10/9/19 Weekly Reflection

Written by Chelle Wabrek Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs
I had a really great quote about Fridays that I wanted to start my note with and then got carried away with the activities of the afternoon!  The Good Doctor highlighted the theatrical talents of our students — pulling off comedy is hard and the acting required to do it convincingly is hard to come by…..but we have that talent in droves here at Lovett.  And while we may not have walked away with the W against Westminster I have never watched a more enthusiastic, fun-spirited, whole-hearted student section. Their “spirit building” overnight on Thursday, intended for the riverbank, but moved to the parking deck, complete with pizza delivery from Meredyth and oversight from Steve Allen and Brad Brizendine, demonstrated genuine love for their school. 
I love that the gifts our students bring to Lovett can’t always be contained on a stage or a field or in an essay, but that feel comfortable bringing themselves to the head’s office to ask for a “spirit campout” and leaving art on white boards as gifts for whomever arrives in a classroom next.
In Upper School Chapel, we were all reminded to move through our days with open hearts, building relationships that buoy us through challenges and celebrations.
Students watched a video created by students of Rev. Allen asking people (lower, middle and upper school students, faculty and staff) the same question, “How are you?” To a person we heard nothing beyond, “great,” and “good.”  Through engaging storytelling, Rev dove beneath the “great” and throughout the week the message remained on students’ minds, evidenced by the authentic answers to “How are you?” that I heard in the halls.

Chapel ended with the US choir singing the Quaker admonition, “Gentle words kindly spoken often soothe the troubled mind.”  
Over and over again, I popped into classrooms to see students digging into substantive content with teachers who cared deeply about wellness. In MS math, test prep included a check in, “Using the fist of five, five fingers means ‘I’ve got this content and could teach it to Einstein himself,’ and the fist is, ‘I’ll be sleeping in the classroom this week until I understand,’ let me know where you are.” 
Students were honest and their teacher took note of their feedback to figure out ways to best support them. 

A LS class explored the world of Stuart Little, where they discussed the figurative language of E.B. White and the literary techniques of the author AND discussed what it must feel like to grow up in a world (as a mouse born into a human family) where you feel different from everyone else….or where friends, like Harriet, don’t always respond as one might wish. 
Many teachers used the last drops of sunshine to get our students outside to soak up Vitamin D and to use a little novelty to engage learners.  Artists captured the morning light reflected on Lovett’s trees…..
Middle School students spread out to work on their “Never again…..” projects, noting that they were happy it was sunny because “being outside means that if we make a mess or spill paint that we can just pour water on the cement and that is harder to do in the classroom.”
French teachers provided some lunchtime fun, inviting US students, faculty and staff to a rousing game of petanque on the riverbank…..
Students discussed Shakespeare’s sonnets, exploring the main conceit in connection with their own lives…...
While 8th and 9th grade Latin students finalized preparations for the escape room they created, “Escape the the Underworld”.

This project forced them to delve deeply into Greek mythology to devise a series of clues that assessed accumulated knowledge on the topic.  What a creative way to unfold an assessment Students had to greet Charon, ferryman to the underworld…..
….provide him with the required “viaticum” or coin to take them across the River Styx (situated on the steps of the library at Lovett). Once delivered to Hades, Latin students had to figure out clues that would free individual heroes. The challenges were difficult and watching Odysseus, Aeneas, Hercules and Theseus, attempt to figure out clues was inspirational.
Novel, experiential, integrated experiences like these allow our students to demonstrate use of knowledge and skills in ways that reinforce memory as they use what they have learned in unique circumstances.

Glen Whitman and Ian Kelleher note in their book, Neuroteach (that I am reading with a few people around campus…...if you are interested in grabbing a copy let me know!), that our brains are wired to better remember novel events.  In AP Politics and Gov I saw this in action as class began with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song, The Election of 1800.  Students were rapt with this usual way to begin class and then journaled briefly about the connections to their class work.  Their minds were engaged immediately.
Engaged minds are a hallmark of a Lovett education. Our students code moon rovers to navigate their way across the lunar surface without crashing….
…..they connect with other students across the country, asking questions to figure out exactly where those students are…..
….and they get to know one another meaningfully through morning greetings and games that build relationships, the cornerstone of successful collaboration.
And if that’s not enough, I was inspired midweek by a visit from Sandra Switzer who had been reflecting on best ways to evaluate class discussion.  Together with the fabulous Conway Brackett, they happened upon an app called, Equity Maps, that allows a teacher to seamlessly chart class discussion and view analytics based on the data collected.  Run….don’t walk…..to see her on Monday morning to hear more about it! 
Since my Friday lead was botched due to my poor planning, I will relaunch with a Saturday quote from Japanese author Wataru Watari:

“Saturday is the mightiest day of the week. It's unshakably, overwhelmingly superior. Not only is it a day off of school, the following day is also a day off, like some kind of Super Saiyan bargain sale.”

Thank you so much for all you do for our students.  It is NOT easy to teach the way I see you teaching and I am so thankful to be surrounded by so many who believe in the transformative power of education!
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