Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to:
- connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
- share ideas about learning and human development;
- spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy.
Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing.
Michael Ulku-Steiner, Head of School
Worth the pre-dawn bus ride
As our students began a four-day weekend, our full faculty piled into buses at 5:15 this morning – en route to Concord for the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools (NCAIS) annual Educators Conference. Administrators from DA and the Hill Center planned the program – welcoming over 1,300 teachers and leaders from across the state.
A lunchtime email from Upper School English Teacher Jeff Biersach summed up the pain and pleasure of the experience:
I felt burned out and tired after a long end-of-quarter week, and I thought of NCAIS as just one more thing to do. Now that I am here, I am finding that I am refreshed, engaged, and re-energized. After a long week, today is just what I need. I have already heard three or four ideas that I can USE in my classrooms. For example, I now think that I will go ahead and start 'flipping' my ECON course in order to reach more students more effectively.
Today is not tiring; it is a tonic.
Want to know what teaching and learning geeks like us do at conferences? Here’s a sampling of the more than 70 workshops offered today (about 20 of them by DA presenters):
- Developing Number Sense in K-2 Students to Increase Math Fluency
- #Teenagers: What's "App" with Your Students and Social Media?
- Apps for Art/Art Journals Using the iPad
- Bringing History to Life… Using Technology to Reach Kids with Primary Sources, Online Tools, and iPad Apps
- Teaching the History of Science, Technology and Innovation
- BioREX: A Biology Research Experience
- Designing the Future of Learning: Personalized Prototypes
- Infusing Emotional Intelligence on Campus
- Who’s In Charge Here?: Building Responsible and Independent Technology Use in Teens
- The Global Math Classroom
- "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" Recognizing the Subtle Signs of Anxiety in Children
- The William Klein Project: a Collaborative In-Class Art/Photography Assignment
Today’s plenary speakers were particularly compelling. Below I’ve included brief bios of each. To sample some of the rich food tasted by our teachers today, click on a few of their links below, or check out the Twitter handle #NCAIS14.
- Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Kaufman investigates the development and measurement of intelligence, creativity, and personality. He has six books, including Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined and The Philosophy of Creativity. Click here for his fuller bio.
- Mark Milliron is Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer of Civitas Learning. In previous roles, Mark served as the founding chancellor of WGU Texas; Deputy Director for Postsecondary Improvement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Endowed Fellow and Director of the National Institute of Staff and Organizational Development at The University of Texas at Austin; and Vice President for Education and Medical Practice with SAS. Click here for Mark’s full online vitae.
- Molly Barker, MSW, founded Girls on the Run in 1996 at Charlotte Country Day School. A four-time Hawaii Ironman triathlete, she used her background in social work, counseling and teaching, along with research on adolescent issues, to develop the program. Today, there are Girls on the Run councils in over 210 cities across North America serving over 250,000 girls and women each year. Click here to read Molly’s fuller – and sometimes surprising – self-description on her blog.
Wondering about the picture above? That’s Hill Center Head of School Bryan Brander, testing out an ergo-dynamic seat designed to strengthen the attention of young learners. Look for some samples in DA and Hill Center classrooms soon.
Here is a quote that I took with me from Scott Barry Kaufman
"Many people who start out with seemingly insurmountable odds and eventually exceed all expectations literally changed their odds through long-term engagement in a domain and hence their actual potential".
I’m an Upper School teacher but I ended up in a session about teaching third graders European culture and geography. I loved it! The teachers described how they take their students on virtual tours of England, France, Spain, Italy, and Germany. When they go to a new country (in their classroom), the teachers draw the blinds, put the desks in rows, pretend to be flight attendants, and project a Youtube video of a plane takeoff as seen from the passenger rows. When they “arrive” the teachers stamp the kids’ “passports.” In each country they have all kinds of experiential lessons. During the unit on Italy, for instance, they put paper under each student’s desk and the kids then paint, laying on their backs, as Michelangelo did while working on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This was as close as I’ve ever been to a discussion on elementary pedagogy and it left an impression. I don’t know how or if it will change how I teach European history, but since the session I’ve been thinking that I should reflect more on how I might similarly transport my Upper School students to historical places, societies, and mentalities.
While I was totally swamped with tests to grade and progress reports to write, I was worried about getting it all done while spending a whole day away at this conference. However, once there, I found the conference to be enilghtening in so many ways.
The Girls on the Run speaker, Molly Barker, was completely inspiring. Her story of how she was put in a "girl box" as a young student and how she encourages girls through her programs really got me thinking about girls at our school. I took away ideas as a mom to two girls, as a math teacher of young girls who often lose their passion for the subject, and as an advisor to seventh grade girls. I would love to take some of her ideas and begin incorporating them at the Middle School. Middle School is a time when girls struggle with self confidence and often can lose their passion for things they once enjoyed so much in the Lower School. I'm hoping to incorporate some of Molly Barker's programs or ideas into our advisory curriculum or maybe as one of our clubs. Her talk certainly inspired me to get some more information and see how I can help our Middle School girls in the way she has helped so many girls across the nation.
I felt kind of like Jeff Biersach did-- swamped, mind on the dozens of things I needed to do-- until I got on the bus Friday morning. Just having the extra time to chat with some of my colleagues was a joy. I thoroughly enjoyed each session and am proud of DA for doing such a great job of hosting. I was so inspired by Molly Barker that I have ordered my first pair of cowboy cowgirl boots - in red! I hope that they will inspire me to be my best self and to help others do the same!
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