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.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Students Walk out

Text Box: “Back then, as a teenager, I kept thinking, Why don’t the adults here just say something? … I knew then, and I know now that, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.’ And I did.”
     Claudette Colvin
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               March 19, 2018
 Dear LoMA Family,
When I was in college I joined about a hundred other students on a Peace March from New York to Washington DC for nuclear disarmament. It felt so energizing, purposeful and empowering that I did it two more times. I felt the same sense of political vigor when I marched more recently with Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March. Yet, I was also disappointed by how old the crowds have felt. Where were the young people looking to make social and political change? Well, last week I found them marching loudly and proudly for an end to gun violence. LoMA students brought out their thoughtful and meaningful signs, and chanting enthusiastically to create a sense of unity and purpose for 17 symbolic minutes. In response, they saw many people in the street give them the thumbs up and encouragement as they were impressed with how organized our students were for such an important cause. It was all so impressive the New York Times published a video of our seniors marching. All together, this student walk-out was the largest and most moving America has seen in a very long time.

It is happening now because the cause that is binding together students throughout the country is so immediate, scary and unfair. Mass shooting in general, and school shootings specifically, are a curse that America has brought on itself through poor policy decisions. The result is 116,000 gun deaths a year, and twice that number injured each year. As a comparison, Japan (which has about a third as many people as we do), suffered one gun murder and five other gun deaths last year, yes, six total. There is also a racial component to gun violence as Black men are 13 times more likely than White men to be shot and killed by guns.

While the Second Amendment of the US Constitution may guarantee the right to bear arms, it is not an absolute right. Limits on types of weapons and who can have them have always been necessary. One reason we have gotten into this mess is that lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association have successfully blocked sensible laws that would require background checks, outlaw semi-automatic weapons or even research solutions. Instead, they suggest what no educator wants: to arm teachers. The have successfully raised money to give to politicians and mobilized gun owners.

Last week, students around the country are showed what real mass mobilization looks like. Real numbers will be hard to get, but I expect millions of students walked out. On March 24 the protests will be even more visible when protestors gather in Washington D.C. and throughout the country. In New York, the march will gather at 10:00 on 72nd St. and Central Park West.

When everyone from the various campus schools came together at the end in front of the building to chant together, the potent sense of unity for an important cause was palpable. That is what I love about rallies, marches and political mobilization – it brings power to the people. On March 24 you all can bring your signs  

 Keep up the great work, 
John Wenk 

During the walkout, there was an indescribable energy that went through us.  As a senior, I’ve been with my classmates for four years, yet while we were protesting, we were a unit.  While other schools took on a silent approach, many LoMA kids around us walked the blocks chanting for gun reform.  We had brought a charisma that left me certifiably shaken. After the walkout, my class had a discussion about it.  Most of us agreed that it should’ve been longer and more student-led, but I still feel like the walkout has lit a fire inside of some of us.  It had given us a conversation that we were sadly having to take part in, but which is finally including us.
            After the walkout, I attended another rally.  Survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland came to speak. There was a retired Marine who spoke to us about the importance of gun control, and tons of students came to see them speak.  It was honestly underwhelming, though.  The speeches were great, the demonstration overall was very impersonal.  Marching with Seward Park felt stronger.  It wasn’t even just our school.  Marching past other schools and having them join in, chanting as a whole, was amazing.  The last few minutes of the demonstration, when everyone was outside the Essex Street Academy entrance, was the most powerful to me.  All of the different classes, different schools, speaking about one issue and calling out together meant so much.
            I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this, but if you can, you guys should all go to the March For Our Lives on Saturday the 24th.  It will be like the walkout but bigger, louder, and even more powerful.  This walkout should be just the beginning of young people like us speaking out about issues we want to, can, and will change.  It’s cheesy, but we are the future, so if we keep this up, the future’s gonna be lit.

Text Box: March 21                               PSAT/SAT Day, freshmen trip to Museum of Natural History and 
          seniors to the Bronx Zoo.
March 22  5:45-8:00 Parent Teacher Conferences
March 23 1:00-3:00 Parent Teacher Conferences
March 28   Juniors trip to Hamilton on Broadway
March 30-April 8  Spring Recess

Friday, March 2, 2018

Student Misconceptions

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”
Colin Powell
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    March 5, 2018
Dear LoMA Family,
I recently read an article that first appeared in Faculty Focus by Maryellen Weimer (Penn State University) that looked at research about four common beliefs that undermine college students’ efforts to learn. If college students are under these misconceptions, I fear that our students may be as well, and each one can be insidious in making it difficult to learn since the most important element of school success is the motivation to learn.
            Misconception #1: Learning is fast. “Students think that learning can happen a lot faster than it does,” says Weimer. “They think they can get what they need out of a chapter with one quick read through (electronic devices at the ready, snacks in hand, and ears flooded with music).” Reading, especially academic reading often requires repeated, focused reading. This is why annotated reading is much more effective than more passive reading.
            Misconception #2: Knowledge is composed of isolated facts. Students too often look for the right answer instead of trying to understand the more challenging concepts. This is why math teachers insist that students show their work and why science teachers want students to write about their labs. Memorizing facts is important, but it is more important that we understand the big ideas in context and apply them in different situations.
            Misconception #3: Doing well academically is a matter of inborn talent. “All of us have had students who tell us with great assurance that they can’t write, can’t do math, are horrible at science, or have no artistic ability,” says Weimer. Students who think this way don’t try as hard in weak areas and give up when they encounter difficulty. Very little of life has to do with what we are born with - it’s what we make of ourselves that really matters: effort and strategy are the key variables in achievement.
            Misconception #4: Look Ma, I’m multi-tasking. The evidence is clear that the brain can’t simultaneously handle more than one cognitively demanding task, says Weimer. People who think they are successfully multitasking are in fact missing important information – and they don’t even realize it. Multitasking can work with mindless activities, but it can never help us learn anything.
In short, Weimer’s research shows that there are no shortcuts because learning is complex, it takes time, focus, and energy.  The formula for success is pretty absolute: effort=excellence.

Work hard,

John Wenk

March 9-11                 Senior Trip to the Catskills   
March 10                    Sophomore Trip to New York Theater Workshop
March 15                    Parents’ Association Meeting
March 16                    End of Marking period
March 21                    PSAT Day

This week, we have some thoughts from two Juniors and a Sophomore about each of the four misconceptions that Dr. Wenk talked about in his newsletter. 
In regards to the first misconception, learning is not the quickest process for me, especially with a junior workload. This is the year where we get the mounds and mounds of work, and it’s not always the easiest to follow. For example, because I know I get distracted when I’m trying to read I’ve found that reading something once isn’t going to make me a master at that subject. I actually agree that annotated reading is more effective because it helps me make sure I understand the material thoroughly. Even in trig, learning a new function or formula isn’t going to stick with me after completing just one problem. Personally, it takes a couple of tries to really understand something and have the material engrained in my head. It takes a lot of focus (which can be difficult to maintain), as well as a lot of time which we may not always have the patience for. However, these traits are necessary in order to really understanding any new material. To sum up, learning is hard, but we have to do it. Therefore, we should all just take the time to at least understand the material we’re given. :) 

I know, for me personally, I often do look for the right answer instead of trying to understand. But that’s because I believe that the school system doesn’t encourage its students to really think. Instead of teaching us to analyze for the sake of expanding our skills, we are being taught for a test, and that itself is discouraging. I believe that because we’ve been conditioned to find the quickest way to get to an answer to save time on a test, we have forgotten about putting pieces together and looking deeper than the answer. So it’s often not that we don’t want to understand but that we don’t feel like we have time to. 

Many individuals may say that grades determine how smart a person is.  You can have some failing grades, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t smart.  Usually, it’s just a person’s work ethic.  If you want good grades, the best way is to start working hard and trying your best.  I say this because this happened to me, so I can be a good example. In the beginning of the year, I started out strong, doing all of my work and trying my hardest to do my best.  Then, I started getting lazy, and when I get lazy (or anyone does) then grades easily drop.  Then you have to work even harder than you weren’t before to catch back up.  This is why I say people are wrong about saying people are only getting good grades if they are smart.  You’re smart as long as you do the work, try your hardest, and show teachers your great work ethic and that you are learning things from their class.    

Being a kid that doesn’t have the best homework habits, I have learned that multitasking is near impossible.  We’ve all tried to do homework in class or while doing something else at some point.  This is especially true for me, because I almost never do homework at home.  Struggling to quickly do homework in advisory or even in the staircase between classes.  I notice that my homework grades were poor.  I didn’t care as long as I got my homework gets a little bit done.  I would do homework in class while trying to listen at the same time and miss valuable information.  Soon my quiz and test grades were going down, AND I wasn’t getting full credit for the homework.  Now I find myself more stressed trying to balance multiple assignments and make up work when I could just try to do one thing at a time and get my homeworks done as I go.   

Let your misconceptions go!