I recently had the privilege of speaking to accepted students and their parents who came to The Gunnery for Revisit Days. (We had record-breaking attendance both days, despite a spring snow storm!) When it comes to choosing a school, these campus visits are critically important and can affirm, particularly for students, whether they have found the right fit in the school they have chosen. I’ve modified my talk to fit this space.
To get at the question of how to find that right-fit school, I asked families at our Revisit Days to consider some bigger questions via Yale’s most popular course in history. Not Shakespeare, American history or economics. Psychology 157 – Psychology and the Good Life. How is it possible that one quarter of Yale University’s undergraduates feel the need to take a class on what means to lead a good life? It raises the question: why are we doing all of this in the first place? What is it for?
This week, I am pleased to share with you Melissa Schomers’ remarks on information, knowledge and wisdom, which were presented at The Gunnery on October 3, 2017. Ms. Schomers is a faculty member in the English Department and the Wallace Rowe Chair. Although her thoughts were initially intended for our students and faculty, I believe many adults who have too much “information at their fingertips” will find her words meaningful and relevant.
One of the things we commit to as boarding school teachers is constantly examining the principles and assumptions behind every aspect of what we do. The most recent evidence for that is the day we spent with Andrew Watson just before students returned from the winter break. Andrew Watson, the Director of Translate the Brain. Andrew was an English teacher and Dean of Faculty at Loomis School before committing his life to helping teachers connect discoveries in neuroscience with how teachers teach. I encourage you to explore Andrew’s website or to ask any of our faculty what they took from his sessions on working memory and attention.
Andrew’s premise is simple. As he lays it out on his website:
Students learn with their brains.
Until recently, that obvious fact didn’t help teachers with our work. After all, the brain is so impossibly complicated that neurology had little practical advice for schools.
In just the last few years, extraordinary advances in the brain sciences mean that teachers can turn to neuroscience for concrete guidance in…
- Shaping lesson plans
- Focusing classroom attention
- Designing effective homework
- Constructing meaningful assessments
- Working with individual students
- Developing students’ long-term memory
- Motivating adolescents
And, as our new Dean of Faculty, Jenn Badger, who invited Andrew to campus, said:
“I have heard our History Department chair, Bart McMann, say on numerous occasions that one of the worst things that can happen to a teacher is for that person to become complacent as an educator. When approaching professional development here at The Gunnery it’s important to always keep that philosophy in mind. I believe that we are a faculty full of great teachers, but once we stop examining what we do every day and how we do it we will quickly cease to be great. It’s this idea that centered behind the decision to bring Andrew Watson to campus on Jan. 6 to work with our faculty. His workshops on working memory and attention allowed us as educators to dig into how the brain works and how we can use this knowledge in our own classrooms to think more carefully about how learning takes place and how we as educators can help make that learning process fruitful for all of our students.”