September 8, 2008
Dear LoMA Family,
This is a big year for LoMA. After four years of planning and growing we are now at capacity with just over 300 students and 35 staff members. I am especially excited about our first graduating class. Every senior has passed all of their academic classes and nearly all of them have passed all of their required Regents. Now they are all around the city learning in high end internships at some of the best arts organizations and businesses in the city. Our juniors are adapting to the rigors of the toughest year of high school, and the sophomores have really matured since the last year as evidenced by their focus and engagement in their classes. Likewise, our freshmen are quickly rising to our high expectations in behavior and academics. As a result of everyone’s effort, our attendance rate is hitting 90%, latenesses are down dramatically and homework completion is fantastic. I’m very impressed with the level of scholarship, effort and concentration I’m seeing around the school.
The trick now is how to sustain this level of achievement throughout the year. Old teachers like me know that in some ways this is a “honeymoon period.” September is a time of renewal and hope and the first week or two generally brings in the best work by students. Unfortunately, sometimes, students are unable to sustain this good behavior. They miss a homework one day, come back late from lunch another day or do poorly on a test. They begin to fall in to a cycle of failure and give up.
Aristotle said that excellence is not an act but a habit. Think about the difference between an act and a habit. One or two great weeks of schoolwork will not lead to excellent grades. Students must get into a habit of scholarship and responsibility if they are to achieve excellence, and if they have already formed negative habits, it is so much harder to create positive ones. Ms. Garfield always says that it takes 20 days to break a habit. That is why these first weeks are so important. Nearly all of LoMA’s students are now acting in ways that will lead to excellence. It is vital that these acts continue long enough to become self-reinforcing habits. Here are some of the good habits I’ve seen LoMA students develop recently:
Aristotle explained that it is very difficult to change habits. He compared it to bending back a warped board. We have to overextend in the opposite direction if we want to make the board straight. If a student is coming to school with bad habits, he needs to try to become an awesome student every day until the positive habit takes hold. So far I see that happening. Teachers and friends can help the process by noticing and specifically complimenting good behavior. In the end, though, good behavior should be its own reward. LoMA’s students should feel positive about the start they have made to this school year, and I’m proud of them.
Keep your focus,