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Welcome - This is a personal & professional website, mostly aimed at supporting and encouraging teacher leaders who wish to use arts integration and character development to strengthen their own learning, the learning of their colleagues, and, of course, the learning of their students..

Does this painting, 'The School of Athens' by Raphael, engage you? (Click here for a larger view, then click on the larger image and scroll across and click on some of the individuals)

Would a couple of questions strengthen your engagement?

What is the focus of this work of art, and what makes you think that?  What might Raphael have been trying to accomplish with this painting?  What questions does this Work of Art raise in your mind?

Using the arts, and the development of good character, for 1-ENGAGEMENT in learning, for 2-LEARNING, and for deeper understanding of other subjects, and for 3-better RETENTION and 4-appropriate APPLICATION/TRANSFER of learning, is most of what this website promotes..

For a healthy, practical example of the power of the use of the here, and on most of the underlined items throughout the website....

Click here for a good example, the Kahn Academy using film/video (arts & technology) to learn more about 'The School of Athens'

This website is designed to support Teacher Leaders, and other leaders, as they explore selected, some recent and some quite historical, proven, often neglected, and powerful approaches to the improvement of learning - approaches such as: the teaching of the arts, then, the use of the arts, character development, and collaborative relationships for the continuous improvement of learning, for teachers and students...for transformation. 

The teaching of the arts, and the intentional development of good character, first done for their own sake, but also then used as tools to create a better learning culture for students and teachers, and also used as tools for whole school transformation, is exactly what this website is designed to facilitate.

Much of the detailed support material is located within the 'Courses, Modules & Prompts' with access to some courses gained by assigned ID and passwords, but each section contains a 'Sampler' of learning prompts, which needs no password.

Hands-On, and Much More -- Head, Hands, Heart & Spirit - Why the word 'systems' in BenjaminSystems you might ask?  Finishing my undergraduate degree in 1964 I did a self-study project on General Systems Theory (see Resources) ideas which I never really left.  Then many years later I was pointed toward The Fifth Discipline and Systems Thinking in the learning organization.  Thinking of a classroom or a school as a learning organization, and as a system, with many parts acting together for a purpose helped in understanding and in guiding continuous improvement.  Then, seeing that the relationship between the parts was as important as the parts themselves brought even more insights, and suggested even more tools.

One application of systems thinking simply helps us remember that providing a 'hands-on' dimension almost always strengthens cognitive learning, adding touch and the other senses to the reasoning done by the 'head'  and that any further extension involving the emotions or the 'heart' provides further strengthening.  When the 'spirit' can also be invoked, involving meaning  connected to a purpose larger than one's self, one gets the benefit of a more complete learning  system.

Teaching the arts, then using arts integration and interdisciplinary approaches, and adding a character development dimension, all done in appropriate ways and at appropriate times, generally creates and enhances the above more complete system.

This website tends toward a personal / professional perspective, and remains in a developmental stage...(a 'sloppy copy' needing help), comments and suggestions are very welcome. 

It is pretty personal because I am heading into that age (OK...I am well into that age) when keeping track of the details of complex projects is increasingly difficult.  The website is therefore one of my prosthetic devices.....
Companion Websites:

Schools and Projects

Arts Integrated / Character Development Units

Masterworks....Universal Concepts....Big Ideas....Essential Questions

A companion website, just being developed and providing support for most of the initiatives here, is to be found at

More Good Examples:

But wait, there are more real data, with numbers, not just relying on our observations of the percent of people using the stairs? more...

Here is a brief 'Chalk Talk' giving a glimpse of the big picture. more...

Or, perhaps you would like an overview and a comprehensive resource of a specific example of the use of the arts to foster academic achievement. See the video on OMA (Opening Minds Through the Arts), and also review their OMA Grade-Level Instruction Rubric and the listing of OMA Instructional Practices, in the list of PDA resources below the video. more...

Arts Integration School Implementation Rubric

Finally, a clear description, from Edutopia, of a much-needed student-centered approach.

More on the People and the Painting 'The School of Athens'

Please get in touch to offer ideas and comments....
Character & Invitational Education projects:

Arts Integration projects:

School Transformation projects:

John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence  The painting is often described as the "Signing of the Declaration of Independence", but this is an error. The painting actually shows the five-man drafting committee presenting their draft, an event that took place on June 28, 1776, and not the signing of the document, which took place later.[2]

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Administrative & Teacher Leadership: Guiding the Culture

Two recent articles suggest two different 'cultures' to be considered, one separating 'managers' from teachers in order to make the new teacher evaluation systems effective, and one urging 'more training - not just on academics - but also on how to build relationships and support for learning among staff and students.'

The common insight seems to be that successful transformation involves more than a checklist of best practices, it involves the establishment and maintenance of an appropriate culture.


The first, building on the observation that the new teacher evaluation systems do not seem to be accomplishing much because 98% of the teachers are identified as good or outstanding.  This is taken as proof that either the student achievement standards are being set too low or that the principal observations are too generous, because '

Principals, who are often responsible for the personal-observation part of the grade, generally are not detached managerial types and can be loath to give teachers low marks. “There’s a real culture shift that has to occur and there’s a lot of evidence that that hasn’t occurred yet,”

It appears that the shift that is needed is for principals to become more 'detached managerial types' so they will be more inclined to give teachers low marks.

This article, from the March 30,2013 New York Times, entitled "Curious Grade for Teachers - Nearly All Pass" accurately points out an important positive of the new teacher evaluation systems - namely that:

"teachers are no longer rated simply on “classroom management” and “planning,” but rather on 60 specific elements, including “engaging students in cognitively complex tasks involving hypothesis generation” and “testing and demonstrating value and respect for low expectancy students.”

 Perhaps the advocates for the new teacher evaluation system would benefit from considering the advice from the second article, from the March 6, 2013 Education Week, "Principals Lack Training in Shaping School Climate."  Here the emphasis seems directly out of the transformational, Ethical, Invitational approach advocated by this website, involving the nurturing of trust and being intentiona about the development and maintenance of high quality human relationships.

Perhaps some readers will take a closer look at the original articles and offer some observations from their experience......


6:09 am est


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The School of Athens by Raphael (Above)
 This painting is a highly useful Masterwork.....Providing a 'hook' for several major concepts and ideas.....perspective, vision/current reality, balance, learning by the senses/learning by reason, philosophy, and more.



This web site is designed to support those who are working toward school transformation through teacher leadership,collaboration, learning about what works, arts integration, and character development.  It is aimed at our personal and professional development, individually and as we work collaboratively.
We hope you enjoy this website, and find it useful. If you have any questions, or suggestions, related to the content of the website, please contact Dr. Richard Benjamin at