Friday, January 20, 2017

mid-year survey


Dear LoMA Family,

As a part of our ongoing effort to improve LoMA, I want to know from our students how we can make our school even better. Please be honest as your answers are anonymous; and be thoughtful, as I share these results with all of LoMA’s staff and we take what you say very seriously. The more specific examples you provide, the more valid we consider your responses.

Good luck on your midterms and Regents,

John Wenk
January 24-January 30                       Regents Week
February 1                                          First Day of Spring Term and new arts rotation for freshmen
1.     What are you most proud of accomplishing this year? ____________________________

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2.     If you could change one thing about your school experience this year, what would it be?

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3.     If you could change one thing about LoMA, what would it be? (be realistic)__________

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4.     What works well for you in advisory? ­­­____________________________ ____________

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5.     What would you like to change about your advisory? ____________________________

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6.     Who is an adult at LoMA who has had a big impact on you? In what way? __________

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7.     What do you hope for next semester?_________________________________________

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8.     How could your teachers improve their instruction? _____________________________

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9.     What is something your teachers do very well? _________________________________

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10.  How can we create a more respectful community together? ________________________

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11.  How would you describe LoMA to a stranger? _________________________________

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This week our team of students came up with their own questions for students and teachers which you may discuss in advisory or with favorite teachers during tutoring:
POLL QUESTIONS FOR STUDENTS 
1.     What’s your favorite part of going to LoMA?
2.     What teacher helps you the most?
3.     Do you think you’ll end up graduating from LoMA or somewhere else?
4.     What stresses you out the most at LoMA?
5.     Are other students as stressed out as I am about exams and homework?
6.     What’s your favorite lunch choice on school days?
7.     Does LoMA get harder as the years go by?
8.     Do you feel comfortable being you at LoMA?
9.     Do you feel like a leader, loner, or follower at LoMA?
10. Do you ever feel like you don’t belong?
11. What was the process that brought you here?
12. Do you like learning?  What makes you learn the best?
13. Why did you choose LoMA?  Did you make a good choice for yourself?
14. How often do you go to tutoring?  When does tutoring work best for you?
15. Why do so many students act out instead of just doing the work? 

 POLL QUESTIONS FOR STAFF/TEACHERS

1.     Why do teachers give so much homework?
2.     Why do teachers only take feelings seriously sometimes?
3.     Why don’t we have longer lunch?
4.     Why don’t we have more time per week for our art majors?
5.     Why don’t we go on more trips?
6. Are the teachers annoyed by having so many students?
7. What is the way that students annoy you most?
8. Why does the staff act like our parents so much?
9. Why do teachers get so angry and stressed around test/exam time?
10. What is one thing you would change about LoMA?  Why?
11. Why did you choose to work at LoMA?
12. What is your favorite thing about working at LoMA?  What is your least favorite thing?
13. Why do teachers take so long to put in grades?
14. Do you like us?  (The students)?
15. Why do you hold different kids to different standards?

16. Do teachers have favorites?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Cognitive Dissonance

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
~Martin Luther King Jr.
                                                                                                                                  January 9, 2017

Dear LoMA Family,

Last week there was a fascinating podcast on “This American Life” about how difficult it is to change people’s minds. In it a philosophy professor and internationally-recognized debater confronted a man who heckled her and admitted to grabbing women’s butts on the street as a way of “complimenting them.” The professor played parts of her two-hour discussion with him as she failed to fully convince him through statistics, personal testimony and logic that woman don’t like being treated like that. He came across as a nice, thoughtful guy who just could not accept the truth about how his actions were affecting others. He heard her, but could not resolve his own cognitive dissonance–the uncomfortable tension from holding two conflicting thoughts simultaneously.
To some extent, we all have areas where we exhibit cognitive dissonance. Sometimes, when we have a strong emotional bond with an idea, no amount of evidence can tell us that we are wrong. We see this when people trust the wrong people for too long, or if they believe that they are doing well academically despite low scores and missing homework. The man in the program had gotten so much enjoyment out of humiliating women that nothing he heard was going to disabuse him of his beliefs. Similarly, as a nation, many people seemed to be facing political cognitive dissonance about our leaders, and many communities seem implement racist policies while claiming to be for equality.
“When Facts Backfire: Why Worldview Threats Undermine Evidence,” an article in this month’s Scientific American by Michael Shermer, discusses this cognitive dissonance and how to overcome it. The problem is that too often, people attach their opinions about something to their self-worth or identity. As no one wants to see themselves as sexist, racist or lazy, they look for ways to discredit any evidence that their actions may hurt certain groups. Shermer says that there are ways to overcome cognitive dissonance, but doing so entails difficult conversations and self-critique.
Our first impulse in these exasperating situations is to tell other people how blind, stubborn or foolish they are. The problem is that our beliefs are less about logic than feelings. If you attack someone’s ideas, not matter how wrong, their response will be a stubborn refusal to lose; they will fight back. Calling someone’s ideas stupid often comes across as ad hominem attacks on a person rather than his idea. While it may seem emotionally satisfying to simply tell some that she is wrong, it is a sure formula for defensiveness.
Instead, whenever you want to convince someone of something, you need to start by listening carefully and trying to articulate the other person’s position accurately. In this way you can acknowledge that you understand how someone might hold that opinion. This will do wonders in showing respect and diffusing defensive emotions. Then as you present evidence, you can show how the facts do not necessarily mean changing who they are, and allow them to separate ideas from identity. A student can still be a smart and successful while facing the fact that they need to change how they study; a person can still be a good friend in general if they dump someone who is holding them back.
Hopefully none of us suffer the cognitive dissonance of the catcalling guy on “This American Life,” but we all can learn to listen to others with less defensiveness and convince others with more understanding.

Work hard,

John Wenk
January 16                                          Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – no school
January 17                                          Seniors’ trip to see Othello at NYTW
January 19      6:00                             Parents’ Association Meeting


This week's student entry is a poem written by a Junior about the dissonance she has encountered in studying the US.
Citizens of America
What does it mean to be a citizen?
To walk the streets of America,
unafraid of the cracks of our
future?
To sign our taxes with a crooked smile
on our faces?
Or to look and spot "citizens" smoking
on a hot summer day?
Who walk among the desert in search
for freedom, either enter uncharted
territory or melt in the blazing heat.
I do not hate these explorers of the fields
but I dislike their way of entering
our American soil and feeding on the
vegetables they harvested but we produced.
It takes hard work and dedication to become
a true American.  So what does it mean
to be a citizen?
It means to struggle with dignity, and

live legally with your identity erased.