Deans' Den Blog
Welcome to the Deans' Den blog! I, Mrs. Waters, have set a fun goal for myself, which is to get into the Brooks School classrooms nearly every week.
As the Dean of Academic Affairs, 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 ideas, or there is something you want to see, please email me!
June 4, 2020
Typically, my blog provides a weekly window into the student experience at Brooks. It matters that what our students experience in our classrooms, especially our students of color, reflects and affirms their identities. This week, I offer a “history department takeover,” to highlight the work our department chair Michele Musto (shown below) has led to more directly prioritize the study and appreciation for the lived experience of historically marginalized populations in our curricula.
On this topic, Mrs. Musto:
As the history department sat down to our work this week, top on our minds as a department were recent events in the news, which have affected all of us in different ways. As we watched the news of the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others over the last few weeks, we, as historians, are acutely aware that this is sadly nothing new. Since 1619, African Americans have been persecuted, discriminated against and killed. Just this Sunday, for example, was the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot in 1921 where mobs of white residents attacked and destroyed much of the primarily black Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The list of these acts of violence against people of color in U.S. history sadly could go on and on, and as historians we are acutely aware of this. We wish to stand with the many members of our community who face the realities of this history on a day-to-day basis, and we strive to make sure that all of our students learn about these events, as well as about the many wonderful contributions that communities of color have made to the rich fabric of American history.
One way the history department has taken to heart our need to address diversity, equity and inclusion in our curriculum was in our redesign of the sixth-form history electives. In past years, many of these electives were driven by the AP curriculum, but we recognized a need to spend more time on social justice issues and to present unheard voices in all of our senior classes in particular. To that end, our new slate of senior electives each will take time to address the topics of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation and others, as they relate to each particular content area. We hope that this will be at the heart of each and every elective next year.
Below are some of the thoughts from your history teachers on their sixth-form electives and the work of diversity, equity and inclusion in the history classroom:
Ms. Johnston writes about her elective on Sports History and Culture — “Sports and DEI [diversity, equity, inclusion] work go hand-in-hand. Sports have a complex history of both empowering and disempowering individuals and groups fighting for equality. Many, like Jake Kyler of the Sports Business Journal, state, ‘Sport has the intrinsic ability to bring about positive social change in the communities where we live, work and play.’ There are also examples where sports have not been inclusive to athletes. You need to look no further than Colin Kaepernick, who was ostracized by the NFL for using his professional athletic platform to fight for those who have been silenced and killed, or Billie Jean King, who was fearful of losing her tennis career if news broke that she identified as LGBTQ. Sports can oftentimes be a mouthpiece for change. However, the history of sports is complicated and one that must be acknowledged and discussed.”
Ms. McDonough, in speaking of her history of the Middle East course, writes — “For supplementary materials, I've tried over the years to read from authors of the places or of the religions we are studying. I'm making a real commitment to this for next year to ONLY read these authors. I want to be sure I am elevating and celebrating the stories and voices from the areas and cultures covered in the course.”
Mr. Latham, who will be teaching our new Economic History courses, writes — “Helping students develop empathy for others is one of the reasons I teach at boarding school. Our students will have an inordinate influence on the world. The quality of our future depends on their respect for all people. This is vitally important for all of us to learn and practice.”
Mr. Waters, who will be teaching new Civics courses, shares — “My goal is always for students to feel like they can engage with the government and find their own voice. I am excited to focus more deeply on elections and local politics in the coming year with students, as the power of young people will play a vital role in the 2020 elections. It is important for students to understand their rights, to be able to discuss differences with peers, and to exercise their own civic duty.”
Ms. Nasser, who will be teaching a new Global Humanities course, writes — “I have been taking this time to reflect on my privilege, to learn more about racism through reading articles and books, and to having open discussions with my friends and family. I recognize that it is a privilege to learn more about racism instead of experiencing it. I continue to think about how I can incorporate all voices into my world history classes and encourage discussions on race. I recognize that there is more to be done than just talk and I am taking steps to change the things that I cannot accept about our country.”
Mrs. Waters, reflecting on additional offerings like Criminal Justice, International Relations, and Race, Gender & Class, that will be taught by Mr. Veit and Ms. Sauceda, offers — “Challenging American exceptionalism by better understanding the inequities transcending generations that have shaped our nation helps position students to engage in critical thinking and develop informed opinions. That’s who we want as our future leaders — informed citizens! We look forward to running electives in African American and Latinx Studies in 2021, as well."
All of this we recognize is just the beginning. The work to teach a truly inclusive history of the world is ongoing and ever changing. The work to fight against discrimination and injustice is work we must all partake in on an everyday basis. We also recognize that there are times when we may fail. However, the history department wants all of the Brooks Community to know this is front and center in our minds, and we are ready to contribute to the hard work ahead. Hold us to this and let us know when we fail!
Mrs. Musto and the Brooks History Department
May 27, 2020
Fourth-form English centers around world literature, and every spring students select an independent reading book representing a culture they would be interested in learning more about.
In Ms. Donoho's class, students created presentations using the app Vocaroo to record their voices narrating their slides so that anyone may enjoy learning from them asynchronously. Featured here are slides from Hongru Chen's project on Isabel Allende's The House of Spirits, Ava Finegold's on Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns and Amy Del Cid's on Trevor Noah's Born a Crime.
Part I of the assignment asked the students to research the historical context of the story, Part II consists of a paper exploring cultural events introduced by the book, and Part III is a creative piece that further demonstrates empathy and understanding for the culture. It can take the shape of a 60 Minutes-type interview, a magazine article, correspondence, diary entries and more.
Talk about a deep dive! No doubt Hongru, Ava and Amy know a lot more about Chile, Afghanistan and South Africa, respectively, as will their classmates as a result of their projects!
May 20, 2020
Today the Davis Foundation Scholars enjoyed a year-end meeting together, during which they all offered well wishes to departing senior Janelle Umana-Limon! The cohort is made up of ten students (next year, 12!), who were identified as Davis Scholars because they distinguished themselves as outstanding community members at their prior schools, and no surprise, have continued to contribute meaningfully while at Brooks.
The group gathers periodically throughout the year to talk about classes, extracurriculars, life, you name it! The students today discussed how to welcome their three new members in the fall: Kiara, Selene and Phillip. We are looking forward to having them on board!
May 18, 2020
Spanish Teacher Ms. O'Brien is going all in on our core value of creativity as it relates to creating learning opportunities in virtual spaces, and I am so impressed! First, she has used Bitmoji to create a doppelgänger avatar (the freckles!) and an inviting classroom space to welcome her students to class — complete with a Brooks GSA sticker and hanging plant!
Second, she created a digital escape room for her students to work through, using "gameplay and problem solving" to help them practice their Spanish skills. My insider access came with an answer key to try it out (my high school French didn't get me very far), and I experienced both the challenge and the fun firsthand. Way to go, TOB!
May 13, 2020
This tree is right outside my front door. I have lived in Chace House since it was built in 2012. Eight years I have woken up, in all kinds of weather, and walked outdoors to load my kids in the car for school or walk toward main street to make my way to the academic building, with this tree right in my line of vision.
I LOVE trees. This time of year I rejoice at their buds, blossoms and leaves that mark the arrival of spring. I am also grateful for their summertime shade, celebrate their autumnal beauty in all shades, and marvel at their snowy majesty in wintertime. I become inordinately sad when we lose a tree on campus, although I know Mr. St. Cyr takes incredible care of them and makes decisions in the best interest of our campus ecosystems . . . I still am so bummed to lose what feels like an old friend!
The history enthusiast in me revels in the idea of witness trees; the idea that these leafy soldiers bear witness to history over hundreds of years, become living history themselves, and help to create a sense of place.
How is it that I don't even know what species the tree, right outside my front door, is? How can one become so accustomed to something's presence, reliant on it, and not even know it's name? It produces pods . . . I think it might be a locust of some sort . . . . but I can't say for sure! I find myself needing to know.
This is what happens when you slow down, and have the time and presence of mind to see what is right in front of you with greater clarity. While my school life remains as busy as ever, slower moments walking around campus with my children have allowed me to take note of seasonal campus features I hadn't appreciated before.
What else might I be able to see more clearly, right in front of me, that I couldn't before our lives changed this year? I am excited to find out.
May 6, 2020
Today I joined Dr. Carabatsos's Honors Physics class to hear from Dr. Nicholas Schade, a former colleague of Dr. C's from Andover High, and a physicist who has since worked at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, earned a PhD at Harvard and engaged in postdoctoral research at both Harvard and UChicago.
The students managed not to be intimidated by Dr. Schade's CV and asked him questions about his work working with "squishy things," or colloids, which he described as a "soup of stuff." More specifically, Dr. Schade has worked toward realizing the possibility of an invisibility cloak. A very cool prospect for Harry Potter fans and physics nerds alike!
One of these screenshots features Marco Martinez '23 bonding with Dr. Schade over their close geographic proximity in Chicago!
April 30, 2020
I visited Mrs. Miller's Spanish Third Level Honors students who were crushing some serious grammar this morning. Past, present and future perfect tenses were the name of the game, with a little conditional and preterite review mixed in.
Also happening in the language department today with Mr. Dinescu: Jack Frimet '21 talking about how to grill a hot dog, Christian Duran '22 demonstrating how to care for fish, and Addie Branca '22 giving a crash course in laundry . . . all in Spanish!
April 23, 2020
Today, I accepted a kind invitation from Mrs. Hajdukiewcz to join her Honors Anatomy class for a lesson on the respiratory system. Mrs. H. provided her students with diagrams that they could label and color in as she engaged them in a discussion about the name, structure and function of different anatomical features like the pharynx, epiglottis, larynx and bronchi. Check out their colorful work!
April 22, 2020
This week I enjoyed a window into Ms. Rooney's Physics class through the work of third-form student Kerr Sjostrom, who created a harp for a project on the science behind musical instruments.
The students were asked to research the physics of frequency, pitch, loudness, resonance, wavelength, harmonics and interference. Not only did they create a presentation, but they had to build the instrument and play it for the class!
April 21, 2020
The man can play! Professional musician Bruce Katz joined Advanced Jazz Band today to share experiences from his storied career playing the bass guitar, piano and organ for many different artists from Big Mama Thornton and Chuck Berry to the Allman Brothers.
Passionate about jazz and the blues, Mr. Katz played songs like 1930's classic "Red Sneakers" for the class. While that piece has been around for 90 years, he said he thinks of it as "living and breathing music, because it is."
Chris Lyman '20 asked him which artist has impacted his musicianship the most, to which Mr. Katz answered, "Ronnie Earl. He was so hardcore pure blues, I learned a lot of certain conventions from him."
Katz continued that the biggest challenge of being a sideman is to be creative within someone else's vision. He later went on to start his own band so he could try whatever he wanted!
Thank you to Mrs. Keller for bringing Mr. Katz to Brooks. Turns out, they were classmates at Berklee College of Music back in the day. Way cool!
April 17, 2020
In the span of an hour, I watched sixth-formers code a panda bear to play "Duck, Duck Goose" in Robotics class (see below) and third-form students tackle new choreography in Introduction to Dance. They tuned in for synchronous class from Thailand, from Kenya, and lots of places in between.
Though we may not prefer the distance learning mode we are in, it was a powerful demonstration of the connectivity that technology can provide.
Mr. Hesse was giving tips on mBlock, the coding platform, at the same time that Ms. O'Brien was providing her class (see below) choreography set to the tune of Jess Glynne's "Hold My Hand" from her basement dance studio.
The class's chosen theme for their new dance? Togetherness. I felt it!
April 10, 2020
This morning, Mr. Waters' AP U.S. Government and Politics class welcomed Michael Reed '02. Mr. Reed presently serves as the RNC Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications. He also worked on the 2008 Romney presidential campaign, was communications director for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and worked on the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Students asked Mr. Reed about how COVID-19 has changed campaigning, how he felt when Romney voted for Trump's removal, whether or not he thinks campaigns are "nastier" now and about his future goals in politics. Mr. Reed admitted he likes political competition but reminded us all that our forefathers used to beat each other with canes on the Senate floor — and challenge each other to duels — so polarization is not a new concept!
As for his own ambitions, Mr. Reed noted the cyclical nature of politics and that he has been accustomed to taking a new direction every couple of years. Suffice it to say that he will be busy through the November election!
April 7, 2020
Celebrity spotlight post from Dean of Students and boys 1st soccer coach, Mr. Waters:
"As I find myself looking for ways to create or maintain community, I thought it would be fun to connect the 2019 soccer team with alumni. I am hoping to make this a weekly event where the current players talk with a team that won an ISL championship while they were at Brooks.
Last night, we had our first talk with the 2016 (above) and 2017 (below) teams which was fun because there is a lot of overlap.
Andres Rosas '21 and Coll Sutherland '21 were third formers on the 2017 team and Zach Pearce '20 and Abhay Gandhi '20 were fourth formers on that team.
We also had siblings on the call, Alex '17 and Max Chaban '20, Jacob '18 and Saul Iwowo '22, Thomas '21 and Jack O'Connell '20 and Coll and Duncan Sutherland '20. The kids each introduced themselves and then shared a moment that has stood out to them or what Brooks soccer has meant to them.
I didn't know what to expect, but was blown away by where the players took it as the call lasted two and a half hours, and we had 37 people on the call. We will have the next installment next week, talking with the 2012 team, and many of the 2016 and 2017 players have already asked if they can join that call as we look to connect!
April 2, 2020
On Thursday, I jumped into a Zoom with Mr. Smith's Advanced Pre-Calculus class. The students used trigonometry to plot the acreage of Brooks School's campus, and then invited school architect Andrew Leonard to assess their accuracy.
Turns out students' use of rectangles and triangles matched up pretty well against his AutoCAD software!
It was neat to see the aerial photos be used as an application for the skills the students were learning, which then translated directly to Mr. Leonard's work on campus as a landscape architect.
March 31, 2020
Day two of Distance Learning! Featured below is my six-year-old daughter, Ainsley, on a quick (physically distanced!) jaunt around the neighborhood. Her teachers had asked her to find a change in nature and she alighted upon some determined plants sprouting up to greet the New England spring.
In the time it took us to walk back to our home, some friendly neighbors had chalked our front walk with a welcome home message:
Community, especially the Brooks community, means so much at a time like this.
I feel grateful for reminders from nature that the earth will keep turning, the seasons will change, and that we should find joy in the small moments. I look forward to "walking the halls" of our virtual school over the coming weeks to share joyful moments shared amongst teachers and students as we continue to draw meaning and inspiration from our community. Stay tuned!
March 4, 2020
It has been exciting to have three teams in the NEPSAC postseason (following a lot of success in past weeks for the squash programs)! Both boys' and girls' basketball are seeded first in their tournaments and played at home today, back-to-back.
In this picture you can see Coach McVeigh coaching his players during a timeout in the midst of battling through a North Shore rivalry versus The Governor's Academy.
It was close in the first half but Brooks pulled away with the win, 75-53. The girls beat Cushing Academy 79-52 (Spoiler alert: They went on to win the whole tournament). Brooks students dressed in all black for a "black out" and did a great job cheering on their peers to victory!
february 22, 2020
This morning I joined Mr. Jester's Algebra 2 class, and observed students "playing" Marbleslides on Desmos to graph exponential functions.
If a student tinkered with an equation to change the slope of a line, they could reroute the path of the marble and pick up stars. The program was interactive and students could see other people's predictions. An example of this was guessing what might happen if they swapped coordinates — could they find the inverse and plot it on an x/y plane?
The students loved this, and asked Mr. Jester for more time to play. It was fun to see the gamification of learning in a traditional classroom setting (reminded me of Idriss Aberkane's theorizing — look him up!). The class then enjoyed an introduction to a new function: logarithms. Mr. Jester explained logs are the inverse of exponentials, which helped the students to better under the relationship of what they had just been studying to this new topic.
February 14, 2020
Lucky me, to have been invited to the third form Pre-Modern World history elective Death and Disease in the Ancient World this afternoon! The students were presenting music video projects on Mesopotamia. The group featured here — Virginia, Zoe, Matt and Molly — rewrote the lyrics to Miley Cyrus's fan favorite, "Party in the USA," to be about labor specialization and technological advancements. The students were supportive of their peers' performances and it was clear that all involved had learned a lot from the exercise!
February 14, 2020
We sweat because evaporation helps cooling. But why does the sweat band of your hat turn white as it dries after a long, hot jog?
I learned today in Mr. Lafond's chemistry class, that this residue is comprised of sodium, chloride and potassium. This salty substance is the reason why your dog likes to lick your skin after a good workout. What does this mean for your body's composition, and how does it relate to what we put in it? Think Gatorade, which advertises its merits on electrolyte replacement. We need electrolytes like sodium, chloride and potassium to help conduct electrical charges around our body to help encourage normal cell function and organ health.
Mr. Lafond started class today diagramming ionic compounds and examining how they conduct electricity. They separate into charge particles whereas molecular compounds, like water, separate into molecules that have no charge. Mr. Lafond asked the class to envision a brick wall. Molecular compound fall apart like bricks if the mortar were to dissolve, whereas ionic compounds would see the bricks themselves come apart. This visualization helped me a great deal to understand the difference! I also learned that water is a polar molecular compound that is very good at shredding substances with charge, aka ionic compounds, and that's why so many things dissolve in water!
Next up, the students are going to take open electrical circuits and place them in different solutions to see if there are any ionic compounds that will close the circuit and generate a charge. This will help the students to evaluate the different electrolytes' conductivity.
Maybe the biggest lesson of the day was that if you follow a healthy diet and eat balanced meals, you shouldn't need Gatorade unless you're an ultra-marathoner!
February 8, 2020
This week, I had the pleasure of stepping into AP World History to facilitate an examination of the French Revolution as a catalyst for the Haitian Revolution (the latter being the only successful slave revolt in human history — that's a big deal!).
In the meantime, the students' teacher, Mrs. Musto, was leading a very skilled and inspired group of Brooks School Model U.N. delegates to the BosMUN conference. She shared: "After a weekend of debating solutions ranging from human rights for women to the future of space exploration, putting Marie Antoinette on trial for treason, solving the Boston busing crisis and much, much more, the whole team is exhausted and energized at the same time. This is a great group of students who worked hard in their free time to prepare for this weekend."
Students Emily Choe '20, Omo Mebude '21, Tanay Kommareddi '21, Hongru Chen '22 and Jayda Hayes '20 all won awards for their papers and/or participation. Well done!
February 3, 2020
"À la Chandeleur, l'hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur." This translates to: "On Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens."
Similar to Groundhog Day, the French celebrate the holiday La Chandeleur on February 2nd. This was my second annual visit to French Second Level in observance of this tradition, and I once again delighted in Madame Medved showering her students with crêpes!
Thought to represent the shape of the sun and the circle of life, the custom most importantly gathers people together and reminds them of papal generosity in providing food to the less fortunate once the stores from harvest run out.
January 30, 2020
Puppies and babies: They warm the hearts of anyone, at any age, teenagers included. Today, Ms. Nasser brought her new rescue puppy, Mia (named after soccer superstar Mia Hamm) to the girls 2nd team basketball practice.
Little Mia got lots of hugs (featured here with Ashley Brzezenski '22) and watched practice comfortably from the arms of our team manager Ellie McCuine '22. Welcome to the Brooks community, Mia!
January 28, 2020
Return of the backpacks! Following a fun and productive Winter Term, students and faculty gathered on Tuesday morning in the Chapel to hear from Mr. Packard.
The Head of School spoke about 2020 being a big year in our collective national consciousness with a general election on the horizon. He spoke candidly about the importance of being able to talk — and really listen to each other — without having to agree, but with respect.
In sharing some of his own perspectives, and in providing compelling Pew Research Center data on voter turnout, he emboldened students and faculty alike to treat their civic responsibility thoughtfully and seriously. Mr. Packard's speech inspired many a classroom discussion throughout the day and was a great way to kick off the second semester.
January 24, 2020
Tonight was the Winter Term symposium, which has the academic building positively abuzz with families and friends visiting students who are presenting their culminating projects!
I watched a high-energy step dance performance, listened to students who learned to play the guitar absolutely crush Wagon Wheel, received a tutorial in auto mechanics, saw sheep- and cow-eyeball dissections and very proudly looked on as students from my own Winter Term presented on everything from Native American boarding schools to the history of wampum belts and agricultural cultivation and more.
Featured in this picture is the land acknowledgement that the students created for Brooks School in honor of the Pennacook people, who used to live on the shores of Lake Cochichewick.
The students from "How Did Massachusetts Get Its Name?" will present to Brooks' Diversity Leadership Committee, and to the whole community in chapel on February 10, about integrating this land acknowledgement into our practice. The students wish to have it read at the opening of Chapel, at graduation and featured on the website.
January 22, 2020
This past November, I attended a Leadership + Design conference in Santa Fe during which we talked about the dangers of early onset adult seriousness disorder. While a tongue-in-cheek examination of why we sometimes take ourselves so seriously while being in the business of kids — who are inherently creative and playful — it resonated deeply with me. A resolution for 2020 is to play more!
Featured here are history teachers Willie Waters '02, Amanda Nasser and Joanna McDonough, along with Joanna's husband Koosha, and Spanish and Dance teacher Tess O'Brien.
We played some good old fashioned broomball and had a blast falling down all over the place together. I definitely paid that positive energy forward, and am looking forward to the next time!
January 16, 2020
Lucky me — I got to tag along as a chaperone on The Complexity of War's trip to Washington, D.C.!
A perennial Winter Term fan favorite, this course dives deep into the decisions of governments in declaring war, the experience of servicemen and women who serve our nation in times of war, and the consequences of war — diplomatic, economic, and human.
This year, the group traveled to the American History Museum, National Marine Corps Museum, Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, Vietnam and Korea monuments, and Arlington National Cemetery, among other sites, in addition to viewing the movie 1917. The students even had time to jump into the Women's March and experience civic engagement firsthand! From meeting with the guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to connecting with alumna Nalia Media '18 on the hill (who is interning for Congresswoman Lori Trahan), the trip proved a memorable one!
January 13, 2020
Featured here are third-form students from the Winter Term course I am co-teaching, "How Did Massachusetts Get Its Name?" The students traveled to the Peabody Archaeology Museum at Phillips Academy and worked with resident archaeologist Ryan Wheeler to simulate an excavation site typical of the region.
Students hypothesized about soil conditions, food and animal remains, tool use and materials as they sifted through artifacts. Corn kernels, moose bones, ceramic shards, ash, stone adze heads and shell fragments all helped students to put together the pieces of what a seasonal settlement of the Pennacook people might have looked like along the Merrimack River at a site like Shattuck farm.
This hands-on learning helped the students to better connect the resources of local environs to the people who were using them — a lot of history right under their feet!
september 21, 2019
This morning I joined Mr. Veit's Harkness table alongside 12 very engaged Modern World history students.
They were in the midst of studying Confucianism, Legalism, and Daoism. The students generated their own discussion questions and reviewed their homework reading for understanding, covering the religious and governmental philosophies' coexistence, leadership and societal influence.
Mr. Veit then focused the students' attention on the tributary system. He showed the class a film clip on "panda diplomacy," which highlighted China's policy of lending out panda bears to other countries, a tradition that dates back to the Tang Dynasty.
Mr. Veit asked the class how they might see ancient ideas still at work today, and engaged the students in an examination of hard versus soft diplomatic power as it relates to the "isms." I will definitely look at Tian Tian and Mei Xiang a whole lot differently the next time I am at the DC zoo!
September 20, 2019
This afternoon, the Brooks School boys' 1st soccer team faced off against the Roxbury Latin foxes on our turf. Sun and high spirits made for an upbeat crowd and the students arrived dressed for a "white out." Our school spirit prefects, Stephen Higgins '20 and Jennifer Connolly '20, led the crowd in cheers of "B-R-O-O-K-S" and ran the school flag up and down the sidelines.
Stephen was dressed as the unofficial mascot, the Brooks Bishop, whose presence always gets the crowd riled up. Fourth-form student Jack Brown '22 scored an early goal and Brooks dominated on offense for a time before Roxbury Latin got a couple past the boys in green. Brooks was down 2-1 with less than ten minutes to go in the game, when fourth-form student Saul Iwowo '22 was able to convert a corner kick from classmate Christian Bejar '22! The crowd went wild and the refs had to clear students off the field. Unfortunately, the game ended in a tie but it was a great ISL match up to kick off league competition this season!
September 13, 2019
I popped into Mr. Davis's AP Biology class today and participated in a DNA extraction lab involving Gatorade, saliva and ethanol.
The objective of the lab was to demonstrate to students that DNA is not so minuscule or abstract such that one cannot see it. On the contrary, one can see it when "there is enough of it." Each student had their own test tube, and then could fashion a pendant with a sample of their own DNA to wear around their neck — me included!
While the students waited for the DNA to do its thing in the test tubes, Mr. Davis shifted the focus from the lab stations back over to the desks, where he distributed buckets of legos. The students had evidently been at work in a prior class, constructing DNA out of different colored blocks. Mr. Davis had slides projected at the front which he used as visual prompts, in addition to his own lego model, to explain the structure of DNA polymers.
I was wholly impressed with the students comprehension of the material and their ability to translate their book learning to model construction and back!
september 6, 2019
Welcome to a new school year! After a couple days of registration, orientation and pre-season practices, it was nice to begin classes this morning and get down to the good stuff, as far as I'm concerned!
This year, I'm excited to teach Building the American Republic, which is our first semester United States history elective. Featured here are my 13 students, all shiny, new and ready to learn.
We are beginning the year by examining political, social, religious and economics differences among early American colonies. How did life differ in New England, versus the Chesapeake, or deep South? Ask one of these 13 and they can tell you!
Featured above and below are members of the Gender & Sexuality Alliance, Investment Club and Alianza Latina, all getting ready for a club, organization and affinity group fair that took place in the Wilder Dining Hall.
Students visit different stations to learn about student led groups and to sign up if they wish to join! It's a fun and lively evening that gets the community excited about an inspiring and productive year ahead.
May 8, 2019
Bugs. Butters. Thumper. May they rest in peace, after being dissected by sixth form Anatomy students today. Not only did the students name the rabbits, but they were also encouraged by fun-loving teacher Mrs. Hajdukiewicz to create a playlist for the dissection lesson that included tunes such as "Your Body is a Wonderland" and "I've Got You Under my Skin."
I got to put on a pair of gloves and wield a scalpel in an effort to detach the skin to get a good look at some ligaments and tendons in the ankle and foot. Another hot tip I picked up? Make sure to light some scented candles!
May 6, 2019
Once a week, I share fifty minutes with thirteen sixth-form students as a part of our Self in Community curriculum. In their senior year, the students focus on leadership, ethical thinking, health and life skills. Enter in today's lesson, which occurred at Facilities under the expert guidance of Mr. Gallo: how to change a tire. Featured here are Dokyung Yang '19 and Marty Graham '19 learning how to use jacks and wrenches to get the job done!
April 30, 2019
My third-form Making of the Muslim World students spent time in the school's "Fab Lab" with Mr. Dobbins today, working on creating ceramic tiles based on a pattern sourced from an overseas mosque.
The students researched the mosque, its construction, the city in which it is built, and the materials available to builders and artisans in the time it was constructed. After replicating the design of the tile on paper, they then "printed" the tile onto ceramic and colored it in with paint markers.
They also used a laser wood cutter to create tile holders. According to Mr. Dobbins, "Lots of affirmation from the class. Student-to-student teaching (train students in different aspects and then they assist each other). Things broke — failure is good. They learned that was OK and we worked on solutions. We had a glue gun and fixed tile holders. Paint was incorrectly applied. Nail polish remover fixed it. Students saw peers put in more time and then went back to improve drawings."
The students appreciated the opportunity to be hands on and learned not only new content, but a new set of skills, too. Mounted display of their finished masterpieces to follow soon in the school building!
April 27, 2019
This morning a group of third-form physics students shed some light on electricity for me. They were creating circuits to examine how electricity works, and to illustrate the difference between parallel and series circuits. For example, holiday lights that one might string around a tree, are series. If one bulb goes out, the ones after it go out, too, because they share a charge.
If one were to create separate, parallel circuits, a singular light can succeed or fail on its own, but it will use more voltage. Parallel lights burn more brightly, but faster. This new knowledge tempers my annoyance at the annual tradition of trimming the tree and discovering burnt out strands — at least by design they consume less energy, which appeals to the environmentalist in me!
April 20, 2019
Today is Grandparents' Day at Brooks School, which is always a joyful occasion. As a former United States history teacher, I have always appreciated the lived experience that our special guests have shared, which helps to make the lessons come alive. With that in mind, I popped into AP U.S., where a group was presenting on social, political and economic themes of Period 8 (1945-1980). After their slides, the students engaged the class in a board game called "The Search for Order," testing their peers' knowledge of the content. The grandparents jumped right in and impressed everyone — no surprise!
I also spent time today in AP Computer Science Principles, where students are working on preparing their submissions to the College Board. Elena Ranalli '19 informed me that they must complete two performance tasks, both an "explore — impact of computing innovations" and a "create — applications from ideas" component. She had just received feedback on her "explore" written and presentational elements (on the Venmo app) from her teacher, Mr. Kihak Nam '99.
As I worked my way around the room, I learned about the game "Swim Away" that Caroline Cutter '19 created using Scratch from MIT. We chatted about her interest in CS, which has been influenced by her brother who studies Cyber Security at the Air Force Academy. Caroline took a summer course at Harvard University during her fourth-form summer where she learned C++ and Java.
This year at Brooks, the students progressed to learning Python. I also connected with Tianshu Wang '19, who was creating a game we decided to call "Adrenaline Junkie." It simulates skydiving out of an airplane on a 2D plane and the objective is to avoid being hit with trash from wind upswells. He was working on creating a pixellated image of himself to serve as the avatar.
As I continued around the room, I learned about maze, snake, matching, card flip and ping pong games in progress. Nashr El Auliya '20 was creating a contact database using Python. I also spent some time learning from Marty Graham '19 who had been in Engineering Product Design the class period prior, and was finishing up his work on a breadboard, testing binaries as foundational work in electrical engineering. It was really cool to see students applying their knowledge and making things to serve a purpose, whether practical or recreational, and I look forward to experiencing their finished products.
April 12, 2019
Welcome to the "Fab Lab," or Fabrications Laboratory, (re)located adjacent to the Science Center atrium! This makerspace, formally of the library basement, was able to transition to its permanent home after the opening of the Center of the Arts, which freed up the space from its temporary use as a visual arts classroom.
Ryan Dobbins, Director of Technology, has helped educate our community on the resources available, ranging from laser engraving and embossing of wood, vinyl, leather and ceramic, and the embroidering of textiles, to high quality (and mobile!) photo, video and audio recording studios. The objective is to have students try things and fail, to take things apart and put them back together again, and to become proficient at using the equipment and materials such that they can educate other students. Ryan has facilitated a "soft opening" of the space by partnering with third form Physics teachers Justine Rooney and Randy Hesse, working on Rube Goldberg and nerf gun labs, respectively. In the latter, the students used a 3D printer to create adapters for their mechanisms that would have been impossible to buy. Ryan shared that it enabled students to experience an iterative development process of rapid prototyping, meaning that they could use their product, determine its flaws, and immediately try to fix them.
When I visited the Fab Lab, I came across students Brandon Fogarty '19 and Myles Pember '19 working on their fashion label independent study, and heard that Sarah Fleischman '19 has plans to reconstruct a pinball machine this spring.
I myself am looking forward to partnering with Ryan on getting my students into the Fab Lab to create Islamic tiles each unique to a mosque in a city they have been studying along trade routes we have been simulating. I'll let you know how it goes!
MARCH 29, 2019
A Friday afternoon spent with Advanced Jazz Band really starts the weekend off right. Subbing in for Mrs. Keller, I started class by asking each student when they began music lessons and if they could define a pivotal point where they became truly passionate about their instruments. I learned about class of 2020 Chris Lyman's love for the piano that emerged at age 14, and Brian Barker-Morrill's begrudging respect for the saxophone after countless hours of lessons and practice — that have clearly paid off!
Mathias Tankersley '19 only picked up the drums last year, but was a quick study after years of sax. Doris Wong '19 has dedicated herself to years of cello and has a knack for picking up other instruments, the latest being guitar. The students practiced Blue Bossa, When Sunny Gets Blue, Solar, Yesterdays, The Chicken, and Oye Como Va. It was fun to hear trombone and violin and clarinet coming together, and the students did well to direct themselves and create space for solo improvisations.
February 27, 2019
It was a big day for sports fans at Brooks School! Our boys varsity basketball team, seeded third in the NEPSAC tournament, took on the St. George's School dragons and won 65-43.
The theme for the fan section was "beach" and the kids came dressed in their very best (some adults too!).
Our students have a strong tradition of incorporating aspects of school hymns into their cheers, and Wednesday was no exception. Strains of "Seek Ye First" and "Draw the Circle Wide" could be heard at impressive decibels ringing through the gym.
After the boys secured the win the beach party moved to the rink, where our girls varsity ice hockey team, seeded first in NEPSAC, took on the Vermont Academy wildcats.
We were all blown away by the level of play. Our girls' insane hustle, playmaking, and smart decision-making won the day and they beat Vermont 4-3. Regardless of how the weekend tournament games go, Brooksians are very proud of their athletes!
February 20, 2019
Early morning cries of "I'm going to need you to explain this to me really slowly, Mr. Burbank," and "Can we please go over the last question from homework last night?" transported me right back to my own pre-calculus experience. Except that I was probably terrified to a point of being mute, whereas this bunch of students was lively and comfortable in their engagement.
Trigonometric talk of unit circles, reference and acute angles, degrees and radians, and arc length ensued as students practiced how to measure angles using different modes.
Mr. Burbank was making good on his objective to unwrap the circle and get the class to sinusoidal functions. I felt like if I stayed, maybe I could get there too, buoyed by a strong team atmosphere!
february 18, 2019
Centered, grounded, aware of my energy channels and feeling, not looking, at the clay whizzing between my hands. I relied upon the guidance of my colleague, Lynn McLoughlin, as I sat at the wheel in her ceramics class this afternoon.
In my adulthood, I have found that I really enjoy moments of uncomplicated inexperience. Lynn asked, "Do you know what you're doing?" I positively exclaimed, "No! I don't!" I was genuinely happy to be in the position of thinking, feeling, "Please, teach me."
Most of the time I feel I need to have answers, whether it's as an administrator with my colleagues, as a history teacher with my students, as a coach with my players, an advisor to my advisees, or as a parent with my own children. Blessed are the moments where I can be new to something, humbled entirely by my lack of knowledge, skills and experience.
And there I was today, with the snow falling softly outside the ceramics studio, a lump of clay in my hands and Lynn's encouragement in my ears. I was a student.
FEBRUARY 13, 2019
Double double toil and trouble... who remembers these opening lines from MacBeth? Did you know they are in trochaic tetrameter, or beats of four (with the emphasis on the first syllable)? I learned in Ms. Binder's English II class today that this can be interpreted as a sign of evil. These are wicked witches we're reading about, and the fact their verse isn't in iambic pentameter is a tip off! The human ear prefers iambic pentameter, beats of five, because it reminds us of our heartbeat. Ms. Binder moved the lesson out to the hall and engaged her students in an interactive circle game.
They first practiced clapping beats around the perimeter, then matching verbal cues with their steps across the circle, then they put it together to recite original verse in iambic pentameter! The experience was a memorable one that got us out of comfort zones and connecting our own creative musings to famous examples like Romeo's soliloquies about Juliet.
FEBRUARY 8, 2019
I have commandeered a bulletin board in the main hallway of the link to post some good old fashioned print news, hoping that it will catch students' eyes as they walk by on their way to and from classes. Headlines so far have explored debates over whether or not the war in Afghanistan is winnable, if the EPA should exist and if your DNA should be used to help solve crimes without your knowledge. Other topics have included the crisis in Yemen and climate change affecting the gender of babies.
So far I have seen one adult stop to read the news over the past few weeks. I shall persist! In perhaps a more exciting development, a Winter Term class inspired the installation of a flat screen across from the Endicott Peabody bust that features surveys and sign ups via QR code. In this picture, you can see the musical and weekend events being advertised, and the QR code provides a way of signing up for the activities!
February 7, 2019
Today in Modern World History, the students gathered in an 18th century "coffee house" and exchanged Enlightenment era ideas, taking on the personas of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Jefferson and Mary Wollstonecraft (even though women would have been excluded during the 1700s).
They learned that the emergence of coffee houses in London and the stimulant's increasing popularity helped to foster intellectualism, since caffeine had a more beneficial effect on one's conversational skills than the previous drink of choice- alcohol! Ms. Nasser served up some of Dunkin Donuts' finest to our fourth formers, including Alex Natalizio, Will Abate and Omolade Mebude, pictured here:
february 2, 2019
While Americans were observing Groundhog Day on February 2, the French — and Brooks School French Second Level students — were celebrating La Chandeleur!
Translated to "Candlemas," the holiday marks Jesus's presentation at the temple in Jerusalem. On this day, the French make crêpes, a tradition that many think started with Pope Gelasius I handing out pancakes to religious pilgrims in Rome. The circular shape of the crêpes is also believed to resemble the sun, a nod to the days getting longer with the anticipation of spring!
February 1, 2019
Rape of the Sabines! Cloelia! I walked into some colorful, engaging storytelling in Latin I with Magistra McCampbell this morning! With the National Latin Exam to look forward to, Magistra was reminding her students of the importance of cultural context for their language learning. The class then moved on to practicing relative pronouns and a discussion around declining words. (I learned we don't have many of the latter remaining in the English language.) The students participated in a nifty game that worked on both pronunciation and memorization. I was impressed by the equally supportive and competitive atmosphere!
January 24, 2019
Today I returned to A.P. European History to join in on a simulation of the 1814-1815 Congress of Vienna. Alas, I have no pictures to prove it, as I was busy playing the part of Robert Castlereagh, representing Great Britain.
I was joined around the table by Prussia, Austria, Russia and France, trying to decide what to make of post-Napoleonic Europe. Negotiations included territorial claims, indemnities and military occupations, among other considerations. Expertly facilitated, the Congress even included a break in the action when Napoleon returned from Elba and the Hundred Days ensued. The students were eager to forge alliances and put their 1789 and 1792 maps to use, appreciating the sacrifices of each country in helping to quell Napoleon's advances, yet wary of the countries' respective nationalist ambitions.
It was an enjoyable challenge to advocate for Great Britain's maritime interests and assure their colonial holdings while the other powers around the table vied for border regions and argued liberal vs. conservative stances on self-determination. We all came away appreciating the complexity of diplomacy and impressed by the 50 years peace that followed the Congress of Vienna.
January 18, 2019
This evening Brooks hosted a Winter Term Symposium to share with our larger community all of the experiences and learning born out of our coursework over the past few weeks! For the second time, I co-taught a course titled "Six Feet Under: The Art, Science and Business of Death" with my colleagues Amanda Nasser and Leigh Perkins.
At the symposium, students presented on topics ranging from near death experiences, to mediumship, to final disposition. I enjoyed surveying the room and seeing visitors down on the ground crawling into body bags and getting toe tagged, and hearing kids ask their parents if they believe in an afterlife.
Our quest to normalize conversations around death, which is a universal truth we all share, was happening all around us! Cheers to a group of fourth formers who were game to speak with a mortician and visit a funeral home, to confer with Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Unitarian Universalist faith leaders about death, who toured graveyards and tried writing epitaphs and elegy of their own, who braved a cold ghost tour of Salem, who learned about forensic pathology from the Chief Medical Examiner and who observed autopsies!
We are very proud of our "deathlings" and hope their experience helped to shift the "behind closed doors" culture around death, dying and how we process loss.
January 15, 2019
Lucky me, I benefitted from the good fortune of being picked as the female chaperone to accompany "The Complexity of War" Winter Term class to Washington, D.C.! Comprised of 14 third-form students, along with Mr. Packard and Mr. Waters, the group was high-energy and very engaged in their experiential learning.
On Tuesday, we visited the Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, the Holocaust Museum, the Pentagon to meet with Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer '72, and Arlington National Cemetery to pay our respects to Alexi Whitney '96.
On Wednesday, we visited the Vietnam, Korea and Lincoln Memorials, met with a CIA officer to hear more about Mr. Whitney and their line of work, and then spent enriching hours at the National Museum of the Marine Corps and the Newseum. Needless to say, it was a stimulating and thought-provoking 48 hours! The students asked great questions of their hosts and docents wherever they went, and did not let the government shutdown get in the way of their educational tourism!
November 9, 2018
On Friday night I took my five-year-old daughter to see "Stories from Afar," the fall student production. It was the last of eight performances across local towns for the troupe, who closed out their run in the Brooks black box theater, housed in the new Center for the Arts.
Featuring stories from Poland, China and Nigeria, about frog princesses and thieving dragons among other fantastical imaginings, the performances were lively and interactive. The little kids sitting in the front rows were called upon to supplement the storyline or jump in to act out a character. They paused for a singalong, led by Katie O'Brien '19, which you can enjoy in this video. As always, I was impressed by the commitment and talents of our students, and my daughter left enthralled by the storytelling. I think it's safe to say she is now looking up to the "big kids" more than ever!
NOVEMBER 5, 2018
This week, I spent several days on the campus of Northfield Mount Hermon School, serving on a Visiting Committee for the New England Association of Schools & Colleges. Every ten years, an educational institution under this association's purview must complete a reaccreditation process, which includes two years dedicated to the creation of a self-study report prior to the Committee's visit to campus. A colleague shared with me ahead of time that it would be hard work, but also some of the most rewarding professional development I would ever experience. True on both counts!
I learned a tremendous amount about the 15+ standards on which a school is evaluated, about how to truly engage in a collaborative writing process, and above all, a lot about NMH and their impressive programming, faculty and students, who were incredibly hospitable to us. A major bonus is that among my Committee colleagues, I found ten new friends from other independent secondary schools. I learned a lot from them and look forward to crossing paths at conferences and school visits in the years to come!
November 1, 2018
Today, I was a “shark” in A.P. World History! Ms. Nasser had her class prepare presentations targeting the College Board, who are promoting a redesign to the A.P. World History curriculum that would start African history in 1500. That would mean that students would not learn about economically prospering, culturally rich African Empires, but only about Africa in the context of the Slave Trade. Well, not without a fight from our fourth formers!
The students presented on the government, commerce and religion of empires like Mali, Ghana and Songhai. They addressed me, in the style of the TV show "Shark Tank," imagining that I was a College Board representative whom they needed to convince. Let's just say that if I worked at the College Board, I would not dare to drop pre-1500 from the curriculum. The students were very convincing, indeed!
October 23, 2018
Francois-Marie Arouet, at your service. This morning, I took on the personage of Voltaire to attend an A.P. European History Enlightenment-era salon, hosted by Mrs. Musto as Madame du Deffand.
John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot and Immanuel Kant were also present! We discussed rights of the individual, racial hierarchy, morality and the roles of religion and government in society, among other topics. I thoroughly enjoyed my preparation and participation in the discussion, and was so impressed by the quality of student contribution.
October 20, 2018
In honor of National Writing Day this past week, Ms. Binder initiated a collaborative sidewalk storytelling trend amongst English II classes. Members of our community have been enjoying their creations as we walk up and down Main Street.
Saturday morning proved no exception, as I spied Ms. Perkins's fourth form students writing their own story outside my office window. I ran outside to catch them in action. In speaking with them, I learned that they had just finished a short story unit. In working together to add their words to the pavement, they were focusing on varying sentence structure, moving the plot along in only nine sentences, and being sensitive to building off of one another's ideas as opposed to saying "no."
Having recently read The Things They Carried, they will now turn their attention to creating their own "Brooks Backpack" full of the things they carry in their daily lives. I look forward to learning more about each student once their projects are on display in the academic building!
October 12, 2018
My grandfather always reminded me that, "Variety is the spice of life." And for that reason, I love my job! No sooner had I taught my own history class first period, than I found myself standing on a table, serving as a model for Advanced Drawing during second period. By 9:45 a.m. I had a smock on and was trying my hand at using an ink brush to capture the likeness of a student.
I listened to Concert Chorale sing beautifully at School Meeting and then took a phone call with Ben Riggs '63 to discuss his participation in my upcoming Winter Term course titled "Six Feet Under." We discussed near death experiences, expansive consciousness and parapsychology.
Following a few meetings and a quick bite of lunch, I was invited into Honors Anatomy to hear them present their creative projects: brochures, PSA, songs and posters on diseases and conditions of the skin. I learned from Jadie DeLeon '19 about alopecia, Vicky Haghighi '19 about albinism, and Taylor Berberian '19 on melanoma before making my merry way back to the office.
Skip ahead to 9:15 p.m. in the Chace House common room and I found myself in the midst of 24 boys dressed in black ready to take on a rival dorm in dodge ball. They even let faculty child Kelly McVeigh join in the fun!
The emails and paperwork got done, but will quickly fade from memory. However, I don't think the students or I will soon forget my time as an art class model, the choral performance in front of the school, the real life prep work for becoming a doctor or pharmaceutical rep, or the competitive dodgeball match up during the "Friday Free." Hard to beat a work day like this one!
October 6, 2018
I snuck into Honors Biology this morning as Ms. Mandzhukova was leading the students through review, prior to a quiz. Turns out, it was a health and nutrition lesson in disguise!
The students were studying cellulose, starch and lipids and how they appear in membranes (linear versus branch), and the advantages and disadvantages associated with each in providing animals with energy. I learned that cows have four compartments in their stomachs, each with a different function, and microbes galore to assist them in breaking down their high cellulose diet of grasses. Athletes carbo-load before games to get glucose-rich starch, found in pasta and potatoes, to convert into energy.
Finally, I learned that our bodies don't produce unsaturated fats, so it's better for us to eat them to balance out the saturated fats we do make. It's important we have lipids, because otherwise our bodies will break down the sugar in muscle protein in order to help us perform.
Now I can make some more informed choices in the dining hall! The students appreciated the review and called out the answers enthusiastically, before settling down to take their quiz — the last thing between them and the weekend!
September 27, 2018
What is a robot? A good question to consider upon entering a Robotics class, and that is just what the students did to start off their semester. A brief survey of those gathered in the Robotics Lab informed me that robots are machines that can work autonomously.
I learned from Matt Costantino '20 and Owen Borek '19 that the first iterations of bomb-defusing robots weren't robots in the truest sense because they were controlled remotely by humans. The boys asserted that robots can sense, think, act and communicate on their own. They relayed this while huddled over their own creation, affixing a new sensory mechanism to its underbelly.
Mr. Hesse paused the class to teach them about While Loops, a coding feature that incorporates a control statement that allows the robot to repeat or skip a part of the program. This was important to the students' work, because in coding the robot to make its way through a maze, they were replacing the time factor with a distance-sensing factor. This allowed for the fact that robots might travel different distances in a set amount of time, but that if you code them to sense the distance they have traveled, then they can navigate a course with greater accuracy and consistency.
Using the While Loop, the code will prompt the robot to keep going back to test the condition until it's no longer true, then it will skip it. It asks the robot, "are we there yet?" and if so, then it can exit the While Loop and continue. I was impressed by the emergent fluency of the students using code-curly braces and everything in between!
September 18, 2018
This morning, I walked to school with my advisee, David Tan '20, who shared with me that he was excited to be working on an unconventional piece in Chamber Ensemble, titled "String Shredder," by Kevin Mixon. Fast-forward 15 minutes to when I had invited myself into the classroom to hear him play it! Enjoy the intro. from Mr. Griffith in the clip below.
The second piece they practiced was a Concerto for String Orchestra by Georg Philipp Telemann. It was fun to see new third-former Hugh Park in action (middle violin), since I teach him in history class, and this was an opportunity to witness another of his talents.
Riding the high of listening to live music before 8:30 a.m., I decided to journey on to the science wing to drop in on Chemistry with Mr. Lafond. I struck gold, literally. The fourth formers were trying their hand at alchemy, the practice of turning every day items into gold.
Using sodium chloride, vinegar and zinc, among other ingredients, the students experimented to see if they could turn copper pennies into treasure. It sure looked like they did, but hard to say...brass is shiny too! Timmy Kelleher '21 provided me with my very own golden penny to keep as a souvenir on my way out the door.
I concluded my morning in Madame Medved's French Second Level course, and found a seat between Anthony Burnett '19 and Emma Fleischman '21. The students were conversing about their families, and Anthony and Emma were kind enough to let me dust off my high school French skills and take a turn!
September 13, 2018
Today was class trip day, and I enjoyed my time ushering a lively bunch of third-form students through different challenges set up by Project Adventure. The footage you see below shows the students as they set their brains to the task of memorization and deduction, making their way through a checkerboard as a team. For every wrong square they stepped into, trying to make it from one end to the other, a buzzer sounded and they had to go back to square one (literally!). The students then needed to recall their former path without error, ultimately selecting a new square in an effort to progress. It was slow-going but their teamwork and determination to complete the task were impressive!
Other challenges included moving the whole team through a giant jumprope based on numeric sequence puzzles, setting a record time for moving a hula hoop around a circle while holding the hands of the people next to you, and organizing themselves in order — silently — based on different prompts such as birth date and shoe size. It proved fun, and a great opportunity for bonding!
September 11, 2018
This morning I visited Mr. Wyatt's Pre-Modern World History elective, Journeying the Silk Roads. The third-form students were engaged in primary document analysis, comparing and contrasting two Harappan seals featuring human and animal imagery, in addition to indecipherable script. Mr. Wyatt made the study of the seals relevant to today's world by asking the students to consider modern day logos. What weight does brand recognition play in decision making, and therefore what impact does branding have on commerce and culture? The students were quick to make connections and envision what a Harappan marketplace would have been like, thousands of years ago!
September 6, 2018
School is underway and the Deans' Den Blog is back! To kick things off, a quick glimpse into 24 hours at Brooks during our first week: I had my first sixth-form Self in Community and third-form Uncovering Ancient Africa classes, led an academic orientation of our new students, enjoyed our first Chace House dormitory meeting, took a walk around the fields for morning practices, and visited Dr. Carabatsos's Physics class!
The primary purpose of this blog is to provide insight into the daily life of a student at Brooks School, so I drop in casually to classes, club meetings, extracurriculars etc. to witness their engagement firsthand. It has proven a fun and rewarding experience to celebrate the learning that is happening across campus.
Today I will spotlight Physics! On day one, the students were participating in an "Escape the Room" activity that had them problem solving, but also team building and orienting themselves in the classroom and the curriculum. The students had to figure out how to organize themselves based on a card they were assigned from a traditional deck.
Then, they were tasked with identifying a pattern on a cube covered in names and numbers that would help them to find the code to unlock a padlocked pencil case. The case contained a physics-based problem whose answer was a clue leading them to their teacher's office (so they know where to go for extra help!). There they found a key, to open a toolbox, that contained a pencil they had to balance on their fingertips. The students had a blast, and it certainly proved to be a memorable first day! Cool idea, Dr. C!
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!