Deans' Den Blogs

Welcome to the Deans' Den blog! I, Mrs. Waters, have set a fun goal for myself this year, which is to get into the Brooks School classrooms every week.

As the Academic Dean, I really want to connect with the student academic experience, and thought the best way to do this would be to act like a student! I will share with you my experiences accompanying students across all forms to all of their different subjects.

Sometimes, I might hand the reins over to the Dean of Students, to get a student life perspective in our afternoon activities programs and in our dormitories.

If you have any ideas, or there is something you want to see, please email me at swaters@brooksschool.org.

december 4, 2017

Today I found myself drawn into another Honors Biology class, this one taught by Mrs. Clay. I sat down at a table with fifth formers Amolina Bhat, Grace Handy and Martin Li. The students were equipped with cuvettes of algae beads floating in indicator fluid, aluminum foil and colorimeters. The object of the lab was to observe the differences between photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Both processes involve oxygen, water, glucose and carbon dioxide. Photosynthesis, using light, helps to produce glucose, whereas cellular respiration, in the absence of light, breaks down its glucose. The breakdown releases carbon dioxide which makes for an acidic environment. Mrs. Clay asked the students to offer their hypotheses before creating a continuous data set (taking observations every five minutes), and to consider controlled variables, such as distance of the cuvettes from the light source. A powerful reminder as to the power of light (or its absence) as we head toward the Solstice!


NOVEMBER 29, 2017

This morning I sat down between Tianshu Wang and Nick Fulgione in Mr. Graham's English III class. The students have been reading The Great Gatsby, but are also analyzing visual text provided by the show Stranger Things. The class was their first back from Thanksgiving break, and they considered what they had watched in the interim. The class discussed the Upside-Down World, and used it as an opportunity to appreciate the difference between metaphor (a word, phrase or image to to represent an idea) versus allegory (using a whole narrative to represent an idea, often a "hidden meaning"). The discussion transitioned from being teacher-led to student-led, and the kids did well to challenge one another's thinking on a variety of topics. And my thinking, too!

November 13, 2017

Today I ducked into Honors Biology with Mr. Davis. The students were working in small groups to diagram both Light Reaction and the Calvin Cycle. Kailey O'Neill and Finn Maitland explained explained how in the light reactions, light is used to create ATP and NADPH. ATP and NADPH provide energy and electrons, respectively, for the Calvin Cycle. Amanda Monahan then followed up to educate me on how the Calvin Cycle converts carbon dioxide into sugar. Meanwhile, in another small group, Mr. Davis asked the students to get on their feet so that he could better guide them through an understanding of (his words!): "the facilitated diffusion of H+ through ATP Synthase and how the flow of H+ allows for ATP to be created." I would imagine that the visual he provided will stick in their memories far better than a textbook explanation!


November 6, 2017

I just returned from AP Music Theory, where today they are reviewing figured bass, which is a traditional way of noting chords. I was transported back in time to my youth, years filled with the classical music listening sessions of my parents. Turns out those J.S. Bach harpsichord concertos served me well today in class, as they helped me to envision the complexity of what Mrs. Keller was teaching! I learned that our school organist Mr. Humphreville can read and play figured bass, but that most musicians versed in musical theory now use the Nashville System. The latter uses numbers, as opposed to the Roman numerals of the former, and is more simple in application.

October 27, 2017

This afternoon I sat in on English I with Mr. Haile. The students were discussing Robert Frost's poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" in a Harkness format. Biblical inferences, the newness of bright, fluorescent green-gold leaves emerging during a New England spring, and the fleeting nature of youth were all topics of conversation. The class also referenced the concept of an iceberg- what they see on the surface, versus the meaning that is underneath. They questioned what the poem is really about- both literally and figuratively. It was neat to see a few of my own history students in a different classroom environment using the same conversational etiquette to communicate their ideas with one another.

OCTOBER 24, 2017

Today in physics class, Ms. Rooney led the students through a review of Newton's second Law of Motion: the relationship between force, mass and acceleration. (F=ma). They discussed the difference between "directly proportional" and "inversely proportional", and then broke out to complete a lab on mechanical equilibrium. As it turns out, I was not the only adult visitor to the class, as Parents' Weekend is underway, and so I spied some moms and dads sitting front and center!



OCTOBER 16, 2017

I have no Spanish skills. I was a French student in high school, and though I have thought often about it, I have yet to commit to Rosetta Stone or Duolingo. So naturally, I thought the best class for me to visit would be AP Spanish Language! Assuming I would be adrift, I was pleasantly surprised to feel instead, immersed. The students sat around the circle of tables and Senora Miller opened the class with a topic of conversation: stress. As most of the students present were seniors, there was much to discuss with the college process looming! I was able to follow along, and loved the supportive atmosphere as each student jumped in to participate. Next, in preparation for the AP, they transitioned to a cultural comparison between Argentinean and British perspectives on the Falklands War. I have taught an elective on Latin America, so it was cool to hear history I was familiar with being discussed in Spanish!

October 9, 2017

This morning I dropped in on three of my former students in Modern World History: Isabela Miller '20, Andrew Moon '20 and David Tan '20. Ms. Nasser was at the helm, guiding them through the preliminary stages of a research paper assignment.

The students are working to disprove the misconceptions that Africa was a "dark continent" populated by people who were "half-devil, half child," and that instead it was a place of impressive, civilized empires. This syncs up nicely with the study of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe in English II.

Today in history class, the students were working on categorizing their research into Cultural, Political and Economic groupings. They reviewed the Complex-Split thesis formula, moving beyond their previous study of Simple, and then Complex, thesis statements. Nasser urged them not to be "#basic", but to engage in critical analysis substantiated by sound evidence. As a history teacher, it is incredibly rewarding to see my colleagues be passionate about the departmental writing curriculum, and to see the kids developing their skill set so expertly!

October 2, 2017

This morning I dropped in on Dr. Davies English I class, and sat next to third formers Aria Uva and Austin Mermans. They were kind to include me in their discussion about sentence fragments, which they had identified and improved upon as a part of their homework. Dr. Davies then led the students through a lesson on subordinating conjunctions, which are parts of speech I use every day but would not have been able to identify by name until this morning! It brought me right back to the days of Schoolhouse Rock!



september 26, 2017

Tonight when I came back down to the office to finish some work, I happened upon the Women in Engineering club programming a drone! Totally cool. Headed up by fifth former Louisa Rose, the group of ladies gets together to talk math and science, and provide mutual support as they consider future scholastic pursuits in the STEM fields.


September 22, 2017

This morning, I accompanied my third form advisee, Anya Sanchorawala, to Intro 3-D Studio Art taught by Mrs. McLoughlin. The students are creating non-figurative, low-relief pieces featuring a number of natural materials like shells and driftwood. I learned that "relief" is a sculptural technique that refers to the dimension of the piece, originating off of a flat background. The class engaged in a critique of their unfinished pieces. Mrs. McLoughlin encouraged the students to look objectively at their work, holding it four different ways for them to take mental snapshots, and to squint at it so they don't get lost in the details. She talked about how sometimes your "doing" puts you ahead of experiencing the work, and that we need to make sure our hands don't get too busy before we can feel what we need to feel to gain perspective and direction.

During the critique of Molly Madigan's piece, Jami O'Shea and Brianna O'Neill could be heard discussing that when turned a certain way, the central element of her artwork appeared to be a person. Upon hearing this, Mrs. McLoughlin remarked that this is the challenge of non-figurative work; we humans search for meaning. We want an explanation to create a feeling of security. She said this is aligned with the study of history, or science, but not art. It reminded me of when we look up at the clouds, and ask children what they see. I am now looking forward to discussing clouds as non-figurative forms with my four year old, to try on my new perspective!


September 18, 2017

I popped into Honors Chemistry this morning with fourth form student Joel Moya, whom I had the pleasure of teaching last year. It's always fun to see your former student in a different context! The students got to work right away with a "Do Now" that Mr. Moccia posted on the board for them. The topic of the day was how to calculate density, built off of a demonstration from last class involving pennies, water and graduated cylinders. I learned that when reading a graduated cylinder, it's important to measure where the bottom of the meniscus lies. Today, Mr. Moccia poured eight pennies into a graduated cylinder. The difference in the volume of water before and after was 3.5 ml. Last class, they determined that a penny has a mass of 2.51 grams. So to calculate density, they divided the mass (2.51 g) by volume (3.5 ml divided by 8 pennies). I think I got that right!

September 15, 2017

Math. If only I had been educated on Growth Mindset when I was in high school, I might have adopted a different outlook on the challenges that Algebra 2 and Trigonometry presented for me. But, now that I know brain science has debunked the notion that we are genetically predisposed to be innately "good" or "bad" in a subject, I believe that I, too, can learn math. And today, I did!

I shadowed two of my sixth-form advisees, Nalia and Emma, to their Calculus class with Ms. Mattison second period. The class was reviewing the algebraic concepts of limits and continuities.

Students demonstrated an ability to graph linear functions, which are always continuous, and then we learned about "jumps" and "holes," or piecewise functions, that are removable discontinuities. I learned some new terms, like "asymptote," which is a graph that has a line that is undefined going towards infinity.



I also learned WHY someone would find this skill set useful, and HOW they would use it in their career. Ms. Mattison expertly explained to the class how civil engineers need an understanding of limits and continuities to calculate where state borders meet each other (jump) or how a bridge spans two sides of a river (hole). This will change the way I see the world as I navigate around New England and beyond!


September 14, 2017

Today was class trip day! l appreciate the opportunity to better know our newest students, so I chose to participate in Project Adventure with the third form. The students rotated through different stations providing team building challenges. My station asked students to have every team member stand on a tarp, then turn the tarp over and have everyone stand on the flip side of it, without so much as touching the grass underneath them. I enjoyed being a witness to emergent leadership and cooperative strategizing. Communication skills and collaboration were key! If a team was able to complete the exercise, their next challenge asked them to create the longest line possible using only the resources they had with them. Take a look at these videos to see how they did!

Deans' Den Blog video 1 Sept. 14, 2017 from Brooks School on Vimeo.

Deans' Den Blog video 2 Sept. 14, 2017 from Brooks School on Vimeo.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2017

What a fun and productive first week back at Brooks! Classes got underway on Wednesday, and it was terrific to have our classroom buildings come alive! While exiting the Deans' Den this morning, I stumbled across Mr. Wyatt's first level Chinese class traveling the halls working on their cultural competence. Here they are practicing their salutations, with a warm two-handed handshake. I love to see the kids up and about and practicing their new skills. Ni hao! Zaijian!


Dean's Den Blog: September 12, 2017 from Brooks School on Vimeo.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2017

What type of teacher would I be if I didn't start with my own class! Here are twelve bright and shiny first-year students, ready to kick off the fall semester of Uncovering Ancient Africa! UAA is one among eight electives that comprise our third form Pre-Modern World History curriculum, which is built on a skills framework. These students are beginning by building an understanding of the role of point of view in history, and examining the lenses through which they will learn. I am excited for a great year with this spirited bunch!