Tim's Blog

Tim Bazemore

Welcome to my blog, a way to present ideas, reflections, and observations with the school community and beyond. I blog on a regular basis, commenting on a thought-provoking experience, a significant development in education, and news of student and teacher work here at Catlin Gabel. My goal is to make you think, provoke a reaction, elicit diverse points of view, and affirm your faith in our school's mission. I hope you'll share with me and other readers any reactions you may have to my posts.

Appreciating familiar shared experiences

Yesterday a middle school teacher sent out an appeal, looking for the missing “Green Oscar.” Colleagues knew it was a reference to the life-sized Oscar the Grouch costume from (Not) St. George and the Dragon. Every December, the madcap wonders of this seasonal tradition take place in the Cabell Theater, to the delight of children and adults of all ages. Oscar and his friends are staples in whatever unpredictable tale is woven each year by the eighth graders.

In this heart of the holiday season, when many folks celebrate religious observances, welcome family members home, and gather with friends, the school is alive with annual traditional events. It is a reminder that as the world changes, the school grows, and we pursue innovation, we appreciate familiar shared experiences that symbolize our values and our community.

In the Upper School, a holiday assembly has taken place for over thirty years in Cabell. Held just before vacation, this event features various student, …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, Diversity, Innovation, Inclusion, community on Friday December 14, 2018 at 08:38AM
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MTC: Designing a New Pathway Through High School

One of our two strategic plan goals is to be an education laboratory, in which our teachers are inspired to do their best work and to pursue new ways of teaching and learning that benefit their students. In an ed lab environment, relevant research informs curriculum design, feedback and data guide next efforts, and student engagement and achievement are the goals. Teachers break out of silos, learn and plan together in new ways, and make learning objectives more visible to students. They share what they are learning, and seek promising ideas from colleagues at Catlin Gabel and from other schools. They are fearless in pursuing innovation in education.

In that spirit of discovery and leadership, we recently hosted a two-day workshop for schools who belong to the Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC), an exciting initiative we co-founded which seeks to address shortcomings in our traditional education system and in the college admission process. Seventy-five educators from 54 …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, Diversity, Innovation, measuring success, Inclusion on Wednesday November 29, 2017 at 11:27AM
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Forging Ahead, Fearlessly

On a recent sunny morning in Schauff Circle, students and teachers kicked off the school year with song, laughter, and not one, but two Eagle mascots. Inspired by my predecessor Lark Palma’s annual reminder to “take risks,” I challenged students and adults to be fearless. We all fear failure and the judgment of others, and it’s tempting to avoid change. Overcoming those fears is what learning is all about. Learning happens when we reconcile the new and unknown with what we previously experienced or believed. Being fearless is as important for the school as it is for every student on our campus.

This fall, teachers in all four divisions are learning more about how to embed challenging academic skills and noncognitive skills such as leadership and resilience into experiential learning. In the Middle School, teachers are practicing new ways to collaborate and design curriculum as they rethink “Breakaway” week. They aim to bring a new sense of purpose…

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, Experiential days, Breakaway, PLACE, Strategy, Innovation on Monday October 9, 2017 at 01:15PM
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Hearing Different Voices

Last month, I attended a heads of school meeting at a national conference in Baltimore. Around the table sat school leaders from almost every state. When the conversation turned to how national political events are affecting our schools, I was struck by how many schools are struggling to stand up for their school values in response to incidents of prejudice, and be places where diverse points of view and voices are truly valued.

It is hard to tell these days whether the divisive national mood is a cause or effect of our tendency not to seek, hear, and value other points of view. In the academy, conservatives have long argued that liberal groupthink dominates academic and social discourse, and that being inclusive does not extend to valuing their points of view. Author and professor Bill Deresiewicz agrees, arguing that most selective private institutions “suppress expression of unwelcome beliefs and ideas” and promote a “dogma of “correct” opinions and …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, PLACE, Diversity, measuring success, Inclusion on Wednesday April 12, 2017 at 04:29PM
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The Future of Education?

In 1892, ten college presidents, high school principals, and headmasters met to standardize education for students intending to attend college. The goal of the “Committee of Ten” was to democratize education for America’s growing immigrant population and to provide a trained work force for the world’s dominant industrial nation.

Varying approaches to teaching methods, curriculum, and college admission processes were causing confusion. As a remedy, the committee recommended a core set of academic subjects, eight years of elementary education and four years of high school, “Carnegie units” of 120 hours of instruction in each subject, and a transcript listing courses and grades so colleges could easily sort and select applicants.

Fast forward to 2017, and the educational experience at Catlin Gabel. The academic and character skills our students learn are complex and interdisciplinary. In every class students learn to research, write, analyze, compute,…

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, Innovation, measuring success on Monday February 27, 2017 at 09:52AM
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¿Qué está pasando? Idiomas en Catlin Gabel

(What's happening? Languages at Catlin Gabel)

What’s the point of learning a second language? There are many answers, including developing neural pathways, expanding communication skills, understanding a different culture, enhancing learning in other subjects, and learning geography. Being proficient in a second language connects us to other people and experiences that deepen our understanding of the world. It is a ticket to literature, arts, travel, and experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible.

For these reasons and more, most schools have long included second language study as a core course and graduation requirement. That will not change at Catlin Gabel School, but how we teach language is changing significantly. In keeping with our emphasis on experiential learning, deep understanding, and being able to transfer, or apply, what you know to real-world situations, language study is moving away from traditional methods to a more dynamic and powerful approach.


Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, Innovation, measuring success on Wednesday December 14, 2016 at 11:53AM
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The Potential of our Strategic Priorities

Facing an ever-more unpredictable future, our students not only need a solid academic foundation; they need the skills and habits of mind which will equip them to ask insightful questions, analyze information, think creatively, communicate in compelling ways, and work with all kinds of people.

This fact is at the heart of our two new strategic priorities: deepening our commitment to experiential learning and creating an unrivaled educational laboratory. Last month, I sent to our community an introduction to these priorities, and since then I have been banging the drum at divisional back-to-school nights. I want all parents and guardians to know what they are and where we are heading, and because I believe they will be transformative for our students.

These two concepts are not new to Catlin Gabel, but we must commit to them with a new and deeper sense of purpose. They are core features of a progressive education model that we know is best for students and teachers, a model more …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, PLACE, Strategy, Innovation, measuring success, Inclusion on Friday October 7, 2016 at 10:11AM
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Why Diversity and Inclusion?

One of the reasons I joined Catlin Gabel School last year was the opportunity to build on the work of previous years in the areas of diversity and inclusion. In 2013-14 we conducted the Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM), which helped us to set goals related to leadership, community, employment, and professional development. Those included creating a new senior administrative position, the director of equity and outreach; a standing board committee on diversity and inclusion; an inclusivity leadership position on the PFA executive council; and a variety of community events, forums, and activities.

We have taken these steps in response to AIM and because I believe that creating a diverse community in which every child feels safe, known, and valued is a precondition to effective learning. I am not surprised, given the complex nature of diversity and inclusion and the changes that we have made, that some people in our community have questions about this institutional …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, Diversity, measuring success, Inclusion on Thursday April 21, 2016 at 12:14PM
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The Science of Progressive Education

At this significant moment in the life of our successful school, we have a choice to make. We can let fast followers catch up to us, or we can leverage our progressive history, our commitment to inquiry and experience, and our independence, to reimagine how we can be even better. What will distinguish a Catlin Gabel student and graduate in ten years? How can we question and challenge what we believe to develop new insights? What structures, processes, and distinctive ways of working will sustain our excellence? 

These were some of the questions I considered as I traveled to San Francisco recently for the 2016 National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference. Four Catlin Gabel colleagues and I joined over 5,500 educators from around the country to explore topics including technology integration, social justice, and educational innovation. I have been to this conference over 20 times in my career, and I was struck by the dynamism and variety of innovative …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, Strategy, Innovation, measuring success on Wednesday March 16, 2016 at 02:38PM
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Ma ka hana ka ike

Progressive educators John Dewey and Ruth Catlin believed that the best learning happens through experience, an interaction between an individual and the environment. In schools, the interaction and environment are designed by the teacher, who selects materials, methods, subject matter, and surroundings that will engage students and inspire them to learn.

I was reminded of the importance of the learning environment recently when I attended the Independent Schools Experiential Education Network (ISEEN) Conference on Oahu. Joined by over 100 educators from around the country and overseas, we focused on the concept of “place-based education,” which speaks to Dewey’s belief that teachers should become “acquainted with the conditions of the local community, physical, historical, economic, occupational, etc. in order to utilize them as educational resources” (Experience and Education, p. 40). Over three days, leaders of outdoor education, service learning, …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, WEB week, Winterim, Experiential days, Breakaway, PLACE on Thursday February 11, 2016 at 09:24AM
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