Faculty Blog

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 in Gisela Hernandez-Skayne on Tuesday May 5, 2015 at 11:46AM
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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 in John Sharon on Tuesday March 31, 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 in John Fitzsimmons on Wednesday January 14, 2015
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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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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 …

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 …

Making the Most of the Moment

It may be unexpected to reference a blog post titled “Are You Living Your Eulogy or Resume” when beginning a reflection about the opening of a school year, a time when a teacher’s thoughts typically turn to considering possibilities and aspirations for his students. Yet, I would suggest that this is precisely the time of year to think about the mark we are going to make as teachers (and parents) and for us to encourage our students to think about the mark they want to make as individuals, as members of a class and as members of a community like Fenn. It is in these opening …

Posted by in Steve Farley on Friday October 4, 2013
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Reused

This fall, a new school year at Fenn brought...old binders.  Well, perhaps "old" is a misleading descriptor in this case—let's call them "gently used and still in pristine condition" three-ring binders!

Back in June of 2013, Fenn conducted its second annual Green Clean. The goal of this Green Clean was to divert perfectly good school supplies from the waste stream at the end of a school year.  A recycling and reuse station was set up in the Old Gym, and boys dropped off their used paperback books, binders, folders, pencil cases, empty notebooks, and other supplies. Faculty …

Posted by in Cameren Cousins on Monday September 30, 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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