My boyfriend recently shared that his friend spends nearly $100,000 PER YEAR to put his 3 kids through private schooling in
I visited one of those schools today. A school that Barbara Slatin says is comparable to the private Dalton-type schools of
I was fortunate to be invited to spend the day at the school where I visited numerous students, teachers, and rooms. As I weathered the elements to make my way to the school on a cold, windy, rainy day, I nearly missed the school which was tucked away in the bottom corner of
As I walked through the halls I saw they were decorated with Art inspired by some of the artists I saw during my recent visit to renowned Art Basel Miami. The artwork is produced in the art class where I visited students producing amazing pieces that may also make their way as work displayed on the school walls. When speaking with the art teacher he shared that he is in talks with the local art galleries about exhibiting student work and is creating a school-based art gallery to display the student work as well.
When I entered the magnificent school theater, a student chorus was working with a professional musician from the Third Street Music School Settlement rehearsing a piece for the school show. Third Street is dedicated to providing quality arts instruction to young people who might otherwise never learn to sing, play an instrument or perform before an audience. The School is widely recognized as a training center for serious music students. While I was watching the children perform the principal explained that a couple of those students have been recognized by Rosie’s Broadway Kids to work with to develop as Broadway performers. The organization is an arts education organization dedicated to enriching the lives of children through the arts. Using professional teaching artists, Rosie’s Broadway Kids provides instruction in dance and music and a professional theater experience for children who might otherwise not have the opportunity. The organization does this at the
Next stop was dance. The
As I continued through the school I was impressed with students who were taking a violin lesson meticulously working on a difficult piece of classical music. I then went on to watch a percussion drumming group. This group I learned was taught by a man with a psychology background who was interested in working with adolescents with anger management issues that could be resolved through drumming. The principal shared many of these students in addition to having behavior issues were also ADHD. You wouldn’t know any of this when watching them. The kids were energetic, focused and impressive. So much so that the principal explained these kids take their show on the road performing all around
There really isn’t a moment where opportunities for talent development don’t exist at the school. At lunch time the learning continued where I witnessed students focused on working in their area of interest in the lunchroom. I saw a group of students working on a craft project with a teacher. I also noticed that many students were using internet accessible computers in the lunchroom which the principal explained were the result of their school custodian who refurbished old computers so they could be used by students at lunchtime. Students were also engaged in playing various sports they were passionate about.
As an instructional technology specialist with a background as a literacy coach and library media specialist, I was very excited about my visit to the Internet Café which serves as a technology center by day and a Scholar’s Lab by night. In the Café I met the school’s Techbrarian, Lou Lahana whose blog my colleague the Technomnivore recognizes in his post, “Techbrarian’s Blog is a treasure trove of amazing tech integration ideas.” Mr. Lahana, now a doctoral student at Teacher’s College was the founder and brains behind the creation of the center.
There I spoke with Sabrina who was one of Mr. Lahana’s many students who has a blog. You can read her blog, as well as the blogs of other students at Techbrarian: Talent Through Tech. Sabrina shared that the blog has been a terrific outlet for her to capture all her thoughts, ideas, and musings that previously were bursting to come out...sometimes, as she shared, much to the chagrin of fellow students and teachers. She explained that she often just had so much on her mind that she was excited about, that at times, others found her sharing a little much, but the blog has noticeably changed her personality for the better in the eyes of many at the school. Her blog has recently received some attention garnering a request to be a contributing blogger from the Gotham Schools which is a news source and online community for teachers, parents, policy makers, and journalists interested in learning about what works and what doesn’t in
Another place I encountered students with literary aspirations was in the schools beautiful library where we had a chance to speak with the journalism team who puts out the school’s monthly newsletter. When speaking with the students some shared that partaking in this group and having the opportunity to produce something that is the buzz in the school has provided an interest in possibly pursuing journalism as a career. One student mentioned how great it was to have teachers and students approaching to comment on and discuss the articles they produce.
students is by involving them in digital movie making. He shared that he collaborates with the literacy and social studies teachers around the movies that students make. Most recently he challenged students to Turn your ELA Story to a Movie. He shared with his students that their writing was, “so good, they should be made into movies. He encouraged students to, “use this really cool site called XtraNormal, to create a scene (or many scenes) from your story.” You can visit his post for an example of this work. He also shared that students have produced iMovies that are entered in Film Festival contests and that the school is proud to have winners of the TriBeCa Film Festival. Another great example of bringing student work into the world outside the classroom.
Not only does great work happen during the day in the Internet Café, but it also occurs from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. each night as the Café turns into the Scholar’s Lab available for middle school students to increase academic success. On hand in the lab each night are pedagogues to foster academic growth across the content areas. It is at this lab that students can dive deeply into content areas with support from subject area instructional specialists.
The school has a many structures in place to allow for all the wonderful things happening there to occur. Classes at the school are taught by a mixture of NYC DOE pedagogues all with their own special talents to share with students, and experts from more than a dozen partner organizations. This allows the class sizes to be quite small since the number of those working with the students is increased. The principal also fosters talent development in her staff and encourages and funds professional development opportunities for staff members to develop various talents. Staff and students are surveyed on interests to inform the development of the school offerings. The school is in session from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. each day allowing for a well balanced day of enrichment classes and the traditional academic curriculum. In addition to enrichment opportunities available during the traditional school day, everyday from 3:45 – 5:15 students can select from a variety of enrichment activities including Playwriting, Sewing, Cooking, Songwriting, Chess, Football, Gymnastics, Basketball, Computer Animation, and more.
The principal shares that she serves as her student's Jewish-mother advocate—like those commonly seen at the Dalton’s of the world—for all her students and, she wants to ensure her students get the same type of education given to those students. I thank Principal Slatin and dedicate this post to those like the friend of my boyfriend who may be surprised to learn that a public education can rival, and even surpass, that of a costly private one. Perhaps if there were more people who didn’t fall into the vortex of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an education so they could maintain their social status, and instead invested that time and energy into an education that would benefit both the advantaged and disadvantaged, all of New York City’s children and their families would be better off.
For more information visit the The Island School website and be sure to watch the school videos or the Techbrarian’s Blog.
Read Techbrarian’s Blog is a treasure trove of amazing tech integration ideas for an overview of the work of the school techbrarian and Techbrarian and Inspiration for your classroom blog.