Friday, June 9, 2017

End of year survey



I’d like to thank Mr. Ravdin and all of the Shaka writers this year. I think they have really added some perspective and thoughtfulness to the newsletters this year. It’s been a pleasure to share my writing duties with them. Now, I’d like to turn the last newsletter of the year over to you so that you can share the things you’ve accomplished this year. Please fill out the following survey thoughtfully and with detailed evidence. The more you write, the more we can learn and improve things. Study hard for your finals and Regents, and then, let’s all look forward to having a fun-filled vacation.

Work hard,

John Wenk

1.     What was your favorite LoMA experience this year? __________________________________________

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2.     What did you like best about your extracurricular activities this year?_______________ _____________

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3.     If you could change one thing about your experiences this year, what would it be?_____ _____________

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4.     What was the best trip or performance you went on or saw? Why – be specific? ____________________

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5.     What is something that you put a lot of effort into this year? ____________________________________

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6.     What do you plan to work towards next year? _______________________________________________

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7.     What are two major lessons you learned about yourself or life this year?

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2.____________________________________________________________________________
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8.     What books did you read in DEAR and at home this year? _____________________________________

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9.     What is something you would like to improve about LoMA? ____________________________________

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10.  Are we challenging you too much or not enough? Explain why and which classes. Give examples. _____

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June 12           6:00                 Senior Showcase
June 12                                   Last Day of classes
June 13-27                              Regents’ Week
June 20                                   Prom
June 22                                    LoMAPalooza
June 27           11:00               Graduation
June 28                                   Last Day of School!
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Friday, June 2, 2017

End of the year's growth

LoMA Cares
 
                                                                    
                                                                                                                                    June 5, 2017
Dear LoMA Family,

            This has been a wonderful year of growth for our LoMA family. Most of our students have excelled academically, athletically, and artistically. Our teachers have been learning and trying new things, and our Parents’ Association (PA) has been more active than ever. Here are some of my highlights:
·       The Whitney Biennial was an amazing experience for our arts majors and led to some great press about our school as it became a satellite location for America’s most prestigious art show. Being a part of this Whitney Family Day gave our students the chance to shine and was very well attended.
  • Seward Park Boys’ Basketball, Boys’ Volleyball and Girls’ Softball won their respective divisions this past year. They were all successful in the playoffs and advanced to play multiple rounds. The Girls’ Volleyball, Girls’ Tennis, Table Tennis, Wrestling, Girls’ Basketball, Handball, and Boys’ Badminton also all made the playoffs where they advanced multiple rounds. They will celebrate their success at the PSAL Sports’ Awards Dinner. LoMA’s own basketball team is 10-3 so far this year, their best season in years.
·       We have had three excellent shows so far this year: Almost, Maine was charming; the Talent Show was spirited; and Grease was a blast. We still have two big shows coming up – the Majors’ Show and Senior Gala. Our music majors recorded their songs at Brooklyn Recording Studio and drama majors performed at Pearl Theater.
·       I have lost track of how many trips we have taken this year, but the highlights were to the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, The Cloisters, four trips to NYTW, two concerts by St. Luke’s Orchestra, and the Senior Trip.
·       Over 80% of The Class of 2017 will be graduating on-time in four years. Students from that class will be attending Brandeis University, Morehouse, Cal Arts and the SUNYs at Albany and Geneseo. Based on the numbers of students passing their classes, over 80% of the next three classes should graduate on time as well.
·       Our community partners have done wonderful work with our students. Edgies hosted a fabulous Talent Show, Step Up took our girls to professional workplaces, ScriptEd students got to take part in hackathons, and Henry Street provided SAT classes for our juniors.
·       Our school has been quite safe. We did not have a single fight in school and there were very few thefts. Our students are learning how to take better care of one another.
·       Our teachers have been learning to be better teachers as well. They have been attending professional development and college classes to learn how to do more projects in the classrooms, find more creative ways to cover the material and elicit more critical thinking from their students.
·       Our PA organized the purchase and sales of the great-looking LoMA sweatshirts I’m seeing every day.
When I see how much is going on in our little school, I’m so proud of our family.
Keep up the good work,
June 6              6:00                 Majors Show
June 7              4:00                 PSAL Sports’ Awards dinner
June 8                                      Chancellor’s Day – no school
June 12            6:00                 Senior Showcase
June 12                                    Last Day of classes
June 13-27                              Regents’ Week
June 27            11:00               Graduation
June 28                                    Last Day of School!
 
John Wenk






Dear LoMA,
            This week’s Shaka entry is from a graduating Senior and a Junior, respectively, reflecting on the growth that they have shown over their years here and the growth they hope to continue to show going forward.  Enjoy.
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When I was asked to write this response I had a bit of an internal existential crisis. 

 It’s not easy taking note of how you’ve changed whether over the span of four years or even two months.

I can however, say that within this time span I’ve gone from angry to very grumpy to mildly less grumpy and finally not exactly mildly grumpy but not exactly NOT mildly grumpy.

Happy would be a bit of an overstatement.

Naturally my nature is that of a deathly shy introverted hermit who prefers the company of her bookshelf rather than that of those around her sometimes…

Okay, MOST times.

So how have I changed, you ask?

Well, it’s still a work in progress but I'm learning to swallow that shyness and be a little more confident in myself. My mentality has become that of a person who has finally realized that what some people think of me won’t matter two or six years down the road.

I've opened myself up more, made a pretty neat group of good friends, plus the most spectacular best friends a girl could ever have. 

I’ve also adopted more of a go-with-the-flow attitude and have become less panicky. Some of my compadres even seem to be in agreement that I’m now more Daria than Wicked Witch of the West. 


I hope to keep changing, and maybe one day ditch the doom and gloom cloud all together. The sarcasm and deadpan humor though, well, that’ll be sticking around for quite a while.

*                                  *                                  *

As this school year is coming to an end, I noticed a few things about myself.  I noticed that I have grown as a person and in terms of specific skills.  Instead of being this shy person I used to be, I became more involved in school activities, like participating in the school musical Grease, playing a sport, or even participating in more simple things like Game Night and the dances.  All activities led me to meet more people, actually get to know teachers better, and just be more sociable in general.  I wouldn’t say I went through tremendous growth this year, but I do feel like I grew a little more into the person I am becoming.  As for Senior year, I hope everything gets better and easier, because this year was very difficult.  I hope to continue to grow as a student, an athlete, an artist, and as a person.

Grow into who you’ll be; a little more each day.


Shaka



Friday, May 12, 2017

                                                         
May 15, 2017

Dear LoMA Family,

            For several years my husband Daniel has expressed some interest in getting a dog. While I generally like dogs, I had no interest and lots of reasons why it was a bad idea: our apartment was too small, I didn’t have the patience or time to house-train him, I didn’t want to have to wake up early or come home right after work to feed him, and who wants the expense? Really, they were excuses as the real reason was that I like my lifestyle and did not want to make a change that big. Then, a couple of months ago, we took care of a friend’s dog for several weeks. It wasn’t so bad. He was well-behaved, walking him was kind of fun and I was surprised by how nice it was to come home to him. Best of all, it was heart-warming to see how much Daniel loved the dog.
            Two weeks ago, we made the leap and adopted a Beagle-Whippet rescue dog named Malcolm. He is adorable, affectionate and silly. I now understand why people say dogs provide unconditional love. It is less work than I would have thought, and I can’t believe how quickly I have come to care for him. Instead of being the burden I had feared, he is a joy. I can’t believe how wrong I was, and regret all of the lost years we didn’t have one.
            This all makes me wonder how often I have been wrong about trying new things because I was afraid of change. Could I have been more of a performer or athlete? It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. I’m a pretty old dog, but LoMA’s students aren’t and they have so many opportunities. Some of the most rewarding moments for school staff is when we see students make big change: a young man who suddenly realizes that with more effort he can go from failing to making honor roll, a nervous student who shines on the stage in a school show or a shy young woman who becomes a student leader in LoMA Cares or Student Council. 
            Youth should be a time for discovery as children discover the kind of adult they will be, and school should be a place for safe experimentation. That is why I have helped to found two arts schools - the arts can be so central in developing one’s creativity while helping to form positive relationships. Likewise, the extracurricular activities and internships that we require provide opportunities to try out various interests as you discover who you want to be. The more you try, the more you can discover.
            Living in New York City and going to a school like LoMA opens up so many possibilities, but only for people who have the temerity to make a change. For too long, I let effort required and fears of change keep me from getting a dog. I regret it. Will you regret not studying harder, joining a club trying out for a team?

Change is good,


John Wenk

May 15            9:00                 Internship showcase
May 17            12:00               Sophomore trip to NYTW
May 17            10:30               Freshmen trip to St. Luke’s Orchestra
May 18            6:00                 Parents’ Association Meeting
May 19            1:00                 Grease for all students
May 20            7:00                 Grease
May 25                                    Junior trip to Philadelphia
 









Dear LoMA,
            Renowned American and captain of industry Tommy Callahan II once said, “In auto parts, you’re either growin’ or you’re dyin’—there ain’t no third direction.”  This week’s Shaka entry features the thoughts of two different Junior students about risks they took that paid off.  Enjoy.
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Risk can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the type of risk.  A risk that I have taken that was very hard at the time but paid off was when I had to cut someone that I really cared about out of my life because I felt like they were endangering me and taking me down a path that could lead to real trouble.  I wanted to stay and help this person, but I knew that the best thing for me would be to leave and start fresh.  Sometimes you just have to do what’s right for you.  I knew at the time that it was the best choice, even when I was doubting my choice.  I started to see a difference in me and who I was becoming as a person.  I stopped being so angry with the world, and I noticed that I started to take big steps to improve myself and focus on myself a bit more instead of focusing on stupid things that would not take me anywhere in life.  People should take risks if they will benefit them, even if there is only a chance of them being beneficial.  Even if they are unsure, even when change is scary, risks should be taken because that’s how you live and learn.  You can’t grow without changing.
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I took a risk just coming to this school.  I had never been out of my borough, and I didn’t like Manhattan, plus it was so far away from my home and my friends.  I really thought that I would never find any friends that I would like because Manhattan seemed so bougie and superficial, not real like me and my friends.  How funny is that to think about now?  I never see my old middle school friends, and pretty much life in the Lower East Side, other than sleeping.  It was also a risk to go to an Arts school.  I like the arts, and I am good at dancing, music, and drama, but to go to a school where everyone else was too?  No thanks.  To go to a school where I had to do well in my classes and I would have to make my art skills better?  Uh-uh.  And what if someone was better than me?  Before I came here, I thought every day would be like a competition in all of the arts, but it wasn’t.  If anything, everyone wants everyone to be better, and the teachers don’t make us compete.  They want everyone to get better the same, too.  I’m still too nervous to show my talents to others, but I feel supported, and I want to take that risk next.  So it turns out that I was wrong about the people here, Manhattan, what school would be like, and what my classmates would be like.  But I was right about the most important thing—taking that risk to come here.
Grow…or die,


Shaka

Friday, May 5, 2017

Teens and drugs

May 8, 2017

Dear LoMA Family,

I think that teenagers get too much of a bad rap from the media. Based on news reports, popular television shows and music, one would think that drug use, sex and alcohol abuse are rampant among self-destructive young people. Yet real research and my own observations over the past twenty years show a very different reality. Today, teens smoke, drink and have unprotected sex far less than they did when their parents and I were in high school. This may be one of the reasons why New York City’s high school graduation rate is at an all time high and teenage pregnancy is at an all-time low. The reasons for these changes may be complex, but the overall trend is indisputable.
The best source for what American teens do is the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Study (MFS). For thirty-five years, these researchers have been surveying 50,000 American high school students about drug use and health. Students may lie, but there is no reason to believe that they lie any more now than they used to, and its results are generally confirmed by the results of other large surveys. As these researchers have been asking 50,000 students these questions over four decades, they certainly paint a bigger picture than individual anecdotes do. And the picture looks pretty good.
When I was in high school in 1980, the majority of my classmates seemed to get high regularly and nearly everyone I knew had at least tried cigarettes. The MFS confirms this, saying that 60% of seniors reported trying pot and 10% smoked it daily. By last year, 40% reported that they had tried it and less than 6% smoked pot regularly. Abuse of illegal drugs besides pot has likewise dropped off from 43% to 25%. Cigarette use has dropped off even more dramatically nationally, from 32% to 17%. New York City’s teens are doing even better, as only about 12% of them smoke today. As good as the news on cigarettes is, teens are doing even better in moving away from alcohol use. When I attended high school alcohol abuse was so bad, some students would regularly drink before school and the MFS reports that 70% of seniors drank regularly. Today, that percentage is 42.
Despite all of the images of sex in the media, it seems that rates of teenage sex are dropping even more significantly than drug use. In 1980, 50% of males and 35% of females reported having sex. Today, only about a quarter of each gender has reported having sex before they graduate. Even more importantly, the vast majority of teens (80% of boys and up to 92% of girls) are using condoms when they do have sex. The results of this are reflected in the lowest teen pregnancy rate in 30 years - 0.7%.
All of this is not to say that there are not still significant problems with teen drug use, alcohol abuse and teenage sex. I’ve seen far too many LoMA students drop out or underachieve because marijuana smoking has made them lazy and apathetic about their studies. Likewise, I worry about how alcohol makes teens (and adults) do stupid things that can threaten their lives. AIDS and sexually transmitted illnesses may not be killing as many people as they used to, but they are still destroying lives. If we care about young people, we can’t be complacent about self-destructive behavior which is why we will continue to punish dangerous behavior and counsel our students to make better choices.
Thankfully, in the twenty-seven years that I have been teaching, I have been seeing increasing numbers of students make better choices, act more responsibly, and succeed in high school. Despite all of the negativity about teens, we need to remember that the great majority of our kids are making good choices.

Work hard,


John Wenk


Dear LoMA,
            This week’s Shaka entry is from the perspective of a Freshman on the topics from Dr. Wenk’s newsletter.
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            Drug abuse, drinking, and sex among teens are ruining the kids of tomorrow.  I don’t think any parent brought a child into this world for them to drink alcohol, smoke, and have a child before the age of 20.  I see so many young faces, like Emmett Till and the children killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, who had their idyllic lives taken away in a heartbeat.  And here we are, flushing ours down the drain.  I get that as teens, we want to learn more about our body and find ways to feel mature, but the level of maturity that can handle this stuff is out of our reach.  As we see all the time, this mischief should and will cease.
Keep a clear mind,

Shaka

May 9              11:00               Academic Achievement Awards
May 9              4:00                 Game/Karaoke Day
May 11                                    College Expo Trip for Juniors
May 15            9:00                 Internship showcase
May 16            12:00               Sophomore trip to NYTW
May 17            10:30               Freshmen trip to St. Luke’s Orchestra
May 19            1:00                 Grease for all students
May 20            7:00                 Grease
 

Friday, April 28, 2017

happiness isn't easy

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt


Dear LoMA Family,

            Have you ever noticed how good things just seem to happen more often to people who have a sunny disposition while other people seem constantly live under a cloud of despair? In a New York Times article called “Turning Negative Thinkers into Positive Ones,” Jane Brody explains that part of this may be due to the power of positive thinking. Her focus is on the power of “micro-moments of positivity.” She writes, “More than a sudden bonanza of good fortune, repeated brief moments of positive feelings can provide a buffer against stress and depression and foster both physical and mental health.” These micro-moments of positivity could be as small as giving up your seat for an elderly person, helping someone with homework or making a special breakfast for little brother.
Of course, we all have good reasons to feel down at times. Negative feelings activate the amygdala which triggers feelings of anxiety and fear. This can help prepare oneself to deal with conflict, but when it happens too often it can make it very difficult to succeed in school, plan for the future and sustain positive relationships. Healthier and happier people have resilient amygdales that can snap back from troubles so people don’t overreact. Brody writes that there are ways that you can actually train your amygdala in order to become healthier, more social and happier. The most important thing seems to be to surround yourself with positive people as joy is contagious and unhappy people can be toxic. Actually working, creating and playing with friends and family have been repeatedly shown to increase happiness and improve health as they build self-worth. This is another reason we encourage extracurricular activities at LoMA.  Here are some of her other suggestions:
·       Do good things for other people. In addition to making others happier, it will make you feel better about yourself, always the best source of the most genuine happiness.
·       Appreciate the world around you. I’ve been working at Seward for almost twenty years and I still appreciate the architectural details of our building and am fascinated to see all of the construction work going on around us. More significant are the brilliant sunsets, funny people and good meals we all should take time to appreciate.
·       Establish goals that can be accomplished. Set realistic but challenging goals and work towards meeting them. These can be grades, artistic projects, athletic events or learning something new. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, success will make you feel successful.
·       Learn something new. It can be a sport, a language, an instrument or a game that instills a sense of achievement, self-confidence and resilience. When was the last time you learned something new? How did it make you feel?

One of the ironies of happiness is that it requires effort and work. Sitting around watching television, surfing the Internet or hanging out may feel good for a bit, but they will never bring a sense of accomplishment and real joy. The good life requires that we commit to something and work with others for success.

Work hard…and you’ll be happier,

John Wenk

May 3              4:00-7:00        LoMA Day at the Whitney
May 4              5:45-8:00        Parent Teacher Conferences
May 16            12:00               Sophomore trip to NYTW
May 17            10:30               Freshmen trip to St. Luke’s Orchestra
May 19 and 20                        Grease is the Word



Friday, April 21, 2017

10,000 hours

“There is no glory in practice, but without practice, there is no glory.”
-anonymous


Dear LoMA Family,

Some people believe that success grows effortlessly and automatically out of talent: smart students do well in school, athletic boys succeed on the court and great actors are born, not made. But as David Brooks and Malcolm Gladwell have pointed out in recent books, success comes from effort not talent. In fact, they have found that IQ and natural ability are generally very poor predictors of greatness. Instead, new research says that greatness only comes through guided, rigorous practice – a lot of it. Something that all geniuses like Mozart, Einstein, and Michael Jordan have in common is that they only became great after 10,000 hours of practice. This rings true for me as I remember that none of my students practiced their craft more than Alicia Keys. For hours every afternoon she would do vocal and piano exercises with her teacher who was very strict with her. Even with all of this practice, she still found time to graduate number one in her class.

However, simply practicing for hours and hours is not enough, as the practice must be focused and coached. When someone is really focused on their craft, they become so attentive to every detail that they shut the rest of the world out. You can see this with the Williams sisters playing tennis and Michael Jackson’s dancing. Their focus becomes so strong that they enter into something called a flow. They lose track of time and become incredibly productive as everything else disappears. While I’m no genius, I have felt the flow when writing newsletters or doing carpentry. I have also seen my students in the flow when they are working on essays or completing labs. They shut out all of the distractions around them and lose track of time.

Practice must also be very conscious and deliberate in order to be effective. Many artists and athletes practice incrementally by breaking skills down into tiny parts and repeating them, often with a coach or director guiding them. This is why successful actors rehearse scenes with a director and basketball players run fundamentals drills under the watchful, critical eyes of a coach. In the same way, students need to put the focused effort into studying for tests by breaking information and skills down and practicing them over and over under the guidance of a teacher. The more our students can keep their focus during class, tutoring and homework, the stronger their skills will become. There is no shortcut for rigorous, repeated, guided practice. The more you put into developing a skill, the more you will get out of it.

Work hard,

John Wenk

April 28                                  End of fifth marking period
May 3              4:00-7:00        LoMA Day at the Whitney
May 4              5:45-8:00        Parent Teacher Conferences
May 16            12:00               Sophomore trip to NYTW
May 17            10:30               Freshmen trip to St. Luke’s Orchestra
May 19 and 20                        Grease is the Word
John Wenk





Dear LoMA Family,
               This week’s Shaka entry is a compilation of thoughts about practicing from four different students, all of whom play or have played varsity sports.  The first part is from a baseball player, the second part is several softball players’ thoughts that have been combined. Enjoy.

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Practice is the most important thing you do to get better at something. The truth is practice sucks, but when you practice you feel yourself slowly getting better. When I think about how much practice it takes to get better, I feel like giving up. It takes hard work to get up, get out there and prove to yourself that you can be the best by improving yourself every day. It pays off in the long run because I know when I practice, baseball just gets easier. It narrows down from game, to innings, to a pitch count, and to just one pitch. Practice helps you even have a better understanding of what it is you need help on and what you are trying to accomplish. Even after all the hard work I put into baseball, I know there are people my age training ten times harder than I am, which means they are only getting better in every aspect of the game. Practice ignites that fire that keeps you going because you know how good you can be, and no one is going to stop you if practice.

*                                           *                                           *

I hate practice.  I really do.  I hate the drills, I hate the repetitiveness, and I hate doing things that I feel like I mastered already.  I hate doing laps when I can already run fast.  I hate fielding ground balls when I already know how to field.  I hate throwing drills when I can already throw from the fence to the cutoff.  I hate hitting off of a tee when I can already hit better than most people.

I’m better than most people on every team I’ve been on.  I’m not trying to brag, but that’s true.  Every team that I have been on, I’ve been one of the two or three best players.  That led to me not practicing as hard.  I jogged through running drills, half-assed it in fielding drills, and mostly just didn’t work very hard.  Now, you’re thinking this will be some story about how I suddenly got benched, or everyone else was suddenly as good as me, or something, but it’s not.  I was still one of the best players on the team, but I found it harder to get focused, to get my mind right on game days.  It’s not a matter of getting worse at the game, but I realized that practice is only useful if you practice in your mind while you’re practicing on the field.

I said at the beginning that I hate practice.  I still do.  On rainy, cold days, I hate dragging myself onto that cold field to do boring practice.  On hot, beautiful days, I would rather do anything else besides have to go out and practice.  But I really hate being embarrassed when I miss an easy grounder because I’m not focused.  I really hate missing a fat pitch because I didn’t work hard in contact drills.  I really hate being a part of a double play because I didn’t run as fast as I could have.

So practice sucks, but being embarrassed because you didn’t practice right sucks much more.

Get your mind right and practice your craft,


Shaka