Your job is cocoa

~ Bethany Meyer, Middle School Boys Administrative Assistant and mother of four boys at SCH

“Your job is cocoa.”
 
It’s the only thing I remember from any Back-to-School Night that I’ve ever attended. To date, I’ve been through 29 of them.
 
“Cocoa,” Ann Dimond announced to the fresh crop of 1st grade parents in her classroom. With a four-week-old baby on my shoulder—my fourth in seven years—I was deliriously tired, sufficiently overwhelmed, and desperate for parenting hacks. Ann’s 25 years of teaching experience more than qualified her.
 
“When your son comes home from school, pulls out his homework, and proceeds to tell you that it’s too hard and he needs your help with it, tell him, ‘Gee, that sounds rough. Can I make you some cocoa?’ Because I don’t send anything home that we haven’t already done in class. He’ll tell you he’s never seen it before. He’ll tell you he doesn’t understand it. The work isn’t difficult, and you’ll be able to help him easily. I ask you instead to offer him cocoa. The work is his. His homework. His to understand. His to complete. His to turn in. His to muddle through. Would doing it with him get him through it faster and make your life easier? Short-term, yes. But you’re not doing him any favors in the long run. Now that your son has homework, your job is cocoa.” 
 
 
There’s no trace of baby left in the infant who slumbered on my shoulder that September night seven years ago. And the 1st grader whose Back-to-School Night I attended? He fills the doorway with his 6’1” frame, and I regularly trip over his haphazardly placed size 13 shoes. He graduates 8th grade in two weeks. We have a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old sandwiched between them. Time has gobbled up my delicious babies and left my house reeking of feet and armpits. With two middle schoolers in the house, I hear plenty of well-intentioned advice from fellow parents about the dangers of Snapchat, Internet porn, unprotected sex, drugs, and underage drinking. I find myself perusing Instagram memes, opening fortune cookies, scrolling through Ann Dimond’s Facebook wall for more parenting hacks. I’m in a panic.
 
Now that my sons are in Middle School, can someone please tell me what my job is??  
 
Ironically, I go to work every day, and I’m surrounded by even more Middle School boys. 105 total. 
 
Luckily, I work with a team of people who make the parent in me feel less panicked. 
 
Each morning I pull into the Middle School parking lot by 7:15 am with all four boys in tow. Meghan Glendinning, Melanie Marion-Landais, and Siobhan O’Connor arrive around the same time. When we reach the third floor, Wes Winant, Paul Hines, and Andrew Wolf greet us from the benches outside my office. Wes has been there since 5:15 am, Paul since 6 am, Andrew since 6:30 am. Steve Hyson, Kasia Pater, and Regina Puleo are right behind us. Josh Budde is already in his office. We unload our belongings, grab our laptops, and land a spot on the benches for what Melanie deems her favorite part of the day. We fill one another in on our families and our weekends. We voice our concerns. We share laughter. We celebrate birthdays. We listen to wedding plans. We discuss The Walking Dead. We sit in companionable silence. Trust is built on those benches. Friendships are cemented on those benches. Josh emerges from his office, Jarred Williams and Jay Pearcy join us, and the conversation inevitably turns to our boys. All 105 of them. Your sons.
 
Who’s doing well, who’s not doing well. Who’s receiving a Blue and Blue Award, who’s serving detention. Who is out sick and already emailed his teachers for his work, who fell asleep twice in class yesterday. Who hit the homerun to win the game, who missed the 3-point shot at the buzzer. Who sang beautifully in the Boychoir musical, who forgot his lines. 
 
What are our boys going through on any given day and how can we best support them? 
 
Our boys are growing up and away from us. They are creating identities separate from us. They are beginning to take risks. They are trying on different behaviors to see how they fit. Language is the easiest and most convenient place for them to begin experimenting. So they curse in the hallways. Especially the 6th graders. We hear it. Provided it is not malicious or egregious, we often pretend we don’t hear it. Because it is low level. And we are giving them the space they need to stretch and grow. Sometimes they take liberties, and the cursing happens in front of us. In which case they receive a Behavioral Notice. Because it’s important for them to understand that the risks they take when speaking with their peers are not the same risks they take when speaking with adults. When we write those slips, we don’t judge you. Because, your son’s behavior is not a reflection of your parenting. And we don’t hold a grudge against the boys when they make poor decisions. They need the freedom to mess up, the grace to face the consequences, and comfort in the knowledge that we—the adults in their lives—accept and are here to support them. No matter what.
 
My husband and I firmly believe that the teachers are the experts of our children in the classroom. We may not always agree with what we hear from our sons about what transpires in the classroom. But we trust and respect the teachers’ commitment to our sons. We have an agreement: never write to a teacher while we’re angry. Sleep on it first. Early this year, our youngest son came home with the Lower School version of a Behavioral Notice. From the way he framed it, he had gotten in trouble for something that wasn’t his fault. And I broke our rule. I felt completely justified. I believed I was advocating for my son. So I wrote to a teacher while angry. I didn’t send an email, I wrote on the back of the Behavioral Notice. In purple pen. With my youngest son as my audience. I waited until the next day to tell my husband. He was appropriately mortified. “You WHAT? Oh no! You wrote it WHERE? OH NO!” I broke our rule. I showed my crazy. The worst part was that I did it in a manner in which my son, whose behavior was in question, was able to discern that I disagreed with his teacher. She is with him more daylight hours than I am, and I undermined her in front of my child. 
 
I made a mistake. I made it with the best intentions and with a heart full of the fiercest kind of love. But I made a mistake.     
 
I know better. 
 
I know better because I’m surrounded by people who are doing their best for our boys—your sons—every single day. It begins in the morning while we commune as a group. It carries through classes. It continues at recess when we spend our time equally between trying to make sense of the game the 7th graders play on the turf and loving that all 28 of them are playing together. It occurs every time a teacher walks into Josh’s office to discuss a student, and he always makes time. It happens when I pop my head into his office to give a parent’s perspective on any given situation, and he listens. It’s evident in the hallways between classes when we remind the 8th graders how much bigger they are than the 6th graders and to be careful. It’s the topic at lunch. And again at afternoon recess. Once a cycle, the teachers get together for team meetings to discuss each individual grade for an entire period. When Jay and Josh discuss disciplinary issues and weigh appropriate consequences, they are considering what is best for your sons. When we run together after school—we talk about our boys—your sons. When the school day ends, we catch one another up on their small victories and their tiny disasters. It continues through dinner and well into the evening when teachers are pulled away from their families to answer your phone calls and emails to address concerns about your sons. 
 
So collaborative is the concern for your sons that it is practically a living, breathing being. It exists on the third floor of the Wissahickon Inn. 
 
Middle School is a tough age. We acknowledge that, we have a front row seat for it, yet we choose your boys. We want each of them to succeed. We expect that they’ll mess up because that’s often what a middle school boy is inclined to do. When they fall short of a goal, we make every effort to equip them with the skills to get up and try harder. To forgive themselves and work smarter. To respect themselves, one another, and the adults in their lives. 
 
I am one of you—a parent of two Middle School boys. There’s a restlessness that comes with parenting kids this age. It’s an awkward dance, a tug-of-war. They push us away, we grasp for them in a panicked attempt to keep them close. They shut themselves off to us emotionally and leave us both frustrated at their flippant tones and desperate to connect with them. We catch glimpses of their vulnerability, but typically after 10 pm when we are at our most physically and mentally drained. They are on a trajectory that is taking them away from us. They are exactly where they belong, and as natural as it is, it still stings. It leaves us wondering where we fit into their ever-morphing adolescent lives. 
 
Our boys—your sons—are loved. While they change, they grow, they pull away from you, they lose every last bit of endearing little boy, they dish attitude, they grunt instead of speak—know that we choose them. Know that we love them.
 
Each of us is making an enormous investment in our kids’ educations. In return, our sons get exposure—to the arts, to sports, to technology, to robotics and engineering, to language, to music, to trips some of us can only dream of having gone on at their age. They spend their days in the presence of adults who have passion for the subjects they teach. Our boys have access to their teachers. Before school, at recess, during Extra Help, after school, via email in the evenings. The class sizes are small, so the teachers know our boys very well. They know who your son is friends with, who he studies productively with, if he does better when he works independently, that he can be trusted when he sits in the back row. They know—often before we parents do—who is on email after 11 pm and who is up until midnight on Snapchat. They know that every extra bit of help they offer our boys before school, at recess, during Extra Help, after school, and via email in the evenings will not make a difference if our boys are not getting enough sleep. One of my least favorite parts of the day is when it’s time to tell our oldest son to close his laptop and remove himself from his phone for the night. Every single time we’re met with resistance. He goes to bed mad at us, we go to bed frustrated with him. He knows what he wants, we know what he needs, and rarely the two ever meet. His job is to be a student, and he can’t be a successful one with unlimited access to screens at home and insufficient sleep. Our job is to be the parent, which means making the hard decisions and being on the receiving end of his teenage wrath. No part of it is fun, but I have a funny feeling we’ll both survive.      
 
Please reach out. Reach out with purpose. If there is a problem at home, we are here to support your sons. Several years ago, when my family endured an especially rough year, one of my first phone calls was to Marisa Crandall, the school psychologist. The next calls were to my sons’ teachers. We were in it together. If your son is trying a new medication, please reach out. If there is an illness or a death that impacts your family, please reach out. Having this information is so important for us to be able to support your son appropriately on any given day in his Middle School experience. We are are in it together.    
 
Josh, Jay, and the advisors encourage you to reach out as frequently as you feel necessary. 
 
After having spent an entire school year with this compassionate, capable, thoughtful group of teachers, as a fellow parent I encourage you instead to heed Ann Dimond’s invaluable advice.
 
How can you best support your son? 
 
Make sure he gets enough sleep.
 
Reach out with purpose. 
 
Otherwise, cocoa. 
 
Listen to him. When he complains, listen to him. If you’re angry or confused by what you hear, before you pick up your purple pen, I encourage you to sleep on it. If, after sleeping on it, you’re still angry or confused, consider sleeping on it for an additional night. It’s not yours to straighten out. More often than not, he’s not telling you the entire story. Occasionally, he’s not even telling you the truth. Listening to your son is connecting with him. It’s enough. He will feel loved. He will feel validated. Just as important, he will feel confident in the decisions that his teachers make on his behalf because he will believe that you have confidence in their decisions. And that frees him up, while he’s in school, to focus on being a student.  
 
If your son is home sick, know that it’s his job—not yours—to email his teachers for work. If he fails to do it, allow him to fail. If he flunks a test, don’t take that opportunity to email his teacher explaining why he should get another chance. He needs the time and the space to fail. He needs the grace to face the consequences. He needs to see for himself that the adults in his life continue to want the best for him and that we accept and love him both when he succeeds and when he fails. He needs to get up and try harder. Unassisted. He cannot experience any of this if his parent continues to intervene on his behalf. It’s hard to watch our kids go through something that every fiber of our being wants to save them from. But that’s exactly what I’m encouraging you to do. I am one of you. I feel uncertain about my role in my sons’ lives. And I’m encouraging you to give your son the space he needs to grow. 
 
Let us do our job. We do it well. 
 
Trust us. Trust the process.         
 
Know that your sons are our boys. And we love them too. 
 
Seven years later, Ann Dimond’s advice still holds true. 
 
Cocoa. 
 
More often than not, it’s all our boys need.
Back

Enjoy our collection of blog posts:

List of 30 news stories.

  • What can we learn from mud?


    ~ Anya Rose, Lower School Boys Science Teacher 

    On the day we planned to have Science in the Woods, it was a muddy 50 degrees in January. What to do with all this mud? Should we postpone our outdoor session? The kids would just get dirty, and not all of them were prepared with the right clothing. We went out anyway and I used the weather to my advantage. “Nature is always teaching, as long as you are paying attention.” I learned that from the wilderness school where I used to teach at the White Pine Programs in Cape Neddick, Maine. And as Julie Lythcott-Haims said in her recent parent program at SCH, we must find ways to encourage unbounded curiosity and independent thought in our students. Science in the Woods provides students with ways to learn about natural history, and science, yes, but also respect, thoughtfulness, decision making, preparedness, resilience, courage, and self-reliance. On this particular day, I used mud, water, and the cold to teach these lessons.

     
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  • Polly (right), Taliah, from Israel (center), and her student Ben (left), standing on a bridge over the Shannon River on the campus of the University of Limerick while at the Narrative 4 conference in Ireland.

    Fearless hope through radical empathy


    ~ Polly Kimberly, Associate Director of College Counseling and Upper School Diversity Coordinator
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  • How do you define freedom?

    ~ Mel Graves '17

    The Springside Chestnut Hill Academy SCHout 2017 diversity conference was the culmination of months of hard work and commitment. It was exciting to see our work come to life and to be in a space full of love, understanding, and radical empathy.
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  • Entrepreneurship at the Core of Private School Programming

    ~ Ed Glassman, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership


    "Independent schools traditionally determine success by whether you get into your favorite college. CEL turns that on its head."
     
    Inspired School Marketers interviewed SCH’s Ed Glassman for their “The Sparkcast,” a podcast providing brilliant ideas and brain food for the private school market. We invite you to enjoy the full recording here. Highlights and excerpts follow.
     
     
    The Sparkcast:
    According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 65% of today’s grade school kids will end up in a job that hasn’t been invented yet. Ed Glassman is Executive Director of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy's Sands Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership where they have developed a program that takes on this paradigm and “embodies a bold and innovative vision that challenges the constraints of traditional education, preparing students to change the world through an entrepreneurial mindset—a mindset of curiosity and courageous creativity.” The Sands Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at SCH strives to develop students who will shape this uncertain future.
     
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  • Essay: A tale of two Cubas, before and after Castro died

    ~ Sam Gerlach, Class of 2017

    The following essay was published on Newsworks (12/9/16).

    Sam Gerlach, a senior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, loves to travel. He has spent much of his life exploring different cultures, from a 7th grade trip to Rome, to a 9th grade trip to Ethiopia, to his latest travels in Cuba. "Immersing myself in other cultures is how I get away from the craziness in America," says Gerlach.
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  • Walking and Stumbling

    ~ Karen Tracy

    SCH boasts a 62-acre campus.  I’m a fitness-minded person and those acres represent a daily opportunity to hit the red brick pathways and walk as much as possible—to meet with a colleague, to return coffee mugs to the cafeteria, to be present in the place I call home.  I love this time traversing the campus.  It is my happy time.  And without fail, when I walk, I also stumble.
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  • Be the person you want to be

    ~ Dr. Pam Brown, Educational Psychologist for Lower and Middle School for Boys

    Your child is a gift to you. Your child is also your legacy. Who they are and how they carry themselves is in part a reflection upon you and the values you hold high. The task for all parents is to prepare their child for life. Yet, every parent imagines somewhat differently the skills each child will need to successfully navigate life. You entrust your child to us, and you and we both hope that the education your child receives at SCH and the experiences your son or daughter has while here will be part of the foundation on which their future successes will be built. In our mission statement, we reference the values of courage, integrity, and respect. On the boys’ side, there have always been the five stripes of integrity, honesty, loyalty, courage, and sportsmanship. We believe that all these are values to strive towards and cultivate in ourselves.
     
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  • Be seeing and be seen

    ~ Frankie Zelnick, Class of 2003

    What can one little person—and the community behind that person—do? Here’s a feel good story for the ages. Recently, an SCH employee created a GoFundMe campaign for a colleague who had urgent need for money to help pay for medical bills and a driveable car. She quietly posted the campaign to her personal Facebook page one afternoon and went to bed that night stunned to see over 130 replies in just a few short hours. The next morning she said, “It was like I was a kid and it was Christmas morning!” The overnight response had nearly funded the entire goal of the campaign: $17,000. The outpouring was staggering. And the names on the donor list included students who had graduated over 20 years ago, many of their parents, former teachers, trustees, and one alumna even came into school with a bank envelope brimming with cash. The note we are sharing here, written by Frankie Zelnick, Class of 2003, captures the voice of so many and the collective heart of our community.
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  • Your job is cocoa

    ~ Bethany Meyer, Middle School Boys Administrative Assistant and mother of four boys at SCH

    “Your job is cocoa.”
     
    It’s the only thing I remember from any Back-to-School Night that I’ve ever attended. To date, I’ve been through 29 of them.
     
    “Cocoa,” Ann Dimond announced to the fresh crop of 1st grade parents in her classroom. With a four-week-old baby on my shoulder—my fourth in seven years—I was deliriously tired, sufficiently overwhelmed, and desperate for parenting hacks. Ann’s 25 years of teaching experience more than qualified her.
     
    “When your son comes home from school, pulls out his homework, and proceeds to tell you that it’s too hard and he needs your help with it, tell him, ‘Gee, that sounds rough. Can I make you some cocoa?’ Because I don’t send anything home that we haven’t already done in class. He’ll tell you he’s never seen it before. He’ll tell you he doesn’t understand it. The work isn’t difficult, and you’ll be able to help him easily. I ask you instead to offer him cocoa. The work is his. His homework. His to understand. His to complete. His to turn in. His to muddle through. Would doing it with him get him through it faster and make your life easier? Short-term, yes. But you’re not doing him any favors in the long run. Now that your son has homework, your job is cocoa.” 
     
     
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  • "Animals in Winter" project goes on the road...


    The Lower School for Girls’ signature Kindergarten “Animals in Winter” Project goes on the road … to the Sands Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

    This year, kindergarten’s annual Animal in Winter unit teamed up with the Sands Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) to enhance and expand the scope of this much-beloved unit in which each girl becomes the expert on a local wild animal, researching her animal and eventually teaching the class all that she has learned. Looking locally, the kindergarten team was thrilled to partner with the Schuylkill Center, one of the first urban environmental education centers in the country. 
     
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  • Around the Globe and Still Back in Time for Lunch

    ~ Andrew Hallowell, Mandarin teacher

    I’m still new here at SCH. I can’t always find my way around campus, I’m still learning some names and faces, and I’m trying to figure out the nuances of our dress code. In the six months I’ve been working here, however, I’ve been consistently struck by how much time, energy, and enthusiasm we, as an institution, put into capturing our students’ imaginations and engaging them in creative ways in the academic work that is the lifeblood of our school. Our students have opportunities to explore the world around them through, to name just a few examples, film projects, entrepreneurial ventures, and international travel.
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  • Teaching for Relevancy and Curiosity

    ~ Vince Day, Program Director for Computer Science and Interactive Technologies

    Three years ago, which in the world of gaming might as well be a lifetime, I had the opportunity to offer a Game Design class to a group of SCH Academy Upper School students.  While my classroom teaching experience up until that time had been limited teaching teachers, I was more than ready for the chance to connect and collaborate with students. At the time my gaming prowess was bound by a childhood immersed in Atari, Nintendo, and Sega Genesis, along with a freshman year of college solaced in NHL 97 on the Genesis console.  Although an argument could be made that I should have been more dedicated to course work, the hours I spent gaming were the most engaging and focused time for me during that transitional year.
     
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  • Authentic Purpose

    ~ Christy Yaffe, Lower School Girls Reading Specialist

    Authentic purpose. That is what makes the 4th grade news tick. Each week a news team of three 4th grade students in the Lower School for Girls comes to meet with me to plan the following week’s broadcast. I never cease to be amazed by the creativity, thoughtfulness, and hard work that the girls put into this project. Students have assumed responsibility for reporting the news and are careful that the stories they present will appeal to their youngest viewers. “Seriously, a piece on Ebola would be too scary if you’re in Kindergarten!” one team decided this year. While we always keep an eye on the weather and report something related to health or wellness, all of the stories come from the students. I coach and mentor, but the ideas belong to the girls. We’ve covered everything from current events and green initiatives to ear piercing and black holes. It isn’t fancy, but it is always an adventure!
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  • Visit a world outside your own

    ~ Richard Blyweiss, Lower School for Boys 5th Grade Teacher

    Have you ever read a book so powerful that you say, “How are more people not reading and talking about this book?” If we’re lucky, we’ve read a few of these books in our lifetime. When I spoke with fellow teachers about the books that they claim really taught them or moved them in a way they never thought possible before, I got some amazing answers: The Giving Tree, The Last Lecture, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, The Giver, and dozens more. When I began my teaching career, I made a promise to myself that I would vow to my students on the first day of each school year, “You may leave this room at the end of the school year smarter than you were when you came in. But I guarantee that you’ll all leave here as better people.” I always wanted to keep an open and honest relationship with my students; one full of discussion and celebration for their accomplishments both inside and outside of school. I wanted to make sure my students understood my care for their lives, not just as students, but their lives as athletes, musicians, brothers, cousins, artists, and any number of other ways they describe themselves. But talking alone wasn’t enough. I needed stories and examples outside of our own. I needed us to have the opportunity to, each day, visit a world outside of the one we lived in. I decided that literature was one way to do this. Unfortunately, being a math and history teacher, that doesn’t exactly lend itself to much story reading time during class. So, I did what any teacher would do—I improvised!
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  • Lessons that Stick

    ~ Josh Budde, Head of Middle School for Boys

    We have all been inspired in some way by the people in our lives, people who, knowingly or unknowingly, have helped guide us and helped us to be who we are. For many, our parents play or played a large role, but I have difficulty identifying exact moments, turning points if you will, when they set me on the course I am on. The lessons they taught are not so singular as to be identifiable as distinct moments in time, yet I cannot deny their influence on who I am. My wife has had a more direct effect on inspiring me to be the person I am. An educator herself, my wife has always pushed me directly through her words and deeds, and indirectly by being an example of what a teacher, parent and spouse can be. It is not an overstatement that I would not be the educator or person I am today were it not for her presence in my life.
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  • Service and the Global Travel Program

    ~ Michael Ferrier, English Department, Coordinator, Global Travel Programs
     
    A week ago, I returned from an 11-day immersion trip to Peru with 19 students and two of my colleagues. At the end of our trip, we spent four days in a Quechua village called Llanchon, nestled on the southern shores of Lake Titicaca, to assist in a development project at a local high school. One of the most important aspects of the Global Travel Program is our commitment to educating students about meaningful service.
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  • Outward Bound Day #5: The Stories We Tell

    ~Matt Norcini, Dean of Student Life

    It was mid-morning on Day 5, and these were our final hours together. We were back at Fort Washington State Park, and the students were busy cleaning—water bottles, dinner bowls, equipment—the objects that had been so new to us just five days ago but which had, by now, become a part of us, our routine, the things that had provided comfort in the unknown. Sentimentally attached as some might be to these objects, though, I’m pretty sure everyone was ready to wash their food bowls. By the morning of Day 5, those bowls had become a fossil dig through four days of meals.
     
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  • Lessons from SCH's Model UN Conference

    Smith Hambrose, Grade 12, Head of SCH’s Model United Nations Program
    This past Saturday, SCH hosted its annual Springside Chestnut Hill Model United Nations Conference (SCHMUNC), marking the fourth conference I have attended and my second year moderating the conference. In attendance were members of varying experience levels of the SCH and Germantown Friends School’s Model UN teams. The purpose of this conference was mainly to prepare members of our team for future conferences and demonstrate the structure of a UN conference; it was also an opportunity to learn from oneself and from others. This year the topic for discussion was the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
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  • How I Learned to “Think Outside the Curriculum Box”

    ~ Jessica Satryan, Theatre, CEL, MS Drama, Players

    Our school has gone through a lot of changes over the last few years. We have become one school with five divisions, uniting two longstanding educational communities. We launched the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, equipping our students with a future-ready skill set as resilient and creative problem solvers. For me, however, it feels like the changes really started in the fall of 2009. That was the year we initiated the seven-day rotating schedule, and the impact of that change began my journey into curriculum development.
     
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  • Outward Bound Day #4: A Simple Game

    ~Matt Norcini, Dean of Student Life

    Lines were drawn in the dirt of the forest floor.  The students examined the final tally, and they assessed how far they had come both as individuals and as a group.  While this task wasn’t the most difficult of their first four days together, it was a significant one.  They were given a minute for a quick huddle to discuss strategy for the next round.  After a furious exchange of ideas, the students of G-Unit returned to the starting line and prepared to face the challenge. 
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  • CONGRATULATIONS to my Alma Mater!

    ~ Rashad Campbell '08, Franklin Square Capital Partners, SCH Football Coach (part-time)

    I was fortunate enough to recently serve on the Search Committee that just announced the next Head of School. Dr. Stephen L. Druggan will succeed our Interim Head of School Dr. Mark Segar, effective July 1, 2016.
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  • Members of a Global Community

    ~ Michael Ferrier, English Department, Coordinator, Global Travel Programs

    A year ago, I had the incredible privilege of taking a group of 20 students to the northern island of New Zealand. However, the inspiration for the trip began a few years earlier in my 9th grade English class. I had been drawn to Aotearoa, or the “land of the long white cloud,” primarily through my experience of teaching Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider along with Niki Caro’s wonderful film adaptation of the novel. The story is about a young Maori girl who is destined to become the chief of her fading tribe and who must overcome significant odds to prove herself as a worthy leader. When I first saw the film, I was captivated by the vibrancy of the Maori culture and the breathtaking beauty of the New Zealand landscape. In my more sanguine moments, I also hoped that my 9th graders, who themselves were facing the challenges of being newcomers to Upper School, would see themselves in this modern-day Antigone, emboldened by her determination to realize her potential and uplifted by her commitment to her convictions and her intense pride in her culture. About three years ago, I began in earnest to design a trip itinerary and curriculum that would complement our study of the text and bring the richness of Maori culture alive for my students.
     
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  • Telling Stories to Cultivate Radical Empathy


    ~ Polly Kimberly, Associate Director of College Counseling and Diversity Coordinator
     
    It’s a simple but powerful process: two people pair up and each shares a story that is essential in some way to his or her life. When the pair comes back to the small group, each person tells his or her partner’s story—in the persona and voice of the partner.
     
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  • Outward Bound Day #3: That Magic Moment

    ~Matt Norcini, Dean of Student Life
     
    It was raining hard, the temperature was dropping, and our morning hike had turned into a slog. Attempts at trail games and songs were drowned out by the constant patter of rain against the hoods of our rain jackets. The trail turned to a stream, and our boots were soaked through. No one was talking, and at this moment, I’m pretty sure everyone wanted to be home bingeing something on Netflix.
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  • Outward Bound Day #2: On the Trail

    ~Matt Norcini, Dean of Student Life
     
    It was Day 2, and it was hot. We broke camp earlier than expected and made our way north on the Appalachian Trail for what promised to be a long day of hiking. Our destination was a campsite 11 miles away, and for many of us, it would be the longest hike we had ever made.
     
     
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  • Making it better

    ~ Katie Mersky, Upper School Admissions, Varsity Field Hockey Coach

    Many people in my life have heard me say, “I hate losing more than I like winning.” And the look on their face after I essentially say, “Well, that whole winning thing? It’s not really why I play,” is, needless to say, very interesting. The feeling of winning a game after weeks and weeks of difficult practices and grueling fitness circuits is a relief, I agree. Giving everything you have for 60 minutes, in addition to those long practices and grueling fitness circuits, and losing is a feeling that I hope everyone in athletics experiences. This feeling is something that I carried with me throughout high school sports, college athletics, and now it is something I hold dearly as a coach.
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  • Outward Bound Day #1: We were all in it together

    ~Matt Norcini, Dean of Student Life

     
    “Camouflage!” Jenna’s cry sent us scurrying in all directions around the woods in search of hiding places. It was early afternoon, we had just arrived at camp, and one of our two Outward Bound facilitators had called for a game of Camouflage—essentially, a forest hybrid of hide-and-go-seek and tag. It was unexpected, simple, and fun. For a few minutes, we were all kids again, and the only thing that was important was finding a good hiding place. 
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  • Ready. Set. Go.

    Josh Budde
    The first day of school can come with a stomach full of butterflies—new teachers, harder classes, and a year full of memories to be made.
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  • True Grit

    Deidra Lyngard
    Perhaps failing is the very thing that will make us successful. This article touches brilliantly on the building of resiliency at SCH.
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  • SCH teachers continue design thinking study through summer workshop

    Lan Ngo
    The audience of teachers and staff members watches as Jonathan Torch, Upper School mathematics teacher, demonstrates a one-foot-tall electronic “tree” that he built with the help of James Martin, Upper School engineering teacher.
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