Monday, April 23, 2018

LoMA's Artistic Staff

                                                                                             April 23, 2018
Dear LoMA Family,

In addition to seeing wonderful performances by our students at out Talent Show last week, I also had the opportunity to see Ms. Bailey dance with her company at the Fashion Institute of Technology as part of an International Arts Concert. Seeing her joyously swing to tunes from the 1920’s was a real treat and reminded me of how many of our staff at LoMA use the arts to enrich their lives outside of school.   Here is what some of them say about that:
  • Ms. Garfield used to be an actress and has performed around the world, including the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her experience in drama informs how she views the people around her as characters in the same show, and every day she tries to make that show a hit.
  • Mr. Fry has acted in commercial work, off-Broadway, and on television. As a teacher, he explains, he plays a role each day that is different from his weekend persona.  He must also know his lines (the lesson) and know what he wants to get out of his students.  Playing drums has taught him how to juggle multiple tasks at the same time, think abstractly, and exercise different parts of his brain.
  • Renae has many talents; she sculpts, plays violin in an orchestra and tap dances. She says that her work as a sculptor and musician deepens her ability to see and hear, while dance informs her ability to notice how people communicate through their body
  • Mr. Lopez has acted in commercials; he is also known to clown around as a clown. He says, “I’ve always used the creative energy in drama class to create a bond with our amazing young individuals. That connection furthers the relationship that goes beyond expression and scene work. Thanks to these experiences and administrative and peer support, guidance, and everyday learning, I realize that it's about that ONE person we touch, guide, help, etc. on a daily basis (sometimes hourly). It’s all about the students!”
  • Ms. Pierre is a trained classical guitarist and sings in a band. She is also a songwriter for different artists and completed an album.  Her work as a songwriter of various genres has allowed her to connect and communicate with students who come from different backgrounds.
  • Mr. Stillman has stage-managed plays and studied theater abroad. The arts helped him appreciate the value of storytelling in what is said and how it is said.
  • Ms. Terzis creates collages and paintings are inspired by what she sees in the city. She believes her art makes her a better / more interesting teacher because it forces her to see things from multiple perspectives and angles. It also reminds me that people are complex and wear many different hats. As both a teacher and artist, she recognizes that her students may also have amazing talents and interests that make them who they are. 
  • Mr. M has acted for thirteen years with the Sea View Theater Company on Staten Island. It has taught him how to adapt on-the-fly to the unexpected in front of a live audience, an important skill for any teacher or paraprofessional.
  • Mr. D. has been creating art to explore themes of autism and synesthesia for the last couple of years.

Other staff members also have artistic talent: Murphy, our basketball coach, makes films; Otis, who keeps our school clean, is an internationally-famous DJ and does amazing graphic arts, and Holly writes plays. What a talented staff. I know from working with them that their artistic experience makes them creative problem solvers, and fills them with positive energy compassionate understanding.

Work hard,

John Wenk

April 24                                                                      Rescheduled PSAT/SAT day and 9th and 12th grade trips.
April 25                                                                      Junior trip to see Hamilton
May 2              5:00-7:00                                            Family and Friends Day at the Whitney
May 4                                                                          End of the 5th marking period

Friday, April 13, 2018

College Rewards

“I love college life”
-        Lil’ Romeo
                                                                                             April 16, 2018

Dear LoMA Family,

David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times has written a couple of essays on the importance of college and the challenges many students have at completing college. I think his ideas are important because here at LoMA our mission is to ensure that every student graduates with what they need to succeed in college. In these articles Brooks argues that for many students graduating from college is a huge challenge. Our graduates are already proving that LoMA’s programs can make them successful, but only if our students can remain focused, dedicated and motivated.
Brooks wrote about how college is more important today than it was just a few years ago. College graduates now earn nearly twice as much as high school graduates, and people with professional degrees that prepare them for a specific job earn nearly twice as much as those with college degrees. Even more importantly, college seems to help in many other areas of life. For instance, college grads have half the divorce rates of people who only graduate from high school. College graduates seem to have different lifestyles in many areas as well. They are healthier: high school grads are twice as likely to smoke as college grads and are much less likely to exercise. College grads are also more involved in their communities: they are nearly twice as likely to vote, do voluntary work and give blood. So, it seems from this data, that graduating from college can help to make you richer, healthier and more stable in your relationships.
Now the bad news, it seems that more and more it is only rich kids who are earning college degrees. Students in the lowest economic quarter of the population have an 8 percent chance of getting a college degree. Students in the top quarter have a 75 percent chance. The reason for this discrepancy is not about paying for college. In my eight years as college advisor I discovered that the less money a student has, the less trouble they have paying for college because of New York State’s strong financial aid packages. The problem seems to revolve around what Brooks calls four pillars of cultural capital.

  • Academic Competence. Students are not going to be able to thrive in college if they graduate from high school doing eighth-grade work. Too many students get through high school without being able to read their textbooks independently, solve complicated math problems or read a novel a week. That is why LoMA’s teachers demand so much of their students, both in class and at home.
  • Economic confidence. Brooks thinks that students from lower economic classes are risk-averse. Often overly-intimidated by college costs, unwilling to take out student loans, too quick to leave school to get a job, they wind up underinvesting in their education. We will help you to understand the finances of college. Every LoMA family can afford college.
  • Social Confidence. Elite schools have become bastions of privilege. Kids who grow up with less wealth often feel uncomfortable at such places, particularly if they are a not white. One way to overcome this is through their greater knowledge of the world, particularly the elite world of the arts. Having attended an arts school, LoMA’s graduates will have a specialized knowledge of the museum, theatre and cultural world of New York that few college students’ posses. This will buy them social capital on any elite college campus.
  • Practical Competence. Surveys show that low income students understand the importance of college and want to attend, but many adopt a magical worldview, imagining that success will somehow come to them out of the blue. The only way to get to college is through determined, consistent work beginning in ninth grade. Keeping an organized notebook, reviewing their notes each night, completing their homework, staying focused in all of their classes will determine if they succeed in college. It’s not magic!

With a 95% college acceptance rate each year, LoMA has done an excellent job at getting its graduates into college. The problem is that nearly 30% of our LoMA’s students did not graduate on time or dropped out. Too many of our students have not demonstrated the self-discipline they need to do to meet LoMA’s rigorous standards. On top of this, too many of our students can only get into two-year colleges due to low averages and low SAT scores. As Brooks points out, we need to do even better. With the amount of tutoring offered here, the opportunity to take free SAT classes and the support of our caring staff, there is no reason why every student at LoMA should not be successful if they refuse to have a magical worldview. I know that if instead our students remain focused on their schoolwork and homework, give their best everyday and cultivate a love and respect for learning, they will develop the cultural capital they need to be as successful as they can be.

Work hard,

John Wenk
April 16                                                                      Freshmen Arts Rotation
April 19          6:00                                                     Talent show
April 20          12:00-12:40 in rm. 328                       PSAT/SAT prep session
April 24                                                                      Rescheduled PSAT/SAT day and 9th and 12th grade trips.
April 25                                                                      Junior trip to see Hamilton
May 2              5:00-7:00                                            Family and Friends Day at the Whitney
May 4                                                              End of the 5th marking period

Today’s Shaka response comes from a senior:
Going through the process of finding out what schools I was interested in applying to was very nerve-racking and difficult. First, it’s stressful because you are now becoming aware that adulthood is coming quicker than you think, and it is now time to take responsibility. You have to go through FASFA, TAP, and Financial Aid, which is very time consuming and can be confusing. Do NOT wait until the last minute to get it done. Take your time when doing it but get it done ASAP. When going through the college application process, you want to be very sure what colleges youre interested in applying to. One thing that I wish I could have done differently is deciding on what I want to major in and what schools offered it before picking what schools I’d apply to.  I should’ve asked myself more questions: Would that college help me be successful in my major?  Would my major be useful to get a job in the future? Will I stay committed to my major (remember, it’s a commitment to study something for FOUR YEARS, and changing it means wasting time AND money)? I wanted to major in creative writing or music, but I quickly realized neither one would pay the bills. Don't look into colleges because you are INTERESTED in a topic or class. Look into a major that will be beneficial in the future but that you can tolerate being committed to for the rest of your life. Creative writing and music are things I love to do, but I know they won't get me what I want or where I need to be. So I looked into colleges to study Criminal Justice. Schools such as John Jay, Monroe College, and University of New Haven have what I am looking for.
 Another thing I wish I could have done is actually take my school work serious while I was in high school (and classes were free!) Once I settled on majoring in Criminal Justice, I looked into the best schools for it. I prepared myself by taking a college class at John Jay while here at LoMA. The class was great and I learned a lot about criminal justice.  I learned even more about being a college student and a budding adult.  Sadly, also learned I would not be accepted to John Jay because I didn't have the grade point average for it. Sophomore and Junior years, I shot myself in the foot goofing off in class and half-assing my work. If you want to study something and you’re looking into the best schools for it, especially if you want to go away for college, take school very seriously. Do what you have to do and get as much help as you possibly can. Really sit down and have a talk with yourself so youre prepared to know what you want, what you need, and get everything out the way. Have conversations with Ms. Sheahan, ask as many questions as possible. DO NOT wait until the last minute. Even as a freshman you should ask questions about college and prepare early. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Final Stretch

Text Box: If it’s important, you’ll find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.                     
April 9, 2018

Dear LoMA Family,

I used to go to horse racing when I was younger. There are some dull times between races, but what always made it worthwhile was watching the horses race down the home stretch. The home stretch is the last straightway on the track where the horses stretch out every stride as far as they can to make it across the finish line. It is the part of the race where the horses push the hardest and give it everything they have. Horses that started off in the back of the pack come alive and show how great they can be before they cross the finish line.

With three weeks left in this marking period and one marking period after that, we are now in the home stretch of the school year – 43 days until Regents Week. Students who have been trotting along with a 70 average can push themselves up to an 80 or even an 85, as they see the finish line ahead and push themselves through this last seven-week stretch. But the key to a good home stretch is that you have to run it differently then you have run the rest of the race – you have to give it your all. It is not enough to simply say that you’re going to try harder or study more. You need to make a specific plan of how you will change and improve or it’s not going to happen. For instance, some of the things you might need to start focusing on could be:

  • Completing every homework assignment every night. To do this, you might need to change up your routine. For instance, you can put off watching TV, talking on the phone or accessing social media until you have finished two hours of homework, and then use it as a reward or attend Credit Plus and tutoring for the next 43 days
  • Taking more complete notes in class. You also need to review those notes every night so that you can remember facts and details better.
  • Many students can raise their grades a few points simply by being more thoughtfully involved in classroom discussions. The more students speak up in class and ask questions the more they understand and even enjoy the class.
  • Tutoring becomes more important now than ever, especially in Regents’ classes.
  • Study groups are a good way to complete homework and prepare for tests with friends. Students can meet in the library or many teachers’ rooms to study before you go home in the afternoon. Then they won’t have to worry about homework later.

These are just some of the things I have thought about. Which of these can help you? What else can your advisory think of that will help you get the most out of the final stretch?

In every race there are always one or two horses that make the push into the home stretch too late. They start coming from behind strong and look like they are going to take the lead, but give too little too late to win the race. Don’t be that horse.

Give it everything you have,

John Wenk
April 13 and 20           12:00-12:40 in rm. 328           PSAT/SAT prep session
April 16                                                                      Freshmen Arts Rotation
April 24                                                                      Rescheduled PSAT/SAT day and 9th and 12th grade trips.

Hello LoMA,

Here are some thoughts from some freshmen and sophomore students about what keeps them from finishing strong in the home stretch and the ways that they combat them.
-I get so stressed out.  I don’t know, I usually worry if I’m going to finish in time, and I can’t plan it out, so when I think I’m done, I get more work and then I’m way behind.

-Procrastination is a big problem for me.  If someone were to text me, or friends want to hang out, I get distracted immediately.

-I’m so tired when I get home.  I usually take a nap, which is sometimes 3 hours.  Then I wake up and it’s almost 7 and dinner time, then I don’t finish until crazy late.

-I always feel like I can do more on an assignment, so sometimes I just give up rather than give in bad work.  I find that I can’t push myself or figure out how to make something better when I know it can be improved.

-I find inspiration in the things that I do well on instead of focusing on what I didn’t do as well on.  I never work on my bed or in my room because I’ll get sleepy or distracted so I make sure I work in the kitchen where I can find focus.

-I turn it into a competition.  Let’s say your fellow classmates are doing better than you, but you know you can do better than them, so you do a lot of extra work so you can “beat” them like you should.

-I create an itinerary.  I even schedule my hang out sessions with my friends so that it doesn’t get in the way of my work.  It really works for me when I take the time to make it.

-We always hang out before we go home so once we go home, there is less texting and stuff like that, and when I get home I can focus more.

-When I get home after a serious day, I turn off my WiFi and my entire phone because I know I’m looking for a distraction.

-I intentionally let my phone die and then I have to do work when I’m charging because I’m so bored waiting to be able to use it again.

-When I have to do essays and stuff I plan to take breaks.  I’ll make a snack breaks or even ten minute space-out breaks so that I can stay sane.

-I can’t take breaks.  I set out the entire block of time and just have to work straight through or I never will get it done.

-I force myself to go to tutoring by buying myself a treat to keep myself happy during or after doing my work.

-I set restrictions for myself like not allowing myself to watch my favorite shows until my homework is done.  Netflix and Hulu are great because they make your shows available any time so you can always wait to watch.

-I set a goal of doing half of the assignment, then I bring it to school and finish the other half in the morning or during lunch time (my other teachers dispute whether I fully finish them though).

-I look at my grades to make myself feel sad, then I see them and I’m like “Oh s***, I better get on it” and I find that motivates me.

-I trick my mom into checking my grades when I know I’m doing bad by asking her for the password.  Then I know she’ll get on my ass and force me to have the motivation that I don’t have.

-I set a goal at the beginning of the semester and each marking period.  I know if I don’t do my work, I’ll be most disappointed with me because it was my goal.

-I can’t use goal setting.  I find goals make me more discouraged if I’m far off.  Instead, I panic when I see how bad I am.

-My goal isn’t for school, I have a career goal of ending up in finance or real estate, so I use that long-term bubble goal, and so I work for the 83 average for a minimum and view this whole thing as a marathon, not a sprint.

-I constantly think about college, and every time I’m going to shut down I think to myself, “Oh yeah, USC.  Gotta do this work.”

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Power of Questions

The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge. Thomas Berger
Read more at:
                                                                                                                                    March 26, 2018
Dear LoMA Family,

Last week I spoke about how well our school did on the Quality Review, especially in the areas of caring staff and interesting curriculum. One area they thought we did well in, but could still do better is critical thinking.  I remembered that I had heard once that when inspectors were rating schools in London, they would mark down every time a student asked a thought-provoking question. They felt that what questions students were asking was a better marker of a school’s effectiveness than the questions the students were answering. Questions can be more significant than answers. That is what I think we can do a better job at - extending our understanding by crafting questions to help each other deepen and elaborate upon their thinking.  As I visit a dozen or more classes a day, this is what I am looking for – students asking thoughtful questions that demonstrate that they are trying to understand the material at a high level.
            While the great majority of our students are doing well on homework and exams, and can answer questions when called on, students show they really care about the material when they ask questions about it. From a student’s perspective, I remember what it is like to be lost in a class and embarrassed to ask a question that I felt would make me seem stupid. It still happens to me at some meetings. From a teacher’s perspective, however, I cannot remember ever hearing a stupid question. In fact, my favorite students have always been the ones who work hard, pay attention and then stop me when I’m explaining something inadequately, too quickly or make inaccurate assumptions about what students know.  More than that, I know that many students actually appreciate it when a classmate asks me to explain something with greater clarity. I just wish more students would have the courage to speak up when confused.
            The most significant topics in school do not have a single, simple answer: “How should we deal with global warming?” “What is the best way to solve a complex equation?” “What is the best way to prove your thesis in an essay?” If you think there’s one, simple answer to these questions, you either don’t know enough about the issues or you don’t care enough to understand their complexity.
            Ultimately, caring is most essential to asking good questions. When something provokes our interest – sports, social networking, celebrities, or gossip – we think of all kinds of good questions to gain a greater understanding. Admittedly, it does take some effort to care as much about quadratic equations, the caste system, or density of matter. Fortunately, questioning is something that we can fake a bit. As we start to question why Indians follow the caste system, one question builds on another, which leads to another and pretty soon we may become hooked and the caring genuine.
As with everything in LoMA (and in life), the caring is essential. Asking good questions is a great way to great there.
Ask good questions,

Mr. Wenk
March 30-April 8                    Spring Recess
April 16                                  Freshmen Arts Rotation
April 24                                  Rescheduled PSAT/SAT day and 9th and 12th grade trips.