Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Written by Ms. Berman

I have never been fond of New Year's Resolutions because of the overemphasis on making a decision to cast forth change at one specific time of year.  Why this change?  Why now?  What is the guarantee that the change will be made and who watches to see that it is done?  However this year I find myself reflecting on the word itself, resolution, and the related verb, resolve.  Rather than using the opportunity to create new "pie crust" promises, I prefer to think of this moment as a chance to share daily assertions with those who care to listen.  What is it that I resolve?
As an educator, the end of the calendar year signifies the finality of the Common Application "letters of recommendation"  process.  After 23 years of teaching, one would think this would be a perfunctory ritual by now, but every student has a story to tell, and each year brings new meaning to the word resolution.  Terms that come to mind such as tenacious and perseverant pale in comparison to the obstacles that each of my students has had to overcome.  The students who don't believe that they have done anything extraordinary are in the majority and the most difficult to work with, as writing about how amazing they are is clearly a source of discomfort for them.  Not everyone has to have lived on the streets or suffered severe trauma to have experienced hardship.  High school is challenging.  Life is challenging.  Each person's challenges are important to him/her, and should not be compared to another, nor discredited as insignificant.  The common thread of the students who "succeed" is attitude; they don't believe that the lottery that has cast them into their current living situation should define who they are, and that their life challenges will provide them with the fortitude to succeed in the future.  They are correct in their convictions.  Keeping in touch with a multitude of former students over the years has allowed to me watch these stories play out.  But this post is not about my former students and their life stories; it is about resolution.  This is what I resolve:
To continue to persuade the population at large that our students need more recognition, support, and celebration.  They need more people to tell them that: "Yes, they will make it through."  "The choices they make on a daily basis do matter."  "Their hard work is appreciated."  One could argue that students should do it all for the intrinsic rewards (and grades) and that they shouldn't need constant reinforcement.  But I resolve that no adult in my generation has ever maintained the work load that our youngsters are currently producing.  How could we possibly understand what they are going through when we had more hours in the day of "dream time" and fewer hours of homework?  When a GPA of 3.8 was sufficient to enter a competitive college with relative ease?  When it was the exception, not the norm, to study for the SAT exam?  I resolve that we acknowledge our teens as the one of the hardest-working groups in our society.  All teens have obstables to overcome; they must all exhibit tenacity and perserverance.  We should value their contribution.  We should remind them that who they are and how they conduct their lives does make a difference.  We should treat them with respect and insist that they do so in return.  After all, it won't be long before they surpass the older generations with their collective knowledge.  I resolve that Gen Y-Not? has the ability to change the world. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas morning

Written by Ms. Berman

I remember sneaking out of bed long before daylight, crawling into the living room and searching for presents with my name on them.  Gently shaking each gift in wonder, it was like a dream come true.  When I would hear my parents wrestle from their bed, I would quickly race back to my room, hide under the covers and wait for what felt like an eternity.  I had been a good girl, and Santa had remembered me.  Finally, my mom would come into my room, calling my name... Christmas was here!  Stockings were always first.  My brother and I would dump out the contents and open the gifts with delight.  It wasn't until the "real" gifts were distributed that we were expected to open them one- by- one, waiting our turn.  It was a miracle- Santa knew exactly what I had wanted and managed to provide for me and all of the other children in the universe, as well...  It was a brutal moment when I figured out that there was no Santa, no reindeer, and that not all children grew up in this blissful world of fantasy.  Not all children knew what it was like to have a Christmas tree (or some other symbol of the holiday which they celebrated), warm coco by the fire, a heated house, a home at all, a scrumptious breakfast after all of the presents had been revealed, and a family with whom to share the magic with.  At this wondrous time of year, as I go through the litany of chores to prepare for a Christmas dinner with my loved ones, I think of these children.  I ask that if each person who does have all of the aforementioned would reach out to those less fortunate than themselves, we could all enjoy the richness of this blessed holiday together.  It is so easy to get caught up in our own needs and to be completely self-absorbed in the trappings of everyday life.  But to ignore the children, the victims of a life in which they have no control over, is unconscionable, and I believe that each person can make a difference during this holiday season, and all year long.  I hope that person will be you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Multiple Levels of Intelligence

Written by Ms. Berman

It is a bittersweet time of the school year as the college acceptances/deferments/rejections start to appear on the internet.  Long gone are the days of waiting for the mailman to arrive at the home.  Now it is a precise day and time in which a school "goes online."  With texting and Facebook, the results are known to all, even us teachers, within a matter of minutes.   It feels so dramatic at the moment, but I know that each student will be accepted into his or her "right" school by the end of March.  Unfortunately, despite the personal statement and letters of recommendation, what the application process traditionally highlights are two of the eight levels of intelligence.  It was brought to my attention last week that some students were not aware of the "multiple levels of intelligence," so here is my opportunity to enlighten you.  Note that most people exhibit several aspects of the following categories, with some more predominant than others.  Intelligence, as defined in 1983 by  Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University, can be classified as follows:
·       Linguistic (verbal acuity, such as lawyers and writers)
·       Logical-mathematical (skilled in logic and reasoning, such as scientists and mathematicians)  
·       Spatial (ability to visualize, such as an architect)
·       Bodily-Kinesthetic (precise control over movement, such as dancers and surgeons)
·       Musical (sense of rhythm and tone, such as a composer)
·       Interpersonal (interacts well with people, such as social workers and teachers)
·       Intrapersonal (self-reflective, such as a psychologist)
·       Naturalist (relates well to natural surroundings, such as an environmentalist)
·       Existential (contemplates philosophical questions beyond the normal realm, such a a philosopher)
Clearly our educational system, in its current structure, focuses upon the teaching and testing of the first two types of intelligence.  But what about the student who has amazing insight and an ability to connect with other people, regardless of their age or what clique they belong to?  No SAT exam will measure this essential intellectual capacity that is valued in so many professions.  It is for this reason that I push certain students to apply for summer internships... to see that although they might not be at the top of the class in IB Biology or Honors Chemistry, they will shine when they get into the work force and have to navigate through real life dilemmas (they have been doing it since preschool). 
Reflection for my readers: Think about someone you know who demonstrates talent in one of the areas of intelligence that is not readily recognized by society.  Describe what it is about this person that makes him/her so special.  Although names should remain anonymous, be sure to tell this person you are writing in their honor.  You would be surprised how many people are unaware of their giftedness. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Stress Management Tips

By ~ a Senior (c/o 2010) with underclassmen in mind


Does this sounds familiar to any of you IB kids out there? I'm pretty sure most of us can relate in some way and trust me, it feels AWFUL to be stressed out.

As a full IB Diploma candidate, I have 6 hardcore IB classes riding on my butt this year and I have not tested in any of them. Great. But you know what gets me motivated and "Just Do It"? SELF-MOTIVATION and DETERMINATION. On my wall is a little motivation poster that reads "Every storm weathered with determination brings us closer to success." You know what, yes that all sounds like B.S when you have a bunch of assignments to do that one night. But you know what's even more true? YOU can get through it if you are willing to try.

Some simple tricks can be as follow: block FaceBook (or better yet, turn off the internet completely...unless you truly need it), turn off the TV, go to Starbucks or some other stores or at a library (research shows studying outside your room really help you focus better!!). You know your worst weakness, but can you find your way around it? For example, I usually set wayyyy to much goals and "things to do" that I feel bad if I haven't fulfilled them at the end of the I started setting limited goals: finish your math hw and bio objectives and you're DONE for the day --- I feel good when I accomplished just that.

Also, do yourself a favor by thinking more positive thoughts (because it increases your IQ) and add some rewards after you're done (NO, that does NOT mean 30 minutes of "break" after only 10 minutes of reading...). For me, I treat myself now and then with some $1 Fudge Sundae at McD's or spending fun time malling with my cousins. It pays when you're not worrying about stuff that needs to be done.

Last but not least, I want you to know that the feeling of accomplishing all those crazy assignments (G4, Bio test, History test, Eng essay, blah blah blah ALL w/i 2 weeks!!!) IS FREAKIN AWESOME! Hey, one day you'll go to college and be super thankful for being wayyyy ahead of the other kids (I'm looking forward to it myself *evil laugh of Mr. Jones imitating some Star Wars character*).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Defining Family

Written by Ms. Berman

The holidays are approaching, a time that naturally causes most of us to reflect upon our family life.  For many, the model family that has only been viewed from afar is nowhere close to the reality in which a person is actually living.  Disappointment abounds as it starts to feel as if everyone else has it better than you.  "Why me?" and  "Why can't my family be normal?" are sentences that I often hear from students at this time of year.  The memories of these conversations are vivid, even back to my very first student who I met in 1987 in the hallway of Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies.  Twenty eight years old, no teaching credential, and scared beyond belief, I was setting up my classroom the day before the students were scheduled to arrive.  C. was wandering around the school, trying to find each of her classrooms before school began.  "You're not allowed to be on campus, " I scolded her.  I would show her that I could be tough.  It was not her words that stood out so clearly, but the look in her eyes that told me a story.  This child was lost.  It was not just a classroom that she was looking for, but a home.  How I picked up on that message during our momentary encounter is the unexplainable magic of the teacher-student connection.  Anyway, as I grew to know C. during my challenging first year of teaching, I learned what a brilliant, perceptive, and sensitive young woman I had come to mentor.  I had an infant at home at the time and found that rather than prying into her personal problems, it was more comfortable for me to share the anecdotes of my family life with her.  Family.  I was sharing my definition of family with her, without even realizing it... no longer merely a teacher of Science, but a teacher of life.  Other teachers at the school advocated for C. as well, recognizing her potential far sooner than she did.  I receive emails from C. periodically, with prideful updates and pictures of her husband and three adorable children.  Although she has been employed as a middle school Science teacher, at present she chooses to stay home during the day with her children and works as a Chemistry tutor in the evenings.  Reflecting back on high school as an adult, C. has the following to share with my students:
What I realized after talking to you, the school counselor and my close friends, was that you all liked me just the same.  That I was respected, admired, and loved for who I was.  This was pivotal because for the first time, I began to view myself as independent from the parents who raised me.  That their flaws, shortcomings, and problems did not piggy back to me.  It took years for me to process this, but it was when I realized that if I put my mind to it, I could be whomever I wanted to be.  Things I learned from growing up in a tumultuous home:  "It may not be my fault, but it was my problem."   It was up to me to solve the problems within my control, and leave the other problems alone.  "Things may not be easy, but they will get better."  Always got to see that light at the end of the tunnel.   

As for family, I still find myself observing other families.  I really don't have a good definition or foundation from my own experiences. I listen attentively to other mothers talk about raising their children.  I take away what seems to fit for us.  But the biggest thing I realize is that there are so many different ways to raise a family, and not one right way.   
C. (c/o 1990)

In response to those of you asking, "Why me?" C. has created the life for herself that she could only dream of in high school... and if you stay focused, you will, too. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Norm of Over-Achievers

Post from a Senior
c/o 2010
It often seems like at school that you are only doing well if you are getting over a 4.0 and have 7 IB classes... which is great but way over-achieving. In my summer internship I started to talk to the adults in the lab and when they asked me about my classes they would ask "how many AP's did you take?" and I would say "only APUSH" and they looked moderately impressed. And then I would add "Because my school doesn't do AP; We do IB. It’s like AP but international. I took IB Bio, IB Chem, IB English, IB math, IB Spanish, and a class called Theory of Knowledge." Their eyes got so wide and they were clearly astounded. At first I didn't get why, I just thought oh everybody does it... then I realized that freaking nobody does that at any other school. It also reminds me of all the times people would be like omg I'm taking 3 AP classes I'm so swamped it’s so hard and I would just be like “yeahhhh.... sounds really challenging. Try 5 IB with a random AP.”

Another thing that amazed me was when I got my AP test scores. I didn't have to study that hard for APUSH... so I just smiled at the 4 I got. And then my smart friends from other schools got 4s on it too but APs were their whole lives.

Message of story... I.S. is hard. What we all start to think of as normal is over-achieving. I'm not saying drop all your classes... I’m saying stick with them because in the end you will be so proud of yourself and realize how much you have accomplished...

Response from Ms. Berman:
It is all about perspective.  Being a part of the I.S. community is a motivating force to perform with excellence in all arenas of your life.  It is important to remember that the norm at IS does not represent the typical high school curriculum and that this is one of the top college preparatory schools in the country.  Maintaining balance and coping with stress management are two of the key elements to achieving a successful and healthy high school experience.  Achieving these goals comes more easily to some than others, and many of you have learned to develop stress reduction and time management strategies throughout your high school career.  Practices you have acquired that appear simple to you, may have yet to occur to others. Your peers can benefit from your knowledge.   Seniors and Graduates, we especially hope to hear from you! 

Questions to respond to:

1.        How do you maintain balance in your life?
2.        How do you manage your stress?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Emotional Intelligence

Post from a Junior:
My mom and I were talking about how difficult sophomore year was and how I was initially struggling in chemistry which was really discouraging for me.  My best friend was grasping the concepts while many were over my head. I remembered the conversation that you had with me about how it's not always about IQ but EQ. I remember at that point was when I realized that it was not about how well my test scores were, or how quickly I was grasping the concepts, but how I handled the situation and how I would work towards accomplishing the concepts. That conversation was extremely inspirational to me and I think that it would be a good topic to mention in your blog :)

Response from Ms. Berman:

The leading researchers on Emotional Intelligence, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, have defined it as “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions” (1990).  IQ (Intellectual Quota) is the often used to calibrate "success" in the academic realm, but what about EQ (Emotional Quota)?  It is important to recognize that even though intellectual ability is significant, there are other attributes, such as strength of character, that are better predictors as to whether or not a person will be successful in school, the work place, and in life.
Questions to respond to (anonymous posts can be submitted via email):
1.  What is your definition of success? 
2.  Who are your role models?  What is it about them that causes you to feel this way?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What Really Matters?

Post from Ismaeel
c/o 2013
So I recently discovered this yahoo answers website and I decided to ask the people of the webernetz what they thought and I got a pretty good response. 


What will generation Alpha bring to the society, and the world as we know of it today?

How will they influence the world, and why? Any specifics appreciated...

Answer: 1st world Alphas' parents will predominantly come from Generations X and Y. They will be the first generation of babies to enjoy the benefits of government-funded paid parental leave. Many will come from cashed-up households with two incomes, and parents who have delayed having children until their 30s.
They will live in a state of high technology and the pace of life will be exponentially faster. The majority of Gen Alphas will expect instantaneous and accurate things from food to information, and will more than likely find even the slightest inconvenience to be stressful. There could even be a significant and alarming sense of social isolation as social interaction is becoming less and less, with text messaging and social networking, people will not have to put much effort in staying in communication with each other. School and education could soon be predominantly online, cutting costs of supplies that schools use. Schools could, in 30 - 40 years, become a thing of the past, as more and more people graduate with teaching degrees, they will be able to be contracted by a few parents to educate their children from the computer.
Ultimately, the worry that I personally have is, is in reliance of the internet and the world wide web for almost EVERYTHING. Purchasing from amazon, social networks, online gaming addictions, hiring ESL writers to write your biology paper - America is reaching either it's peak or we are now declining, as every nation rises and falls in History. Will we become a group of lazy social inepts? Would we survive if the cord to the internet was cut somehow? Will we even remember how to properly write in cursive, or does that not even matter anymore?
I think my biggest fear for the upcoming generations is that everything is becoming digitized. When soldiers and sailors left for war in the 40s, no one knew exactly what was going on between 60 second news reels at cinemas that they would have to get up and drive to go see, and infrequent letters from the front. Now, we can quickly hop online and see every single world event that we desire while the coffee is brewing. In all sincerity, without thought of conspiracy or superstition, how would we survive as a nation if overnight, the world wide web ceased to exist?
It's is extremely frightening to watch our species build itself a flimsy pillar to stand on. One small flick...

Ms. Berman's response:
Although it is important to think of the future in a contextual sense, when we focus upon these abstract theories, we can lose sight of the essence of the individual. I believe in the power of each of us to inspire and evoke change, but it requires a clear sense of self and defining, humanistic goals.  And so I ask each of you now to respond to the following question:
What really matters?


Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Written by Ms. Berman

They call her Ms. B, she's a teacher of Science
She strives to help kids who act out in defiance
"Daonlyyoungone" was his Screen Name in '03
A 14 year old Freshman in Honors Biology
A genius she pegged but unclear of his place
Now "ChrisYoungtheRapper's"  on YouTube and MySpace
Ms. B says to Chris you can seek all you desire
This poem's from your mentor, now go out and inspire
now i don't presume to be a rapper
i'm a middle aged woman,  no whipper snapper
but i've dedicated most of my life to giving
comfort to teens who don't want to go on living
and i know that drugs are evil and toxic
they hijack the mind when someone has lost it
and for our society to have the blatant audacity
to settle with this truth haunts my mental capacity
i have seen troubled youth ending up with slashed wrists
stints in mental hospitals, lives taking downward twists
i will never stop trying to convey the statement
there are ways to avoid lying face down on the pavement
my message is deeper as i speak from the soul
as holding on to my mind is my number one goal
for by now all who know me have confirmed the rumor
that i underwent surgery to remove a  brain tumor
benign though it was, it was the treatments that followed
that made my thought processes become muted and hollowed
so i scream out to young people please listen and cherish
your brain cells are awesome, do not let them perish
for when you load up your bodies with mushrooms and E
you're eroding your brilliance and disrespecting me
 i ask you to try other modes of getting by
running and hiking... a natural high
i believe it's a crime to waste a bright mind
if you allow for some detox i trust you will find
that there's work to be done one step at a time
life's not all about you and your being sublime
the world needs us all to give more than we get
one person one gesture start repaying your debt
 if you grasp this message then you are ahead
 of the lost grieving souls whose spirits are dead
 go fight for yourself and those whom you love
hold on to what matters and rise above
this tainted environment of substance abuse
savor those neurons and put them to use
life is about choices and the control is with you
think hard before you throw back that next shot or two

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Generation Y-Not?

Written by Ms. Berman

My first post... previously blank... but I just discovered the "edit posts" icon!  This blog will obviously be a lesson in tolerance.  I was asked to create a blog by a current student who shall be deemed as S.  Okay, so you sophomores have already figured out my code but I will protect the privacy of my students throughout my blogging.  What am I doing on here?  I am an educator.  For me, it is not just a job, nor a profession... it is a calling.  Many days I wish that it could be otherwise, but that is not in my make-up.  Most days I thank God that I am on this earth to encourage the students who so generously give of themselves in an attempt to make this world a better place.  Teenagers are the most highly underestimated group of citizens in the world.  Talk about discrimination?  Assumptions are made everyday in the worst kind of way but the truth is... I have worked with and raised my own children for the past 23 years.  Young adults are amazing.  If we, as a society, would treat them with a little more respect and set our expectations higher, they would achieve them.  My current high school students are nothing like I have ever seen before.  After grappling with this dilemma for weeks, I did what I do when I can't find the answer to a question... I texted a student... and here is what I learned...

MsBerman: A philosophical question for you: students currently in high school are classified as generation Y but are not the same as students from 5 years ago. Why?
MsBerman: The upcoming students will be in generation Z with its own host of traits.  You guys are a culture that I can't verbally define…
Nathan: Well, we typically think of a cultural generation as modeled after a biological one, so we have X and Y and soon Z, every 15-20 years, but since collective identity is so closely related to technology and mentality due to outside forces (i.e. idealism during a progressive political era, cynicism in times of repression) and our environment is changing ever faster, exponentially so, then these old generational distinctions are nullified.  Short answer: we are a different generation than kids a few years behind or ahead of us :p
MsBerman: Well, I've decided to call you guys Gen Y.5 and redefine you as a sub-culture.  Let me know if you have any more thoughts about this...
Nathan: What abt generation Y-not?  I think the time we live in is like the apex of possibilities so more people are just doing things.  So it's like why not for everything?  You know?
-Nathan (c/o 2010)
Thanks, Nathan, for your insight.  And for reminding us that life is all about point of view.  Students, you are just at the beginning of an apex of possibilities and it is important to remember this when you feel caught up in the homework trap.  You are members of one of the most driven, generous, and philosophical generations in the history of America.  Each morning when you wake up think "Today I will do the best job that I can."  Notice that I did not say a perfect job... merely give it your best.  And that is enough.  Gen Y-Not? You should live your life with pride.  I have taught thousands of students.  I should know.  As a wise elderly woman once said: "You deserve the best because you are the best!"