[I]t is not those differences between us that are separating us. It is rather our refusal to recognize those differences, and to examine the distortions that result from our misnaming them...
The 2014 team performing “Fences.”
Gabrielle Bienasz ’16, Bria Johnson ’14, Chloe Matthews ’14, and Julia Powell ’16
As the poets take the stage, I can see their nervous energy. It is finals night for the ALL CITY Teen Poetry Slam Festival at the Manship Theatre, and they have spent all afternoon, and every free moment they could find in the last week, rehearsing the poem that they wrote together and are about to perform. The four poets station themselves across the stage with deliberate stiffness, standing rigidly and holding hands with the people next to them at an angle that creates what I know is the outline of a picket fence. Beginning together, “We fences, we see everything,” the poets in turn describe the views in their neighborhoods: what a fence might witness that the people might not see or want to see. The fences are chain link or wood, perfectly manicured or in disrepair, and they stretch all over town, both connecting and dividing the city. But in each case these fences “see” people performing and pretending: children pretending to be adults or to be dutiful carriers of parents’ ideologies, parents holding up facades of perfection that mask deep divisions, children playing pretend with the adult world, the adult world also pretending to be something else. As the poets weave their individual stories and observations together, they make layered and complex critiques of their worlds, but the strength of their performance evaporates my concerns that their ideas won’t be clear to the audience.
As the nods, snaps, and sighs of the audience turn to applause and we wait for the judges’ response, I watch with new amazement and pride, even though I’ve seen this many times, and even as I worry that they’ve broken the time limit or that they’ll be too hard on themselves over a missed line or misspoken word and won’t see that they nailed it. I repeat to myself the slam poetry mantra, “The points are not the point; the poetry is the point,” as if I could remind my team telepathically.
As a teacher and coach, I love the entire process of working with my poetry team on a group piece, from their first conversations to this final performance. With up to four poets collaborating to write, choreograph, and perform a poem together, these pieces offer a powerful challenge to a team. Each year, when my students begin the process of brainstorming, they quickly realize that they need to find a topic that matters to all of them, but that they each have something different to say about. As they decide on their topic and begin to map out on my whiteboard what each poet will contribute, they find that their different identities, perspectives, and experiences are a source of strength. Building on each other’s ideas, the poets work to find the common ground that will bring their piece together and the distinct individual voices that will make it their own, thinking carefully about how their stories will connect and how they will differ. For example, as this process unfolded for “Fences," co-author Chloe Matthews ’14 notes that despite her concerns about how poets’ differences might ultimately link together, "The singular fence was a metaphor we were able to use to firmly imply that, while our different perspectives mattered individually, none were any more or less significant in the grand scheme of it all.” Though I hope to support them with a well-timed question or a push to sharpen an image or explore an idea a bit further, but my role at this stage is mostly as a witness to their creation. And as a witness, appropriately, I find something poetic in the ways that they honor each others’ stories, the connections that they create across race, gender, religion, class, and sexuality that value their differences without minimizing or polarizing.
Because they are adolescents, all of the students I teach are in a critical stage of understanding how their identities are shaped by but exceed these identity markers. Because I teach English, the tools I have to support that endeavor are reading and writing, and they can be powerful tools. I work to pose questions and introduce my students to texts that help them to consider how their own stories intersect with and diverge from the stories of others, that ask them to explore how history and culture shape all of our stories, and that call for them to engage with information that often challenges their beliefs and understandings. We discuss Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s claim that “how [stories] are told, who tells them, when they are told, [and] how many stories are told, are really dependent on power,” and we consider stories’ power "to dispossess and to malign,” but also “to empower and to humanize” by reading and responding to literature that represents identity and difference in many different ways. The results of that work are highly individual: while some students take firm steps toward seeing identity in a critical historical and social context, others dismiss what they see as a political agenda, and many simply build their ability to consider others’ perspectives and extend the range of perspectives they have examined.
I know I share with all my colleagues a commitment to teaching for community, social justice, and respecting the dignity of every person. In my classroom and beyond it, that commitment means recognizing and honoring our differences and our many stories.
Tell karin what you think about her blog. Drop her a comment below.
A week ago, while scanning my inbox, I noticed a rather strange announcement from a student club:
A group of students, of their own free-will (ha!), discussing theological fatalism? I’ve been out of the classroom for a while, but I would have to say this was an outlier. The Tea Club, as I discovered later, was a student organized club (comprised primarily of Sophomores) with the following mission:
Tea club offers students a comfortable, civil and respectful atmosphere to discuss philosophical and political topics over a hot cup of tea.
The world could certainly use more of this. I was intrigued, so I dropped by to see it in action.
As I walked in the door of Dr. deGravelles' room, the conversation was underway. About ten students had arranged desks in a circle of sorts. One student would pose a question about the topic; “what do you think”, or, “what does this mean,” were par for the course. Other students would respond, some informing their answers from their faith or using logical arguments and reason to stake out a position. Positions were challenged and rebutted, but with unusual grace for teenagers.
The topic was interesting, yes, but the subtle action occurring below the surface of the conversation gave me hope for the future. Ideologically, the students in the room represented opinions ranging from conservative to liberal. Their religious backgrounds varied. Some were athletes, some were not. Some were budding artists and some were quiet students on the campus and in the classroom. They were a cross-section of Episcopal. They didn’t necessarily agree on any conclusion and challenged each other, but they remained in the room, at the table, engaged and listening.
I was fortunate to witness the powerful combination of student interest coupled with the excellent coaching of club sponsors, Dr. Khun and Dr. deGravelles. This thirty minute club meeting was demonstrating to those involved that diversity of thought and civility is foundational to the discussion and understanding of ideas.
I’d imagine if you ask most of the members of tea club why they participate, you would get a range of answers. For some, it’s a place to be heard, for others a place to learn about new ideas, or it might be a place where they feel they belong. The same holds true for the broader Episcopal community. Faculty, staff, students, administrators, and parents all bring unique perspectives to the table. Diversity of thought, experience, and culture make our community stronger, #StrongeruKnighted.
Young, hip, trendy, and “not to be taken seriously” all come to mind when being introduced to one of Baton Rouge’s leading entrepreneurs. But don't judge this book by its cover. Kenny Nguyen is leading the Baton Rouge digital marketing scene. A Baton Rouge native, Kenny partners with powerful brands and shares his entrepreneurial tips with the community through outlets such as TEDx, Forbes, and Huffington Post. He co-founded Big Fish Presentations after sitting through the “worst presentation he had ever seen” and now leads ThreeSixtyEight in its mission to help brands rediscover their creative confidence.
On January 23rd, Episcopal's Entrepreneurial and Social Studies class taught by Vincent Hoang welcomed Mr. Nguyen to discuss what Kenny classified as the 4 keys to his success. Here they are:
Live your life like others won't, so later you can live your life like others can't. In theory, entrepreneurship means doing something that no one has done before. Usually, the road to success is full of naysayers and critics. The world is full of people who will say you can’t. You must be committed to believing you can! You may lose friends, but trust me, you will gain them, too.
Passion will keep you going.
No matter what road you face, if you're not passionate about what you’re working towards you're more likely to flake out and give-up. Good planning and hard work are a must, but passion will keep you going.
Money is always a by-product of doing great things, but money isn't everything.
For Kenny, money is a great tool. Like most of us, he enjoys having a lot of money, but money shouldn't be the driving force. Success is more about creating great companies that can endure long term. Building a legacy and creating real life-changing value is more important than riches. When you are able to create exceptional value for your customer, wealth is the by-product.
Your network equals your net worth.
The people you surround yourself with will really make or break you. Surround yourself with people who are smarter, better, and connected. You will always have that group of friends who think everything you say is a cool idea. But you need people brave enough to challenge your ideas. Good entrepreneurs seek mentors. When you start to believe you know everything, you're on dangerous ground.
To reach Kenny and hear more about his story, feel free to contact him at Kenny.firstname.lastname@example.org. To grab a copy of his book The Big Fish Experience: Create Memorable Presentations That Reel In Your Audience click here.
The spring semester is a time of transitions in college counseling. After spending a year working with the Class of 2017, we are excited to announce their college selections and celebrate their successful college search. In the coming months, you will see more announcements of students’ college choices. We celebrate as a school in the Chapel by announcing the students’ college selection, handing them a big cookie, posting a college pennant in the student center, and sending their picture out to the whole community. At Episcopal we are obviously proud of all of these students’ achievements. However, as a college counselor, I find myself most pleased with the thoughtful way our students make intentional selections of the college or university program that will serve them best.
We are similarly excited to begin with the Juniors and we will work closely together to get to the finish line. The high school years are a wonderful time for students to explore their interests, values, and goals for both college and life. Discussing these topics with your student can help both of you explore the connections between current coursework and a student’s future. Explore how an interest in a history class might fit into a future career or how A Brave New World ties in with their biology course. When a student finds an interest in the connections between subjects, the real world, and the future, he or she will better understand the paths that will soon be opening.
The better a student knows his or her values and interests, the easier the college search. The number of higher education options for students is daunting. There are over two thousand four-year colleges and universities in the United States alone. Having a general idea of what a student wants to get out of college will greatly help filter those options. Understanding where they will be comfortable but challenged and able to thrive, as both a student and young adult, will narrow the choices even further. In the end, college counselors are able to see a confident young person who has selected the best choice.
If you choose to click on news articles about colleges in the coming months, you will find references to record numbers of applications, low admit rates, and (my personal favorite) the one kid in the US who was accepted to all eight Ivy League institutions. These articles give the sense that college acceptance is a prize to win instead of a selection to make. As students pass through their school years at Episcopal and get ready to receive their cookie in Chapel, Episcopal will have taken every opportunity to help students make an intentional choice for college. They will have made a selection and can be confident in their new beginning.
Justin Fenske joined Episcopal as the Director of College Counseling in 2014 and has been in the field for nine years. Justin graduated from the University of Michigan and earned a Master’s in Education from Boston University. During this time at Episcopal, his team has implemented a comprehensive high school program priding itself on individual attention to students in all grade levels. Justin is a certified Highlands Ability Battery consultant and has also spent time developing and implementing online career and college tools for high school students in the state of Michigan and as an administrator at Boston University.
We are excited to celebrate members of the Episcopal Class of 2017 as they make their college enrollment decisions!
Hunter Wendt will enroll at Coe College this fall. Congratulations!
Madison Delacroix will enroll at
Louisiana State University this fall. Congratulations!
Caroline Peltier will enroll at
Louisiana State University this fall. Congratulations!
Cassidy Dickinson will enroll at
Spring Hill College this fall. Congratulations!
One of my favorite things about being the Lower School Librarian is to see kids fall in love with reading. By exposing students to all types of books, children will develop a sense of what genre they enjoy most and will develop a love of reading. Sometimes that comes easily.... "Mrs. Word, where are the mysteries?" These kids know what they like and devour every book in that genre. Others have a more difficult time.... "Mrs. Word, I want a book about time travel but without any fairies or weird characters!" These kids have an idea of what they like (science fiction), but need book suggestions from me or help narrowing down exactly what they want. And then there are these.... "I don't like reading... it's boring." These are the kids (and some adults, too) that have never found the "just right" book. They have either been told they have to read certain books (and didn't like them), or have just never discovered the magic of getting lost in a book. I LOVE helping these kids discover a book that truly makes them WANT to read. There is a quote on the wall of Pollard Library that reads, "I disappear into books. What's your superpower?" (By the way, my family will all tell you that I have this superpower, as I tend to ignore EVERYTHING around me while reading.) I hope that this new year there will be many, many students at Episcopal that will discover how to disappear.... In my efforts to help our students I have discovered some wonderful reading resources that might help everyone in their reading journey- whether just beginning to recognize sounds and words to falling in love with a good book. I hope you find them helpful!
EPIC! is an ebook app designed for kids 12 and under that provides access to thousands of popular children's books. It costs $4.99 in the Apple app store, but is well worth the cost... Kids can search books by topic, genre, age level, and eventually the app will recommend books based on what has previously been read. It also will keep track of the number of books read, hours spent reading, and allows kids to set preferences based on their age and things they like. For younger kids, there is a set of "Read to Me" books that give an audio version. If you are an educator, the app is free!
Apple app store
Epic! Google app
Epic! Amazon App
Is this book appropriate?
"Have you read every book in the library?" Crazy enough, I have had many kids ask me this question! There is no possible way for me to read every book- I have to rely on book reviews and websites to decide what to order for our library. As children get older and can read longer chapter books, the question I hear from parents is different: " Is this age appropriate?" The AR (Accelerated Reader) level is often confused with content level- just because a book has an AR level of 4.4 does not mean that the book was written for a 4th grade audience. It only means that the average 4th grader has the ability to read the words in the book without trouble. Every parent has a different idea of what they think is appropriate for their child to read. Story Snoops offers children's book reviews from a parent's perspective for readers ages 9-18. One of the goals is to offer unbiased summaries that will give you insight into the underlying themes and messages. I love the quote on their webpage: "Judge a book by more than its cover." http://www.storysnoops.com/
Books Read Aloud!
At http://www.justbooksreadaloud.com/ there are hundreds of books that are read aloud. Perfect for younger kids. Search by category or age.
Kids ask me everyday, "What should I read next?" My follow up question is always, "What have you read lately that you really enjoyed?" Book Seer is a website that follows the same method. Kids enter a title and author and the the Book Seer will give them a list of suggested books. This is a great resource for adults as well! http://bookseer.com/
Growing up in the early 1980s, I had never heard of a “Science Instigator”. The same was true for robotics and engineering classes. The only engineering I remember at Victoria Village School was… Well, if I’m honest, I don’t remember any engineering. And, an instigator was the title they gave me in the detention letter sent home to my mom.
My closest exposure to engineering at school was a dilapidated sandbox in the back of the classroom. We used it to build bridges and drive trucks through the sand. Science was studying the effect of eating school glue and the velocity of spitballs.
Today at Episcopal, students have so many amazing technology tools for learning. Every day you can find students utilizing 3D printers, a SMALLab, Google Expeditions Virtual Field Trips, and computer programming, just to name a few. Back in my day, printers were mimeograph machines and computer programing was more like ribbon replacement for a typewriter. Robotics was bringing your Transformer to school, and a robotic arm was just that… my arm when I did the robot (dance).
I am always amazed at the learning opportunities our students have here at Episcopal. Sometimes I am even a bit jealous. Our Science Instigators and teachers play a huge part in the development of our students’ young minds. "At Episcopal the Instigators are a positive force for change. They challenge teachers to think cross-curricularly, take the learning one step further, and help them when the tools and technologies seem a bit daunting," says Science Instigator @Betsy_Minton. They use play mixed with real problem solving, science combined with creative storytelling, and tons of SMILES - real smiles on the faces of kids who are enjoying the learning process.
Take the project-based unit, Enchanted Engineering, for example. This unit challenges students to rethink classic Fairy Tales (the same ones I learned about in the 80s) by using science, technology and creativity to solve the problems in the story. Lower School teacher Heather Harpole describes the unit as “a perfect combination for an integrated STEM lesson that promotes problem-solving, perseverance, and creativity."
In this unit, students think outside the box and design solutions for the characters in the story. They create tools to help the characters outsmart the “bad guys”, like the Big, Bad Wolf. Think about it. What if Rapunzel had created a better way to raise and lower people coming to her tower? Scientifically speaking, her hair was a really bad idea. I mean, c’mon!
Students are discovering real solutions by thinking creatively. They are building houses of straw - and pipe cleaner, KEVA planks and Legos bricks - all to discover whether the Big, Bad Wolf can huff and puff and still blow their houses down.
Kudos to our Science Instigators, @Betsy_Minton and Melissa Estremera, along with all of our teachers, who are making learning not only fun, but also making learning stick. Twenty years from now, unlike myself, our students can be proud of the engineering foundation they received here at Episcopal.
Both teaching and learning have come such a long way since my glue eating days.
If you have not had the chance to experience Episcopal, all you have to do is request a tour. Come see our innovative teaching and learning tools, and interact with our faculty and staff.
On a side note, I met a visitor today on campus. His encouraging words to me were, "I only wish I knew earlier what I know now about Episcopal.”
Visit us and experience the difference.
I'd love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below!
The EdCamp movement began in Philadelphia in 2010, and since then over 700 events have been hosted around the world. An EdCamp is an “unconference” that provides educators with teacher-driven professional development and incredible opportunities to network with their peers.
There are no predetermined sessions or topics. Instead, participants show up on the day of the event with ideas they would like to explore and resources to share. A session board is created that morning with a variety of topic ideas, providing participants with several options to attend at a number different of time slots. Unlike a typical conference style of professional development, there are no formal presenters or presentations being made. Sessions consist of facilitated discussion among the participants, so everyone’s voice is heard and a variety of ideas are shared.
The EdCamp model embraces the rule of two feet, which encourages participants to move between available sessions as they wish. No one is offended if someone leaves one session and moves to another, because this event is about each participant getting the most out of their professional development time. It also means if there are two sessions that sound really interesting, then it’s okay to pop in to both.
Making professional connections and networking is at the core of EdCamp. Participants come from a variety of backgrounds, work at different schools, and have experience with a range of age-groups. These unique experiences of each educator in attendance makes for great discussions and resource sharing. There is something for every educator to learn at an EdCamp.
We are excited to host the third annual EdCamp Baton Rouge at Episcopal on Saturday, January 28th from 8AM until 12PM. All area educators are invited to attend and registration is free. Local educators do not want to miss this morning of fun and relaxed learning packed with innovative ideas, engaging conversation, and great door prizes.
For more information and registration, visit www.edcampbr.com
Who am I? A seemingly simple question, but one that causes us to dig deep into reflecting about what factors make up our identity. The start of a new year always brings about self-reflection as people set goals and make resolutions. In order to aspire to eat healthier, read more or procrastinate less, we need to take an inward look at ourselves. As we work to improve ourselves and gain a deeper awareness of who we are, hopefully this also creates greater acceptance and tolerance of others. We can achieve a more uKnighted community.
When the fourth graders returned from Christmas break, they participated in an identity activity and were asked to answer the question "Who am I?" In filling out an identity chart about themselves, students realized that some factors were things that could be seen, such as height, hair color, and eye color. We also discovered that many of our identity traits are unseen, such as being a daughter, a morning person, an athlete, and friendly. We learned that amongst us were people who like cheerleading, are shy around new people, like sour candy, and enjoy classical music. Some of the traits were similar to our own identity and some were not. A few traits surprised us, such as learning that someone is an uncle because they have much older siblings. Just as we've heard the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" we learned that there are many layers to each person and we cannot judge a person's character from their appearances.
I was impressed with the students' honesty about their identity. Students shared that they were picky eaters, stubborn with their parents, and fought with their siblings. One student asked, "If I'm only hurtful to my sister, does that still make me hurtful?" We discussed how we are all imperfect and a life-long goal could be working on these traits. Some bigger ideas surfaced when another student said that she's been labeled as having a big head. How do we respond when people make judgments about our identity? By understanding ourselves better and learning more about each other, we can become open and empathetic to people who are similar and different from us. This greater awareness of one another can build a better community.
To further our exploration, students looked at twenty statements which were part of an identity tapestry. Some of these statements were: "I was born in Louisiana"; "I have been to another country"; "I have felt excluded from a group before"; and "I am here to learn and be my best self". These statements were spread out on a bulletin board. Students used embroidery floss to wrap around statements they felt aligned with their identity. In observing the final tapestry, the fourth graders noticed that we have many things in common: we are creative, we are responsible for our own actions, and we love science. We are connected in many ways but we also noticed that not many of us are left handed and few people prefer hot weather to cold weather. The final product is a beautiful tapestry showing the many ways we are alike and different, yet how we are a connected fourth grade community.
For our final activity, the students wrote a thoughtful letter to their future selves. In the letter they needed to choose aspects of their identity they were proudest of, what aspects of their identity they hoped to change or improve, and how they could make this change happen. Here is a sample student letter:
Dear future self,
Some good traits about me are that I am very confident about myself. I am unique and brave. Are you still some of those things? Do you dot your I's in the future? These are some things I would like to change. I am very unhealthy and picky with eating. Also I'm super lazy and not helpful. I would like to wake up when dad tells me to. I want to eat all the food that is put on my plate and unload the dishes every day. Thanks for your time!
Students will get these letters back at the end of the school year and reflect on any changes to their identity. Starting the new year by having students set goals on how to become better people will hopefully build a community of individuals who are accepting of themselves and others. We are always stronger when our community is uKnighted.
This activity was inspired by the work of artist Mary Corey March.
Episcopal’s Mu Alpha Theta Team placed 3rd at Baton Rouge High Math Tournament
Twenty-five Episcopal students competed at the Baton Rouge Magnet High Mu Alpha Theta Tournament on Saturday, January 14th. Students competed in Division I against students from Ben Franklin, Brother Martin, Catholic High, Haynes Academy, Lafayette High, McKinley High, and St. Paul’s.
Daniel Kim - 1st place in Geometry
Arohi Gopal – 1st place in Algebra II
Clay Burton – Honorable Mention in Algebra II
Shannon Ahmad – Honorable Mention in Pre-Calculus
Puru Yan - Honorable Mention in Pre-Calculus
Ngan Tran - Honorable Mention in Pre-Calculus
Jacob DeWitt - Honorable Mention in Calculus
Charvi Gopal - Honorable Mention in Calculus
1st place Comprehensive Math 2 – Puru Yan, Ngan Tran, Judie Williams, and Mary Caroline Dansky
2nd place Comprehensive Math 2 – Shannon Ahmad, Rachel Posner, Ajit Alapati, and Emily Frazer
4th place Potpourri – Jill Ahmad, Emma Antilley, Caroline Crawford, and Camille Petty
4th place Comprehensive Math 1.5 – Clay Burton, Tomohiro Niwano, Arohi Gopal, and Elaine Gboloo
Episcopal was given Honorable Mention in the Interschool Test and 3rd in Sweepstakes.