Welcome to the Headmaster's Blog where you'll find updates, thoughts, and events regarding Saint David's School, the education of boys, and other items of interest. This is by no means meant to be a complete account of all that happens at Saint David's. Please refer to the school's website for more complete details -- it's more a Headmaster's musings.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Trading, Negotiating on the Road

In an unusual turn of events, I found myself trading with a variety of foreign travelers today.  Representing the Eternal City, my office was a stop for ancient travelers on the Silk Road.  In conjunction with their study of ancient China, fourth grade boys spent several weeks researching and creating a character to “travel” along their own Saint David's Silk Road.  To prepare their character, they wrote journals chronicling their adventures, trials, and tribulations.

Today, on the Road, the boys encountered merchants traveling from Arabia, China, Persia, India, and the Roman Empire.  Traveling in caravans, they used maps to navigate themselves throughout the school to different key stops–trading along the way with teachers, other caravans, and trying to avoid the unruly mobs of bandits lurking in the shadows of narrow hallways and around the corners of blind turns.  In the end, they collected many sought after goods such as silk, paper, spices, and wool.

In the photo above three in a caravan try to trade some silk, spices and tea, for gold coin with Rome.  They left happy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A New Model for Professional Development


Six years ago, the school initiated a new professional development program that goes beyond attendance at conferences or workshops. As an intricate component of the faculty-led Curriculum Initiative, this new professional development approach is ongoing, entails long-term relationships with experts, promotes and encourages mentorship, and is intricately linked to supervision and evaluation.

Teachers are in the Change Business
 
Teachers prepare the next generation; they build on the knowledge and research of past generations as they take boys into new worlds of knowledge. We are discovering so much about how people learn; it’s our responsibility to stay on top of the research. As teachers, our principal responsibility is to help boys learn and grow. If we are responsible for effecting change, we also have to stay fresh, to grow and change ourselves. So, at the heart of exceptional teaching is exceptional professional growth and development.

There are Two Levels of Professional Development at Saint David’s
 
The first level involves personal growth as a teacher: the quantity of knowledge and quality of skill, instruction, delivery, pacing, understanding of content, and the personal investment of a teacher in the

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Agamemnon

Thanks to Aeschylus, 7Pi reminded us last Thursday that Greek tragedies are just that--tragedies.   After returning from Troy victorious, a convincing Agamemnon (Felix S.) meets conniving treachery and death by those closest to him (Clytemnestra, played by Fred R. and Aegisthus, played by John C.).  Cameron D., playing the cursed Cassandra--Agamemnon's war prize--was so powerful on stage that all the boys in the audience looked in the direction Cassandra pointed fully expecting to see what she described.  Cameron's moving performance was a spell binding portrayal of madness and possession by the spirits.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

St. Ignatius Loyola; Saint David's 60th Anniversary Celebration

Friday, February 11, 2011, was a day the School's mission shined brightly from the eyes of Saint David's boys, and was deeply reflected in the powerful emotion portrayed on the faces of their parents, Saint David's alums, and their parents.  It was a memorable day that marked an important milestone moment for Saint David's School.


I'm not sure the Sixtieth Anniversary Mass could have been more moving.  One thousand or so celebrants--boys, faculty, trustees, parents, alums, alum parents and friends--filled The Church of Saint Ignatius Loyola on 84th and Park to the brink of its capacity on what turned out to be a beautiful mid-winter morning.  The heart and soul of Saint David's took center stage through letters and music.

February 5th, 60 years ago, the founders of this school realized their long-held vision to create an independent school "to provide a sound, substantial education for the growing boy equal to the best to be derived from institutions of a similar level, in an atmosphere based on the fundamental principles and practices of the Roman Catholic faith."  They were bold, these founders.  They were strong.  They were visionary.  

For too many years, the founders had thought they had sat back and accepted the fact that there was no independent, private school in the city in the Catholic tradition.  This seed of an idea, to establish just such a school, that had germinated in their minds for so long, finally took root that day.  The long struggle to establish the school without money, teachers, a headmaster; without a physical space to call home, and without students, finally came to an end.  Money was raised, space acquired, and teachers found.  Saint David's was born.  The doors opened and four boys walked through.

Today, we celebrate the school's founding and its mission not only by honoring our past, but by looking toward our future, defining the relevance of the School's mission in a new century. 

From his opening joke about the Jesuit, Benedictine and two diocesan priests to his moving, historical retrospective on the founding and history of the school, Father Katsourus captured the mood of the day and the importance of the moment.  He was marvelous.  In his homily, our Chaplain, quoting Gandhi, called for the boys to be the change they want to see. 

At its core, the mission of Saint David's calls upon its graduates to be agents for the greater good.  The final phrase of the mission "ut viri boni sint" captures this unequivocally.  In our quest to fulfill the other mandates of our mission--rigorous academic pursuit, critical analysis of ideas and ideals, deliberate moral introspection, intellectual curiosity, and exercising a classically informed balance in the aesthetic, scholarly, athletic and spiritual dimensions to learning and life--this call to individually take responsibility, to take action, and change the world for the better is what the 60th anniversary reminds us of.

All in attendance were treated to an incredible spectacle, including the spiritually uplifting and moving music directed and coordinated by Mr. Moore and Ms. Clark; the well-organized Mass and clerical logistics orchestrated by Mr. Barbieri; the safe and smooth bus dispatching and receiving by Mr. Morales and Mr. O'Carroll; the delicious food by Chef Whittle; the speedy movement of equipment and accessories by our ever ready Maintenance Department; the thoughtful and efficient preparation of gifts for honored guests, programs, scripts, and final logistics by Mrs. Formosa and Mrs. Hopkins; the impeccably efficient scheduling of all aspects of Thursday's rehearsal and Friday's main event by Mr. Kinsella; the commitment of all the coaches and teachers assigned to homeroom support and intersection crossing safety; the calm professionalism and cooperation of homeroom teachers; the oversight of all the school's cabinet level administrators; and the overall competent and dynamic 60th Anniversary Committee leadership of Mr. Dearie.

Saint David's took especially great pride in the behavior and performance of her boys--from altar servers, vexilifers, and readers to soloists, violinists, congregants, and bell players--they participated superbly. 

Here follows the names of the School's founders:
 
MARGARET DRAPER BONCOMPAGNI

ELEANOR H. DE GIVE

CHARLES M. GRACE

LOUISE L. HOGUET

GEORGE M. HORN

JOHN MEADE

CHARLES F. MOULTON

JOSEPH M. MURPHY

GERTRUDE D. SMITH

GREGORY B. SMITH



Friday, February 11, 2011

The Trial of Socrates

Socrates was widely recognized as the first martyr for free speech. Yesterday morning, 7th grade boys performed convincingly the 399 BC Trail of Socrates. In classical Greek form, the play reminds us of several important notions central to democracy.  Given the activity in North Africa and the Middle East, it's an apt play for the 7th grade and their audience.


Bust of Socrates in the Vatican Museum
In a great exchange between Lycon, one of Socrates' accusers, and a juror, early in the trial, Lycon says, "Socrates walks around Athens daily asking continual questions of its citizens. These are designed to tear down, but never build. He rejects every answer but gives none of his own. In fact, after being asked for an answer, Socrates offers another question! The result of all this is that he confuses and demoralizes Athenian citizens. After suffering wartime losses and the tyranny of the Council of Thirty, Athens cannot tolerate more destructive acts."


The juror then responds, "Wouldn’t the denial of free speech be more dangerous to democracy than Socrates’ questions?" Lycon's answer to this was not especially memorable, but the juror's question was exceptional.  The court then asked Socrates’ pupil, Plato, to speak in defense of Socrates.  In doing so, Plato speaks first of Socrates as teacher, describing him as one who leads his students to the discovery of truth through thoughtful questioning, and then says: "According to Socrates, knowledge is the highest virtue. Without knowledge, right action is impossible. Socrates’ work leads people to knowledge and right action, something Athens needs at this crucial time in her history."


Free speech, questions, knowledge, and right action--it's not hard to see from where Saint David's draws her mission.  In this brief exchange, we see the essence of not only the school's mission, but of an educated citizenry and democracy.


The boys performed the play beautifully.  Annunciation was clear and crisp and the lines were delivered with a certain zestful, playful confidence.
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Founders' Week: 60th Slide Show

While enjoying culinary delights today during lunch, the second day of Founders' Week, Saint David's boys also enjoyed watching a slide show on the big screen of images from Saint David's archives.  Prepared by the 60th anniversary committee chaired by John Dearie, the show captures some memorable images from the past--50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.  I've included excerpts from the show here.  You'll see many younger versions of some very familiar faces!

Click on the slide show to see larger images. 

Saint David's v Buckley

In this afternoon's home game against Buckley, our formidable visitors at the close of 3rd quarter were down 20 points.  The score was 37-17.  Saint David's broke for the quarter feeling confident, but not too comfortable.  A few quick Buckley baskets in the first 2 minutes of the fourth quarter put the first real pressure on Red Basketball. Buckley managed to come within 5 points of Saint David's in the 8th minute of the 4th, the height of the game.  Tension remained high through the final buzzer with several strong offensive plays by Buckley.  Big Red, however, successfully regained their convincing lead in the dying minutes of the final quarter to end the game with a convincing victory.

Game highlights included an aggressive and skillful Saint David's defense, some quite remarkable moves, especially William C.'s totally smooth layup; Robert A. and Max G.'s domination of the center, and the ceaseless hustle of Arthur C.!  Buckley were never able to gain full control of the court.  Our final home game of the season was a beauty!

Monday, February 7, 2011

It's Official: We're 60!

This past Saturday, February 5th, Saint David's School officially turned 60.  To kick off "Founder's Week" today, the Student Council President and I cut the ceremonial cake at 7th and 8th Grade Lunch to the rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday."  The cake was then distributed throughout the school for all the boys to enjoy.  Each day this week, we will celebrate Founder's Week with the boys, alums, parents, trustees, faculty, and friends of the school, through a variety of activities, gifts, and retrospectives all culminating in a special liturgy at The Church of St. Ignatius Loyola.

Carnegie Hall and Super Bowl Sunday

There were two championships played yesterday--one musical and one not!  The Saint David's Philharmonic Ensemble, under the direction of Phil Hough, performed on stage at Carnegie Hall at 2 PM to a packed, enthusiastic house.  Saint David's was the smallest orchestra in size to take the stage Sunday, but without doubt, the greatest in determination and heart.

It was an ambitious, classically oriented program—Haydn's St. Anthony Chorale, Mozart's Symphony No. 25, Verdi's Overture to Nabucco, and the Theme from Mission: Impossible by Schifrin—that the boys performed with grace and poise.  What talent!  The Mozart piece is a difficult one.  The boys had struggled with it for the past year or so in preparation for this performance.  Yesterday, they played No. 25 the best they have ever played it.  Mozart would have been proud.  In the end, Sunday was a celebration of music and another fine example of Saint David's boys appreciating the aesthetic.

In the photograph above, we see the boys during rehearsal around noon on Perelman Stage under the direction of Maestro Hough.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Busy Friday

It's not every Friday that you find penguins running amuck throughout the school, atoms being consumed by 4th graders until their tummies burst, and third graders being placed in detainment after interrogatives from stone faced immigration officers, but so it was this Friday at Saint David's.

The unusual day began when I heard penguins entering the 4th floor in search of colorful, inanimate fish--something obviously they like to do.  Pre-kindergarten boys, after studying the penguin, became the very aquatic, flightless birds they had learned about.  Above, we see a waddle outside my office.  In the second photograph, we see another waddle successful in their search for sustenance while 2nd graders, surprised, come upon them.

Meanwhile, up on the 5th floor, 7th grade boys were sharing the products of their collective labors with 4th grade boys.  A long standing tradition, Edible Atoms is a culminating activity for the 7th grade's study of the periodic table and atomic weight and structure of various chemical elements.  The 7th grade boys made their atoms for the 4th grade boys to first study and then happily consume.  To the right, we see Silver before it was rapidly digested, and on the left, 4th grade boys can be seen learning about the atomic structure of Carbon from Fred R.  Carbon, like Silver however, never again saw the light of day.


If this wasn't enough general, organized chaos, simultaneously on the 4th and 5th floors, 3rd grade boys were being processed on Ellis Island by incredibly diligent immigration officers.  After studying the history of immigration in NYC, their own families' histories, and the important role immigrants played and continue to play in the history of America, the boys and their teachers recreated the initial late 1800s immigrant experience from arrival at Ellis Island, though processing, detainment, deportation, and admission/residency/citizenship.  With everyone "in role," it was quite a sight to behold.  Friday represented a stunning example of the boys' learning "action-ized."