Faculty Blog

A Reflection at Year’s End

By nature, the end of the school year, despite its frenetic pace, prompts reflection on raising and educating boys. In the past nine months that we’ve shared with your sons, you as parents have been witness at home to their behind-the-scenes moments of elation, fear, disappointment, and satisfaction as they’ve invested themselves in school life with its challenges, triumphs, achievements, and failures.

Your parental love, support, and encouragement balanced with your clear expectations and wise discipline have served as a firm foundation for your sons’ growth at Fenn this …

A Visit to New York City to see Fenn Alums

It is a Thursday in late April and I am aboard an Acela Express train bound for New York City and a Fenn alumni reception in midtown Manhattan. On my left there is a cup of coffee cooling and on my right is a list of the former-but-always-will-be Fenn boys scheduled to attend the event this evening, many of whom I taught or coached in their years on Monument Street.

Davis Rosborough, class of '02: My advisee in eighth grade. Always thoughtful and upbeat. Helped me coach and referee the intramural football games in seventh grade because he was injured. Became a good quarterback at Deerfield.
Posted by O. A. B. in Derek Boonisar on Thursday May 7, 2015 at 09:15AM
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Measuring what matters

Character. We all know it when we see it, admire those who have it, and strive to achieve it.  At a recent conference I attended, character was mentioned as one of the non-cognitive skills that are in vogue and considered by secondary schools and college institutions to be as important as grades or scores from standardized testing.

We all know that character is a trait that is mentioned as something that matters to educators and to educational institutions. As educators we want to provide the knowledge that will make our students successful, but we also want to provide the tools and …

Posted by O. A. B. in Gisela Hernandez-Skayne on Tuesday May 5, 2015 at 11:46AM
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Lessons from Athletics

The fields, courts, trails, and rinks of Fenn’s sports program are extensions of the classroom. They are additional learning laboratories for the boys whose care we are entrusted. Sportsmanship, skills development, and character building make up the curriculum taught on that canvas. As Bob Star so eloquently reminds us, “You tell us nothing about yourself whenever your team wins, but when you lose, that is where your character is revealed.” Such character building experiences are prevalent as the lessons of the extended classroom are revealed, but the sports program also …

Posted by O. A. B. in Dave Duane on Wednesday April 22, 2015
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Tribute to Derek Boonisar on His Twentieth Year of Service at Fenn

*Each year, the faculty gathers to honor those who have served for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30+ years at Fenn. Here is one exerpt from that evening written and delivered by Jerry Ward. 

Filling the shoes of a legend is close to an impossible thing to do. Derek Boonisar arrived one day at Fenn twenty years ago as a twenty-five year old teaching candidate with two years of experience. He was here to interview for a full time position that involved teaching Latin, coaching sports, and advising middle school students. The young man didn’t know that day that the faculty member he would be …

Posted by O. A. B. in Jerry Ward on Thursday April 16, 2015
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Students, Teach Thy Teachers

A few months ago, on a dreary gray morning in mid-January, I experienced one of those moments that many teachers only dream about. In fact, it may well be the high point so far of my 25-year career. It was in my 9th grade Global Studies class, and we had been tackling the various tenets of Buddhism for several weeks. Buddhism is a tricky religion to study, in part because our western eyes have trouble comprehending what is so fundamentally eastern in form and construct, and in part because in its original form, Buddhism steered clear of the religious trappings of the Hindu culture in which it …

Posted by O. A. B. in John Sharon on Tuesday March 31, 2015
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The 2015 D.C. Trip

On the way to The District with the Fenn 7th Graders

Well, we're in Maryland rolling down I-95 on our way to Washington, D.C. -- the epic "7th Grade D.C. Trip" which has made every yearbook as a cherished memory for decades. The boys are playing cards (one is learning solitaire from his buddy); they are sharing music, the are reading books and they are watching "Hoosiers" on bus video screens. They are hanging out and having fun.  We have already stopped at two food courts -- one for the boys to refuel, and one for the buses to.

Our next stop is to meet our guide at Country Hill …

Posted by O. A. B. in Patricia McCarthy on Thursday March 12, 2015
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“It was the night before secondary school notifications and all through the house, the creatures were stirring, even the mouse…”

And so it is once again the eve of a tremendously anxious next few days as secondary school notifications come to our eighth and ninth grade families.  I wish I could assure you that all will work out if you just keep visions of sugar plums dancing in your heads as you go to sleep the next couple of nights.  But that is unlikely to convince you that your sons and you will all be fine as you hear from schools.

I was recently reminded of the importance of keeping perspective as parents as our children navigate their school careers.  I attended the retirement party of Jerry’…

Posted by in Lorraine Ward on Thursday March 12, 2015
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What gets measured, gets managed

“What gets measured, gets managed” is a quote I’m sure many of you who are in business, finance, and management have heard before (and quite possibly to the point of nausea).  As trite and too oft-used as some of us may hold this phrase, we must admit there is a large element of truth to it.  Sure, there are complex concepts that really can’t be quantified - such as love or a zeal for learning - but hard numbers and comprehensive benchmarking are one of the most effective starts to understanding how a person or organization is grappling with a new initiative …

Posted by O. A. B. in Cameren Cousins on Wednesday February 25, 2015
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A Tribute to Elise Mott, 20 Years at Fenn

*Each year, the faculty gathers to honor those who have served for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30+ years at Fenn. Here is one exerpt from that evening written and delivered by Lorraine Ward. 

It’s not hard to recall all the good things about Elise Mott as a colleague, friend, educator, mother, and citizen.  If I had to describe her in two words, they would be “gracious goodness.”  Elise does everything with a commitment to the good—the good of her students, the good of the larger world outside of Fenn, the good of the natural world, the good of her family and …

Posted by O. A. B. in Lorraine Ward, Elise Mott on Thursday February 12, 2015
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Boys and Shorts

For years  I’ve wondered, Why do boys  insist on wearing shorts when it's freezing outside? Just the other day, as snow and ice covered the ground, I saw a boy trudging through the snow in shorts on the way to his van.

Is there something going on internally that makes them warmer than the rest of us? Technically, yes. Males tend to have a steady and more complete distribution of body heat than women. On the other hand, they may be trying to be their own person; a show of independence from the adults in their lives.

It drives teachers and parents crazy, though it probably …

Posted by O. A. B. in Jen Waldeck on Tuesday January 20, 2015
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Listen and Learn: A Calm Sea Never a Captain Makes

Sometimes I hate my boat. However, hating a needy pile of wood, sail, and line is less distressing than what it teaches me about myself. My trying to remove the stubborn barnacles from the bottom-sides after eight months in drydock is a harsh reminder that ten minutes of a simple power-washing on Labor Day would have negated the hours of cursing, scraping, and crawling on the back-stabbing scree of a New England boatyard that occupied my day yesterday. Years ago I blithely and absent-mindedly watched as a friend showed me how to make a wire splice. Tomorrow I am paying some old salt two …

Posted by O. A. B. in John Fitzsimmons on Wednesday January 14, 2015
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The Beginning of a New Year

Unlike the exuberant celebrators of New Year’s Eve, I am often in the throes of taking stock at the start of the new year: What could I have done better in my life, what do I continue to leave unsaid and undone, what am I most afraid of leaving behind in my life? (A lot of things truthfully). These feelings are the inevitable and unenviable product of an over determined super ego (thanks, Ma and Dad) and living eight years with the vagaries of incurable, Stage 4 breast cancer. You’d think my longevity in the face of my cancer would make me see life in the most positive of terms. …

Posted by O. A. B. in Lorraine Ward on Thursday January 8, 2015
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Islands of Creativity and Learning

We are just finishing up the Explorer Project with presentations in my sixth grade Integrated Studies class.  The project is a long running one where students choose an Explorer from throughout history and spend several classes doing research in various note taking categories (i.e. early life experience, personal characteristics, challenges encountered, reason for exploration, etc.).  From there they construct journal entries written from the perspective of their chosen Explorer and create a map depicting her/his area of exploration.  To create the journal entries (of which …

Posted by in Patricia McCarthy on Wednesday December 17, 2014
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Going Global: 9th Graders and the World That Awaits Them

On the wall of my 9th grade Global Studies classroom hang two essential questions that guide us each day in the course: first, “How does the past, with all of its complexities, shape the world we live in today?” And second, “What are my responsibilities as a global citizen?” The questions serve to remind us of two intersecting realities—that the problems in our world today sometimes emerge out of nuanced historical processes, and that, once we understand the problems, it is our obligation to do something about them.

This is heady stuff for a 9th grader. Sometimes…

Posted by in John Sharon on Wednesday December 10, 2014
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Moving for Manpower Month

Our boys love to move. If you’re here on campus during passing time between class periods,you will see the kiddos sprinting from one building to the next - not because they’re late to class, but because they love running full-tilt whenever they can. If you’re observing a class, you’ll notice that even the self-described non-athletes get into the learning activities that have them throwing, catching, and zipping about the room. Just last period, I noticed that most of my students did a funny dance or walk - subconsciously, I think - as they came up to the board to share …

Posted by in Cameren Cousins on Wednesday November 19, 2014
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Professional Development

One of the bonuses of working at Fenn is the opportunity to take advantage of professional development. In my six years of working here, I have been given many opportunities to explore interests and pursue professional passions due to the monetary support I receive from Fenn and the collegial support I receive from my colleagues--who are asked to cover my classes and assume my school responsibilities while I am away learning. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to attend national conferences out of state such as the National Council of Teachers of English Conference last year in Boston …

Video in the classroom

This past June, I had the opportunity to attend an Ed Tech workshop on creating iMovies on the iPad. As a social studies teacher in the sixth and eighth grades, It’s been a goal of mine to incorporate more video into my classroom, so I was excited to head to Cambridge and learn from another humanities teacher. Attending a professional workshop is always a good reminder of what it means to be student again. I try to prepare myself for getting into the zone of learning, which translates to mean that I will be confused before I have the big picture of how my …

Posted by in Elise Mott on Wednesday November 5, 2014
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The World Cup at Fenn

It has been an amazing fall season for the Middle School soccer program.  This year we had one of the largest soccer groups ever at Fenn. Every afternoon 66 boys from sixth and seventh grade come running to the soccer field ready to play “The Beautiful Game.” From the first minute, in true Fenn fashion, the boys look for a leadership opportunity, each vying to lead the warm up run and stretches drill. The boys work on refining their skills and look forward to playing games a s part of a vying team.

The display of sportsmanship is impressive. Coaches who play the role of …

Posted by in Gisela Hernandez-Skayne on Wednesday November 5, 2014
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21st Century Schools

Attend a conference for educators in independent schools or pick up a magazine or journal on independent school education and it won't be long before you hear or read what you can and should do to become a 21st century school or how your students can develop 21st century skills. What does it all mean? How did these particular skills emerge from the pack? How intentional do you need to be in your focus on these topics? How do you measure whether you are succeeding or not? The answers to these questions and others can be elusive but there are certain truths, including that our students are …

Posted by in Derek Boonisar on Friday October 31, 2014
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Treasuring the Imperfect Boys Before Us

Last Friday afternoon most of the ninth graders were able to come over for our weekly get-together at the house. The fact that I said “were able to” indicates just how often many of them cannot come because of sports commitments, tutoring, and other academic and extracurricular commitments.  Several of them rued the reality of not being able to take the time out to be here eating cookies and Doritos and relaxing with their classmates even once a week. Life is very busy for them.

I usually start our time together sitting in a circle and asking them to tell me what have been …

Resource: Me Read? And How!

I met a fellow educator at the International Boys’ School Coalition in New York City at the Buckley School. We often share resources focused on boys and best literacy practice. Recently, he sent me a resource from a document released by the province of Ontario, Me Read? And How! Many of the teaching strategies described are often used in Fenn classrooms to encourage and support our boy writers: 

1. Boys who are allowed to choose writing topics show increased motivation and engagement.  p .10

2. Boys are helped by experiencing examples of different text forms. …

Posted by J. DeGemmis in Jen Waldeck on Wednesday October 22, 2014
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Fenn has Many Makers in its Midst

One of the joys of Fenn is that there are as many different interests as there are boys. A Makerspace at Fenn is going to allow those with an interest in technology, engineering, and creativity to have more opportunities to explore, tinker, and develop their ideas in these areas. We have spent time in the last year exploring how to engage boys with these interests through a variety of after school and activity offerings. Ms. MacLellan and I have collaborated on all of it and have found that a lot of boys at Fenn are clamoring for more. Some examples are:

  • making an electronic piano from …
Posted by in Susan Fisher on Sunday October 19, 2014
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Boys Learn Best From Each Other

Whether it's on the sports field, in the classroom, at recess, or somewhere in between, boys often learn best from each other. While this may seem obvious, it often is hard not to get involved when there is an argument, when a situation looks like it is getting out of hand, or when you feel you need to provide some sort of moral support or comfort.  As adults, we are the "frontal lobes" for the boys and we teach and guide them in every way possible, yet it is through their experience and interaction with their peers that boys apply and test out what they have learned. I was reminded of …

Posted by in Jon Byrd on Wednesday October 15, 2014
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George Writes His Essay

Why am I the poor schmuck saddled with a teacher who insists on finding meaning and metaphor in everything we read? Like The Odyssey: I mean, the book is full of random everythings. Like just when Odysseus starts to figure something out (and I have a half a clue what is going on) he breaks off into some wild story with a hundred new characters. "Oh," says my teacher, "that is a literary technique used to build the scope and sweep of the poem. It is the hallmark of an epic literary work." If that is the case, then I have a crazy old uncle—a guy who never knows when to …
Posted by in John Fitzsimmons on Sunday October 5, 2014
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An Independent Day School
for Boys Grades 4-9

516 Monument Street, Concord, MA 01742

Tel: (978) 369-5800 Email:  info@fenn.org

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