Preparing for Success In an All-Boys Classroom

George Mackaronis
George Mackaronis

by George Mackaronis

Before starting at Blue Ridge School, I did not have a particularly strong opinion about single-gender education. I knew it was a pedagogy that many people believe in and I knew that, as a type of education, it provides numerous benefits to students and teachers alike. As a male with memories of my teenage years and high school still relatively fresh in my mind, it was easy to imagine the possible benefits of single-gender education for male students attending an all-male boarding school.

In order to better acclimate myself with single-gender education, specifically all-boys’ education,  and to prepare for my new teaching roll at Blue Ridge, I enrolled in an online course hosted by the International Boys’ Schools Coalition titled “Single-Gender Education: A Course for Teachers New to Boys’ Schools.” As the course title implies, this offering seemed like the perfect compliment to the new faculty orientation I was already going through at Blue Ridge. The IBSC course was incredibly comprehensive and it really helped me adjust to my new teaching environment. During the course we heard from numerous veteran all-boys’ educators and administrators who all shared a common passion for all-boys’ education and whose experiences speak to the benefits and uniqueness of all-boys’ education. My peers and I discussed numerous topics regarding all-boys’ education: successful teaching methods within an all-boys’ classroom, recent research findings about the benefits of single-gender education, how to develop character in young men, and mentorship skills for the classroom and beyond. The entire experience was very inspiring and I would recommend this course to anyone new to teaching in a single-gender environment. Continue reading “Preparing for Success In an All-Boys Classroom”

Keeping Students Engaged By Keeping Them Active

Sitting still and staying focused on formulas, equations, and practice problems for an hour is difficult for just about anyone, but it can be especially difficult for boys in tenth and eleventh grade. Jim Douglas, a math teacher at Blue Ridge School, knows this better than anyone.

“It’s unreasonable to expect that our students should enjoy sitting at their desks for that long a time without any kind of physical movement,” said Douglas, “I love math, but even I wouldn’t want to do that!”

Teacher Jim Douglas has added DeskCycles to his classroom in an effort to increase student productivity and attention.

This year, Douglas undertook an action research project in which he sought to explore how incorporating some physical movement into his classes might result in more engaged and productive students. “I’d love to just give them a 15 minute stretch break in the middle of class,” Douglas said, “but that’s simply not possible; we have way too much material to cover, and not very much time to get through it; I need every minute of instructional time I can get.”

In order to allow students to move while not having to sacrifice class time, Douglas came up with the idea to install small DeskCycle bike pedal units under each student desk in his classroom. Rather than the whole class taking a formal break in the middle of a lesson, students would have the opportunity to be physically active during the lesson while remaining engaged and attentive.  Continue reading “Keeping Students Engaged By Keeping Them Active”

Learning the way of El Camino de Santiago

Marcia Kozloski
Marica Kozloski, at left, with fellow students at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela.

Veteran foreign languages teacher Marcia Kozloski spent three weeks in Spain this summer participating in Programa de Formación de Profesores Lengua y Cultura el Camino de Santiago, an international professional development program at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela.

The opportunity was made possible through Blue Ridge School’s Faculty Summer Research Grant. The School started the grant to fulfill its Strategic Plan goal of recruiting and retaining exceptional faculty.  Continue reading “Learning the way of El Camino de Santiago”

Doing the Work of Historians

11th grade US History teacher Pete Bonds has long been puzzled with some aspects of traditional history instruction: “We ask math students to do math, like mathematicians; we ask science students to do science, as if they are scientists. But then when they get to history class, we ask them to memorize a bunch of facts. Why aren’t we asking our students to do the work of historians?”

That query was the driving force behind a project recently completed by Mr. Bonds’ second period class. Mr. Bonds reflected that teaching about slavery has long been challenging. The impersonal lists of facts and numbers don’t provide a sense of the lived experience of so many millions. To bridge that divide, his students dug deep into the slave narratives compiled by the Federal Writers Administration in the 1930s.

Continue reading “Doing the Work of Historians”

The Ten Commandments of Writing: How to Write Well

Since I arrived at Blue Ridge about four years ago, my educational philosophy has shifted dramatically. When I first entered the classroom as a fresh-faced young twenty-something, I cared deeply about content. I had visions of turning my students into lovers of history, one fascinating anecdote at a time.

Fast-forward a few years, and very much has changed. I still love history for the sake of content — of course I do, that is why I am a history teacher. But my students might not, and that is okay; almost all of them will go onto careers in which those facts and stories do not have any immediate relevance. The real purpose of teaching history in a 21st century classroom is not necessarily to pass on information that anyone can Google in the blink of an eye — instead, I see my most sacred duty as teaching your children how to write well.

Continue reading “The Ten Commandments of Writing: How to Write Well”

Tree Triplets on the Blue Ridge School Campus

One needs to look no further than the Blue Ridge School interpretive trail to see a most unusual and fascinating tree – one that has been formed by the combination of three different tree species!

Years ago, the seeds of three very different native species must have landed in the same location.  While it’s impossible now to know exactly how this happened, I can guess that the seeds were blown by the wind, dropped by squirrels or maybe intentionally planted by a BRS boy. The rich soil and abundant sunlight helped the trees grow together and ultimately combine into one tree.

Continue reading “Tree Triplets on the Blue Ridge School Campus”