Klingenstein Readings

Below are the readings for the Klingenstein Summer Institute this year. I haven’t taken the time to go through and alphabetize all the readings. I primarily wanted to post them here for my own reference and for those who were interested in getting a sense of what we read.

English Cohort Readings

  • “Responding To and Evaluating Students’ Papers” (UC Santa Cruz)
  • “Preface” from They Say/I Say by Graff and Birkenstein
  • “The English Apparatus” by Robert Scholes
  • “Hidden Intellectualism” by Gerald Graff
  • “The Purpose of Poetry” by John F. Kennedy
  • Morrison, Toni.  Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (excerpt).
  • Pollitt, Katha. “Why We Read: Canon to the Right of Me. . .” Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism. New York: Knopf. 1994.

Diversity and Plenary Session Readings

  • Coles, Robert. The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination. Chapter 1.
  • McIntosh, Peggy. White People Facing Race: Uncovering the Myths that Keep Racism in Place. Saint Paul: The Saint Paul Foundation, 2009:1-8.
  • McIntosh, Peggy. White Privilege: An Account to Spend. Saint Paul: The Saint Paul Foundation, 2009:1-8.
  • Delpit, Lisa. “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s
  • Children.” Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New York: The New Press, 1995.
  • Phillips, D.C. and Soltis, J.F. “Behaviorism.” Perspectives on Learning. New York: Teachers College Press, 1995. 21-31.
  • Willingham, D.T. Why Students Don’t Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How The Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Chp 1.
  • Bransford, J.D., et al. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000. Chapter 1 (“Learning: From Speculation to Science”) and Chapter 2 (“How Experts Differ from Novices”).
  • Gardner, Howard. The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach. New York: Basic Books, 1991.
  • Jennings, Kevin. “The Road from Here.” Independent School Fall 2004: 88-95.
  • “Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth.” GLSEN.
  • Dweck, Carol. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine Books, 2006. Chapter 2 (“Inside the Mindsets”), Chapter 3 (“The Truth About Ability and Accomplishment”), and pp. 187-196 of Chapter 7 (“Teachers [and Parents]: What Makes a Great Teacher [or Parent]?”).
  • Orenstein, Peggy. “Toeing the Line: Schoolgirls.” School Girls:Young Women, Self Esteem, and the Confidence Gap New York: Anchor Books, 1994. 33-49.
  • Kimmel, Michael. “High School: Boot Camp for Guyland.” Guyland:The Perilious World Where Boys Become Men. New York: Harper Collins, 2008. 70-94.
  • New York Times Magazine article “Building a Better Teacher.”
  • Sizer and Sizer. The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract. Preface: “Watching,” Chapter 1 “Modeling,” Chapter 2 “Grappling,” and Afterword: “Thinking.”
  • Green, Jesse. “The Leap.” New York June 7, 2010: 16-21, 85-87.
  • Levine, Madeline. “Challenging the Culture of Affluence: Schools, Parents, and the Psychological Health of Children” Independent School Magazine, 67:1 (Fall 2007)
  • Schmoker, Mike. “Tipping Point: From Feckless Reform to Substantive Instructional Improvement.” Phi Delta Kappan 85.6, (2004) 424-432.
  • Bambino, Deborah. “Critical Friends.” Educational Leadership 59.6 (2002). 25-27.
  • Lewis, C., et al. “Lesson Study Comes of Age in North America.” Phi Delta Kappan 88.4, (2006). 273-281.
  • Shorris, Earl. “On the Uses of a Liberal Education: Part 2 of 2. As a weapon in the hands of the restless poor.” Harper’s Magazine Sep. 1997: 50-59.
  • Morrison, Toni. The Dancing Mind: Speech Upon the Acceptance of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. New York: Knopf, 1996.
  • Evans, Robert. “The Culture of Resistance” and “Implementation: Tasks of Transition.” The Human Side of School Change: Reform Resistance and the Real-Live Problems of Innovation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996. 40-73.

What Questions Interest You?

I had a number of great conversations at the Klingenstein Summer Institute; it was an intellectual hothouse. I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had with Liz Perry, a co-director of KSI and co-lead teacher of the English cohort. She has an MEd from Harvard, and I was interested in getting her perspective on graduate study in education. Her program was a self-designed degree that alas, no longer exists at Harvard.

At one point, she asked me, “What questions interest you?” Not what do you want to do with your degree or what kind of degree are you interested in, which is often the way people frame the conversation. The question gave me pause.

It shouldn’t have been a surprising notion to me- one of the cornerstones of my educational philosophy is inquiry– but I’d never though of it when considering what kind of graduate study I might do.

So, I’m mulling over the questions that interest me. I don’t have any fully-formed ones yet, but words like technology, community, inquiry, literature, history, data, adolescents, literacy, and story are floating around. Oh yeah, and student debt 🙂


Learning In Spite Of

I wrote on Sunday that my enthusiasm and work ethic were waning a bit in the final days of KSI. Given that, yesterday’s afternoon session had the potential to be a total disaster in terms of my attention. The workers at Lawrenceville School had hit a water main while repairing the steam tunnels underneath the school. The result was no water or AC for the library building where we were meeting after lunch.

Despite the heat, the whirring of the emergency fans (the post-carpet cleaning kind), and the soporific effect of a tasty lunch, Chef Gary Giberson rocked the house, receiving a standing ovation. Food is an integral part of the Summer Institute, and the beautiful, delicious meals have been one of the highlights of the Institute for me.

In addition to being an amazing chef, Gary was an incredible presenter. He acknowledged the difficulty of the situation, engaged the audience with beautiful, well-designed slides, and restated participants’ questions prior to answering them. He shared some of the really impressive waste reduction and removal policies and food purchasing principles Lawrenceville School has adopted under his leadership. Carey told me she wished she’d had a camera so she could have taken a picture of me during the presentation. Apparently, I looked a bit star-struck 🙂

Chef Gary

Later yesterday afternoon, Chef Gary gave a smaller group of us a tour of the school garden at Lawrenceville. It was useful to hear how they have addressed the challenges of maintaining a vibrant school garden.

Lawrenceville School Garden


I wish I’d had a chance to write a proper post about my Klingenstein experience so far, but keeping up with the assignments and trying to get enough sleep has proved a full-time job. So in lieu of that, I’m posting my reflection on the reading we were assigned from Carol Dweck’s Mindset. She will be with us at the Summer Institute tomorrow, and I’m really looking forward to it.

The idea of the fixed mindset in Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success resonated with my experience of law school. I was so absolutely terrified I didn’t belong there that I spent as little time as possible in the law school. I think I also experience a fixed mindset when it comes to a certain kind of writing, usually assigned academic writing. The idea of working really hard at a piece of writing and it turning out crappy is so hard I usually just slough off something at the last minute. (The irony is that I don’t think I’ve ever had the experience of actually working hard at writing and having it turn out badly. Usually my best writing comes as a result of hard work and solid revision.) I’ve experienced this even at Klingenstein. Someone, who shall remain nameless, failed to write her assigned journal entries for today.

The bit that stood out to me most from the Dweck reading was: “Why is effort so terrifying [for someone with a fixed mindset]?… It robs you of all your excuses” (42). Just typing that I feel my throat tightening because the idea of going all out and then failing is petrifying. This fear rarely grips me when it comes to teaching though. I don’t like the idea of failing at teaching, and I’m certainly susceptible to the need for praise for my teaching. But there’s an inherent joy and mystery in teaching that makes it ok to go flat out for it, even if it doesn’t turn out exactly as I’d like. While I occasionally despair if a lesson bombs, my more likely response is My, that’s curious. (I’ve borrowed the notion of failure being a curiosity from someone, but I don’t remember who.) Dweck says those with the growth mindset may feel “overwhelmed…but their response [is] to dig in and do what it takes” (58). This is my experience of teaching.

Dweck’s descriptions of mindsets feels a bit simplistic to me, although that may be a function of just reading portions of Mindset. I also felt like she belabored her argument with more examples than necessary. I may be curmudgeonly, but I can only take so many athletic examples in one book.


Unrelated postscript… Above are some of the most beautiful hydrangeas I’ve ever seen. They’re not ridiculously showy the way some can be. They’re growing behind our dorm.

Headed Out

Tomorrow morning I’m taking off for the Klingenstein Summer Institute in Lawrenceville, NJ (after a stopover in Annapolis, MD). It feels a little like the first year of college- I’m packing shower shoes and a foam mattress pad. When my parents were about to leave me at college, I started sobbing. My mom tried to console me, but I choked out, “It’s not because you’re leaving. My computer’s not going to be configured for the internet for another two days.” Hoping for a lack of tech troubles this time around 🙂


I couldn’t find a shower basket that I liked, but I had the idea to use a planter. It’s 100% recycled material and has drainage holes. I can plant in it afterward. Also, toiletry train cases were $20 at Target, but insulated lunch boxes were $8. Thrift for the win.

4 Words

Last year I posted the statement of educational philosophy I submitted when I applied for my present job and some additional reflection on it. As part of the Klingenstein Summer Institute, I had to draft another statement of educational philosophy. I was given the following prompt: What beliefs do you hold about the power of schooling, about the conditions under which students learn best and about the role of the teacher? What do you believe is the purpose of schooling? What do you believe is the purpose of your curriculum area and/or grade level? Write a succinct and lucid statement that does not exceed one typed page.

This statement is less concrete, but it gave me the chance to articulate some larger ideas about education. I structured it around four words that I believe are the heart of education- story, community, inquiry, and joy. There’s something intimidating about writing your philosophy of education because putting it in words feels like allowing it to become something that someone could shove back in your face at confirmation hearings or a parent teacher conference. So, I’ll say, This is my philosophy of education at this moment in my life and it’s subject to change. I’m also aware of the myriad of ways in which I daily don’t live up to this philosophy, but I’d rather be working towards something that’s more than I am than articulating what I’m already doing.


The teacher of history and literature is first a storyteller. She tells the stories as they have been told to her, but this is not sufficient. She invites students into the stories, to see the ways in which their lives intersect with and add to the stories. She trains students in the skills they will need to make meaning from new texts that they encounter and to become storytellers themselves. She also leads students in questioning the stories they have been told, in exploring places where the narrative is broken or incomplete and in considering ways of addressing opposing narratives. Written texts are an important part of the narratives of communities, but so also are song, film, and images. But story is not limited to the humanities, science and math tell stories, too. Numbers and data points are unintelligible without narrative to accompany and often the same quantitative data can tell vastly different stories depending upon the storyteller.

The story cannot be divorced from the community, and so education is about studying communities while within a community. Education is also the preparation of students to be members of communities they will join. This means equipping students with the skills they will need to be part of these communities. These skills are broader than “what it takes to get a good job.” They are also the skills that will help students discern what a good job is.

Education must consider the ways these different communities can be constituted. To limit learning communities to the classroom in general or to a particular classroom is to practice a kind of provincialism that does a disservice to students. The work of the classroom should not be seen as merely preparation for the “real” work of the world. We must disavow ourselves of the notion that the only learning that matters happens at school. While we wouldn’t turn children out into the streets and force them to fend for themselves, education should seek to connect the life of the school with the life of the world. Students and teachers should be connecting with others down the hall and around the world in sustained collaboration.

Schools must also consider the kinds of people who are absent from their communities. One of the great opportunities for schools is the possibility of being a microcosm of a diverse community. Too often, though, schools become enclaves for kids and teachers who look, dress, and talk just like each other.

Asking good questions is some of the most important work of the student. Too often education rewards students who ask fewer and narrower questions, perhaps because as an adult it can be frightening or uncomfortable to admit that we are unsure of the answers to their questions. Education ought to encourage students to continue to ask the questions two year olds ask- “Why? How?” As teachers, our work is to help students form those questions and begin to articulate answers to these questions.

Inquiry is not solely the work of students. A teacher is responsible to her students, to her subject, and to her community to continue to ask questions and thereby learn. A teacher must be the most voracious of all learners for her passion will sometimes be called upon to carry students who have difficulty mustering it for themselves for a given subject or a given period of time.

Many might argue that what educators ought to aim for in schooling is engagement. I don’t disagree that engagement is preferable to apathy, but too often engagement is a code word for passing interest or happiness. Joy is more difficult to measure than “time on task” or “oohs and ahhs.” To be joyful, one must believe in the worth of the work which one does. Schools then must seek to find that which delights students, instead of just entertaining them. Delight does not imply ease, for many ends which are delightful are reached only after considerable difficulty.

The difficulty for many teachers, including myself, is the ways in which this vision of education challenges our desire to be in-charge, to be powerful in our own classrooms. I believe excellence in education requires teachers to daily subjugate this desire to faithful telling of stories, earnest pursuit of vibrant communities, continual inquiry, and seeking joy for ourselves and our students.