Friday, October 27, 2017

Fostering Positivity

Text Box: I think it's important to find the little things in everyday life that make you happy. 
    Paula Cole
                                                                                                                                    October 30, 2017
Dear LoMA Family,

Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, has a theory that verifies the quote above from Paula Cole. Fredrickson’s theory of accumulating “micro-moments of positivity” shows how daily positive interactions can, over time, result in greater overall well-being and happiness
Her point is not that anyone can avoid feeling sad, angry or frustrated at times; we all do and should. The problem, as she sees it, is how long it takes us to bounce back from such feelings and how we can retain good feelings longer. The good news is that even if we have morose temperaments, nothing is permanent. With practice, we can become happier people, but it does take effort. She offers a few specific ways of increasing our well-being:
  • Do good things for other people. In addition to making others happier, this enhances your own positive feelings. It can be something as simple as helping someone carry heavy packages or providing directions for a stranger.
  • Appreciate the world around you. It could be a bird, a tree, a beautiful sunrise or sunset or even an article of clothing someone is wearing. Try to find one thing to appreciate on your commute to and from LoMA.
  • Develop and bolster relationships. Building strong social connections with friends or family members enhances feelings of self-worth and is associated with better health and a longer life.
  • Establish goals that can be accomplished. When you work at improving your grades or singing better, the effort it takes will make you feel better, but be realistic; a goal that is impractical or too challenging can create unnecessary stress.
  • Learn something new. It can be a sport, a dance, an instrument or a game that instills a sense of achievement, self-confidence and resilience. But here, too, be realistic about how long this may take and be sure you have the time needed.
  • Choose to accept yourself, flaws and all. Rather than imperfections and failures, focus on your positive attributes and achievements. The loveliest people I know have none of the external features of loveliness but shine with the internal beauty of caring, compassion and consideration of others.
  • Practice resilience. Rather than let loss, stress, failure or trauma overwhelm you, use them as learning experiences and stepping stones to a better future.

Many of us will have the opportunity to practice resiliency this week. In order to provide more access and opportunity for students and to best utilize our changes in teaching staff, some students will be getting changes to their schedulesThis new schedule will be for the year, and will eliminate the need for nearly all mid-year schedule changes while ensuring that all students take the appropriate courses. I wish we did not have to do this at this point of the year, but no one should let it get in the way of his or her success.

Stay Positive,

John Wenk

November 1                9:00-3:00        Freshmen and Sophomore Health Day – special schedule
November 2                5:45-8:00        Parent Teacher Conferences
November 3                1:00-3:00        Parent Teacher Conferences
November 6                5:00                 Senior Dinner at Benihan

Friday, October 20, 2017

1st Marking Period

                                                                                                                                    October 23, 2017
Dear LoMA Family,

The first marking period is over and next Thursday night and Friday afternoon, your parents will be able to pick up the first report cards of the year at Parent-Teacher Conferences, but if you have been checking PupilPath, you already know how you did. Are you satisfied with your accomplishments?
As you reflect on your work over the first marking period, here are some things to think about:
  • Do you understand how the grades were calculated? Were there any surprises? Why or why not?
  • What parts of the report card are you most proud of? Where is your biggest disappointment?
  • Does this report card reflect your best efforts?
  • What could you have done differently?

If you did not do as well as you had hoped, consider how you will change things in the future. Don’t simply reply “study more” because that never works. That’s too vague of a solution to be actionable. Instead, you need to plan more strategically. Consider these questions:
  • What days of the week will you attend tutoring and for which classes?
  • Are you engaged in class and asking questions when confused?
  • How are you going to rearrange your leisure time to arrange for more study time?
  • Can you work with study partners even if it’s only by phone?
  • Should you stay in the art room for Credit Plus during lunch to cut down on the amount of work you have to do at home?
  • Will checking PupilPath more often help motivate you? If you don’t have access, ask your advisor to kill your account and print a new invitation letter for you to sign up again. Remember, the app is easier to use than the website.
  • Where will you study? LoMA’s most successful students stay at school late to get a solid start on their homework before they even go home – fewer books to carry and more friends to help. You can use any classroom or the library which is open late every day. You can also use the library during lunch.
  • Are you reviewing your notes every night? Have you tried using the Cornell Method to improve retention?

Remember that the first thing that colleges look at when considering an applicant is their GPA (high school average).  A four year college generally requires an 83 average. That, with good recommendations, a well written essay, and decent SAT scores, should be enough to get a student into a good college. At LoMA, we want to see all of our students make it. That’s why teachers stay after school tutoring and give students so many chances to succeed. But they can’t force students to study or take useful notes, and ask smart questions. Now that the first marking period is over, it’s time to ask yourself, “Am I doing enough?”

Work Hard,

John Wenk

Dear LoMA,
This week’s Shaka entry is from a pair of Juniors and a pair of Freshmen, respectively, with their reflections on their first marking period and goals for the rest of the year.
I feel like I was terrible this marking period. Junior year is a big jump in work and expectations. I thought I could do all the same activities and stuff I did last year, but I just can’t. I’m so tired and stressed all the time. I really wanted to do better with managing time, but I haven’t found that balance yet.
The first marking period was a little rough. I thought I was coming into a marking period with less homework that was given, but there was more and the work got harder. You just have to get all of it done before doing anything else because it’s a lot. Now going into marking period two, I’ll finish my work on time because if Junior year is hard, then imagine college! I think I have done a dramatic change in my attitude. I feel as if I’ve become more mature but I still have some days where all I want to do is play. Still, I go harder in my school work way more than before. I’ve become way more calm and I don’t get mad as fast and I feel myself taking a deep breath when I’m gonna get angry. Before, I felt like I always wanted the last word, but now I don’t have to!
In the first marking period I think that I did much better than I did last year. I asked more questions and tried harder on my tests and even did some homework! I feel like I need to still work on being completely focused and completing all of my homework. I need to try harder and also start earlier on my projects and big assignments so they can be completed, look good, and have a bunch of facts on them on time. I’m planning to pass everything this next marking period and for the rest of the year. In order to do what I plan on doing, I have to put my mind to it and actually believe I’m going to complete it then push myself to do what I need to.
This marking period I feel like I tried my best to survive and learn as much as I can. I still need to improve on contour maps in science and think more deeply about civilizations that we study. I did better toward the end of the marking period than the beginning because I got used to expectations and the amount of work. That’s why I think I’ll have much better grades next marking period and for the rest of the year.
What are your goals, and how will you achieve them?

October 26                  4:30-7:00        Halloween Dance      
November 2                5:45-8:00        Parent Teacher Conferences
November 3                1:00-3:00        Parent Teacher Conferences
November 6                5:00                 Senior Dinner at Benihan

Friday, October 13, 2017

Work for College

                                                                                                                                    October 16, 2017
Dear LoMA Family,

My first job after college was to drive a van cross country as a tour guide. It required a college degree which I thought was pretty silly. After all, I had studied philosophy which didn’t exactly teach me how to drive a van, and I had friends who dropped out of school who were better with cars. Just before I quit the job (after breaking a van), I asked the boss why he required college degrees that are useless for the job. He told me that he trusted college graduates could be responsible enough to find the best routes, figure out how to care for passenger emergencies and negotiate with hotels and service stations, and be motivated enough not to give up when the job got difficult. In his mind, college graduates had learned these skills because they had figured out how to do what was necessary to earn a degree.
Given how responsible many non-college students can be, I am not sure that he is right. Nevertheless, it is how most employers think and is the reason why college graduates are paid much more than non-graduates, have more freedom in their jobs and greater job-satisfaction. I think it is true that college provides the skills one needs to become a self-motivated, independent thinker. One of the reasons for this is that students only have about 15 hours a week of classes. The rest of the time is for homework, study groups and independent work. Teachers assume at least two hours of homework for every hour of class, and if students don’t do it, they fail tests and get expelled. In my college earning less than a C two semesters in a row led to expulsion. This is why about half of all students who attend college and almost 90% of students who attend community college fail to graduate on time.  
A company called IQS Research recently prepared a report called “Preparing Students to Transition from High School to College.” They found that the great majority of high school students entered college unprepared for the rigor of the work.  More positively, it alsofound that, “Students who perform well in college are those who maintain a realistic attitude about the challenges of school, develop study habits that reflect the demands of the coursework, and use resources on campus, especially professors and advisers when help is needed.” Through tutoring, LoMA students show that they have mastered using teachers as resources when needed, but I worry about how strong we are in developing rigorous, independent study habits. As in college, the number one reason students underperform at LoMA is the lack of homework.
There are some schools that require much less homework because students don’t like doing it, and it is so arduous for teachers to grade. As long as their students show up for the school day and pass their Regents Exams, they never need to complete any independent work. I think this is terribly unfair to students as it does not prepare them for success later in life. Therefore, when I read reports like the one from IQS research and hear from college students, I know that we are on the right track in assigning regular, rigorous homework. Because we care so much for our students at LoMA we need to ensure that our students not only get into college, but that they are successful once there. It seems to be working. While 75% of all college students drop out, about 75% of LoMA’s graduates are still in college 18 months after they graduate. That is why we must prepare our students to work independently and think critically through rigorous essays, complex math problems, multifaceted arts projects, and sophisticated labs. I know that the harder we work our students now, the more prepared they will be for tomorrow.

Work Hard,

John Wenk

Instead of a Shaka letter, I would like to respond to students who have asked me to be clearer about the fundraiser for Puerto Rico. The island has suffered tremendous devastation from Hurricane Maria, and is still struggling to recover. Many of our students feel a special connection to the people there through family and friends. In addition, many of our seniors worked with the Puerto Rican artist Chemi Rosado-Seijo for the Whitney exhibit. Chemi has told us that he knows of an excellent organization, El Cerro, that is helping people in San Juan recover. That is why some LoMA family members thought it would be worthwhile to raise money since we know that the funds will go directly to people who could use to it rebuild. As Ms. Zagoreos has a tradition of raising funds for people in need throughout the world through her advisory, she is spearheading the effort which has now become something of a competition between the grades. As of now, Ms. L’s advisory has raised the most. Yet it is not too late to beat them. We will continue to collect funds through advisory until this Friday.

The awkward part of any fundraiser is who you choose to give money to. In the season of tragedies, other LoMA family members are impacted by the earthquakes in Mexico and the hurricanes in Florida and Texas. Ms. Z has offered to help other groups fundraise as well. Please see her if you are interested. We are all a part of many communities, and the more involved we are, the better our world will become.

October 17                              Seward Park College Fair
October 19      6:00                 Parents’ Association Meeting
October 20                              Last Day of the Marking Period
November 27                           Transfer Applications due – see Ms. Dowridge