Slate Podcast Featuring Bank Street Alumni on Teacher Tenure

Bank Street grad student and admissions blogger John Kuckens writes about three Bank Street alums on Mike Pesca’s the Gist on Slate. Read John’s article and listen  to the podcast.

See and hear what our alums Alisa Algava,  Ada Rosario Dolch, and Margaret Ryan have to say.

July 11, 2014 at 10:10 am Leave a comment

Identity Narratives

Identity Narratives.

June 18, 2014 at 11:30 am Leave a comment

Identity Narratives

Submitted by Amelia Clune ’11


“It is the story that owns and directs us….“ Chinua Achebe.


In order to promote engagement and engender achievement in the classroom, we as teachers must appreciate how “identity narratives” impact perceptions of societal roles.

The great Nigerian novelist, and a professor of mine at Bard College, Chinua Achebe once stated that: “People from different parts of the world can respond to the same story if it says something to them about their own history and their own experience…” It is thus in classrooms where we can help to nurture these commonalities and identify connections. I believe that in today’s pluralistic society, we must be ever more flexible in our teaching-styles and use a variety of tools in evaluating success. Our mandate is to develop pedagogy that respects and values differences, to create learning communities that deliver warmth and opportunity without devolving into rigidity or conformity,to cultivate character by promoting academic growth and personal transformation.

Children, especially those growing up in under-privileged inner city neighborhoods, are at risk of reverting back to their community’s expectation and scripted narrative of failure. In Young Gifted and Black: Promoting High Achievement Among African-American Students, the authors argue that if “identities are the stories we tell ourselves and the world about who we are…” then the most important thing schools, families, and communities can do is to figure out how to develop among African-American children and youth, identities of achievement.”

As we ourselves are in constant negotiation with those “stories,” our purpose as educators is to help students to recast their identities in ways that contribute to a story of hope and success. In the final analysis, teaching is about connecting with people, as individuals, on a personal level. By helping students identify shared stories – narratives which render virtuous tales of courage, humility, integrity, and kindness in spirit – we are modeling for students how those principles can be applied to a common way of life, giving children the confidence to open up in order to connect with anyone, regardless of cultural beliefs or customs. In doing so, we are fostering a shared understanding of what it means to be a member of today’s pluralistic society.

June 18, 2014 at 11:29 am Leave a comment

Literacy: Writing the Personal Narrative

Submitted By Jane Willis, a Bank Street 2001 Graduate

Staying Strong in School

A Playbook for Parents

MONDAY, MARCH 17, 2014

Writing to Reflect Real Life: Why the Personal Narrative is so Important to Students: Pre-K – 12th Grade

As you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a sh*t about what you feel or what you think. –David Coleman at NY State Department of Education presentation, April 2011

As one of the architects of the Common Core, which now places emphasis on evidence-based writing and the synthesis of other peoples’ ideas (CC Shift 5), Mr. Coleman dismisses personal writing as frivolous.  His comment above is prefaced by his criticism of the teaching of “the presentation of a personal matter” in schools. On the contrary, the personal narrative is a critical and relevant teaching tool for students ranging from Preschool to 12th grade. To leave massive populations of kids behind in devaluing the written expression of their personal experiences, and to try to divorce public schools from a genre of expression that our culture emulates- -doesn’t make sense.

The Common Core claims to aim students toward college and employment readiness. So, what’s additionally peculiar here is that this also architect of the college application process would “forget” that an applying student’s personal narrative is the primary audition piece that Admissions Boards scrutinize.

Devaluing or eliminating the personal narrative from an English class in any grade runs counter to how students develop as writers and thinkers, and, how our culture learns and instructs through the personal narrative form.  Let’s remember, Socrates urged all to “Know Thyself.”

For decades, the educational psyche has always encouraged students to use their own lives for writing and communicating.  How many of us remember Show and Tellas a social time to tell something about ourselves which helped us to figure out who we were among those other kids in our first schooling days?   This is the tomato I grew in our garden…  This is my grandfather’s Yankee cap…

Through her Writing Project, educator and writer Lucy Caulkins embraces the personal narrative as a genre to help teachers help students with the writing process.   Caulkins’ program, developed over decades with Columbia’s Teachers College, mandated by the Old Standards and implemented in schools across the country, now appears to be stranded with the onslaught of the New Standards. Experienced teachers who know the value of working with the personal narrative have been trying to calibrate it among the new demands of more synthetic and evaluative writing.  But it is in danger of being choked out of lesson plans.

There are abundant reasons why the personal narrative resonates with students of all ages and abilities across the socio-economic school scape.

In working with urban middle school students living in poverty or learning English, as well as with more affluent students, this type of writing is developmentally appropriate because it solicits the grist of a young student’s life as writing material.

Children at this age are appropriately egocentric: They organize the world according where they are in relationship to it.  A child who is just learning English, or a child with learning differences can first orally tell about an event in his life.  A partner transcribes the story.  Once on paper, the writer can further develop language and organize the story, as per Caulkins’ drafting process. Other students can more directly deliver their story straight to the page.  The most enduring message that teachers of writing can deliver to students:  A writer’s thought process is as individual as s/he is.  As a writing template, the personal narrative provides differentiation and invites diversity.

Next:  As they gather the facts around their own story, students are engaged with concrete thinking. These, they categorize, as ideas are organized and developed around this chosen life event. A student’s process is also scaffolded to more formal thinking as students move from ‘this or that happened to me’ – to – ‘what this means to me today’, for reflective and contemplative writing.

Another way that the personal narrative form works is that students without previous opportunities to obtain knowledge of novels, or a strong background in reading, are first invited to look at their organically grown story, which is a solid way to establish experiential knowledge of narrative structure before being asked to analyze other narratives in novels or informational texts.  More privileged students who have been exposed to books are perhaps able to run more speedily with this kind of writing assignment, and can be directed to aim for greater scope and depth. Yet, ask any professional writer: The process is ongoing.

Moving to high school:  Again, we have young individuals developing on the spectrum of egocentricity.  Some of them are still concrete thinkers; others have developed into more formal thinkers.  All of them have even more stories to tell. With critical life choices looming closer, this narrative form becomes even more relevant to teach: College-bound high school juniors attack it with clear intent: This is their audition piece for college applications.  For students moving directly into employment, it is a narrative that reflects and promotes their experience and values.  Sharing personal narratives creates inclusion and builds community:  We listen to the student who reads his story about when, as a camp counselor, he ferried a boatload of children across a lake when the motor suddenly died… The BOCES student on a vocational path relates how he scaled a 60-foot tree…  Another student shares how she learned to navigate Celiac disease, and how it has piqued her interest in studying nutrition.

Students who have been encouraged to explore the landscape of their own lives have a stronger foundation in thinking and writing from which to approach, when it is developmentally appropriate in higher grades, more synthetic writing with its quest for, and, examination of, evidence in informational or fictional narratives. Pushing students prematurely via the demands of the Common Core toward this kind of writing with an “agenda” will make writing seem even more difficult and inaccessible to kids.  It’s an oddly Victorian approach to treat children as miniature adults, and to ignore all of the research and studies that reveal all of the complexity with which children actually learn.

As teachers, we continuously ask ourselves: What are we teaching that will actually prepare our kids for the adult world?

Let’s look at the bigger picture: Our culture is saturated with what Coleman refers to as personal matters.  The personal narrative is everywhere, in long and short forms. It’s on the last page of every New York Times Magazine section, and in medicine, it is becoming more widely used as a way to give doctors greater holistic knowledge of their patients.  It is a treatment tool in the Recovery field.  It won this year’s Academy Award:  12 Years a Slave. The shelves in physical and virtual bookstores are filled with memoirs.  People with a story can now self-publish. The scientific story slam, where scientists relate their own stories of setbacks and discoveries is breaking new ground as an entertainment and instructional venue. (See TED Talks.)Think of the impact if schools more fully embrace the personal in the narrative for aspiring STEM students.

Personal narratives enlighten, instruct and reflect.  They invite identification with pain, joy, hope, absurdity, determination and uncertainty.  They offer escape into someone else’s world. It’s a form that began with every ancient community and still creates bridges over perceived differences. It mirrors the health of a culture that values memory, reflection, diversity, and individuality.

To eliminate this humane writing genre as a primary teaching tool would be an attempt to sever schools from the real world, and make them scarily Orwellian; narrow, colorless, and all pent up.

A graduate of Bank Street College of Education, Ms. Nixon Willis holds a MS.ed with a focus on Early Adolescence.  A Certified New York State English Language Arts Teacher, she has taught grades 7 – 12 in both urban and suburban schools.  Prior to public school teaching, as a produced and published playwright, she taught playwriting as an Adjunct Professor at Sarah Lawrence College, where she solicited her students to harvest their own life’s experiences in writing their plays.  A mother of three, she lives in Brooklyn, and is working on a book: Staying Strong in School: 10 Ways to Advocate for Your Child: A Guidebook for Parents.

March 18, 2014 at 10:56 am Leave a comment

Charter vs. Public: Misconceptions

Submitted by Steve Evangelista

I’m writing with Margaret Ryan on the eve of a forum about inequities in public education that we are hosting at Bank Street College of Education.  We chose specifically to focus this panel discussion and roundtable on public school education, and not just charter school education, even though we have been running a charter school for the past nine years.  We have heard some concerns such as, “So this is a charter school panel.  When is the public school panel?”

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way: inequity in public education is not a charters vs. public issue (it’s much bigger); and charter schools are public schools.  Charters and district schools are indeed administered differently, and charters can do some things that district public schools cannot do.

See more at:

February 10, 2014 at 1:45 pm 1 comment

A Bank Street Child Life Alum’s Inspiration

Submitted by Shani Thornton

The Child Life Program at Bank Street College of Education has transformed me from not just being a child life specialist, but by inspiring me to set forth and provide services to a much larger community. The wealth of knowledge, hands on experience and continuous support that I receive from my advisers has a lit a fire within myself.

Read more on Shani’s child life mommy blog:

February 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

San Francisco Area Spring Reflective Practice Group


Submitted by Bank Street alumnus Chad Kordt-Thomas

Interdisciplinary   Reflective    Practice    Consultation    Group    

    Purposof  thConsultation Group    

Working closely with young children and their families brings professionals into intimate relationships.  Pediatric occupational therapists, speech therapists, and other practitioners caring for families of young children call on a wide range of skills to make enduring positive change in children’s development.  Working with young children almost always includes working with parents, whether that is our focus or not.  However, supporting families through the child-­‐parent relationship helps us get the most out of our interventions.

This consultation group will give providers an opportunity to step back from the day-­‐to-­‐day work with families and reflect on their interactions.  Reflection and discussion often leads to more clarity about the reasons we interact with families in particular ways and the ways families interact with us.  Moreover, attention to the child-­‐parent relationship can make our interventions more powerful and effective.  We will also look at some of the challenges that come up in doing relationship-­‐based work with families, such as:

•      When parents’ desires seems at odds with what you think the child needs

•      Helping parents balance worry with hope

•      Parents’ frustration at child and/or at you

•      When parents bring up dilemmas outside your professional scope of work

•      The pressures that arise when paying attention to multiple perspectives

Who  should  participate  in  this  group?    

•      Occupational therapists

•      Speech language pathologists

•      Physical therapists

•      Family nurse practitioners and pediatric nurses

•      Home visitors

•      Educational therapists

•      Early childhood educators, site supervisors, and directors

•      Early childhood special educators

•      Child and family therapists

•      Others working directly with young children and families

Dates  and  Times              

Group will meet for 8  Tuesdays,  March    4th    April    29th  [no    group    on    April  15th], from 6:00 pm-­‐ 7:30 pm. (group can be extended if participants would like).


3514 Geary Boulevard (Inner Richmond Neighborhood of San Francisco)



To  Sign  Up

Please call Chad Kordt-­‐Thomas at 415-­‐596-­‐0293 or email chad@kordt-­‐

Group  FacilitatorChad  Kordt-­‐Thomas,  LCSW,  MSW,  MS.Ed.  I am a child and family psychotherapist who works with children of all ages and with a range of challenges.  I specialize in working with very young children and their families and children with developmental and learning disabilities, sensory-­‐motor processing difficulties, and speech/language challenges.  I provide infant-­‐parent and child-­‐parent psychotherapy, as well as individual child therapy.  In this capacity, I work closely with other early childhood and family professionals. I worked previously as an early childhood mental health consultant, facilitator of developmental-­‐therapeutic playgroups, therapeutic shadow, and preschool teacher. Endorsed as  an  Infant-­‐Familand EarlChildhood Mental Health Specialist   by the California Center for Infant-­‐Family and Early Childhood Mental Health

January 29, 2014 at 1:14 pm Leave a comment

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Some of Our Past Bloggers

Alisa Algava ‘08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school
Gloria Arenson ’58, psychotherapist
Bill Ayers ‘84, UIC professor, Chicago
Fred Baumgarten ‘84, writer/musician/naturalist/father
Keith Berman '03, founder/president of Options for College and Bank Street’s LinkedIn moderator
David Bowles ’08 (SFC ’93), museum educator at the Rubin Museum of Art
Elena Canaras ‘07, Special Education teacher, Hawaii
Virginia Casper, Bank Street faculty member
Jim Clay ‘88, director of a Washington DC Quaker preschool
Mary DeCamp Cotterall ‘87, Reading Specialist, Michigan
Judy Coven ’77, retired public school teacher and former Antioch University faculty member
Leslie Day '93, adjunct instructor at Bank Street and author of Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City
Mary Louise (Molly) Day ‘76, Lab School teacher, Chicago
Liezel de La Isla ‘99, Prague International School teacher
Diane Trister Dodge '70, founder and president of Teaching Strategies, Inc.
Meghan Dunn ’08, 3rd grade teacher, Brooklyn
Steven Evangelista ’01, co-director Harlem Link Charter School, NYC
Janine Fetters ‘02, Senior Associate of Parent Engagement at NACCRRA
Dena Florczyk '88, middle school teacher and founder/director of The Nigerian School Project
Hollee Freeman '94, writes about parenting issues for the alumni blog and was featured on BSCAA's April 2012 Career Panel
Ellen Galinsky '70, is President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs
Joanne Ruvolo Gannett ‘84, Columbia College art history professor, Chicago
Joan Goldstein ‘67, sociologist and educator
Margot Hammond, Director of the Center for Early Childhood Professionals
Carol Hillman ‘67, early childhood educator, author, and Long Trip co-leader
Pam Jones ‘05, Bank Street advisor and instructor
Lee Klinger Lesser ‘87, trainer for the Parent Services Project
Preminda Langer ‘97, teacher trainer
Claire Milam ’97, life coach, Austin, Texas
Rabin Nickens ‘03, Speaker, Trainer and Educational Consultant
Beth Norford ‘89, consultant and former School for Children teacher
Susy Ogden ‘97
Marion Palm ‘95, Leadership in the Arts alum, writing tutor, poet and singer
Jessica Poser, assistant professor of art education at UIC, Chicago
Jesse Pugh '76, BSCAA President
Meg Rauen ‘06, former Chicago elementary school teacher, NY
Linda Reing, Bank Street Director of Alumni Relations
Rosalind Rothman '62, retired NYC teacher and guidance counselor
Kyla Ryman '92/'97, educational coach and consultant
Ariel Sacks ‘06, middle school teacher, Brooklyn, NY
Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ‘81, psychotherapist and author
Barbara Silver ‘80, literacy consultant and former NYC first grade teacher
Andrea Penny Spencer, former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Bank Street
Debbie Stone ‘84, former teacher/co-director of High Valley School
Rachel Theilheimer ‘74, chair of teacher education at BMCC/CUNY
Theodore Timpson ’05, founder/president of Young Spirit Foundation
Eleanor Traubman '95, is Editor in Chief of Creative Times, a blog which promotes NYC's performing, visual and literary arts
Allison Warren '08, new mom, recent grad, and early childhood teacher
Max Weinberg ‘03, Francis Parker School teacher, Chicago
Ted Wells ‘07, 4th grade teacher at The Park School, Brookline, MA
Tracy Wiessbrod ’03, kindergarten teacher and stay-at-home mom

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