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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Peace and Light

At the Annual Alumni Christmas gathering last night attended by more than 140 alumni, alumni parents, and faculty, I was reminded of how much I love this time of year. This week, after the terribly disturbing events of last Friday, we have all been living in the shadow of something we can't possibly understand. This is when the healing power of community is so important. Saint David's theme this year is 'true community' and drawn from our mission's subsequent words, it is defined as 'compassion' and 'kindness'.  Celebrating Christmas together tonight as a true community, a symbol of peace and light, is an antidote to violence illuminating somewhat the shadows cast.

In celebrating community, the school also gathered to celebrate one of our own, an alumnus who has expanded and promoted that definition of community.

Jamal Lucas, Class of 1992, was named Alumnus of the Year in recognition of his global economic initiatives. Mr. Lucas' aim is to use superior agricultural food security technology to contribute to government policies for medium-term sustainable economic growth in emerging markets across the globe. Among his several endeavors, Jamal is the executive director of the non profit Hip Hop for Humanity, whose warning about illegal diamond mining in Sierra Leone led to a Grammy award winning song. His initiatives include organics and Jamal is a Good Will Ambassador of the Mayara School in Rundu, Namibia.

Mr. Lucas is also the youngest recipient of the school's Alumni Award. Upon acceptance of the award, Jamal thanked the school and the Alumni Council under Arthur (Sam) Samuels '84 and Alberto Acosta '71, for honoring him. "I am overwhelmed with the opportunity to represent the school." He expressed how his having attended Saint David's had expanded his world and enabled him to forge new friendships. And Jamal, as Tully McLoughlin '03 did in his Thanksgiving Chapel Talk, referenced the school's imperative to share one's gift, to give back, noting that through his work on global initiatives in Africa he is "quite simply giving an opportunity to others who may not be able to come to an institution like Saint David's."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Purposeful Integration of Technology

Saint David's teachers are innovative and creative. We believe that technology should only be employed where it makes teaching and learning more efficient, effective and powerful.

Fore example, in the First Grade our teachers are working 1-on-1 with boys to assess their ability to use a variety of strategies for addition and subtraction. Boys use a teacher-made activity on an iPad and talk through what they are doing and why they are doing it, as they drag “chips” across a number line, and use other “digital manipulatives” to communicate their thinking.  

The app our teachers employ records the boys' voices and also the movements of the objects on the screen – it basically creates a movie that makes plain how the boys are thinking through the processes of addition and subtraction. This tool (method) enables the teachers to “see inside the boys' minds” to gauge their understanding (and identify misconceptions) better than they could have by looking only at the end result, which would just be a number on a traditional worksheet, or paper and pencil test. It enables younger students to “Show All Work” which is something our older math students are always encouraged to do in order to give the teacher insight on how they arrived at the final answer.

In a recent lesson, a first grade teacher guided a boy as he used a variety of strategies to solve addition problems on the iPad (video sample below). The boy not only had to come up with the correct answer, he also had to explain and show the strategy he employed. 

What's happening in First Grade right now is a great example of innovative technology thoughtfully integrated into our curriculum and our focus on how to better assess student understanding. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Cheer ...

... spread through the school this afternoon thanks to the 2nd Grade.  Here they are outside my office at 2:40 on one of their many stops around the school singing Christmas carols and reciting Christmas poetry.  They could be heard throughout the entire school, voices echoing through our halls and classrooms -- good cheer abounds ... and they can draw quite a crowd!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Horizons National ...

... our summer program affiliate is recognized as one of America’s top-performing nonprofit organizations.

The S&I 100 is the first-ever broad index of U.S. nonprofits to feature organizations like ours that address the country’s most pressing issues in education, health, youth and poverty. Horizons National was rigorously screened and selected for our proof of impact and ability to expand our program to thousands more children.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Change the World Before Bedtime ...

... If only I could! I often think quietly to myself about changing the world. ... anyway ...

... Today Josh Chalmers, the author of Change the World before Bedtime and CEO of Earth2 visited the Omega boys as part of their career study and our ongoing Author Series, sponsored by the Parents Association. Mr. Chalmers began by reading his book to the class and then provided an opportunity for questions. The boys had many! They were most curious to learn about his life as an author (this is his first book). Mr. Chalmers commented that his favorite part of creating the book was seeing the illustrations the artist developed to complement his text; he loves how the illustrator, in an effort to underscore Chalmers' commitment to being green, used scanned images of vintage fabrics and recycled materials to create the illustrations.

Read, read, read to your children.

Here's more on the book: “Change the World Before Bedtime” -- Publisher's Press Release:

"We all have the power to change the world - and it’s easier than you think! Meet kids of all ages as they explore ways to be kind, generous, good neighbors in their hometowns, their schools and around the globe.

"Written in simple, engaging rhyme, this story takes an inspirational look into how the little things in life – a smile, a kind word, a simple deed – can help change the world in a big way. Through 18 stunning illustrations, children will read about eating right, cleaning up the Earth by recycling and conserving, helping the sick and those less fortunate, and working in a group to make bigger miracles. Even an ordinary kid can be a superhero before bedtime! For pre-k to 2nd.

"Once upon a time, coincidence, fate, and magic conspired to introduce three big dreamers – Mark, Karen, and Josh. And new friends became forever friends who, separately and together, use their creative talents to change the world a little bit at a time."

Monday, December 3, 2012

How Children Succeed

This is a great read for all parents and teachers. Focusing on character development, something valued at Saint David's, Tough challenges many of today's current practices.

This is an interesting NPR article and Morning Edition interview with Paul Tough (NPR, 9/04/12) about his book.

West of the Hudson!

This past November 29, I took a quick trip out to visit alums at Lawrenceville and Peddie in Lawrenceville, NJ and Hightstown, NJ respectively.  Traditionally, not many Saint David's boys have ventured west of the Hudson for high school. Those who have though seem to have gained from the experience immensely.

I enjoyed a tour of the Lawrenceville campus with Nader (who presented his business card at the end just in case I had any questions after my visit), and then lunched with all three, Nader '09, Miles '09, and John '11, in the Senior Dining Hall.  John was quite in awe. Apparently he never gets to experience the fancy senior spread found only in the esteemed Senior Dining Hall. We enjoyed a spirited lunch together.

Nader is excited to be taking a creative robotics course this semester.  He received his latest assignment while touring me--a very cool looking project box.  Miles is proud to be one of 4 heading off to Houston, TX to represent the school at the National Diversity Conference being held this week.  And John is super excited to be starting the hockey season. The boys expressed feeling well prepared for Lawrenceville and fondly reflected on their time at Saint David's.

After lunch it was a short drive north to Peddie to visit Max '11.  After a nice tour of campus, Max and I found a quiet place to chat for a little about the transition to high school, ways to improve Saint David's and things the school should never change.

Max was candid and thorough in his critique.  He is truly enjoying himself.  He's most excited about gearing up for basketball season.  In fact, he had to make tracks right from our meeting to a preseason scrimmage game.  He must be all of 6'6''.  I'm not sure what he's eating at Peddie, but it must be good too!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Pilgrims Arrived ...

... in my office today, reciting with gusto Children's Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky's Thanksgiving poem.  What fun!

Sharing the Egg

Tully McLoughlin '03 opened his Alumni Homecoming Chapel Talk for current 8th grade boys and all high school alums by stating how honored he was to be delivering a Chapel ... "Special to be here…These talks were some of the most important moments for me at Saint David's"

Tully observed that those gathered in Chapel were boys who would soon be departing (eighth graders) and those who are returning (boys in high school). He spoke of his chapel as being an attempt to capture the nexus of this leaving and returning. 

Tully himself has recently returned from Ghana on a fellowship where for a year he taught radio journalism to students at a local radio station. He noted how much he had grown personally in the year he was so far from home. While in Ghana, he came to be familiar with an Adinkra (a visual symbol) created by the Akan people–the Sankofa, which became the focus of his talk.

Tully explained that the Sankofa is the symbol of a bird turning its neck to look back, often at an egg. The symbol's basic message: "It's never wrong to go back for what you've forgotten" suggests the important ways in which the past informs our futures. As Tully thought more about the symbol though, it took on a greater meaning for him. "I want to suggest to you all at the nexus of your leaving and returning to Saint David's, that you can always come back. But the egg you have on your back is not simply the things you leave behind, it is also the things that you take with you from Saint David's."

"From Saint David's I took passion, the desire to do public service, to give back to others, a level of confidence and knowledge of the world from my humanities class." The egg then is meant not only to remind us of the past, or reassure us that the past builds our futures, but, Tully suggested the "egg is meant to be given and shared, not just looked at." We are to give a part of ourselves and our experiences to do good.

Tully connected his insight to the school's motto "That they be good men," something he considers "less as a state of being, and more as a process of becoming"-- one that lasts a lifetime. He closed his talk encouraging the more than one hundred alum boys present to "devote some part of your life to finding a way to give back to others."

The boys' giving of themselves was celebrated later in the evening at the dinner, when Annemarie Fox from Save the Children, accepted a $57,000 check from this and last year's Saint David's Student Council Presidents for the ongoing Dollars for Ethiopia Scholars project to build a school in Ethiopia, which was begun during the school's 60thanniversary year. The effort has involved the boys in a series of fundraising activities, and is now entering its third year.  Ms. Fox noted she was "wowed" by Saint David's community's commitment to this project and success thus far, as it has raised  a total of $85,000 toward its $100,000 goal. "Think about the wonderful thing you are doing for kids you have never met across the world," she said. "Next year, at this time, I think they'll have a school."

Pictured in the center is the Class of 2012 being recognized in Chapel after Tully's talk for their Class Gift--a $100,000 gift--establishing The Class of 2012 Scholarship Fund in the school's endowment.

After graduating from Saint David's, Tully went on to graduate from Regis and Yale.

Saint David's is a true community--Tully, Scholarships, Save the Children, and 130 high school alums in Chapel and at table sharing a meal at Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Brothers R

Tommy, '10 and Freddie, '12 dropped by the office for a quick visit today.  Both currently at Taft, Tommy is enjoying theatre, having just performed the role of Jean Valjean to rave reviews. He's looking forward to his next production: Noises Off, a 1982 play by English playwright Michael Frayn. Freddie is enjoying the close knit feel of the Taft community, especially Community Gathering.  Both are excited to be home.

Today I had the great pleasure of lunching with Frankie R, '14 and he mentioned in conversation that "the boys were home"-- that they are!

Although I don't have a photo, Timmy Lasusa, '08 also dropped by to say hello.  Timmy's up at St. Lawrence University.  He's playing squash, just left a tournament at Vassar, and thrilled to be at college.  He's home for Thanksgiving.

What an Inspiration ...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Popular Science at Saint David's

Editor-in-Chief of Popular Science magazine, Jacob Ward, visited 3rd and 4th grade boys today.  A part of the school's "Author Series" sponsored by our PA.

Sitting in Hume, the boys participated in a riveting conversation with Mr. Ward about Science Magazine's October issue on "The Brilliant Ten" which focused on ten young scientist under 40 whose innovations and research "will change the world."

The boys were particularly intrigued with the work of Andrea Thomaz out of Georgia Tech who is teaching robots to learn from humans.  Their questions of Ward when he spoke of Andrea's work took on an even higher creative tone and level of excitement.

Mr. Ward also shared with the boys his journey to becoming a writer/editor and his passion for science. He then walked the boys through Popular Science's process for selecting The Brilliant Ten--fascinating!

Science at Saint David's is a major curricular focus, and is becoming even more so with our growing emphasis on the boys engaging more tangibly with science, research, scientific institutions, and scientists.

Science is the world.

"I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist," Lincoln once said, "but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the heavens and say there is no God."

Poly Post Sandy

Placement Counselor Mike Imbelli and I visited alums at Poly Prep Wednesday 11/14.  After a quick drive out to Brooklyn we enjoyed sitting with the boys for lunch.  Five Saint David's alums are graduating Poly this year.  We also have two juniors, three sophomores, and four freshmen currently enrolled.  Somehow, they were all able to make lunch that day and spend a significant amount of time with us.

The boys were all "dressed down" in honor of Poly's post Sandy relief efforts.  The boys expressed being extremely well prepared for high school, and shared some constructive criticism regarding ways to further improve Saint David's; as well as aspects of the school they would never want to see changed.  We had a wonderful time together. Spirits were all high and camaraderie effusive.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Saint David's Cares About Cavallaro Cares

This Friday, November 9, the Saint David's boys, led by their Student Council, assisted with Opportunity Cavallaro Cares. Coordinating with a Saint David's parent who is a teacher at I.S. 281 (Cavallaro) located on 24th Ave. in Brooklyn, the boys collected packages of supplies needed by the nearby Seagate community in Coney Island, hard hit by the hurricane.

Throughout the day Friday, boys collected and packaged warm blankets, canned food, packaged foods, and cleaning supplies, such as bleach, heavy duty garbage bags, and gloves.

Saint David's families dropped off additional packages and supplies on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning in front of Saint David's and eighth grade boys organized, packaged and prepared the donations for transport. A group of Saint David's parents then loaded up their cars and delivered the packages to I.S. 281 in Brooklyn on Saturday.  From there, the Cavallaro staff and volunteers delivered the packages to individual homes.

Communities helping communities: true community.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Relief Efforts Continue

After early dismissal for Election Day today, the Saint David's community came together to prepare personalized bags of first aid supplies and toiletries for The Church of St. Clare's school and parish on Staten Island.  We learned of the immediate need for these supplies in our open relief effort community meeting yesterday morning.

By yesterday afternoon, Saint David's was fully mobilized--putting out the call for materials and supplies, and this afternoon these supplies have all been sorted, prepared, boxed and just now delivered.  Above is a quick shot of volunteer parents, teachers and boys working together to accomplish the goal after dismissal.

Some 30 large boxes containing hundreds of individualized kits are now on their way to residents of Staten Island's Great Kills area through the efforts of Saint David's families and the dedicated work of the Church of St. Clare.

Visit Saint David's Relief Efforts Clearinghouse for more opportunities to help.

Dancing in Jaffa

As an institution with a clear and strong religious tradition, Saint David's has a special interest in the promotion and development of an appreciation for and understanding of religious differences.  This is especially true given our school-wide theme this year True Community.

Today, I enjoyed the distinct pleasure of meeting internationally renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine who has just completed a documentary film in Israel entitled "Dancing in Jaffa."

Following a long and distinguished career teaching ballroom dancing to children on the Upper East Side, Pierre wanted to expand his reach.  He began a program entitled "Dancing Classroom" that is now in some 250 NYC Public Schools.  Still not satisfied, Pierre has taken his mission and message international.  Dancing in Jaffa documents Pierre's return to his birthplace, and his attempts to bring two otherwise distinctly different cultural/religious groups' children together through dance--Israeli Jews and Palestinians.  Pierre has a powerful message in Dancing in Jaffa, and we had a wonderful exchange of ideas in discussing dancing, Jaffa, religion and Saint David's.

Dancing in Jaffa Trailer from kNow Productions on Vimeo.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Raven

Oral recitation is an important aspect of our classically oriented tradition.  Boys have many opportunities throughout their time at Saint David's to develop and hone these skills.  Today, in my meanderings about the school, I caught 7th Grade boys, in a darkened room, reciting from memory Poe's 1845 narrative poem "The Raven." I snapped a quick piece below. Outstanding!

Neighbors Helping Neighbors