#naisac 2015: “Playgrounds, Parents, & Programs – Oh My! The Work of the Division Head”

 My first session at NAIS 2015 was a 3-hour workshop entitled: “Playgrounds, Parents and Programs- Oh  My! The Work of the Division Head.” It was engaging, relevant, and very informative.

Following an amazing presentation from three division heads at three different schools, the session included a “critical friends group” exercise used to unpack a challenging dilemma at our school. We were paired up and went through the process of pre-reflection, framing the dilemma, clarifying the dilemma, probing and discussing, making recommendations, and then reflecting on it. It was useful to have a peer listen, process, and then give feedback on something that was challenging for me. It was a great start to the conference!

Here are my public notes (tweets) and reflections on the session:

Don’t Miss Administrators/Teachers Unplugged!

Hope you can join us!

NAIS Annual Conference 2015

Last year, one of my favorite sessions of the conference was Teachers Unplugged.  As with most traditional conferences, sessions tend to be a speaker or panel at the front of the room, with rows of attendees sitting passively.  Ironically, this is what we are trying to move away from in our classrooms and yet the largest conference of the year for independent school educators seems to be mostly in this format. This is why I was happy to see that there was a session option in an unconference format: Teachers Unplugged.  This session exceeded all my expectations while providing me with amazing connections and thought-provoking discussions.

Read my reflections from last year here.

I remember wishing there were more of these types of sessions, and I especially wished there was one specifically for Administrators.  So, I reached out to Liz Davis, who ran the Teachers Unplugged session, along…

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GEAR UP for #NAISAC 2015 and download the app TODAY!

NAIS Annual Conference 2015

photo 1It’s almost here– NAIS AC 2015! While we have about 7 feet of snow waiting for us when we arrive, Boston is an awesome city and a great place for independent school educators to gather for this year’s annual conference:

The Design Revolution: Blending Learning, Leading and Innovation.

Before you get here, my biggest tip… DOWNLOAD the APP…Do it TODAY! Right now!

I remember feeling overwhelmed with the program book a few years back. I had a hard time figuring out my schedule, reading through descriptions and speaker info, and getting up to date information on any changes. I had to dig it out of my bag each time. Ugh!

Well… no more! The app organizes presentations by time slot, allows you to organize your schedule, track exhibitors, get info about presenters and sessions, follow conference tweets, and much more! It continues to refresh and update as presenters add speaker…

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Hamden Hall Lower School 2013-2014 ~ What a year!

Here are my remarks from the Final Lower School Assembly:

This year will always be a memorable one for me– my 20th year at Hamden Hall and my first one as Director of Lower School. Thank you for an amazing year! I can hardly believe that this is our last time together! It seems like yesterday that we were sitting here learning all about how to behave in assembly (remember Kathy and Fab’s bad manners!?) and then we heard a “Pep Talk” from Kid President about the difference we can make in the world… and guess what? We made a difference!

  • we provided socks for homeless and less fortunate people
  • we gathered food for the hungry at Thanksgiving
  • we provided gifts for families in need at the holidays
  • we sent our love through Valentines to soldiers in Afghanistan, including an alum, Matt Peterson
  • we made almost 500 rainbow loom bracelets for displaced children in Syria
  • and we sent over 200 cans of soup to the Hamden Food Pantry

If we haven’t made a difference… I don’t know who has!


We have had some guests in assembly including:

  • our lightening fast rubiks cube solver
  • Chinese Dancers
  • the Hamden PD canine unit
  • jugglers
  • poets
  • our Upper School Jazz Band
  • Taekwondo masters
  • the Jungle Jamboree
  • and much more!


And we have had some amazing performances from all of you!

In addition to our concerts and band performances we had….

  • 6th Grade in Schoolhouse Rock
  • 4th and 5th Grade Whaling Skits
  • 3rd grade in Little Red Riding Hood
  • 2nd grade at the May Pole
  • 1st grade danced through the decades
  • Kindergarten in their Halloween Assembly/ Soup Drive Commercial and Valentine Bake Sale Assembly
  • PK in the Halloween Assembly, First Thanksgiving and Valentine Bake Sale, as well!


We have shared much good news in assembly, and I have looked forward to this time together each week! Hamden Hall prides itself in its core values of: Excellence, Support, Participation, Accountability, Respect. The Lower School has worked hard at being examples of these values every day and I am very proud of you!

I’d now like to share a photo slide show highlighting this awesome school year!  I hope you enjoy it!

Sixth Graders — our fearless leaders of the Lower School— you will be graduating this afternoon… please don’t forget us in the Lower School! We all love and care about you and we wish you well!

Fifth Grade— when we return in September, you will be our new leaders. This is a huge responsibility, one that I hope you will take seriously. I know you can do it, and you have big shoes to fill!


To those of you who are moving on to a new school, we will miss you! You will always be a part of our Hamden Hall Lower School Family. To the rest of you, I will see you in September!

Have the most awesome summer EVER!   READ READ READ!!!  (and do some math, too!)

and I’d like to leave you with one final message from Kid President


It’s that simple!


Another awesome #caisct Academic Technology Retreat!

making a buzzerEach year, the CAIS Academic Technology Retreat never disappoints. It’s filled with amazing, thoughtful, forward-thinking educators who debate, discuss and explore ways in which they can improve and enhance the learning experiences for their students. This year, our Keynote was Don Buckley.  His topic was “Design and Maker Thinking.”  Don is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of  Tools at Schools.  The focus of his presentation was to investigate the teaching and learning of design and maker thinking in schools. We thoroughly enjoyed his animated and engaging presentation and I, personally, loved his break-out session where we were challenged to design a wearable technology that would change the student learning experience as we know it.

Here are my tweets from my time at the retreat. (I needed to leave early due to commitments back at school.)



Here is a link to other tweets from the event.

Here is a link to our “App Smackdown.” Feel free to add your favorite tool/app to it!

This tweet by Rush Hambleton is, by far, one of the most powerful things about this retreat, and one of the many reasons it’s not to be missed each year.  Thanks for another awesome, awesome learning experience!

Here are some additional photos from the event.

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Redecorate Your Room!

Bed-Bath-Beyond-logoAs a culminating assessment for a PreAlgebra unit in decimals, percents and graphing, I decided to teach students about the useful tool of a Google Spreadsheet. After introducing some basic terminology and functionality of a spreadsheet, students will be given $400 to spend at Bed, Bath and Beyond to redecorate their room. It is my hope that they will find this activity engaging and, at the same time, teach them how easy calculations can be when using a spreadsheet. I will also introduce the basics of creating a bar chart. I thought I’d share in case anyone else was looking for this type of activity.


When a service project comes full circle

After a successful division-wide new sock drive in October (462 pairs of socks collected), a mega food drive where over 3000 food items were collected for a local food pantry in November, and a touching adopt-a-family initiative that supported families in crisis in December, we decided that January’s Lower School community service project should not involve a “drive” of sorts but instead something that Lower School children themselves could do without parent help or monetary support.

After searching for such a project, I stumbled upon “Hugs for Soldiers,” a program “dedicated to offering comforts from home and brightening a Soldier’s day with a care package, card or letter of encouragement.”

Here is an excerpt from a story written about this project:

A January community service project hatched in the Lower School has transformed into a school-wide initiative as students of all ages are beginning to craft and create valentine cards and messages for troops overseas.

From there it took on a life of its own – including the decision to earmark Hamden Hall’s cards and letters to Hamden Hall alumnus Matthew Peterson, who graduated in 2003 and is currently a captain in the U.S. Army. Matthew was deployed in early January to Afghanistan for eight months – his second tour in that country. He was also deployed to Iraq for one year. His mom, Cookie Peterson, is a former second-grade teacher at Hamden Hall who retired in June 2010 after 17 years. Many Hamden Hall faculty continue to keep in touch with Cookie, including Sue Bennett and Sandi Cunningham (with whom Cookie taught second grade for 11 years), who are helping coordinate the Hugs for Soldiers initiative.

So, after Sue Bennett, our Lower School art teacher explained the project to our students as assembly, students began creating the most beautiful and heartfelt cards and notes to be sent to Matt and his unit.  At the end of January, we accumulated over 150 cards and they were sent on their way through the Hugs for Soldiers organization.

In early March, we received this beautiful note along with pictures from Matt and his unit. We shared these at assembly with our students. It was an emotional experience for everyone in attendance and our students sat with wide-eyes as they saw their valentines in the hands of a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. And it was so powerful to have a service project come full circle.

Pretty amazing!


Read more:

Warm Socks and Busloads of Food Foster Goodwill for Donors and Receivers

Valentine “Hugs” Project Send Message to Troops