Friday, September 26, 2008

Learning From Mistakes Doesn't Happen Until 12

I received this summary of an article this afternoon, and thought it was an interesting study on how students react to the different kinds of feedback.

Study: Younger children learn best from positive feedbackBefore they reach adolescence, children aren't really capable of learning from their mistakes, according to a new Dutch study published in The Journal of Neuroscience. The brains of adults and 12- and 13-year-olds are more strongly activated by negative feedback, but the brains of eight- and nine-year-olds barely registered it and instead were triggered much more strongly by positive feedback. ScienceDaily (9/25)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Parents' Night Comments on Honor

Below are my comments for Middle School Parents' Night:

My name is David Skeen. This is my second year as Dean of Students at Calvert, and I am really excited about the prospects for the 2008-2009 school year.

Ethic development is an integral part of any middle school student’s education and Calvert continues to dedicate significant time and resources to the creation and refinement of a program for moral development. As a school, Calvert has taken major steps towards this goal in three areas: Calvert’s Canon, the schedule, and the Dean’s Office.

Calvert’s Canon:

Mission: our mission statement breaks down three main goals: that our students will master academic skills, love learning, and have developed a strong moral character.
Philosophy: the closing paragraph of our school philosophy speaks exclusively to the moral development of the student.
Faculty & Administrative Perspective: during numerous faculty reflection meetings a Portrait of the Calvert Graduate was developed and one-third of the attributes discussed were character based.


Outreach: we have set aside time in our schedule for community outreach.
Advisory: has monthly themes for character development.
Assemblies: Monday assemblies include a reading on ethics.

Dean’s Office:

Teachable Moments and Black & Gold Point System
Student Activities and Ethics Curriculum Integration
Honor Code: Selfless Servants, Moral Courage, and Commitment

The Honor Code is the latest step towards an identifiable set of ideas that shape our students’ understanding of Honor at Calvert and in the world at large. Many of you may have noticed the additions to the hallways in the middle school. Running across the beams of each grade level quad are the three main ideas of our Honor Code: Selfless Servants, Moral Courage, and Commitment.

We want our students to see these phrases (all three can be seen at once when one stands in the center of the lobbies) and take it as a challenge -- a challenge to live up to and exceed the expectations of the Honor Code each and every day. The presence of the phrases is a physical reminder that Honor is everywhere – you don’t leave it at the classroom door, you take it with you wherever you go.

As a school we have begun a continuing conversation about what these three phrases mean to us - as a community, as constituencies, and as individuals. We want you to be a part of the conversation as well. Over the last few weeks, your child’s advisor discussed the Honor Code with the students. Their next step is to sit down and discuss the Honor Code with you. Please take this time to take part in the school wide conversation on the Honor Code. You can check out the Honor Code at my blog: and log your comments about it’s role at Calvert.

Thank you for coming tonight and I hope to be hearing from all of you on my blog soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

NY Times Article on "Facebook" relationships

Thanks to David Portnoy, High School Principal at Beth Tfiloh, for sending this intriguing article along. This is a great insight into the relationship ramifications of "life-status" social websites like Facebook, Twitter, and others. It is lengthy, but valuable in its outlook. Just click on the NYTimes link below or in Understanding Generation Y on the left hand side of this blog.,%20digitally%20close%20to%20you&st=cse

I'm So Totally, Digitally Close to You.

By Clive Thompson, The New York Times

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Character Website

I came across this website today while searching for some insight on the developmental stages of moral character of our students. The website below, from SUNY Cortland, has some great resources, especially the articles they have collected. One in particular, provided a nice synopsis of the moral stages of development:

I recommend taking some time to explore the website as a whole. You can access it below and under Honor on the left hand side of the blog.

Center for the 4th and 5th Rs:

Honor Goals

A Fifth grade teacher brought me the journal entry below. The students were asked to write about their goals for the year. One of her students wrote the passage below:

"My goal is to live up to the honor code. The way I am going to get there is to get nicer everyday, one step at a time. To demonstrate commitment I will recycle, go on fundraiser tasks, and to do community service. To show selflessness I will help people with books, laptops, and lockers. Finally, I will show moral courage by standing up for people who are getting picked on and abused. I believe I can do it."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Ponderance 9/15/2008

This reflection is from Michael Josephson's Character Counts website:

July 14, 2008

Benny: The Man on the Bus 575.2

This is a parable about leadership.

A teacher assigned her 12th graders an essay about a leader they admired. Most kids wrote about famous people, but one student turned in this:

Benny: The Man on the Bus

I’ve been taking a public bus to school for years. Most passengers go to work and never talk to anyone else.

About a year ago, an elderly man got on the bus and said loudly to the driver, “Good morning!” Most people looked up annoyed, and the bus driver just grunted.

The next day the man got on at the same stop and again said loudly, “Good morning!” to the driver.

On the fifth day, the driver greeted the man first with a cheerful “Good morning!” and Benny replied loudly, “My name’s Benny. What’s yours?” The driver said his name was Ralph.

That was the first time any of us had heard the driver’s name. Soon all the passengers began talking to each other and saying hello to Ralph and Benny.

After a month, Benny extended his cheerful greeting to the whole bus. Within a few days, his “Good morning!” was returned by a whole bunch of “Good mornings.” The entire bus seemed friendlier. If a leader is someone who makes something happen, Benny was our leader in friendliness.

A month ago, Benny didn’t get on the bus. Some of us thought he had died. No one knew what to do. The bus got quiet again.

So I started to act like Benny by saying “Good morning!” to everyone, and they cheered up again. I guess I’m now the leader.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Anti-Bullying Resources

I received the e-mail below the other day about a new initiative on the Web regarding bullying in schools. As the Home Page says, the website "aims to gather links to best practices around the world on a searchable website." The text of the e-mail is below, and you can enter the website via the link below Useful Dean Links.

Schools Anti Bullying Web Gateway

In late 2005 a Transatlantic Schools Anti Bullying Initiative was created with the support of the UK and US Governments. We held a comprehensive consultation exercise on school bullying issues in the US and UK. Our Transatlantic Schools Anti Bullying Initiative has now run its course and the resulting Initiative Report is available free of charge from

As a result of the Initiative we received sponsorship to develop and maintain a "Schools Anti Bullying Web Gateway" with information from around the world and to make it FREELY AVAILABLE to anyone who wants to access it. Please visit the site at

This new “Schools Anti Bullying Web Gateway” does not create anti bullying projects itself. It is intended to be a fully comprehensive resource for young people, parents, teachers and practitioners that gathers together, in one place, anti bullying projects and materials (in English) from around the world, which is freely available.

Although there are links on the website to numerous successful projects/support groups/Networks we would still very much welcome others to contact us to ensure that the Schools Anti Bullying Web Gateway gathers as many links to best practices around the world as possible.

We would welcome working with anti bullying organisations around the world to discuss how we can develop this FREE resource to the benefit of young people.

If you require support or information please contact Stephanie at

Schools Anti Bullying Gateway
16 Brough Road, South Cave
Brough, HU15 2BX, UK
Tel: +44(0)1482 651695
Fax: +44(0)1482 659281

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Interesting Article on School-Age Boys

The article linked below is a very interesting look at how our school age boys are struggling (as a whole) with behavior and attention span. If nothing else, it provides an opinion of the state of education and child growth.

Thanks to Mr. McLaughlin for passing this article along.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Monday Ponderances

Each Monday, during our middle school assemblies, a member of the faculty will relate some story, current event, or anecdote with the students. The intent is for the students to think about the message and discuss it in advisory. I will try to post the "ponderances" each week so you can share in the discussion at home.

This week Ms. Herrity shared the following tale from Michael Josephson (you can find more insightful thoughts from Mr. Josephson at his website, which is linked to the left).

Five Birds and Good Intentions 582.5


"Five birds are sitting on a telephone wire. Two decide to fly South. How many are left? Most people would say three. Actually, all five are left. You see, deciding to fly isn’t the same as actually doing it.

If a bird really wants to go somewhere, it’s got to point itself in the right direction, jump off the wire, flap its wings, and keep flapping until it gets where it wants to go.

So it is with most things. Good intentions are not enough. It’s not what we want, say, or think that makes things happen; it’s what we do.

I frequently think of writing thank-you, birthday, and congratulatory notes. Unfortunately, only a sad few of these good sentiments ever make it to paper. Still, if I don’t look too closely, I can delude myself into thinking that based on my good thoughts I’m a gracious and grateful person.

A truer and less admirable picture of my character is drawn by my actions.
In the end, we either do or don’t do. We either make the time to do the things we want to and should do, or we make excuses. As Alfred Adler said, “Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.”

What do you want to do? Do you want to take a course, change your job, lose weight, make new friends, or spend more time with and appreciate more the ones you have?

What’s stopping you from jumping off the wire and flapping your wings?

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Honor is Everywhere

Many of you may have noticed the additions to the hallways in the middle school. Running across the beams of each grade level quad are the three main ideas of our Honor Code: Selfless Servants, Moral Courage, and Commitment.

We want our students to see these phrases (all three can be seen at once when one stands in the center of the quads) and to take it as a challenge, a challenge to live up to and exceed the expectations of the Honor Code each and every day.

As a school we have begun a running conversation about what these three phrases mean to us - as a community, as constutuencies, and as individuals. A helpful document in this is the Character Chart, which begins the discussion by assigning particular characteristics to the ideas of Selfless Servants, Moral Courage, and Commitment. Within those characteristics, the chart provides examples of how a student can exceed expectations. Furthermore, the student can see how their character acts will be rewarded under the Black & Gold point system. You can find that document under Character Chart in the Useful Dean Links section on the left side of this blog.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the new Honor Code, the phrases posted throughout the school, or the evolving definitions of the ideas that make up the Honor Code.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Made to Stick

I have just finished a fantastic book that will help anybody if they want their ideas to be remembered. It is entitled Made to Stick and the authors, Chip and Dan Heath, have written a how-to for developing ideas that are sure to be remembered.

It is a great read, with interesting case studies. The strategies they provide are, with practice, easily implemented. I think every teacher can use this book for lesson plans, and every student can use this book for projects, papers, or whatever other assignment is presented.

It is also a great tool for engaging the 21st century learner. With the Heath brothers' framework, students will be able to create projects, persuasive essays, blogs, etc. that reflect their understanding of the topic and present their understanding in a meaningful and lasting way.

Parent warning: there are some ideas in this book that are only appropriate for the mature reader.

You can access the authors' blog under the Understanding Generation Y Label on the left hand side of this website.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Honor Code 2008-2009

I have added the Honor Code for 2008-2009 to the Useful Dean Links section of the blog. One major change is the name - Honor Code, instead of Code of Conduct. The goal is to make honor an encompassing theme for the students, faculty, parents, and administration at Calvert.

In order to be an all-encompassing theme, the message needs to be clear, concise, and powerful. Students, faculty, and parents should be able to easily refer to a common idea of honor during conversations. This leads to the second major change in the Honor Code for the 2008-2009 school year - the definition of honor for us at Calvert. We ask three things of members of our community:

1. Act as selfless servants.
2. Demonstrate moral courage in every situation.
3. Maintain a commitment to the community.

The dialogue within the walls of Calvert will be based on these three guiding principles. We owe a great deal to Matt Eversmann who spoke to middle school assembly and proposed these three principles as guidelines for living a life of honor.

A third change is the format of the document. The main document is split into two sections: Promoting Honor and Accountability. Following these sections are Helpful Honor Code Documents or appendices, meant to help students with examples, explanations, and general guidelines to meet and exceed expectations of the Honor Code.

The fourth change entails the Point System undergoing some minor changes. First, students begin each quarter with zero points, instead of the 1,000 from last year. This was changed for two reasons: it was unwieldy to maintain data on each student and students' perception of the points' value was skewed by the high numbers. Second, students can now earn or will be deducted the same point amount for referrals or honorable actions. For example, the first infraction of the Honor Code loses a student 10 points, and a noteworthy act of honor will earn a student 10 points. Third, students can go into negative numbers.

We believe this revised Point System better illustrates real life rewards and consequences for a person's actions, yet remains a system within the safe and nurturing environment of the school building. It provides a barometer for students to gauge their behavior.

Lastly, we added a Character Chart. The Character Chart is similar to the Behavior Chart from last year, except it outlines ways students can earn points. I am encouraging all teachers to post both charts in their rooms so students can clearly see what it means to live honorably and what consequences they face should they stray from the principles of the Honor Code.

Overall, I am excited about the revisions and plan to use this document during the many discussions with advisories this year. Our mission statement states, in part, that we "seek to develop students of...strong moral character within a supportive and diverse community." The Honor Code is one mean to that end.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


I hope to use this blog to keep everyone informed of the activities going on at the Middle School. Eventually, I hope to have various resources for academic support, honor code questions, Black & Gold updates, community service updates, field trip information, mixer information, Student Government minutes, and the most important dress down day schedule.

For now, I am a novice blogger. However, through practice I hope to be updating quickly. I also intend to link to valuable websites and blogs that pertain to the students' lives. I believe they provide insights and resources to help children deal with the variety of challenges they face in this "flat" new world.