Being American

We celebrated the Lunar New Year in school on Friday. A first grade parent came in to read to her son’s class and told us afterwards:

My son was born in China and moved to New York City when he turned one year old. We went back China a couple of times to visit my family in the past five years, but I noticed that he doesn’t like Mandarin and Chinese traditions. He always told me: mom no Mandarin. I felt hurt but I understand that he lacks the setting to value his background culture. But it’s very important for him to learn and know his roots as he grows up.

Such cultural celebrations will make him proud of his Chinese heritage and help him learn the culture. I appreciate you provided the opportunity for my family to make the improvement for his culture learning.

Embracing one’s origin while ‘becoming’ American is a challenge many ICS children share. Just this morning a new student began school with us; until he was four, he spoke his mother’s language, Bahasa. Now that he’s in kindergarten, he too tells her he only speaks English. But we know that, in time, our students will come to appreciate their unique stories and traditions.

The order the President issued on Friday regarding refugees from seven Middle Eastern and African nations was, in some sense, not surprising. As many other elected officials have noted the language he used seems, at best, ill-advised. And the implementation was handled very poorly.

Since 2001 the United States has admitted about 450,000 refugees from the Middle East and South Asia, the vast majority from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. In some cases they worked for our government as translators, and are now threatened by terrorists themselves.

According to a study by the Cato Institute,

Of the 3,252,493 refugees admitted from 1975 to the end of 2015, 20 were terrorists, which amounted to 0.00062 percent of the total. In other words, one terrorist entered as a refugee for every 162,625 refugees who were not terrorists. Refugees were not very successful at killing Americans in terrorist attacks. Of the 20, only three were successful in their attacks, killing a total of three people and imposing a total human cost of $45 million, or $13.84 per refugee visa issued. The three refugee terrorists were Cubans who committed their attacks in the 1970s and were admitted before the Refugee Act of 1980 created the modern rigorous refugee-screening procedures currently in place.

ICS cares deeply about a coherent, content rich curriculum that provides students with the background knowledge they need to think critically about their society. Balancing our traditions with the inevitable need to adapt as the world changes. Not reacting before thinking.

We invest every day in this long term goal. School staff and parents alike. But kids as young as ours struggle to process news like this with sophistication (we wish all) adults (could) do. Discussing or teaching about the new president and his proposed policies is not appropriate for our classrooms. Yet.

At this age and in these times, we talk about our values; kindness, respect and love. We found this 1948 poster and thought it was apposite. It is hanging next to our water fountains. Where we hope our children, and parents, will read it.

Thinking of Dr. King

The Parent Organization asked me to talk about diversity and the journey to open ICS. I decided to pull my thoughts together, and share them in case you cannot make it tomorrow.

This year Martin Luther King’s birthday falls in the same week as the inauguration of the new President. For many this is incongruous. And while I’m troubled that Representative John Lewis called Donald Trump’s election illegitimate, I’m equally bothered that the President-elect, in his response, again missed a chance to show that he’s aware of the awesome mantle of responsibility that he is about to assume.

At ICS we follow in Dr. King’s footsteps in two ways. First we provide a firm academic foundation to all students, whether they are the sons of former slaves, or the sons of former slave owners. In this way we ensure equality of opportunity. Secondly, we attend, relentlessly, to our students’ moral formation. So that our children will … not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  Positively, I might add. Put knowledge and character together and there is hope yet for our country.

Not surprisingly, this set of values resonates with a wide range of parents, making ICS attractive to everyone from recent immigrants to long-settled families. From corporate lawyers and business founders to housekeepers and families that need public assistance

King and Charters

Dr. King did not know about charter schools, but he certainly advocated for all Americans to be free to define and act in their own best interest. And for us to come together as a country to support that goal. ICS supporter Derrell Bradford wrote that he’d come to believe the civil rights movement:

was not about whether the government would make a water fountain for me where the water was as cold and crisp and clear as the one made for a white person next to me. It was about me being able to drink at that white person’s fountain without asking. Without shame or fear or worry. Without waiting. With no more reason than to quench my own thirst. And at a time of my own choosing including right now. Education should be the same

Derrell compared opposition to charter schools and annual testing with the complaints of Birmingham religious leaders who said they supported King’s goals but not his approach. In his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, King complained, Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.

At least with George Wallace, you knew where you stood.

King was frustrated by progressives who said, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.” King denounced their paternalistic belief that they could “set the timetable for another man’s freedom…liv[ing] by a mythical concept of time … constantly advising that [we] wait for a ‘more convenient season’.”

At ICS, our families and kids are not waiting.

Our Approach

We believe teaching systematic phonics and enveloping the children in a rich mix of literary stories, history and science will build background knowledge and cultural literacy that will serve all our students well. Not just on tests, but in life. So we’ve never complained about state testing requirements.

We know we do not have the luxury of time. A point our parents acknowledge– grudgingly – as we stress the importance of arriving at 8:00 am every day.

As a school of choice, ICS attracts families from across Brooklyn, regardless of the house they can afford. Helping, in our small way, to realize King’s dream of children growing up in a country where they are not judged by the balance of their parents’ checking account but by the content of their character.

My friend Eric Twist writes that the “people skills to get good jobs” are inextricably linked to kind of rich education we offer at ICS. They go together like love and marriage, as the old song says.

Martin Luther King had the kind of ‘people skills’ that led young Americans like John Lewis to lay their lives on the line in Selma, Oxford and Birmingham; he was also whip smart. His writings, from his earliest days, reflected not only his family’s rich scholarly tradition but also that of the African American protestant church. To fully appreciate his many references and allusions, a reader needs background knowledge and cultural awareness.

We face many challenges; ICS cannot yet claim to have solved any big problems. But we can be proud of the intellectualism our staff brings to the task. And whether they articulate it the way I do or not, I know our parents appreciate the knowledge and character we are attempting to gift to their children.

So as you ponder Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, consider the importance of high standards, high expectations, and accountability. As playwright Garson Kanin’s wrote, I want everyone to be smart. As smart as they can be. A world of ignorant people is too dangerous to live in.”

Holiday Greetings for 2016

Re-reading my prior messages at the Holidays, it seems my tradition is denouncing ignorance and pleading for understanding.  It would be nice to imagine a world where this was not needed, but we’re not there. Yet.
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Today’s paper has a profile of Golden State Warrior’s coach Steve Kerr. Many of you know ICS Principal Ellen Borenstein’s deep love for all things San Francisco, and their sports teams in particular.

I had no idea, however, of Kerr’s family history and connection to education. His father, Malcolm, was raised in Lebanon by parents who moved there from Istanbul to run orphanages. A political scientist, Malcom Kerr wrote:

The truly civilized man is marked by empathy. By his recognition that the thought and understanding of men of other cultures may differ sharply from his own, that what seems natural to him may appear grotesque to others.

Steve Kerr told the Times, Life is so much easier if it could be black and white, good and evil. But he said you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and look at it from a bigger perspective. We live in this complex world of gray areas.

Iranian-funded terrorists assassinated Steve’s dad in January 1984. Shortly after he had been appointed President of the American University in Beirut. A sad and painful irony for a man whose career was dedicated to study and understanding.

The Kerrs’ endorsement of tolerance, even when others might find it curious is ever more critical. It is a message Ellen, the staff, and I teach every day. Holding ourselves to this standard, at a time when ill-considered tweets are launched from all sides at all hours, is not easy. But it is an example we must all try to set.

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Soul singer Sharon Jones, who grew up in Bed Stuy, passed away from cancer Nov 18th. Driving to my in-law’s, her autobiographical Christmas song came on the radio. She recalls:

When I was a child I used to wonder
How Santa put my toys under the tree
I said, momma can you tell me how this can be?
When there ain’t no chimneys in the projects

Later in the song she sings Now I’m all grown and I see/It wasn’t Santa who got that magic done/But momma now I know, you were the one

We are rightly proud of our school’s racial and ethnic diversity. Because of the ways in which we hide the stigma of poverty, our economic diversity is harder to see. But it is there.

And so I want to honor the many ICS mothers who get the magic done. On Dec 25th, and every day.

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Tonight is the first night of Chanukah. Many non-Jews are struck by the coincidence this year of the holiday falling on the eve of Christmas. But is it that, just a coincidence.

Like many of our faith traditions, the Chanukah story is complex. Chanukah was so difficult in fact that the Rabbis excluded The Book of Maccabees when they codified the Bible.

The story unfolds amidst a Civil War between the Israelites about assimilating with their Greek rulers. (Foreshadowing anyone?) King Antiochus desecrates the Temple in Jerusalem, leading to a rebellion that overthrows the Greeks and restores Jewish rule. (The Rabbis added the miracle of the oil, latkes, and jelly doughnuts many years afterwards).

As one wise sage said in summarizing so many Jewish holidays, “They wanted to kill us; we survived, so let’s eat!”

Given the Jewish fear of assimilation, there is a more than a touch of irony to the way in which this minor holiday has been linked to a major Christian festival. But as Steve Kerr says, we live in this complex world of grey areas

So to keep the metaphors appropriately mixed and tolerant, I’ll close by repeating the wishes of Linus, at the end of the Charlie Brown Christmas: “on Earth, peace and goodwill to all men.

Charters, Diversity and the Middle Class

Minnesota first passed a law allowing for charters 25 years ago. Today there are more than 7,000 charter schools in more than 40 states. In Detroit, Washington, Gary, and New Orleans more than 40% of public school students attend charters. More than 84,000 students attend charter schools in New York City.

The stereotypical charter school is located in a poor district, serving poor children. Allowing many parents a certain mental distance; charters are something that helps other people’s children. Diverse schools like ICS are growing, but they are not common.

img_1591In November Massachusetts voters were asked to allow more charter schools. (We have a cap in New York too, but it is not even up for a vote). Despite multiple academic studies showing the enormous difference charters make for their students’ success, the proposal failed. Unions, facing falling revenues, ran a $22 million campaign asserting (public) charter schools somehow “take” money from (public) district schools, scaring better off voters in places like Brookline and Newton. Progressive icons like Elizabeth Warren, in this case, took an anti-progressive position.

ICS supporter Robert Pondiscio responded:

If the [question fails], don’t point angry fingers at selfish Massachusetts voters: Blame falls equally upon a movement that has long been a bit too enamored of its own civil-rights-movement-of-our-time rhetoric to worry much about building a constituency among the middle class.

In New York our schools (public, private, charter, district) remain vastly unequal and rarely integrated. On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where the EPA could declare Trump supporters an endangered species, there’s an ugly integration debate brewing. In 1964, Malcolm X noted, “You don’t have to go to Mississippi to find a segregated school system.” (John Oliver covered this in his typical style, here.)

img_1489Massachusetts, site of the tragic bussing fights of the 70s, features some incredible charter schools, like Match and Brooks; leaders at these schools set an example for all of us and helped me personally and very concretely when I was starting ICS. Massachusetts has long been the acme of high standards and high achievement. A kind of City upon A Hill.

Like me, some Brooklyn school leaders are deeply committed to diversity: Brooklyn Prospect, Hebrew Public, Community Roots, Compass, the Success Academy school in Cobble Hill. As in Massachusetts, being able to borrow from their examples and experience was critical to our success.

Principal Ellen Borenstein tells our kids that in life there are good choices and bad ones. And our goal should be to learn from our bad choices to avoid repeating them.

Poor families trapped in poorly-performing district schools will suffer most from the decision of the voters of Brookline, Weston, and Wellesley to maintain the charter cap. By recommitting to the idea of serving ALL families with meaningful choices, the reform movement can redeem itself from this moment.

On Being a Good Citizen

As Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton makes clear, the founding fathers were a fractious bunch. They cast aspersions and slung mud almost as well as they drafted the lofty language of the Declaration and the Constitution.

They had conflicting ideas about how to achieve this American dream, but shared a common goal. For far too long ‘life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” was denied to African slaves and women, but fitfully we expanded the promise. Sometimes at dreadful cost – think Gettysburg or Selma – but more often at the ballot box.aaron-burr-musical

In American history we study compromises. The Connecticut compromise that led to a House of Representatives and a Senate. The Missouri Compromise that both limited, but expanded slavery. Don’t ask, Don’t tell. We often disagree, but we find respectful ways to do so and forge ahead.

At ICS we have ambitious academic goals for the children. We use big words, and discuss big ideas like compromise and constitution. As early as Kindergarten. But as our parents read in the stairwell every day ‘knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand.”

Part of that wisdom comes from a socio-emotional curriculum that builds our students’ sense of empathy. Their capacity to appreciate differences, respect one another, and care. To understand that their own success is inextricably linked to that of their community, and that the broader goals are more important than whether they ‘win’ or ‘lose’ on any given day.

In 2004 I volunteered in Pennsylvania to get out the vote for John Kerry’s presidential campaign. Kerry won more votes than any Democrat had previously in West Chester, but he lost the election.NJ

Driving back to New York on election night, listening to the results was hard. At times I felt a pain in my chest – not a heart attack but a physical pressure.

But I showed up for work the next day and accepted that George W. Bush would continue to be my President.

My college classmate Matt Weiss teaches history in Pittsburgh, and wrote recently that his thoughts had turned to Al Gore. Who lost the 2000 election to Bush:

Back in 2000, Al Gore had reason to believe he was robbed. He’d won the popular vote by a half-million. The election in Florida, where he lost by 537 votes out of about 20 million, was rife with irregularities, faulty ballots and voter-roll purges. The Supreme Court stopped a recount that may have given him the presidency.

But Al Gore did not yell, “Rigged!” He did not talk about “second amendment solutions.” He did not say the system was fixed. He did the opposite. He stepped aside and supported the new president.

As Vice President, Gore was president of the Senate. In an ending worthy of a Greek tragedy, he was required to certify the votes of the Electoral College in January 2001.

There was a lot of anger in the House, where the votes were counted. Gore’s Democratic colleagues rose to protest the election. In a stinging irony, many of them addressed Gore as “Mr. President,” his constitutional role.

Gore’s job was to gavel them into silence, which he did. In the end, he certified the result that broke his heart, ended his political career, and which he had to feel, on some level, was unfair.

The sprinters Tommie Smith,John Carlos and Peter Norman during the award ceremony of the 200 m race at the Mexican Olympic games. During the awards ceremony, Smith and Carlos protested against racial discrimination: they went barefoot on the podium and listened to their anthem bowing their heads and raising a fist with a black glove. Mexico City, Mexico, 1968He joked about it for years afterward, sometimes introducing himself as the “former next-president of the United States.” But Gore kept any bitterness, doubts or recriminations to himself.

That, fellow citizens, is patriotism. That is putting country first. Not some sticker on your truck. Not standing up for some song and shouting at anybody who won’t. Al Gore went to Vietnam when he abhorred the war because he knew that, as a Senator’s son, if he found some “fancy way of avoiding the war,” as his roommate, Tommy Lee Jones recalled “someone else would have to go in his place.”

Al Gore is too often a punchline. He was a terrible candidate and he can be a stultifying speaker, but he is a patriot of the truest kind.

John Kerry was another privileged man who volunteered for Vietnam. Where he was wounded, three times. His experiences led him to become a vocal protester against the war, a position for which he was vilified. Like Gore he was a weak candidate and a less than inspiring speaker. Like Gore he is a patriot. Both for his service and his protest.

Ellen and the teachers talk to the kids about how fair is not the same as equal, about taking turns, listening and sharing. In the hopes that, years from now, when the chips are down and the results are not what they hoped for, our students will have the emotional capacity and depth of character to persevere. To both respect the system, and think productively how they will change conditions and make a different outcome possible.

Every child at ICS has the equal chance to inherit the mantle of patriotism worn by Americans like Washington, Lincoln, Susan Anthony, King, George H.W. Bush, Sandra Day O’Connor, Tommie Smith, Kerry, Gore and Lin Manuel-Miranda. And continue to work of perfecting our far too imperfect democracy.

Safety and Kids

The Chelsea bombing naturally sparked anxiety. The random nature of such violence –highly unlikely but potentially devastating — is particularly hard to address concretely.

ICS takes security very seriously. We have systems in place to ensure your children are accounted for at all times. Most importantly we control access to the building with electronic locks and video cameras. We demand positive identification from all visitors who we do not know. And we ask you to tell us well in advance of any changes in your pickup routines.

At dismissal, returning families have noticed that our process is more regulated than last year. The increase in our student population this year makes it more critical that we standardize the way parents and caregivers enter and exit the building. Sometimes you or your babysitter feel we are treating you brusquely; this is not our intention but we have 225 kids and 300 adults to monitor in a short period of time. It requires our undivided attention.

We review our protocols and discuss them with the staff. Training our staff does not always mean conducting drills with your kids.  When we have drills with the children we will let you know.

As the name implies, terrorism is designed to provoke terror, an often irrational worry. It works best when we give in to this fear, suspect our neighbors, alter our normal lives, and share this anxiety with our children. A response I know we all want to avoid.

Thank you as ever for your continued support, both in trusting us with your children and following the rules we have laid out.

Back To School Night

Principal Ellen Borenstein spoke to parents on Back to School Night in mid-September. These are the remarks she prepared.

Recently I have been thinking about the actions of Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49er who has taken a knee during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner before football games. I thought about the many injustices we witness daily in the news and how we cannot be complacent. It took me to my middle school days in the late 1960s when I stopped saying the pledge but rather stood silently. Or when I was the first girl to wear pants to school because it was February and below zero and I thought it was ridiculous that I had to wear a skirt and my mom came to school and defended my right to do simg_1403o.

And then I started thinking about my entreé into social justice which brought me to being a child in April 1963, when Martin Luther King was arrested in Birmingham and was jailed along with other clergy members. Birmingham was considered the most segregated city in the country and so Dr. King decided to march there even though he was warned not to do so.

I was a second grader at the time. Our telephone rang in the wee hours of the morning and my dad accepted the charges of a collect call. My rabbi was jailed with King and my father, who was the treasurer of our synagogue, had to wire through Western Union, the money to bail Mike out. This was the first of many protests I either observed or was a part of during my early to late teens as well as into my adulthood. Out of Dr. King’s arrest came the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail. He wrote:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

These powerful words resonate today as illustrated by Colin Kaepernick. His quiet action spoke volumes about the trials we still face today. And we are lucky to live in a country where we can use words and take peaceful and nonviolent actions to hopefully raise the consciousness of others to effect change.

But as I thought more and more about these words, they apply to this community at ICS directly.

This school was founded on three major core values. One – a coherent curriculum; you will learn more about this as you go to your child’s classroom. Two on the importance of the social and emotional component of child development and its impact on learning and lastly, diversity. If I were to deconstruct Dr.King’s words I would examine each word because words matter.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. This means that there needs to be a sense of fairness and equity. Without this we are open to all injustices. Here at school we want to be fair – but it may not always be equal. We will be fair and just so that each child can feel safe and have opportunity. By giving your children the tools to become critical thinkers aimg_1404nd pose questions we are increasing their chances to create options for themselves. Options create opportunity.

The second sentence…

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. This is the “it takes a village” mentality that is necessary for our kids. Raising and educating kids is the toughest work there is. And hard work pays off. But we can not do this alone. No one can. The partnership of being in this together, the partnership of home and school, that ever important connection is what is needed to move our kids forward and stay true to the school’s mission and vision.

Third, Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… This is the physics lesson of the evening – that every action has a reaction. At times we don’t see how the one little thing we do or say can impact another person or sometimes a community. But, how we act in front of our kids and what we say to one another, does have an impact. We are modeling the language and behaviors that we expect from them. Everything from how we say good morning to getting here on time for drop off or pickup are an indication of how you feel about this place and its importance in your child’s life.  

And lastly, Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. Here at school that means that we are all part of this community; that regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or any other other human quality or condition, that this is school is a place where we are inclusive. At times we may not understand one another, but it is our job to work towards understanding.

So, welcome or welcome back to everyone and enjoy your evening.

Holidays and Sacrifices

Monday marks the beginning of Eid Al-Adha. District public schools are closed but at ICS we think the best way to honor our multicultural society is to teach children about the major religious belief systems, not create a child care conundrum for parents.

this-year-approximately-two-million-worshippers-completed-the-pilgrimage-a-similar-number-to-last-year-14-million-pilgrims-came-from-abroad-while-hundreds-of-thousands-of-saudis-also-joinedSacrifice is a common theme in many of our cultures. For Muslims, Eid Al-Adha commemorates Abraham’s commitment to God. The story is similar to the Jewish belief which is recalled on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. It also forms the opening stanza of Highway 61 Revisited, the Bob Dylan song.

All of this is to say that building background knowledge is not about enshrining a canon. It is about giving children (and adults) a common foundation on which to build understanding and find the themes that unite us. To comprehend our culture, both ancient and modern. And to understand what makes us different.

The study of religions is important because religion has been such a central force in shaping the development of  civilizations, and it is difficult to teach world history without referencing the role played by religion. For example, the Middle Ages cannot be taught without reference to the importance of the Christian church. The Crusades cannot be taught without reference to the development of Islam

the-climax-of-the-five-day-hajj-pilgrimage-takes-place-in-the-arafat-valley-where-the-prophet-muhammed-allegedly-delivered-his-final-sermon-roughly-1400-years-ago-after-leading-his-followers-on-the-haYou have all made a commitment to ICS. In many cases this involves sacrifices. Perhaps giving up sleep in the morning, perhaps changing a work schedule to ensure you can pick up on time. You have also committed to joining a diverse community, perhaps sacrificing by compromising on your own culture and beliefs, to see the essential and common humanity in us all.

As the summer draws fitfully to a close, I am grateful for the commitment of our families to the ICS vision and mindful of the sacrifices you make for your children.

To those of you who are celebrating, I wish you an Eid Mubark.

Kids Who Succeed

A friend recently sent me a copy of Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

slide22Duckworth teaches psychology at Penn and has had a following among educators since 2011 when her work was featured in the New York Times. Boiling her (brilliant) career and research down to a phrase I’d say: tenacity trumps talent.

Duckworth’s research identifies the importance of grit and ways in which we can measure it more accurately. But, she cautions, we still don’t know as much as we would like about how to make kids ‘gritty.’

One powerful idea she outlines is positive parenting. She uses a nice graphic to summarize a large quantity of research.

Duckworth GraphicParenting happens across a range of styles and circumstances. But two key dimensions are how supportive and how demanding we are. Duckworth explains that wise parents are both demanding and supportive.

When we acknowledge that it is hard for our kids to try and fail at a given activity, yet convey to them our expectation that they can and will do better the next time, we are wise parents.

She tells the story of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young, after his first semester at BYU, calling his dad to say he wanted to quit. (He was the 8th-string quarterback.) “You can quit,” his dad told him, “but you can’t come home. … You’re not coming back here.”  Reflecting on this conversation Young said “It was a loving act. It was tough, but it was loving.”

When our kids struggle we sometimes seek to soften the blow by saying “Oh, it’s ok, you’re just not good at that.” Offering a genetic excuse and suggesting hard work doesn’t always matter. (Even Michelle Obama falls into this trap, sometimes.)

If you’ll permit me a brief bit of bragging, my oldest is taking pre-calc and physics this year. Classes, he is quick to point out, his mother and I did not take in high school. Classes that are hard for him.

And when he fails, as happens, he is quick to offer that he’s just not talented enough. Or smart enough.

My response, with much love, is “It would be easy to think that you’re just stupid. Far more likely is you’re just not working hard enough at this. That you want it to be as easy as history, or English. And for you, it isn’t.” Final exams are next week, and we’ll see what dividends this approach yields.

In 2013, Actor David Duchovny reflected on how his basketball coach respected him by demanding much of him. His essay further informed the design of ICS’s approach.

At ICS Ellen and the teachers always make clear that we know our students can do it. Whether it’s keeping their hands to themselves during morning meeting, keeping their voices down in the stairwell, or slowing down to lobrooklyn nyc public schoolsok again at a long word and sound it out. Over time, the payoff comes in kids who know they can rise to demanding tasks. Which, in a way, is the deepest love and respect we can offer them.

There’s a lot more in Duckworth’s book that I look forward to trying out at ICS and at home. And if you can’t get the book, she has a TED talk too.  Much better than mine.

Arrival Times

As we end this year and prepare for the next, schedule and space planning is on my mind. Ellen and I are working hard to ensure we accommodate the new students and preserve the additional space we need for art, music, Spanish,dance and gym. Classes we consider special, but in no way optional.

To provide the studentinternational charter schools with a full, enriching and engaging curriculum we begin instruction at 8:00 every day. We open our doors at 7:30 and serve breakfast to any and all.

At 8:00 we hold a very intentional and important meeting that is at the core of our socio-emotional curriculum. Because this time is not ‘academic’ some might think of the morning meeting as less important, or optional.

It is not. It sets the tone for the day, and allows the children to take ownership of their feelings in a safe and loving space. It prepares them for the academic challenges of the day, and helps them develop productive techniques for handling the inevitable stresses of school. (which is a lot like life)

Showing up late makes kids feel bad. Much as we adults feel when we are late for a meeting. Since we expect our teachers to arrive on time every day, it’s also a sign of respect for their commitment when their students arrive on time. Our authorizer, SUNY, also monitors our absence and tardiness statistics in assessing whether we are a successful school, worthy of having our charter renewed.

IMG_0690The transition from Pre-k is harder for some than others. It is an earlier start. Some parents have opined that we are rather rigid about on time arrival. I’d rather think that we’re really committed to seeing your children succeed. Emotionally and academically.

Ellen, Annie Harris-Kornblith and I, as well as your child’s teachers are all available to discuss tactics for ensuring on-time arrival. Here are some tips an expert compiled for our Mayor, who has struggled with tardiness from time to time.

We know there will be days when the weather, traffic or transit conspire to confound your best laid plans. None of us are expecting perfection. But we’d like your commitment and best efforts. For the remainder of this year and into next.