Faculty Blog

Riding the Wave of Our Children’s Transitions

You would think it gets easier each year—sending off children to summer camp and the new school year, especially when they are returning to familiar settings. I am struck by how hard transitions are for all of us and yet how often we ask children to make them in the course of a day, a week, a year. And, particularly with boys, I sometimes think that we forget how vulnerable they can be as they jump into new situations and how often they hold themselves up to standards of toughness that deep in our hearts we know are quite difficult for them to uphold as they take on new challenges. It&…

Posted by in Lorraine Ward on Tuesday September 9, 2014
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Rich Beyond Measure

A Note to my 8 and 9th Grade Students



I've never met a man who was truly awake. I wouldn't know how to look him in the eyes. 

~Henry David Thoreau 

 

Somebody once asked Thoreau if he would give a talk on the evils of alcohol and tobacco. He declined, stating that since he had never tried alcohol or tobacco, he wasn't able to speak about the effects of either tobacco or alcohol from personal experience—and personal experience is what generates our most powerful ideas and motivates our most profound actions. Retelling our experiences inspires readers to look …

Posted by in John Fitzsimmons on Friday August 1, 2014
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Calling All Mothers

Are you one of those mothers like me who is often disappointed by Mother’s Day—a ruse to get our families to feel guilty about and acknowledge all the things we do behind the  scenes to make our children’s lives and family life thrive?  Do you sometimes sit quietly at the end of a wonderful Mother’s Day thinking about the beautiful cards and the dinner or lunch out or the breakfast served in bed and in a  brief moment of resignation think, “And tomorrow the lacrosse sticks will once again be thrown across the entry hall, the Legos will  be …

Posted by in Lorraine Ward on Wednesday July 30, 2014
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An Empty Nest and the Promise of a New Adventures

As we feel the warmth of summer approaching and the excitement of graduation week, for some families this is a time that signals the end of a journey and the start of a new adventure. It is also a time when nature comes alive with vibrant colors and sounds. I can hear birds chirping during the early hours of the morning, and I know that the promise of warmer days drew them back to our beautiful forests after the long winter months.

As I was starting a new week and thinking about nature’s array of activity, one of my students during advisor time at the start of the day–Jalen …

Choice Reading

At Fenn, I often talk about the importance of choice reading in schools. What I particularly love about choice reading is it allows a student to follow his interests and passions while simultaneously practicing and improving his reading skills. Ultimately, choice in anything--books, writing topics, projects--leads to engagement, and once a student is engaged, real learning can take place.

Just as choice reading is imperative to reading growth, so is choice in other areas of school. Just recently, my fifth grade class had the opportunity to choose how they wanted to complete a project. At the …

Posted by in Laurie Byron on Monday April 7, 2014
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Spring

Spring. Is. Finally. Here.  

As the daughter of a meteorologist, I have always been proud of stalwartly sticking to the dictum of: “There is no such thing as bad weather—only inopportune circumstances.”  The variety of elements New England throws at us throughout the year is awesome, in both the fear-inducing and admiration-earning senses of the word. But I’d be fibbing if I denied that this March—and my advisees’ constant jokes about Planet Hoth—just about destroyed me.

Fortunately, I can now write about how we’re getting some relief…

Posted by in Cameren Cousins on Thursday April 3, 2014
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None of Us Looks Like His or Her Story

Recently, I attended the annual conference of the National Association of Independent Schools, where I listened to thoughtful and thought-provoking presentations about many aspects of independent school life and the opportunities and challenges before our students. One of the most compelling presentations occurred during the “Independent Matters: Dare to Explore” general session (NAIS’s version of TED Talks) when Steve Pemberton, Chief Diversity Officer and Divisional Vice-President for Walgreens, recounted his experience growing up in the Massachusetts foster care system, a …

Admissions Decisions

On March 10, students from Fenn and from all over the United States opened envelopes and emails from secondary schools and learned the outcome of their applications. The anxiety and anticipation had been building for the past few weeks and reached their apex for many students. The envelopes and emails revealed one of three outcomes: Admit, Wait List, or Deny. Gratification and relief arrived with an Admit; disappointment yet hope arrived with a Wait List; rejection and perhaps anger followed a Deny. The outcomes feel very personal. How can they not? Students have had their academic record …

Posted by in Derek Boonisar on Sunday March 9, 2014 at 01:00AM
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The Bus Ride Home

The bus is eerily quiet as we make our way home. These seventh grade Fenn boys are exhausted, and they should be; we have had an eventful few days. They have had a chance to walk all over D.C. They have been inquisitive, informative, impulsive, empathic, and exhilarated (and some even a little homesick), so they have come by these "bus naps" honestly and earnestly.  

They have asked questions about and offered impromptu presentations on the monuments, museums, and memorials that came about through some class work research and mini-presentations. In fact, our tour guide, Tracy, …

World Peace Game

This week we engaged in a thought provoking day of professional development at Fenn, in our Multicultural Educators Forum, where we heard the inspiring story of the World Peace Game created by our workshop speaker, John Hunter. He created the game 35 years ago as an enrichment activity for a gifted and talented program in his Virginia-based school. Over the years he has refined and broadened the game, which is now the subject of an award winning movie and is outlined in his 2011 TED talk.

In a previous post this fall I discussed some common characteristics identified by a study conducted by …

Posted by in George Scott on Thursday February 20, 2014
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Guys Write

This winter, the boys delved into autobiographical writing by creating an Alpha Biography. This idea was inspired by James Howe’s novel, Totally Joe, a humorous story in which each chapter’s title is significant to the main character and connects to his name.

In the Alpha Biography brainstorming session, boys started to make connections to topics that defined them. For instance, A is for athlete and K stands for kayak. Many boys also connected E to energy or J to jittery. According to one student, “When I went to preschool, I would play with other kids or ride a scooter…

Posted by in Elise Mott on Monday February 10, 2014
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The Love of a Son

How often have I pondered the question about how a perfectionist “good girl” like me could have ended up with three spirited, independent-minded sons and no daughters?  How often have I asked out loud—sometimes in sheer frustration, sometimes in absolute wonder—how I, of all people, ended up with three boys who rarely saw the importance of the attention to detail about the upkeep of the house, of their homework, of remembering that it was trash or recycling day, of how much time it would take to make out college applications and what the due dates were, and at 11:…

Wintertime at Fenn

Growing up in Mexico City winter mornings meant crisp, cool temperatures, the thermometer somewhere in the sixties, always with the promise of the beautiful southern sun during the day, where a warm fleece would more than suffice to venture the elements. What a surprise for a young Mexican exchange student when in 1978 in Lexington Massachusetts she saw her first snow and became even fearful of it when during the Blizzard of ’78 she had to stay home for almost a week!

A lot has changed since then. Today, for me, winter means so much more than snow and cold days. I live winter through …

Posted by in Gisela Hernandez-Skayne on Saturday February 1, 2014
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Read, Read, Read

The quote below is the reason for encouraging boys to read what they love. Every week, I ask my students to look at the reading they enjoy and name the wow factor. What is it specifically that makes you want to curl up in a corner with a book and get lost in it? Sometimes the answer is simply, “I liked the way he wrote the action,” and we try to nail it down further. Does the author use descriptive action words or lots of setting changes? If the action is so easy to visualize, why?

Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. …

Posted by in Jen Waldeck on Friday January 24, 2014
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Art, Imagination, Schools and the Human Spirit

Could it be that schools, more often than not, prove right Thoreau's lament by failing to honor Sodergran’s primary principle about the human spirit? There is indeed that danger for any school as ever-present and expanding standardized testing can restrict and diminish the vitality of curriculum, learning, and teaching. Add to that danger the common circumstance of school budget cutting of the “non-essential” arts programs and “enrichment” classes and activities that are seen as expendable when hard financial choices are made.


"What does education often do? It …

Posted by in Jerry Ward on Monday January 20, 2014
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Remember the Time

I don’t always practice what I preach, especially when it comes to the simple, unaffected and ordinary “journal entry.” Much of my reticence towards the casual journal entry is the public nature of posting our journal writing as blogs that are more or less “open” to the public. It is hard for me as a teacher of writing to post an entry that I know is trivial, mundane—and perhaps of no interest to my readers—but that is precisely what I need to do if I am to model the full spectrum of the writing process. Keeping a journal is more than a search for …

Posted by in John Fitzsimmons on Friday January 17, 2014
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Widening the Definition of Reading

Reading is active. It is empowering. It is an experience that can lead to further understanding of one’s self and surroundings. At Fenn, this is our goal as teachers of reading: to be able to help boys foster the ability to find, read, and connect with stories that bring meaning and pleasure to their lives. In order for this to happen, we have learned that boys need space to explore their reading choices and time in class to practice their reading skills and build reading fluency. Whether a student is a reluctant or prolific reader, we have come to realize that reading choice empowers …

Posted by in Laurie Byron on Monday January 13, 2014
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Opportunities for Boys to Practice 21st Century skills

How wonderful it was for our school and our students to host the AISNE Middle School Diversity Conference a few Saturdays ago. It provided rich opportunities for our boys to lead,  to follow, to learn, to experience difference and sameness in new ways, to practice being hospitable and to model culturally responsive leadership while putting our own core values into action in practical and relevant ways.

Nineteen schools from across New England sent 300 students and chaperones on a lovely mild November day to Concord to be greeted by a group of twenty plus welcoming Fenn boys, many in …

Posted by in Elizabeth Cobblah on Thursday December 12, 2013
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The Joy of Boys Learning

I recently attended the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English.  I was able to take in several informative and useful presentations. I attended an afternoon session titled From Blocks to Social Media:  Boys’ Play Based Composing of Self and Story. The presentation was an examination of case studies of a preschool play model, a high school virtual communication model and college level Role Playing Game model, all intended to help boys construct meaning and establish identity.  The conference itself was quite fascinating – especially to me as …

Posted by in Patricia McCarthy on Monday December 9, 2013
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Chaos in the Classroom

The one thing a teacher tries to avoid on the first week of school is a chaotic classroom. It is a time of community building, introductions, and an orderly classroom environment--except in my eighth grade social studies classroom. In the second week of classes, my students participate in a chaos simulation where paper airplanes are flying, pencils are being stolen, and boys are getting up on their desks and yelling. Generally the mayhem is loud enough that a colleague will stick their heads in to make sure everything is okay. This is the introduction to our year studying government.

The …

Posted by in Elise Mott on Sunday December 1, 2013
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Technology in Learning, Teaching, and School Community

It would be a near impossible challenge in our technology-intensive environment to find a school these days that is not integrating technology in meaningful ways (and, possibly, in some instances, not so meaningful ways) in teaching and learning. As is the case in just about all professions, the digital age has accelerated change in the profession of education. Technology has provided ever-evolving and powerful means for schools and teachers to engage students in and beyond the classroom through simulations, blogging, research, project collaboration, distance learning, and the creation and …

Posted by in Jerry Ward on Friday November 15, 2013
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Allowing Boys Tenderness

I am always grateful for the Friday afternoon sessions at my home with the senior class at Fenn—our Pen to Paper Club.  Started three years ago by a member of the Class of 2011 to answer a longing to do something different in the afternoon, we set up a voluntary ninth grade club to read poetry and to write and draw in response to it.  My offer was guidance and a place to gather away from the school with appealing food and drinks: think salt and sugar.

It quickly became clear that all of the ninth graders wanted to be part of the club and that while poetry was the supposed main…

Posted by in Lorraine Ward on Sunday November 10, 2013
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The Importance of Feeling Connected

In September of 1976 I walked onto Fenn's campus as a new seventh grader. I was coming from a local junior high school, and I was repeating seventh grade. Needless to say, I was feeling shy, vulnerable, and insecure. Before the first day of school, my parents and I read through the parent handbook to get a better understanding of what I needed to bring to Fenn, and I thought I had everything covered. Just like the students of today, however, I did not bring any sports clothes, and I had signed up for football. So I did what any normal Fenn boy would do and just got dressed, which included …

Posted by in Jon Byrd on Wednesday November 6, 2013
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Manpower Month Recap

Zdeno Chara rides a fixed-gear bike to and from practice skates at the TD Garden. LeBron James always rocks a helmet as he commutes a half-hour to and from games at American Airlines Arena. Joe Maddon is often seen zipping around cities his team is visiting by bicycle. If you can forgive the Florida affiliations of the second two men, do applaud these folks, who have plenty of resources for much fancier four-wheeled rides, for choosing healthier and eco-friendly ways to get around.

Let us consider them, then, as our Manpower Brethren.  (But much, much taller.)

For the month of October, …

Posted by in Cameren Cousins on Friday November 1, 2013
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Grit

Is grit the new hot commodity when it comes to how an applicant distinguishes himself or herself as a candidate for secondary school? We have always known that hard work, resilience, and tenacity are important factors in the success of our students, but we may not have fully appreciated how important these factors are.

At an SSAT conference I recently attended, I noticed an overwhelming recurrence of the theme of grit. One of the keynote speakers at the conference was Dr. Angela Duckworth, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research centers on self-…

Posted by in Gisela Hernandez-Skayne on Monday October 28, 2013
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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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