Friday, November 20, 2015

High School, Two Corners Away

High school is not right around the corner. The kids aren't ready yet, though when the time comes, they will be. Right now they're too busy being middle schoolers to be nothing more than apprentice high school students. But they are all moving in that direction. They are designing and carrying out projects that range from animal dissection to social media analysis to fashion design to Civil War history. They are in service to the school in weekly work crews and in their nascent Legacy Projects. They are managing their own costumes and props as well as rehearsals for the all-school play. They are elbow-deep in Algebra and Geometry. The days are full for the eighth graders, and they are passing by, each one, like it or not, a step closer to a new school and new adventures.

Here is a brief calendar for open houses and deadlines for area high schools. High school is not around the next corner, but it's fair to say that it is waiting around the corner after that.

12/7/2015WTMCadmissions invitational for 8th grade families
12/7/2015Steinerschool tour
1/4/2016Communityapplications available
1/6/2016Dexterincoming 9th grade scheduling
1/7/2016WiHiadmissions open house
1/10/2016Communityincoming 9th grade orientation
1/11/2016WiHiadmissions open house
1/12/2016Communityincoming 9th grade orientation
1/20/2016Greenhillsadmissions application deadline
1/20/2016Communityincoming 9th grade orientation
1/20/2016WTMCadmissions invitational for 8th grade families
1/23/2016Steineradmissions open house
1/24/2016Communityincoming 9th grade orientation
1/25/2016Steinerschool tour
1/27/2016Skylineincoming 9th grade visit; curriculum night
2/9/2016Saline8th grade open house
2/3/2016Communityincoming 9th grade orientation
2/5/2016Communitylottery application deadline
2/8/2016Steinerschool tour
2/9/2016Pioneerincoming 9th grade night
2/9/2016Communitylottery draw for incoming 9th grade
2/10/2016Huroncurriculum night
2/20/2016Greenhillsfinancial aid application due
2/22/2016Steinerschool tour

Friday, November 13, 2015

Identity: Self-Portraits in Two Media

For tonight's Music & Art Cafe, the kids are exhibiting both written work and self-portraits. The former are based on the second novel we read together, Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street. This beloved book is a series of forty-four snapshots in the life of an eighth-grade girl in a Latino neighborhood of Chicago. Our kids wrote three snapshots of their own lives, each series given a title such as The Willow on Bridgeway Drive or The Kitten on Pearl Street.

The self-portraits were painted under the guidance of Monica Wilson in the style of Tyree Guyton, creator and curator of our old friend the Heidelberg Project in Detroit.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Descartes' Error

At Summers-Knoll, our strategy of education is built on the conviction that true learning happens when the mind and the heart are engaged.

The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio wrote about the essential mixture of emotion and reason in his book Descartes' Error. The error of the title is in the phrase I think, therefore I am. Damasio's research into the distinct areas of the brain indicated to him that emotion and reason are not separate processes, but are in fact inextricably linked. Without emotion to direct reason, one cannot function in the world. One of this year's eighth graders explored this connection last year in a project on Phineas Gage, victim of a brain injury that compromised his ability to feel. A motivated, well-liked foreman prior to his accident, Gage became sociopathic afterward, unable to attach any kind of moral system to his (otherwise unaffected) cognitive processes.

The crux of our work at SK is about the relationships we as a faculty develop with students. Again, this is not something we do because it's groovy or cool. We establish relationships with our students because that is the best way to promote learning. David Walsh, a presenter at the ISACS conference I attended last week, cited the work of Edward Tronick at Harvard University. Our brains are constantly wiring and re-wiring how neurons fire. Only 17% of these are hard-wired at birth. If we do not have meaningful interactions with other people, our ability to build cognitive and emotional strategies stagnates.

Dr. Tronick's work, repeated cross-culturally, shows how babies respond when their mothers stop responding to them--even if they are still making eye contact and in the immediate vicinity.

Relationships are not an assist to learning. They are absolutely essential.