Faculty Blog

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 in John Fitzsimmons on Wednesday January 14, 2015
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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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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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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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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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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 …

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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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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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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Nobody Told Me to Read “The Odyssey”

Nobody ever told me to read The Odyssey—and that was the greatest educational travesty of my life. I first read it after high school while working at Colonial Motors in West Concord. I didn't "get it" any more than the most confused among you, but what I did do is "feel it." I felt its primordial power and emotional bareness; I felt another world, another age, and another human journey come alive inside of me. It made me feel that I was a part of long and unbroken lineage of humanity searching for truth and purpose in a world—especially my world, a world not always blessed with …

Finding Significance for Boys

In April 2012 I travelled to the Allen-Stevenson School in New York City to hear Dr. Adam Cox share the findings of his global research project for the IBSC on how school boys locate significance in their lives. Two years earlier, The Fenn School, the all-boys school in Concord, Massachusetts where I have spent the past eighteen years, was one of the twenty schools worldwide Dr. Cox visited as he conducted the research that would become central to the findings of his study. As a matter of fact, Fenn was the very first school Dr. Cox visited and one of two schools to which he verbally referred …

Posted by in Derek Boonisar on Monday September 16, 2013
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An Independent Day School
for Boys Grades 4-9

516 Monument Street, Concord, MA 01742

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