Thursday, November 8, 2012

in whatever she chooses to do

A message from former Post Oak parent Bev Peters.  So where do "initiative and work ethic" come from?


I just wanted to tell you a little story.  Avery is taking the PSAT this fall.  She isn't terribly concerned with it, although knows tests like that really aren't something she feels comfortable with (which we are both fine with) but also knows this is the world she currently lives in.  She asked if she could get a tutor so she would feel more confident.  

After several sessions he (he's getting his PhD at Rice in some kind of engineering, but was a high school science teacher) talked to me after and said he had been told to expect kids (he's with Rice Tutors) whose parents coddle them and aren't motivated.  

He commented that Avery has more internal motivation than he has seen in quite some time, stating that she will do fine on the tests, but more than that, has the initiative and work ethic to be successful in whatever she chooses to do.  I think I'd like to share the credit for this with POS!

Hope all is well.


Friday, October 19, 2012

the best Halloween costume

“Our prevailing system of management has destroyed our people. People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-respect, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning. The forces of destruction begin with toddlers – a prize for the best Halloween costume, grades in school, gold stars – and up through university. On the job, people, teams, and divisions are ranked, reward for the top, punishment for the bottom. Management by Objectives, quotas, incentive pay, business plans, put together separately, division by division, cause further loss, unknown and unknowable.”

“We will never transform the prevailing system of management without transforming the prevailing system of education. They are the same system."

– W. Edwards Deming, pioneer of the quality management revolution, in correspondence to Peter Senge. 

(Thanks to Post Oak parent Lana Rigsby for sending this to me.)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Real and lasting success

A variety of current references to schooling, learning, testing, and success.  From Dark Matter to the Rug Rat Race.  From Chinese physics students to "non-cognitive skills."  Is there a sea change at work?

opting out of the 'rug rat race'
American children, especially those who grow up in relative comfort, are, more than ever, shielded from failure as they grow up. They certainly work hard; they often experience a great deal of pressure and stress; but in reality, their path through the education system is easier and smoother than it was for any previous generation. Many of them are able to graduate from college without facing any significant challenges. But if this new research is right, their schools, their families, and their culture may all be doing them a disservice by not giving them more opportunities to struggle. Overcoming adversity is what produces character. And character, even more than IQ, is what leads to real and lasting success.

This American Life with Ira Glass
Ira talks with Paul Tough, author of the new book How Children Succeed, about the traditional ways we measure ability and intelligence in American schools. They talk about the focus on cognitive abilities, conventional "book smarts." They discuss the current emphasis on these kinds of skills in American education, and the emphasis standardized testing, and then turn our attention to a growing body of research that suggests we may be on the verge of a new approach to some of the biggest challenges facing American schools today. Paul Tough discusses how “non-cognitive skills” — qualities like tenacity, resilience, impulse control — are being viewed as increasingly vital in education, and Ira speaks with economist James Heckman, who’s been at the center of this research and this shift.

schooling beyond measure
The reason that standardized-test results tend to be so uninformative and misleading is closely related to the reason that these tests are so popular in the first place....

The common denominator? Our culture's worshipful regard for numbers. Roger Jones, a physicist, called it "the heart of our modern idolatry ... the belief that the quantitative description of things is paramount and even complete in itself."

why some kids succeed
The book takes on what Tough calls the “cognitive hypothesis,” the idea that success hinges on mental processing speed and traditional brainpower. Instead, citing lots of interesting research, Tough shows that “non-cognitive skills” – perseverance, optimism, self-control, and so on – are actually what matter most.

rote learning vs creative thinking
'The results suggest that years of rigorous training of physics knowledge in middle and high schools have made significant impact on Chinese students’ ability in solving physics problems, while such training doesn’t seem to have direct effects on their general ability in scientific reasoning, which was measured to be at the same level as that of the students in USA,

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The doorway

From: Thomas, Dawn A.

Dear John,
Last week I visited BR in the library for an orientation.  As I was leaving, a small boy – who had just come through the hallway doors and was heading in my direction – looked up at me, stopped still, then hurried back to the doorway.  I at first assumed that he had forgotten something and was headed back to his classroom.  As it turns out, he was hurrying back to make sure he could open the door for me as wide as it was possible for him to implement.  He spoke no words, but the beaming smile on his face said it all.  To me, it was a heart-warming illustration that even the youngest Montessori child is nurtured in an environment of grace and courtesy.

Best regards,

From: John Long
What a great story! It reminds me of the request that I got several years ago from Rhonda Durham, Executive Director of ISAS (Independent Schools Association of the SW), asking all member schools to report on how we teach character development. My response was that we do not have a packaged curriculum for such instruction, but rather, it is a part of the warp and weft of daily life at Post Oak: developed thru the way children learn in the classroom, the way they interact with the adults and with each other. Your story wonderfully illustrates not only the development of grace and courtesy, but also personal empowerment. Even that very young child felt that he could offer assistance to you, an adult in his world. Wow!

From: Thomas, Dawn A.

Yes, as I thanked him, I could sense his joy at not only being able to “do” for himself but also for me. It hurt my heart to observe at the few “traditional” schools to which Bryan and I had been referred – the overall environments clearly were not set up to truly foster empowerment of the child.

Monday, October 1, 2012

age grouping in schools

Post Oak parent Rakesh Agrawal sent me this article:  technology, such as Khan Academy forces us to re-think using student age as a prime organizer of schools.
Yes, and while Khan Academy helps to "flip" instruction, there is so much more.  Here's my response to Rakesh:

Thanks for sending this along.  Interesting that the author thinks that high school is where this really begins to matter.  Of course, he's still stuck on content, a la Khan Academy, where there is a mostly linear curriculum and a set body of facts to master in order to move from level one to level two.  When do we begin to deal with a multi-dimensional universe of learning...with darkmatter occupying 85% of everything?









Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Something Special Here

Check out this video created by four elementary-aged children.  Then read the project description from Post Oak mom Katie Orr -- Post Oak kids stand out.  They are creative: incredibly so.  But there is more: "To drive home the point, she grabbed my arm and said, 'Really, please listen. You need to understand that there is something special here and that you need to be very, very proud of your child and these children.'"   Read on:

Michelle asked that I answer your question regarding the video that our boys produced. Several Post Oak School boys (Joseph Orr, Andrew and Jonathan Lu and James Redding) participated in Aurora Picture Show's Filmmaking Boot Camp this summer.   (James collaborated on a different, equally amazing film.)  The week-long day camp is part of the education outreach ("Popcorn Kids Series") of the Aurora Picture Show, a Houston based non-profit that supports emerging filmmakers and artists in our area. Please see their website if you are interested:

The children were guided in their first-ever filmmaking endeavor by the organization's Media Arts Instructor, Camilo Gonzales, as well as  a high school art and media teacher from a nearby school district that was working with the organization through a grant (I can't remember her name.)  In addition, a couple of local filmmakers stopped by to offer some consultation during the process.    


It was a fantastic hands-on experience for the children, one that fit beautifully with their Montessori experience and the Montessori approach to learning.   In fact, when I was able to finally visit with the instructors at the end of the week (parents were not allowed to interrupt or corrupt the artistic process!) , the instructors were effusive in their compliments of the POS boys' work.  They were thrilled with the artistic outcome, but they seemed most impressed, almost shocked, at the group's strong vision for the film, and how well the group worked together to realize that vision.  They noted that they were worried that our boys' group contained a much younger girl that the boys had never met, and that this young girl might feel left out of the process;  however, again, they were amazed at how quickly the boys integrated her into the process and allowed her talents to shine among this group of friends.  To underscore their pleasure, the teacher pulled me aside again and reiterated that this was an amazing group of children and that this process and their product far exceeded their expectations.   To drive home the point, she grabbed my arm and said, "Really, please listen.  You need to understand that there is something special here and that you need to be very, very proud of your child and these children."   


I am answering your question in the long form, because this experience is not atypical of what I see every summer when Bob and I, and other POS families, send our children out into the world of special interest camps and activities in the summer.   I don't write you a note every summer as I easily could, but given your question, I can't ignore the fact that Post Oak helped guide these children in the process of making this film as much as the talented filmmakers and educators at Aurora.  I do believe our children are different and that there is something, actually everything, going on in the school year at POS that makes these children stand out when they go out into the world.  So, yes, the Orrs, the Lus and the Reddings are proud parents when we see our children's work and hear the compliments, but we think POS should be proud as well.


Thanks for allowing me to ramble a bit, 








Monday, September 10, 2012

Dark Matter

So I just posted the NY Times blog about schools and out.  Quoting the author's daughter,  “TRUTH is a second-class citizen in the glittering world of WINNING.”

Almost at the same time, NPR interviewed Paul Tough (really!) for a story entitled, "Children Succeed with Character, not test scores."

Tough observes, "Right now we've got an education system that really doesn't pay attention to [noncognitive] skills at all. ... I think schools just aren't set up right now to try to develop things like grit, and perseverance and curiosity."

And since phenomena often occur in 3's, I heard a teaser about an upcoming radio feature that opens with the comment, "Our whole education system is built around the idea that if you are good at taking tests, that you'll be successful in life.  But how do you explain all those people who were good at taking tests, but are not so successful in life?  What is the 'dark matter' that leads to success?"

The dark matter that leads to success?  Personal characteristics like grit, perseverence, curiosity...and integrity.