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Showing posts from 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Omega visited me in my office today and shared a choral recitation of a Thanksgiving poem, so I thought I'd share it with you.  It will surely put you in a Thanksgiving mood.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Taft, Hotchkiss, and Andover

Taft, Hotchkiss, and Andover were all well represented yesterday at Saint David's.  Brophy, '10 from Hotchkiss, Mark, '08, Danillo, '10, and Hugh, '08 all from Taft and Chris, '11, from Andover (second photo) all stopped by to catch up.  Attending boarding school comes with some advantages, one of which is often longer holidays at times like this.  The boys' schools are closed for Thanksgiving.

Young Alumni Chapel and Dinner is tonight--a homecoming where high school aged alums attend Chapel and break bread with our 8th graders.  Over dinner, they will discuss the schools they are attending and share tips and pointers with the 8th grade boys who are right now going through the application and interview process.  Tomorrow is one of our school's longest standing traditions--The Odds and Evens Soccer Game.  Alums from the even years play the alums from odd years in a spirited game.  Typically, alums as far back as the early 70s and as recently as last year…

Life is No Less Beautiful

It's even closer to Thanksgiving!  I know, not because of the date, but because of our work at TCC.  Together with our 6th grade volunteers, we spent this past Tuesday night at Terence Cardinal Cooke nursing home serving residents and their families Thanksgiving Dinner.

As always, the boys exercised their duties with enthusiasm, sensitivity and care--emblematic of "good men" in action.

As the parent of a child with multiple disabilities, the statement at right by Cardinal Cooke resonated with me, so much so, that I had to snap a quick shot.  It hangs on the wall of the room we were working in.

Attached are several photos of the night.  In them, we see the boys serving drinks, preparing food and sharing time with the residents.

This coming Saturday night at 6:30, Corby, '12 and his band, The Lead Heads will be performing at The Bitter End in Greenwich Village. Click on the link above for more information, including tickets.  If you like The Dead, The Lead Heads will be right up your alley.

Coffee Concert

Our morning began today with a Saint David's Ensemble open rehearsal in Hyman Hall at 7:45 AM.  Many weary eyed parents filled the hall and enjoyed the boys playing Reinhold Glière's The Russian Sailors' Dance from his 1927 The Red Poppy ballet.

The dance was followed by a little Mozart and finally Henry Mancini's Pink Panther.  The boys were impressive given the fact that the seasoned core of the orchestra graduated last year.  This ensemble has been working together for just a few months.

Below is a little slice of Mancini from the boys rehearsal today.

A Visit to Browning

We visited alums at Browning on Remembrance/Veteran's Day.  Saint David's currently has four alums at Browning, DQ, '09, RH, '10, MD, '10, and BB, '11--a freshman, two sophomores, and a junior.  Since 1971 we have had 120 alums matriculate to Browning.

Just last week, Browning opened their renovated lower gym.  It looks spectacular.  The boys were clearly proud of the changes.  The Saint David's alums all looked great--happy and comfortable in high school.  They are enjoying high school, felt very well prepared for the challenges presented, and thoroughly enjoy the flex and free periods--the greater independence. 

In additon to meeting with the headmaster, Mike and I met with the US head and Admissions Director.

Events That Changed the Course of History

Recently in the Atlantic Monthly, I came across The World Was Never the Same: Events That Changed History by Harvard educated professor Rufus Fears, published by The Great Courses.  In his course, Fears presents the 36 events he believes changed the course of history. They are intriguing to contemplate:  The list follows: Hammurabi issues a code of law (1750 B.C.) Moses and monotheism (1220 B.C.) The Enlightenment of the Buddha (526 B.C.) Confucius instructs a nation (553-479 B.C.) Solon – democracy begins (594 B.C.) Marathon – democracy triumphant (490 B.C.) Hippocrates takes an oath (430 B.C.) Caesar crosses the Rubicon (49 B.C.) Jesus – the trial of a teacher (A.D. 36) Constantine I wins a battle (A.D. 312) Muhammad moves to Medina – the Hegira (A.D. 622) Bologna gets a university (1088) Dante sees Beatrice (1283) Black Death – pandemics and history (1348) Columbus finds a new world (1492) Michelangelo accepts a commission (1508) Erasmus – a book sets Europe ablaze (1516) Luther’s new course ch…

It must be that time of year ...

... because we are all talking turkey!  Today it was all about the 2nd Grade and their Turkey Run.  On an absolutely beautiful fall Monday, the traditional 2nd Grade Turkey Run did not disappoint.  All 47 boys finished the 500 meter course with many of them achieving their personal best times.  The boys have been preparing and training for this big day with their coaches since the beginning of time--well it seemed like that, but really just since the beginning of school.

At right we see the boys on the bus ride over to Riverside receiving last minute tips in preparation for the Turkey  Run.  Nervousness ran high and the air within the confines of the bus was filled with the anxious excitement that precedes all big races such as this.  The New York City Marathon has nothing on the Turkey Run.  The Verranzano Narrows Bridge may vibrate under the weight of 47,000 runners, but it doesn't even come close to the yellow school bus I was on this morning literally jumping as 47 eight year o…

A Little Jazz ...

... to lighten the day.  The Lionel Hampton Band dropped by the school today to perform for the boys and answer their questions about jazz, their instruments, how they got started in music, and what it has meant to them in their lives.  Here, a third grade class listens to a great Dizzy Gillespie number by the band.  The boys were most intrigued by the drummer and his quite incredible facial expressions.

With the Power Out ...

... in several Connecticut boarding schools this past week, several alums found their way to Saint David's and my office.  Robert A. '11 from Kent visited Monday.  Loving high school, RA is excited about the possibilities of crew, feels well-prepared, but misses his Alma mater.  On Tuesday, John D. '11, also dropped by.  Enjoying playing starting center for the 9th grade football at Kent, JD has settled in nicely.

Pictured with JD, in the background, is another JD -- John Dearie, '95, Alum Director.  Connecticut's loss was our gain!

The Music Paradigm--Leadership

On Mohonk Mountain in New Paltz, New York this past week, I participated in a session on leadership literally conducted by Roger Nierenburg.  Along with fellow heads of school from Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, I sat "within" an orchestra conducted by Nierenburg and experienced first hand the impact of his leadership styles--for he presented many--on his organization. 

Using conducting the orchestra, one he had never conducted before, as a metaphor for leadership of a school, Nierenburg explored and exposed a variety of leadership styles--overly eager to please, harsh and expectant, easy, inconsistent, balanced, and their literal respective impacts.  It was fascinating to experience the variety of perspectives within the orchestra that each of these styles precipitated--their individual and collective reactions to his "leadership" and the extreme variety of the orchestra's performance outcomes as a result of his leadership.

Tchaikovsky's Serenade f…

Cape Cod Trip--Special Program by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Seventh grade boys and their teachers have safely returned from their week-long adventure on Cape Cod.  This year was particularly special as the boys were treated to a Science program at Cape Cod Sea Camps led by two scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  Dr. Heather Benway presented comprehensive research that she and her colleagues have been working on regarding ocean acidification caused by the water's absorption of carbon dioxide.  She engaged the boys in several related hands-on activities in which they tested ph levels after exposing water to carbon dioxide.  According to their teachers, the boys were enthralled and spellbound by the presentation and related activities.  Dr. Dave Gallo, an oceanographer, then led a session on volcanic and life-form activities that occur on the floor of the Earth's oceans.

These presentations piqued the boys' curiosity and they eagerly set to investigating and testing the concepts discussed in a series of complex a…

An Early Start: Mentee Round Table

This morning, before any boys arrived, the day for 17 Saint David's teachers began very early with a Mentee Round Table in the Smith Room.  It was the second session in a multi-session series of early morning meetings of all teachers new to Saint David's.  Begun three years ago as part of the Faculty Initiative, the mentorship program is one of the core components of our professional development program at Saint David's.  For their first three years at the school, each new teacher is assigned a mentor.  Together, the mentor and mentee observe each other, critique each other, and participate in sessions like this morning's coordinated by the Dean of Faculty.  The curriculum for these sessions and our mentorship program in general revolve in part around Doug Lemov's1 work in Teach Like A Champion.  The aim of our program at Saint David's is to keep it grounded in practical techniques and strategies that are immediately applicable in the classroom and that result …

Six Goals; Two Games

And so our beautiful afternoon on Randall's ends with Red holding Dalton to 2 goals with a final score of 2-0, and White convincingly defeating Dalton 4-0.

Red fought hard to the final whistle with a stellar game played by Red Keeper HT. White's goals were scored by AH off a great cross, DD off his left foot wide, PDC on a free kick 25 yards out, and HE chipped one in during the first half.

Great soccer--good heart, strong play--by both Saint David's teams.

Photo above is of boys from both teams shooting around post game.  The shadows are long.  The day draws to a close.

At the Half

It's the half at Randall's Island where Saint David's Red is working hard to hold Dalton in check. Score at the half is 1-0 Dalton. White, more dominant in their game, leads Dalton at the half 1-0.

A Quick Visit

TC, '11 dropped by today to visit.  Parents' Weekend at St. Paul's in Concord, NH allowed for an extra day off school, so TC decided to visit his Alma mater.  BP, '08 is TC's senior advisor and WH, '10 round out the Saint David's Alums up at St. Paul's.  His transition has been great.  He's enjoying JV Soccer, his classes and lots of new friends.  His most challenging assignment to date is being asked to write an essay for a Humanities class using only monosyllabic words.

Pictured is TC in my office this morning.  He's happy.  After our chat, we walked down to the Hume Library where Mr. Imbelli was meeting with current 8th grade parents on the secondary school application process.  TC stayed to chat with the parents.

He promised to be back for Thanksgiving and Young Alumni Homecoming Chapel and Dinner.

A New Horizon ... For Saint David's School

The promise of a brighter future eludes many New York City children, especially those from low-income families.  Recognizing this and empowered by our mission and strategic goals, Saint David's School is finalizing plans to begin a new program that draws boys from neighborhood schools to Saint David's for 6 weeks in the summer.  Designed to encourage students from a diverse low-income population to explore new worlds and to realize their full potential, the program will serve children from local public, charter and parochial schools in our neighborhood.  

Academic skills maintenance for qualified boys will be the principal aim of this new program.  "Summer slide" in academic skills is well documented in children from low-income families due in large part to lack of access to summer learning opportunities.  By launching this new summer program, Saint David's will be reaching out to our extended community, contributing to the greater good by ensuring that these chil…

TCC, BINGO and Boys

Today after school, twelve 6th grade volunteers walked north on 5th to 105th to spend their early evening with residents of Terence Cardinal Cooke's 6th floor.  After introducing themselves, the boys organized a game of BINGO with the residents, calling the numbers and helping the residents participate and enjoy their shared time together.

For many of the boys it was a new experience and one that took a few minutes to adjust to.  As time unfolded, though, they began to settle in.  An air of comfort filled the common room within minutes and the typical sounds associated with BINGO began to be heard -- laughter, a little ribbing, the "ahhs" and of course, the occasional "BINGO!"

Toward the end of our time, one of the elderly residents pulled me aside and exclaimed in hushed tones, "I hate BINGO, but I just love looking at the boys.  They are so nice!"

In the first shot above, two boys call, and below, a long shot of the main table can be se…

Seventh and the Cape

Seventh graders accompanied by their brave teachers departed on-time this morning for a week's excursion on the Cape.  It is a crystal clear day here on 89th Street with temperatures hovering in the low 60s--a great day to travel!  One could almost get the feeling that the boys were heading off to Bermuda or the Keys, if you only looked at GM's colorful board shorts, and not Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the fall! but they'll have a blast and learn something too!

The week is packed with a whale watching expedition, a hike of  Great Island, a bike trip through Province Lands, square dancing with the girls of Chapin, Clam Bakes, and drawing classes, s'mores, ghost stories, journal writing, lectures on marine wildlife, mapping, science experiments, sports, and nature focused math problems. 

The boys will also meet with a research scientist and learn about her work investigating ocean acidification--and then they'll be home.

Riverdale Country School

Secondary School Counselor Mike Imbelli and I visited Saint David's alums at Riverdale this morning.  My ongoing goal is to visit every Saint David's alum at their high school before they graduate--collecting valuable anecdotal data about their experiences transitioning to secondary school and eliciting critical reflections on their time at Saint David's.  Along the way, I also learn about what's happening at these schools and spend time with their heads--always enlightening.  

We have two seniors, Shin and Lucas, three juniors, Daniel, Peter, and Austin, one sophomore, Nicholas, and one freshman, Colin, currently attending.  The boys all felt challenged and happy.  Shin and Lucas are deep in the College application process while Colin is adjusting to the challenges of his newly acquired independence.  Nicholas and Austin are savoring their recent football victory over Fieldston and fellow alum Sam H., while Daniel and Peter are in the thick of it.  In our wide-ranging …

Rigor Redefined

We are exploring "rigorous pursuit" at Saint David's this year.  In a 2008 Educational Leadership article and subsequently in various forms and in several publications, Tony Wagner from Harvard's Change Leadership Group, wrote a piece entitled Rigor Redefined.  In it, he wrote of even the best schools failing to prepare students for successful careers and citizenship in this new century. I've included two of his recent books.
After extensive research, including conversations with several hundred business, nonprofit, philanthropic, and education leaders and observational visits to many schools across the country, Wagner identified two overarching themes--the ability to ask questions and engage others in "good discussion"--to be fundamentally critical.  He also developed seven essential skills:
1.  Critical Thinking and Problem Solving.  At the core of these skills is the ability to ask the right questions at the right time.  “Yesterday’s answers won’t solv…

Alums Return for a Quick Hello

The recent Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah provided many Saint David's alums an opportunity to visit their Alma mater.  I was able to catch just a few with my camera as they checked in with friends and teachers throughout the building this Thursday last. Lucas, '09, pictured left, currently at Riverdale, wants to pursue architecture and is now looking at colleges.  Marco from Dalton, Patrick from Trinity, Danny from Horace Mann, James from Packer, Matthew from Trinity, William from Poly, Colin from Riverdale, and the Wellands from Horace Mann, all from '11, were very excited to return for the first time since graduating in the spring.  Not pictured, Dylan, '10 from LaGuardia School for the Arts, and Jon, '10 from Trinity also dropped by.  The day before Daniel '09 also popped in.  He's looking at premed schools in the north east.

We saw no blood, just big smiles.  They are all enjoying their respective high schools.  It was great to have them back, if only …

A Correction

Writing my opening letter of the school year, I quoted from Mark Twain's early piece Old Times on the Mississippi that originally appeared in, I think, The Atlantic Monthly.  In reflecting on a reading of it long ago, I associated Twain's main character in Old Times with Tom Sawyer.  However, I realize upon further reflection and research that it was in fact more autobiographical.  The main character's identity is not so clear, but it's probably Twain himself.  My apology for the error.

Opening Chapel Talk

Following is my opening Chapel Talk.  The talk, or some variation of it, was given to the boys in grades 3 through 8 during their regularly scheduled Chapel time today.  

Good morning, boys.  Welcome back.
It’s a new year.   
Work smart. Work on.
Today, you are surrounded by newness.  It is a new school year.  You are in a new grade.  You have new teachers, new homerooms, new sports teams, new pens, pencils, books and even, maybe new shoes. You may feel a little nervous, maybe a little excited.  Maybe you feel anxious, even a little “unsure” because of all this newness.  You know too, that more will be expected of you this year—by your teachers, your parents, and even by you yourself.  There is much that may seem different, fresh, novel--new; but some things, if you look closely, haven’t changed.  In fact, we can all take great comfort in the fact that some of the most important things haven’t changed at all.

The mission of Saint David’s School can be found on the walls of our classrooms…

The Book: It Can't Die

I read and hear with greater frequency "the book is dying."  We live in a time where instant information often drowns reason, gossip trumps news, and knowledge of the immediate defeats rigorous analysis, critical reflection, and eloquent debate; where the infotainment scoop often supersedes journalistic integrity.  There have, without doubt, been many new conveniences and welcomed advantages with the advent of the Internet and all its offspring: Twitter, Facebook, wikis, blogs, nings, and list serves (remember those); but the value of thoughtfully conceived ideas fully reflected upon, critiqued and edited is without equal.  As David Ulin puts it in The Lost Art of Reading – Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time: "Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction.... It requires us to pace ourselves. It returns us to a reckoning with time. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment, to let the …

A Schoolhouse's Light

High atop a hill overlooking the sea, a beautiful lighthouse illuminates the night, showing the way.  It was built by the residents of a small hamlet, concerned by the number of shipwrecks witnessed and wayfarers who had lost their way. It was a prodigious lighthouse. As time passed though, the lighthouse’s beauty faded and the light went dark.  Successive generations of hamletfolk, losing sight of their ancestors’ original intentions, ignored the lighthouse’s upkeep, disregarded its importance, and in an effort to satisfy a more selfish need, eventually converted it to a clubhouse.
For institutions to be strong and vibrant they can never loose sight of their founding principles or true purpose.  Institutions that do can easily become something far different than their founding intention.  As Saint David’s passes the mid-point of its 60th anniversary year, we continue to illuminate and reflect upon our mission, critically evaluating its purpose and redefining its significance for today…

A Race

On a racetrack in the mountains of northern Westchester on Thursday, September 1st, 2011, the senior administrative team of Saint David's School, pursued a common goal.  Working in teams of three, they learned the challenges of a NASCAR pit crew and the skill and endurance required of a race car driver.  To successfully achieve the goals they established required, in addition to deliberate planning and flawless execution, a focused desire to overcome the many obstacles before them.  At left, Business Administrator Jack Sproule with Dean of Studies Ali Aoyama, and Director of After School Shadeed Elliot compete in the Pit Stop Challenge.

The exercise, the leadership group's opening meeting of the school year, allowed the team to explore this year's school-wide theme of "rigorous pursuit." Like Dale Earnhardt, Jr., or the famous Australian race car driver Peter Brock, the administrators realized that to succeed they needed the combined talents of each of their team…

Rigorous Pursuit

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go."
Anything of value is rarely acquired without its “rigorous pursuit.”  Even though we may wish for chance or luck to bring us what we desire, it almost never happens that way. Something of value must first be recognized and identified, its acquisition planned for and pursued. This pursuit cannot be haphazard and tangential; rather it must be focused and deliberate.  In responding to a reporter who asked how it felt to have failed 2000 times before successfully inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison famously replied, “I never failed once. It just happened to be a 2000-step process.” 
This journey to successful achievement is rarely easy; it is often fraught with frustration and confusion.  Unhappiness can often muddy the road forward, slowing down our progress, trying our patience, and testing our will.  These inevitable setbacks must not deter us; they must become the lessons of our curricula—t…

Slow Dance

Yesterday, attending the wake and funeral of a beautiful child, I remembered this poem entitled "Slow Dance" by David L. Weatherford.  It speaks for itself.

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round
Or listened to rain slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight
Or gazed at the sun fading into the night?
You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
Time is short, the music won’t last.
Do you run through each day on the fly?
When you ask, “How are you?” do you hear the reply?
When the day is done, do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores running through your head?
You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
Time is short, the music won’t last.
Ever told your child, “We’ll do it tomorrow,”
And in your haste not seen his sorrow?
Ever lost touch, let a good friendship die,
’Cause you never had time to call and say hi?
You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
Time is short, the music won’t last.
When you run so fast to get somewhere,
You mis…

St. Louis, Missouri

Washington University in St. Louis played host to the 1904 World's Fair and Brookings Hall, pictured at left, served as its administrative center.  Just behind Brookings is Holmes Lounge, where last week the university played host to an annual conference of headmasters.

In 1904 Holmes housed the Convocation of Arts and Sciences for the World's Fair.  It was said at the time that all the knowledge known to man was presented in this hall. It was in this hall that I met Mark Wrighton, Chancellor of Washington University.  He spoke with conviction about the greatest issue he felt confronts us--clean, renewable energy.  With a population of the planet expected to reach 9 billion by mid-century, the chancellor argued, combined with industrialization of underdeveloped economies in China and India as just two examples, energy use will double and the need for clean, reliable energy will be the defining issue of this new century.  It is directly tied to our security, he said, our…

The Latest from Salamanca

The boys and teachers continue to enjoy great weather and stimulating experiences in Salamanca, Spain.  Below is a recent update on their adventures from trip co-leader, Dr. Gilbert:

"Wow!  What a weekend it has been--first a jaunt to the medieval city of Segovia where the boys were amazed at the engineering skill of the Romans. They climbed the aqueduct of 158 arches and 22 columns--all without mortar--Ask them to tell you the legend about the devil building it --it is such a wonder.... you ask yourself...just may be? Then, the "Alcazar" or fortress of Segovia, a seat of power for the Catholic Kings, Fernando & Isabella, and other monarchs who travelled from province to province to hold court for their subjects before the modern capital city of Madrid. The boys were especially impressed with the holdings of armor and arms which they could see up close. We went onto Avila, with a 2 km walk along from turret to turret of the famous Roman wall, and a sweets treat--they…


In the school's continuing efforts to broaden the minds and experiences of our boys, we have for the first time, a group of rising 8th grade boys in Salamanca, Spain for a two week immersion Spanish language program.  They left on Saturday, June 11 and will return next week.  Joining the boys are four faculty members each of whom is also immersing him/herself in the language and culture.  It is an exciting trip.  Below is a recent communication I received from the group.

We chose Salamanca, Spain for its history, culture, size and prominence in the teaching of Spanish.  It is a beautiful Renaissance town just a little north and west of Madrid.

Salamanca is the first of two new travel experiences recently incorporated into our curriculum.  Salamanca joins our existing Ramapo overnight, Cape Cod week-long, and 10-day Italian Study Tour.  The second new addition, a three-day trip for the 6th grade to the nation's capital, will be introduced this coming spring.