November 2019

Published monthly by William Penn Charter School in the interest of our faculty and staff.


A special thank you to all the PC faculty, staff and students who lead workshops at the MCRC@ADVIS DEI Conference on Oct. 11, 2019: Naveena Bembry, Jameson Ford, Naté Hall, Jalynn Johnson, Shahidah Kalam Id-Din, Whitney Kerner, Kristen Ostendorf, Lee Payton and Lisa Reedich.

At Philadelphia's celebration of William Penn's 375th birthday, Joe Fitzmartin and the Quakers Dozen performed in the courtyard of City Hall, and Michael Moulton delivered a speech about Penn, radical gardener and educator.

Jody Sweeney has been invited to serve on the Penn State Admissions, Philadelphia, Advisory Board. In this role, she will provide feedback to the PSU admissions staff about what admissions activities and strategies best recruit and support high school students in our region. This is a three-year commitment. 

Congratulations and special thanks to the many PC colleagues who shared their expertise by teaching workshops and /or mentoring at the Teaching & Learning Center during October: Sharon Ahram, Kevin Berkoff, Eileen Bossone, John Estok, Jane Evans, Aly Goodner, Julian Guindon, Judith Hill, Corey Kilbane, Joy Lai, Nora Landon, Marianne Master, Ruth McGee, John Metais, Beckie Miller, Sara Moses, Michael Moulton, Teodora Nedialkova, Lee Payton, Kristen Ostendorf, Christie Pearsall, Lisa Reedich, Tom Rickards, Brooke Stratton, Lori Swartz and  Melanie Wills.

News & Notes

Upper School Fall Play: Charles Dickens' Ghost Stories
Friday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 16, at 2:30 p.m. 
Directed by Eva Kay Noone
Written by David John Preece

The Upper School play boasts a cast of 19, so chances are you might have an advisee or teach a student who will be gracing the Ball Theater stage this fall. Please come out and support the students who are working hard to bring you a full theatrical experience. Here is a little about the play and the author of its content: 

Beguiled in early childhood by his nursemaid's grim and ghoulish stories, Charles Dickens harbored all through his life a fascination with ghosts, apparitions and chilling coincidence. This play is a collection of eerie tales, told story-theater style, from the greatest storyteller of all. The stories are a lively mixture of comedy, pathos and the supernatural and include: "The Signal-Man," "The Bagman's Uncle," "The Letter from Afar," "Trial for Murder," "The Queer Chair," "Sisters from Perth," "The Portrait Painter" and "The Lawyer and the Ghost." Look for your Oct. 25 email about how to obtain your complimentary ticket. The cast and crew look forward to seeing you there!

On Oct. 2., Linda O'Malley attended the Pennsylvania Women's Conference, which was held in the Philadelphia Convention Center.

Nina Wojtowicz attended the Institute on Exploring Dyslexia and the K-5 Reading Workshop through the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University.  Staff from the Child Mind Institute presented on identification and assessments of students presenting reading difficulties, and members of the TCRWP offered workshops on instructional practices for all students, including those with reading difficulties and/or dyslexia.  


New Faculty and Staff

Ansley Cox, Director of Facilities

Allen Van, maternity substitute for Renee Gunning in Health and PE


DEI Corner

By Antonio Williams

On Friday, Oct. 11, Penn Charter faculty traveled to the Tower Hill School in Wilmington, Del. to attend the MCRC@ADVIS 2019 DEI Conference where Tim Wise was one of the featured keynote speakers. Named one of “25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World,” by Utne Reader, Wise is one of the country's leading writers and educators, and among the most prominent commentators on whiteness, white privilege and anti-racism. Wise spoke about issues of race, class and gender and shared examples from his own personal life experiences. 

One concept Wise talked about in his keynote address was stereotype threat. Developed by Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson in 1995, stereotype threat refers to being at risk of confirming, as a self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one’s social group. It focuses on a social-psychological predicament that can arise from widely known negative stereotypes about one’s group, and the threat that anything one does, or any of one’s features that conform to the stereotype, actually makes the stereotype more plausible as a self-characterization in the eyes of others (and perhaps even in one’s own eyes). 

Based on the research, stereotype threat harms the academic performance of any individual where there is a stereotype that states one should or is expected to perform at a low level. Studies have shown that stereotype threat has harmed the academic performance of the following groups:

  • Hispanics; 

  • African-Americans;

  • Girls and women in math;

  • Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds;

  • White males when faced with the specter of Asian superiority in math.

As a result of poor academics and low expectations, students’ self-defeating behaviors and disengagement tend to increase. An example of self-defeating behavior is a student in one of the above categories who does not prepare for assessments thoroughly (or at all) because they may question the validity of the task and/or their ability to succeed in spite of the stereotype(s) held against them. By task discounting, students may believe they are protecting themselves from the consequences of poor performance, thus, ultimately, stereotype threat can undermine a student’s motivation. Therefore, educators must avoid situations or assessments that could generate negative performance expectations.

Based on the Steel and Aronson study, along with others, here are four techniques that can be used to reduce stereotype threat:

  1. Consider moving standard demographic inquiries about ethnicity and gender to the end of the test. Asking a student to fill out information that exposes their marginalized identity at the outset triggers stereotype threat and will negatively affect their performance.

  2. Provide role models of multiple identities and backgrounds, while emphasizing individuals and groups that combat the stereotype held against their identity group.

  3. Encourage self-affirmation; offer explanations for why anxiety and distraction may be occurring that do not implicate the individual or validate the stereotype held against them and/or their group.

  4. Emphasize high standards with assurances about the capability for meeting them, and the importance of effort and motivation in performance; de-emphasize inherent talent or genius. 

Tim Wise’s talk that day caused me to reflect on my own experiences as a student of color in an independent school. Growing up, I attended an independent school during middle school, and I can remember feeling the tension of trying to navigate the societal perception of what it meant to be an Afro-Latino male from the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn and the newfound expectations of the predominantly white independent school culture of class and privilege that I found myself in for the first time. My story is not dissimilar from the stories of some of our own students and OPCs of color. This is why, as educators, it is our responsibility to create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning for all students. There are times when we, unintentionally and unknowingly, do things that prohibit our students from reaching their full potential. It is important for us to be aware of the potential impact of stereotype threat in our assessments, curricula and programs and take the steps needed to prevent any student from experiencing this type of psychological trauma. 

Link to Sources


Technology Tips 

by Paul Blackwood

The K-12 Cyber Incident Map: 721 Incidents Since January 2016

The K-12 Cyber Incident Map is a visualization of cybersecurity-related incidents reported about U.S. K-12 public schools and districts from 2016 to the present.** ‘Cyber’ incidents include:

  • phishing attacks resulting in the disclosure of personal data (blue pins);

  • other unauthorized disclosures, breaches or hacks resulting in the disclosure of personal data (purple pins);

  • ransomware attacks (yellow pins);

  • denial-of-service attacks (green pins); and

  • other cyber incidents resulting in school disruptions and unauthorized disclosures (red pins).

The K-12 Cyber Incident Map is interactive. In addition to being able to shrink or enlarge the map, clicking on a pin will provide a summary of information about each specific incident, including the year the incident became public, the school/district involved, the incident type, a brief description of the incident, and the source of the data about the incident.


The Eco Corner

by Tom Rickards

Here is a picture of some of the kindergarteners working with one of our Upper School Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Certificate students, turning and adding fresh soil to their garden beds. We have been pleased with the growing cross-divisional environmental projects so far this year, so please let me know if you have ideas or areas of collaboration.

Here are some quick upcoming events:

  • Green Team: The Green Team meets the second Wednesday of every month at 7:15 am in room 135. Our next meeting is Nov. 13, and all are invited!

  • Movies that Matter: As later fall and early winter approaches, let me know if you would like to help sponsor an afternoon film and discussion. We have some Upper School students interested in a variety of topics and films, so getting them connected with an adult to help plan an event would be great!

  • Professional Development and TLCs: We are looking to offer a few outdoor and environmentally related TLC sessions and PD opportunities every month or so. So far, Ruth and the good members of our community have helped us with talks on the Spotted Lantern Flies and E-Bikes. We are looking to include upcoming sessions related to Wilderness First Aid and Teaching Climate Change in Non-Science Courses. Please let me know if you are interested in hosting an offering. 


Notes from the TLC

by Ruth Aichenbaum 

I invite you to take a look at this TLC SignUp Genius link to find out more about the many learning and enrichment opportunities offered in November and December. Please know that while some of the offerings denote that they are groups that meet monthly, there’s no commitment to attend each session. You’re welcome to drop in when you’re free or when the particular topic of that month most interests you. Details of each session are listed on the SignUp Genius. Upcoming workshops include


  • Using Comics and Graphic Novels in Powerful, Fun Ways to Promote Comprehension and Build Writing Skills
  • Using the On-Demand Writing Samples to Create Specific Goal
  • How to Survive and Thrive at Upper School Parent Conferences
  • Brainstorm and Develop PC VITAL Summer Grant Ideas
  • Mind, Brain, Education Research and Implication for Teaching Group
  • Project-Based Learning Group
  • Creating Lifelong Learners Group
  • Using Metacognition and Digital Portfolios to Create Deep Learning Group
  • Meaningfully Using Homework Group
  • Talking Teaching Sessions at Jefferson University

Understanding Students ... Our School...Ourselves...and the World:

  • Using Art to Talk about Race and Identity: New Traveling Exhibit 30 Americans at the Barnes Foundation Featuring Work by Many of the Most Important African Americans of the Last Three Decades

  • America 4.0: A Collaborative Exploration of the National, Social, Political and Cultural Tensions that Have Surfaced Since 2008

  • BARWE: Building Anti-Racist White Educators

  • Karen Jordan and her Fellow Freedom Fighters

  • Difficult Parents: Strategies to Build Positive Relationships

  • How to Survive and Thrive at US Parent Conferences

  • Learn about Four-Way Quaker Lodge in the NJ Pine Barrens

  • Girls Social/Emotional and Educational Empowerment Group

  • Decoding Penn Charter Culture for Teachers in Years 1-3 at PC

  • Technology
    - One-to-One Computer Help
    - Make Google Calendar Work for You

    - What’s Under Your Hood?

The Arts:

  • PC Cultural Event: An Evening with Poet Laureate Joy Harjo (All tickets are now taken, but let me know if you want to be on a waiting list.) 
  • Using Art to Talk about Race and Identity: New Traveling Exhibit 30 Americans at the Barnes Foundation

  • Making a Memory Book for a Loved One 

  • PC Book Group Discussion of the novel Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais

  • Get Your Knitting TLC


  • Commit to 1% Mindfulness Group

  • Mindfulness Meditation

  • Mindful Yoga

  • Morning Fitness Class

  • Support Group for Parents of Kids Three Years and Younger

  • And More when you contact me to let me know what you’d like to offer or see offered!

Here are some resources from October’s workshops that you can explore at your leisure:

Once again, here is the link to sign up for a TLC workshop. If there’s a session you’d like to attend, but the timing doesn’t work, please email me (, and I can set up a one-to-one session. 

As always, I am happy to meet with you to discuss specific workshops that you’d like to attend or teach. I’m also available to facilitate a Critical Friends Group, to discuss your VITAL project ideas, to arrange a classroom visit, and/ or arrange a one-to-one session with a mentor on a topic of your choice. 

Hope to see you at the TLC!

VITAL News  
It’s not too early to start planning for your ideal VITAL summer project! For those of you unfamiliar with VITAL, VITAL (Valuing Innovative Teaching and Learning) is an exciting professional development model that provides teachers time during the summer for the transformation of their craft through research, collaboration and innovation. Projects, lasting one to four weeks, are funded at median faculty salary. There will be a Brainstorm and Develop VITAL Summer Grant Ideas TLC session during lunch on Nov. 22. If that isn’t a good time to meet, feel free to email Ruth Aichenbaum to schedule an appointment at your convenience. You can also learn more about VITAL and past-funded projects by visiting this page on the TLC website. The application form and the rubric that the VITAL Selection Committee uses to review applications are also available on this page. 

PC Summer Reading Book Swap and Recommendations for Next Summer’s PC Professional Reading
The Committee on Teaching and Learning would like to help make it easy for you to read other PC Professional Summer Reading Books that interest you. To this end, we’ve set up a shelf in the TLC where you can drop off your summer reading book and take another book of your choice.

Also, we’re already collecting suggestions for next summer’s reading. As you come upon books that you think would make a great PC summer read, please use the form on the TLC website to share them with us. 


MBE Book Corner: Cognitive Strategy Instruction

by Anne Coleman

Teaching metacognitive monitoring and metacognitive control doesn’t have to be difficult. You may already recommend a number of cognitive strategies and not realize it! Here are a few common cognitive strategies you may already be teaching your students: slowing down, generating questions in reaction to texts, relating ideas back to prior knowledge, predicting upcoming content, and testing knowledge incrementally. 

To increase the impact of what you already do, remember that students’ motivation to use a specific strategy depends on both their understanding of how it will enhance their performance and their understanding that competent functioning is always a result of good strategy use (as opposed to natural ability or grit alone). 

Looking for a few new strategies? Follow this link for graphics to introduce you to the following approaches:

-General Model of How to Teach Strategies
-Comprehension Strategies Taught in Transactional Strategies Instruction
-Teacher Process Moves and Responsive Comments

-Teach Polya’s Four-Stage Model for tackling word problems 

-Teach concept-mapping for unit review

-Teach the keyword method of memorization 
-Teach semantic mapping for vocabulary self-monitoring

-Teach summarization

-Teach Davey and McBride’s Question-Generation Procedure