Deans' Den Blog
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.
If you have any ideas, or there is something you want to see, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 9, 2018
This morning, I popped into Mrs. Graham's Advanced 2D Design class, where the students are working on individual projects using a variety of mediums. I asked the class who was most excited about his or her own work, and the hand of Kailey O'Neill '19 shot right up! Kailey shared that she has a particular interest in Pop Art, and that she began to draw images inspired by artist Roy Lichtenstein starting this past summer. Kailey is in her third week of creating an image of a hand spraying spray-paint, using acrylic paint on both large and small canvasses. She drew the outlines on the large canvas free-hand, and Mrs. Graham has been helping her get the proportions and angles correct.
Other artists in the class include Anicia Depina '19, who is drawing, painting and collaging fashion plates on wood, inspired by her study of United States history (eg. Flappers from the Roaring Twenties), and Jackie Lappin '19, who is painting images in oil on wood inspired by artist Kindah Khalidy.
May 5, 2018
Today in my Making of the Muslim World elective, we welcomed Ms. Perkins to speak about her experience traveling in Afghanistan — specifically, about what it felt like to be a western white woman in a society where burqas are worn by Afghan women while outside their homes. She shared that the Afghan women wear them in part for safety, so they may be indistinguishable from one another and not draw attention to themselves. Her host family purchased one for her to wear in public, and also helped her to adjust her gait to not seem so obviously "American." Pictured here is Ms. Perkins and Tanay Kommareddi '21 wearing the burqa, followed by an image of Omolade Mebude '21, whose vision felt particularly challenged by the burqa!
April 19, 2018
This afternoon I participated in a simulation in Mr. Wyatt's history class Journeying the Silk Roads, which is a third form Pre-Modern World History elective. I was assigned the role of a Viking merchant, and tasked with trading the enslaved persons under my charge in exchange for commodities before traveling to Saray. Other cities included Mali, Morocco, Rome, Venice, Damascus, Delhi and Khanbalik.
Everyone had a different role to play, whether John of Montecorvino or Kublai Khan or Pope Innocent IV, and a different objective to accomplish. We were permitted to trade with the marketplace or fellow travelers, and could engage in subterfuge or espionage if wishing to best our opponents in the game. Stakes were high, with extra credit on the line, and the students were very engaged in trading their treasure, technology and teachings across continents!
April 16, 2018
I was delighted to have been invited to student presentations in Mr. Smith's Advanced Pre-Calculus class this afternoon on the subject of sinusoids, which are a graph of the continuous waves that represent the function sine.
I sat in on Jack Murphy '19 present on the moon orbiting the sun, and Amanda Monahan '19 on the sounds waves produced by two complimentary cello notes, C and G. The latter included a demonstration by Amanda on the cello, which she plays in the Chamber Ensemble at Brooks. It was a master class in mathematical thinking — the students described both their process and their data, helping those present to understand how they arrived at their findings.
April 2, 2018
This morning I visited Mr. Benson's English III class as they began discussing the novel Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. The first part, entitled "The Hearth and the Salamander," conjured up recent recollections of a four-day power outage and memories made around a fire, which the class then paired with a scientific analysis of salamanders (namely their ability to breathe underwater and traverse upstream).
The students considered why the two ended up in a title together. Mr. Benson shared that many believe that salamanders possess mythical qualities and are impervious to fire. From my brief audience to a read-aloud, it would seem that the protagonist starts out as a confident man, comfortable in his powers of destruction by way of fire ... but I am guessing that does not continue. I look forward to engaging these fifth-formers in follow-up conversation when I see them next!
March 1, 2018
I visited Advanced Rock Band today and found the group practicing for their WinterFest performance, slated for Saturday night. When I arrived, the students were finishing a song called "Real Love Baby," in which each student was playing an instrument (or singing vocals) outside his or her comfort zone. I wouldn't have known that had it not been pointed out to me — they did great! I love that the students have embraced growth mindset and are picking up new instruments.
At one point, a couple of songs later, Mr. Keller remarked to the kids that they had done a good job of playing through a mistake (I think they repeated a chorus), and said that was always important to do in rock band — just keep playing. I can tell you it worked, because again, I didn't even notice! Please enjoy the song featured in the video, titled "Human" by Rag'n'Bone Man, featuring Sally Jong '18 on lead vocals.
February 23, 2018
As you sit reading this blog post, your bone marrow is making tens of millions of red blood cells. Whoah! It had been some time since I last stopped to think about what was happening in my bones, or moving through my veins. Today, in Honors Anatomy & Physiology, students learned about red and white blood cells: where and how they are made, the composition of the cells and what they look like, their purpose and lifespan, and how it affects us humans day to day. One particularly memorable moment had Mrs. Hajdukiewicz exploring an old wives' tale that helps to identify those who are iron deficient by rubbing the edge of a nickel alongside someone's cheek. If a dark grey line appears, that indicates the possibility of anemia. One grey line later down my cheek ... and let's just say that thanks to this class visit, I will be increasing my iron intake!
February 16, 2018
I highly recommend starting your day with your own personal classical music concert. As I sat back and let the sonorous hums of cello and lyrical musings of violin wash over me, I thought that I might make a point of visiting Chamber Ensemble every Friday during first period!
The students were practicing Felix Mendelssohn's "Sinfonia II D-Dur," which was written during the Romantic Period for string quartet, though string ensembles often play it. The composition has three movements, and the students were focusing on the first, allegro. Mr. Griffith offered many thoughtful points for improvement throughout that demonstrated his expert ear. Whether it was instructing his musicians not to double the rhythm, or to watch being under pitch or too sharp, or to shorten the separation seconds, his advice was welcomed and adjustments were made. I have never sat in a class where a comment about a "rhythmic kerfuffle" was made, until today! I hope you enjoy listening to Jeff, Andrew, David, Clara, Janelle and Amanda.
February 9, 2018
This afternoon I joined in a Fiction Writing workshop where sixth form student Jackie Desautels showcased her work to a very engaged peer group. Mr. Charpentier introduced the format for the exercise, which first had the students read the short story quietly to themselves and mark up the copy in anticipation of a class discussion. They were directed to differentiate amongst the small (punctuation), medium (wording), and large (big picture/structure/plot).
Next, Jackie was called upon to read a portion of the piece aloud. Afterwards, she was encouraged to listen to the conversation that ensued, but discouraged from participating while her peers postulated about character profiles and plot line. Once this came to a natural conclusion, Jackie was given the floor to both ask and answer questions. As a full participant in the process, I found the experience stimulating and enjoyed the feeling of teamwork in helping Jackie to improve her story. I learned these four tips for writing effective short fiction:
1. Choose a subject that is not small or trivial.
2. The essence of the story exists as much in the reader's mind as on the page.
3. Make it memorable! Move the reader intellectually and emotionally.
4. Strive for depth, clarity and human significance.
Mr. Charpentier shared that writing workshops can be addictive for the author. I would imagine this to be true, just based off my experience as a peer editor. Same place, same time, next week? See you then, seniors!
February 5, 2018
I sidled up to my JV basketball player, third-form student Katherine Barenboim, in Mrs. Heinze's Geometry class first period. The students were working quietly and diligently on proportional segments, and so as not to disturb them further, I jumped across the hall to Dusty Richard's Discrete Math class.
I found a seat next to sixth-form student Pat McCoy and found myself in the midst of a lesson on explicit formula (Cn=2n) and recurrence relation. The students were exploring the relationship between a left-hand column of numbers title "n" and a right-hand column titled "Cn". They were challenged with describing the right in terms of the left, and to remember that any term is defined in terms of the one that came before it.
Their discussion progressed to determining that the recurrence relation is true for all n. This was referred to as inductive proof, which assumes the extension of the pattern continues. Dusty used the example of a row of dominoes knocking over to illustrate this concept.
Before departing, I inquired as to the application of their topic of study. Dusty shared that if there were a group of 50+ representatives in the House, one could use the explicit formula to figure out the number of coalitions that could be formed amongst them. Perhaps, in turn, one could estimate the time it would take to get a bill passed. A useful projection these days, no doubt!
January 29, 2018Today I stepped into both French Third Level with Madame Sinnott and Spanish Third Level Honors with Profe Neissa.
The French class was learning the "plus que parfait", or pluperfect, tense.
For example, "J'avais mange," means "I had eaten," which would be useful if one wished to explain: "By the time you had called, I had already eaten."In Spanish, the class was working through their comprehension of a story titled Casa tomada, by Argentine author Julio Cortazar.
I was able to catch Profe describing the international influence on Buenos Aires, and he brought up an image of the Obelisco and likened it to the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
He also pointed out the urban planning of the main thoroughfare to be similar to the Champs-Elysees and the facades of the apartment buildings to be reminiscent of French architecture as well.
I also learned that in Argentina, the President lives at the Casa Rosada, or Red House, much like the American President lives in the White House!
January 18, 2018
I love Winter Term. Today my class, Six Feet Under: The Art, Science and Business of Death, traveled together to the Chief Medical Examiner's Office in the South End of Boston. There we met with Dr. Mindy Hull, who spoke to us about her work as a premier forensic pathologist. She also enthusiastically conveyed her dedication to living life to the fullest, since she is engaged in a profession that reminds her daily of her own mortality. Following her presentation, we toured the facility, which included a morgue and an opportunity to watch autopsies underway. The students were well prepared after a few weeks of studying death and dying from all angles, and after observing closely and asking thoughtful questions, did well to process their experiences. We rode the bus back to brooks with the Genealogy and Bliss Out classes, who filled us in on their research at the New England Historic Genealogical Society and visit to a residential meditation retreat center, respectively. I was struck by the intersection of our three topics, and appreciative of our students' opportunities to be out in the world experiencing their subjects of study in context. Way cool.
December 7, 2017
Before heading into exam period, my third form Uncovering Ancient Africa Pre-Modern World History elective took a trip to the Great Pyramids at Giza with the help of Mr. Dobbins and his virtuality reality in-classroom set up. It was fun for the kids to take a tour of the historic site, and get a sense of the scale of the pyramids and a feel for the surrounding environment. In this clip you can see Arooj Kamran kindly tolerate my questions over the headset narration of her tour guide!
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!
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!
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!