Tag Archive for progressive

Leadership Positions at Catlin Gabel

It’s a good year to join the leadership team at Catlin Gabel. Come join this terrific school.

Head of the Middle School

The Middle School Head has responsibility for the oversight and daily operation of the Middle School which has185 students in grades 6-8 and 30 faculty and staff. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills, a deep love of middle school children, and a keen understanding of how students learn are essential qualities. Candidates need expertise in curriculum development, educational practice, as well as in faculty supervision and support. A graduate degree is preferred.

Director of Admission and Financial Aid

The Director of Admission and Financial Aid is responsible for maximizing the exposure, visibility, demand for and understanding of the School with both internal and external audiences; maintaining capacity enrollment of mission appropriate students; and providing access to economically diverse students through financial aid programs. This includes establishing strategic direction, goals, policy, work plans, work flow, and budget; overseeing the admission team’s day-to-day activities; and ensuring effective attainment of admission and financial aid results.

Athletic Director

The Athletic Director is responsible for the leadership, organization and administration of athletic programs and events in all divisions of the School. The Catlin Gabel Athletics Program is open to all Middle and Upper School students.  A “no cut” policy with the exception of varsity-level teams encourages wide-ranging participation in sports, consistent with the School’s belief that physical activity is perforce important and that athletic competition is vital to the formation of the young person. Catlin Gabel’s athletics program includes soccer, cross country, and volleyball in the fall; basketball and racquetball in the winter; and baseball, track, golf, and tennis in the spring. It is a vibrant, healthy, well subscribed and high profile school program.

Catlin Gabel offers a challenging course of study based on a progressive philosophy that is strongly student centered and predicated on an informal, highly interactive environment in which young people are valued for themselves and their ideas.


Medina, Zhao, and Banks: the PNAIS Fall Educators Conference

This past Friday, Catlin Gabel hosted the PNAIS Fall Educators Conference, a one-day event featuring three keynote speakers, over 20 school-led breakout sessions, and about 600 attendees. The conference planning committee did a tremendous job in securing three distinguished speakers who addressed the conference theme of multicultural education from very different perspectives.

Molecular biologist Dr. John Medina made two very pointed arguments: brain research does not inform education at all; brain research has some very specific recommendations for education. It was refreshing to hear a keynote speaker not overstate the implications of his own research. Medina emphasized the idea that each learner is unique, and teachers must have the capacity to detect what each learners needs in order to be most effective. He named this skill “theory of mind,” also known as empathy, and asserted both that we can assess and train teachers for this skill.

Dr. Yong Zhao, professor of education, challenged the notion that American education is behind that of other nations such as Singapore, Sweden, China, and India. Although these countries do test better in math and science, they fall short in teaching creativity and entrepreneurship. Each of these countries is attempting to make their education system more like that of the United States by creating more free time for students and increasing elective course choices. Though I appreciated Dr. Zhao’s counterexamples, I found that he glossed over the unacceptable achievement gap in the U.S. and the role of economic and military power in the continued global dominance of the U.S. creative class. In this way, he fell into the same trap as most politicians and major press outlets, focusing on global competitiveness at the expense of other purposes of education, such as democracy and equity of opportunity. Dr. Zhao mentioned that he is moving with his family to Portland, so perhaps we will see more of him in the coming years! (Update: Dr. Zhao is keynoting at NCCE next year.)

Dr. James Banks, professor of diversity studies, presented a powerful retrospective of the history of multicultural education in the United States, explaining how assimilation did not work well for immigrants of color, how the loss of culture leads to a vacuum that many seek to fill, and how reports of the death of the nation state are likely premature. He reinforced the critical importance of teaching alternative perspectives on historical events and supporting students of color as they navigate U.S. culture and its educational system.

The speakers reinforced ideas that I have worked to implement in schools for years. Teachers by and large still struggle to work with the variety of learners present in their classrooms. Only a few truly integrate heterogeneous group teaching strategies as a core feature of their instructional techniques. Too often for their reputations, independent schools offer insufficient expertise in broadly-used teaching techniques, such as optimal group sizes for activity types, multi-modal instruction, previewing, and formative assessment. Heavy reliance on tutors and the departures of some students who don’t perform sufficiently well indicate how some school programs do not meet the needs of all of the leaners that they admit.

Dr. Zhao’s emphasis on creativity, choice, and problem-solving found a friendly audience at the conference. Certainly at Catlin Gabel, one can see principles of progressive education in action, for example in the high frequency of experiential educational activities or the emphasis given by a number of school leaders and teachers on teaching social justice, equity, leadership, and the responsibility of good decision-making inherent in a democratic society.

We have further to go to reach the educational ideals presented by Dr. Banks. The school dynamics that encourage assimilation and/or exclude certain students are by definition always present in independent schools. Independent schools must engage in diversity professional development and student work every year, as an ongoing, everlasting project. Only in this way will students feel able to fully share the richness of their experiences at school, and only in this way will schools fully benefit from the richness of their students.

These three gentlemen filled me with hope, even while they aroused my critical commentary. I return to school Monday ready to continue the hard work of helping an excellent school become even more excellent, and supporting all students to achieve the richest educational experience possible.

Extending the learning community

Publication of student work on the website extends the learning community beyond the classroom to the entire school community. Key to this effort is a school website that includes a community publishing platform. Students and teachers choose whether to make the work viewable to the school community only (students, staff, parents, alumni) or the public, depending on the pedagogical goal of the work. Learning becomes a community endeavor rather than only a classroom pursuit, increasing authenticity and mutual understanding of the work that happens at school.

Click on each title to view the content at Catlin Gabel.

Urban Studies blog

Students tackle topics of sustainable development in Portland, “The City That Works.” During the school year, we offer a semester elective. The summer brings an intensive program with students from different schools.

Science Projects blog

Students report on their independent research plans, progress, and results. The teacher provides feedback in the form of comments. Only one of the students has made her blog public, so you won’t see the work of the others on this page.

The Catlin Coverslip

The science department invites all Catlin Gabel community members to contribute items of interest to this blog.

Nepal 2010 blog

Blogging about global trips increases the sense of community experience. The 15 lucky students who go on the trip become ambassadors for the rest of the school, no longer the sole beneficiaries of the experience.

Spanish V Honors blog

Students get out into the community to research the hispanic presence in Oregon. Through the blog, they report their findings back to the community and help educate us all. This project includes a lot of primary audio and video footage from Portland.

Honors Arts Projects portfolios

Students attach photo galleries to their blog posts to create a portfolio, in this case to support their  college applications.

Fifth grade Fractured Fairytales

Students create “alternate” versions of classic fairytales, then we publish them so that parents and others students may read them as well.

Sixth grade Language Arts Poetry Box

Students write poetry, but then the teacher publishes both the text and an audio version for parents and the rest of the community to enjoy.

Senior Project blogs

We have now collected two years’ worth of blog posts from seniors reporting and reflecting on their spring projects. Up until now, all of the posts have been for the Catlin Gabel community only. This year, students will make the public/community-only decision for each post. Watch this page in May 2010 to follow their progress.

Writing student reports

As I write fourth and fifth grade student narrative reports for the first time, I am enjoying using Moodle‘s activity reports to add detail to each one. From the Participants list, I access each student’s profile page, which includes a tab for Reports. Moodle tracks every time a student views a resource or completes and online activity. I am then able to add comments like, “[student] played two games about online safety eight times!” I can also see what students are sufficiently excited by the website to visit it outside of class time. Our progressive elementary school does not have grades, so I don’t have much use for the grading and summary functions in Moodle. Go Moodle!

participants link

activity reports tabs

activity report detail