Promoting Teaching & Learning @ NHS

Resources to Increase Capacity for Teaching & Learning

JANUARY 2016


This newsletter provides additional information and resources on the areas of focus that drive Needham High School's goals and professional development for the year. We believe attention to each of the following five areas provides the best learning environment for all of our students. Comments and feedback are welcome!

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Cultural Proficiency

With recent world and national events involving fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, our Muslim staff, students, and families may be finding it difficult to reconcile the atmosphere of the highly charged and often inaccurate political rhetoric in our media and our efforts to create a safe environment for learning at NHS. Now more than ever, we need to demonstrate with our words and actions that NHS is an accepting place that appreciates and welcomes the diversity of all members of our community. The article below lists some small ways those of us outside the Islamic faith can serve as allies to our fellow Muslim Americans.

Did You Know?

Do you know how to pronounce “Muslim” correctly? Last month, Mr. Brooke’s freshman World History classes had the opportunity to visit the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland where students were treated to a tour of the facilities and an informational presentation, which included the correct pronunciation of the “Muslim”: moose-lim. This ensures differentiating it from the Arabic word for “oppressor” which sounds like the inaccurate pronunciation of “Muslim”: Muz-lim.

Diversity Makes You Brighter!

According to this recent New York Times article, "Diversity improves the way people think. By disrupting conformity, racial and ethnic diversity prompts people to scrutinize facts, think more deeply and develop their own opinions. [Research] show[s] that such diversity actually benefits everyone, minorities and majority alike."


Learn strategies for getting brighter taking a look at the upcoming schedule of IDEAS classes below. These courses in Cultural Proficiency are available to teachers free of charge!

IDEAS Book Group


Our district's membership in the IDEAS program also means you are entitled to attend the IDEAS Book Group, which next meets here at NHS on January 20th to discuss The Lemon Tree by Sand Tolan.


Second semester, the group will be reading The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs, Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harlem Childhood by Fatima Mernissi, and more!

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Technology & Innovation

In September, we devoted a portion of the faculty meeting to the district’s technology plan, which includes a 1:1 learning environment at the high school, and the Technology and Innovation committee has been meeting regularly to incorporate staff commentary from that meeting in the plans moving forward, which included the following:


  • management of devices in the classroom

  • teaching students appropriate use of technology in learning--and when it is not appropriate

  • security of devices when not in use

  • charging of devices

  • wireless infrastructure


The original faculty meeting presentation is linked below.

Using Technology to Move Closer to Cultural Proficiency

Our school calendar recognizes certain religious and cultural celebrations, such as Christmas during winter break and days off in the fall for certain Jewish holidays. How do we make a safe and comfortable space for other holidays and celebrations however? Here are a few that are coming up in January (including hyperlinks to learn more):



Sometimes simply being aware that these observances are taking place can help us create a more inclusive atmosphere, especially in supporting students who may miss school or find it difficult to complete work due to family cultural commitments. Google Calendars has an option to add certain holidays and observances to your personal calendar that can be toggled on and off as you see fit. To add these calendars, take the following steps:


  1. Log into your Google Calendar.
  2. Find the downward pointing boxed arrow next to “Other Calendars” in the lefthand toolbar.
  3. Click on the arrow and select “Browse Interesting Calendars.”
  4. From this page, you can subscribe to different cultural calendars, which you can then turn on or off from the main toolbar page!

Plans Moving Forward

We are excited to incorporate so much feedback from all NHS stakeholders into our technology plans; the article below outlines some recent research regarding how these various stakeholders, especially teachers, feel about how input is and should be used in educational technology plans. The second article below is a brief tech tip roundup for educators.

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Interdisciplinary Learning

Throughout the school year, the NHS Interdisciplinary Learning Team has been working on developing an NEF Large Grant requesting money to fund current and future interdisciplinary projects and an Interdisciplinary Learning Specialist position that will help support staff who are or are interested in integrating interdisciplinary skills/projects in their classes. We are excited to provide greater support in facilitating this type of teaching and learning!


If you are interested in learning more about innovation, interdisciplinary learning, and teaching 21st Century skills, please watch Tony Wagner’s Ted Talk below!
Play, passion, purpose: Tony Wagner at TEDxNYED

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Social Emotional Learning

With the sharpened focus on students' social and emotional skills, it is easy to forget that our own skills are important in the classroom and for our own success.


Educators’ social and emotional skills vital to learning

Stephanie M. Jones, Suzanne M. Bouffard, & Richard Weissbourd


This article focuses on teachers' own social and emotional learning. It describes promising interventions for promoting teacher SEL competencies and strategies educators can use to promote SEL in their students.

Additional Resources

Jamie M. Howard, PhD, is Child Mind Institute's Director of the Stress and Resilience Program; Clinical Psychologist, Anxiety and Mood Disorders Center. Read her short article on the importance of failing. Failure teaches kids the skills they need—like resiliency—to be successful adults.

The following is an interesting article on how social-emotional learning enhances special education. Social-emotional learning programs come in different forms by Alison DeNisco.

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School Safety

The two most important steps in keeping a school safe are to create strong, trusting relationships between staff and students, and ensure that everyone is passing along any concerns as quickly as possible. Please make sure any unusual actions, items and individuals are passed on to an office immediately.


In the ALICE protocol (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate), the piece that often causes the most confusion and concern is Counter. This part is not designed to put people in harm’s way or cause staff or students to actively seek out an intruder. Instead, it is designed to help provide the time and distraction needed to get people out and away safely. It is only used when a person or group is in a directly threatening situation facing an intruder. The main focus is on throwing items at the intruder, yelling, and making noises that distract the intruder’s ability to concentrate fully. Here is a short video explaining a little more of what Counter is and isn’t. Remember, the first priority of the ALICE protocol is getting out safely. Lockdown happens when evacuating safely is not an immediate option. Counter only happens in very rare situations and is only designed to allow people to get away from the situation.

What is Counter?