John Wenk

 

October 21                  Senior Dinner at Benihana 6:30 $25 due today

October 23                  End of Marking Period

October 23                  Visit from British Environmental Theatre Troupe for 9th grade classes.

October 23                  Halloween Dance 4:30-7:30


 

Comments