An important part of our daily classroom Morning Meeting routine in Lower School is a greeting. This is where students and teachers greet one another by name accompanied by a hand greeting such as a handshake or high five. I have tried to be creative and come up with fun and unique hand greetings. Last year, I came across a video of an assistant college basketball coach, Stephen Garnett, who has a different handshake for each of his players. The handshakes were creative, intricate and entertaining. It is an impressive feat for this coach to remember all these moves. I was doubly delighted when I learned Mr. Garnett was a coach at my alma mater, Whitman College!
Assistant basketball coach video
I later came across a video of a fifth grade teacher in North Carolina who has personalized handshakes for everyone of his students.
He is quite impressive too with the number of students he has and the speed at which he does the
handshakes with his kids. After being inspired by these two videos, I set out a challenge for myself. I would ask my homeroom students to come up with a personalized handshake that I would have to learn. I would attempt to learn all 15 handshakes by the end of the year. This was also a challenge for the kids to come up with a unique handshake. I showed them the two videos to get their creative juices flowing.
Perseverance was the Lower School value for the month of April. Perseverance is an accurate
description of what I was experiencing with these handshakes. Over the course of several months, I patiently learned each student’s handshake. Some were easy to remember, while others were more difficult because of their complicated movements or similarities to another student’s handshake. Some days I wondered if I was going to be able to learn all 15 handshakes.
After persevering through learning combinations of high fives, fist bumps, and dabs, I started to see major progress. My students were also learning each other’s handshakes and they even asked me to come up with one. Mine consists of two fist bumps and two “shakas,” an homage to my Hawaii roots. I had created the challenge of mastering all 15 handshakes by the end of the school year, and during the last week of school, I achieved my goal!
Joy was the Lower School value for the month of May. Joy is a perfect word to describe how I felt. At one of our Morning Meetings in Greer, one of the speakers spoke about what joy is and how sometimes you do not experience joy immediately or instantly. The joy coming from practicing and hard work is an even sweeter joy. I hope I showed my students an example that setting goals, and persevering to achieve them, brings inner satisfaction. These individual handshakes also brought me closer to each student. We now have a personal connection and special memory with each other. I’ll high five to that!
Ms. Won’s homeroom doing the shaka! Ms. Won was born and raised in Hawaii. The shaka sign, commonly seen in Hawaii, conveys the feeling of aloha (love), friendship, and to “hang loose”.
What do basketball, the human eye, and interior design have in common? They’re just a few of the topics 6th grade students took on for Genius Hour.
Genius Hour, sometimes dubbed 20% Time or Passion Project, is more movement than content. It's a time during the school day for students to choose what they learn and how to share their new expertise.
This was the first year for 6th graders to have Genius Hour, and while the 6th grade teaching team was excited about giving students the freedom to respond to an open-ended project, it was a little anxiety-producing, too. “Letting students choose any topic they wanted made me nervous! Many of the students initially struggled with choosing a topic, but did amazing work once they jumped in and began researching,” shares Stacy Hill.
Alex was one student who took a little while to settle on his topic, learning German. “I think Germany is really cool. If I got to go there, I’d want to be able to speak the language.” Other students immediately knew what they wanted to learn. Meredith, who has wanted to be an eye doctor for her whole life, decided to make a 3D image of the human eye. “Making a product was my favorite thing. All the research matters and led up to it.”
Seeing the variety of student passions was inspiring. Virginia Day says, “It was awesome to see kids so engaged in their topics. We get to see academic projects all the time, but I loved seeing some of the less academic ones, like Scott’s homemade Nerf gun and Mary’s drawing. Jacob’s was very personal because he shared his grandfather’s story about fighting in World War II.”
Along with choosing what to learn, students decided how to share with others. “Most of the presentations were amazing,” says Nancy Callaway. “The information the students shared was impressive.”
On May 25, 2017 FRC KnightVision #3991, Episcopal School’s First Robotics Team, attended the inaugural Louisiana Festival de Robotique. Festival de Robotique (FRC) was an initiative by State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, and DOW Chemical Company to raise awareness of First Robotics, to recognize robotics teams who attended First Robotics World Championship in Houston, and allow Louisiana teams to compete in a fun off-season scrimmage.
The morning of the event, KnightVision was one of ten teams who were honored on the Senate Floor and received a Senate resolution. KnightVision then won the off-season scrimmage against the other Louisiana FRC teams. Additionally, Coach Bruce Bowman was honored during the final match for his dedication to First Robotics.
Dear Episcopal School of Baton Rouge Community Members,
Many individual life lessons could be extracted and commented upon in a year-end letter such as this one. For me, there is one unifying thread, however, that ran through the unique blend of challenges and opportunities of the 2016-2017 school year: This year revealed our community’s massive, positive strength, and our unwavering dedication to putting students first.
Heroes and heroines emerged in the face of the flood. Students led the way, discovering their collective strength and goodwill toward others. Donors responded before the rain stopped with Bounce Back funding necessary for the early supply of needed things from football helmets to volleyballs to mowers. Faculty and staff members re-discovered the strengths of their colleagues as more and more co-operation was called for to get the school open and to share classroom spaces. The Knights’ coaches and PE instructors rallied again and again to put together practices and games. The parents were more attentive than ever in handling all the schedule changes and in looking out for the well-being of students. No Board of Trustees at this school has worked harder than our Board did during this school year to manage campus repair with financial prudence. I feel privileged to have seen it all happen and come together. What unity, focus, strength and dedication from all corners of the community!
The flood, however, fairly quickly lost dominance of the scene to student accomplishment. Throughout the year, the strength and goodness of the student body provided evidence that it would take more than the August flood to weaken the ethos of this school.
The year-end academic and athletic accolades were confirming like no other year for me. Perhaps the best comprehensive example lies in our Class of 2017’s college admission success, reflecting a new degree of hard work of so many bright and motivated students. In reviewing this year’s college admissions results, you will marvel at the list of selective and highly selective colleges that have
re-discovered Episcopal through the achievements of this great graduating class. The 2016-2017 school year was not, after all, the year of the flood; it was the year that student achievement abounded in new degrees and with greater breadth.
With the Main Gym's return to use in February, flooded buildings including the Phillips Gym, the Lower School building, Penniman Hall, and all flooded courts and fields were fully repaired. All the flooded facilities are in markedly better shape than they were in before the flood. The flood is no longer the story.
On Tuesday, May 30, construction will begin on the Academic Commons - the school’s first new academic building in quite some time. Plans are also underway to invest in expanding athletic facilities as promptly as prudence and funding allow. We are excited to share detailed information with you after Memorial Day regarding these new building initiatives.
From my vantage point, Episcopal has entered a new era of unity and strength around its Mission & Ministry. This community showed itself, in 2016-2017, to be populated with an abundance of natural leadership and strength in students, faculty, coaches, parents, administration, and Board. It was a year for the “strong silent types” to carry the day and not be deterred by distractions and those who lost their way.
Episcopal is not the “school that flooded.” Episcopal is stronger for facing these challenges - from nature and from within - and putting first our sacred duty to nurture and educate our students.
Thank you. It is my privilege to be among those with such positive, reaffirming strength and the willingness to work hard on behalf of this worthy institution.
May we each use these precious days of summer wisely and return in early August to answer the call: Let’s Go!
Hugh M. McIntosh
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? - Micah 6:8
“Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. To choose Must is to say yes to hard work and constant effort, to say yes to a journey without a road map or guarantees… Choosing Must is the greatest thing we can do with our lives.”
For the past few days, I have found my head buried in Elle Luna’s The Crossroads of Should and Must, a richly illustrated book my fellow Honors Thesis students and I received as we graduated. The more I draw and write on the pages in an attempt to arrive at the path to my Must, my “calling,” the more I realize that for me, finding my Must began with the process of finding and choosing a university – MIT.
It is difficult to pinpoint when I first heard about MIT, but by junior year, I was vaguely familiar with MIT’s academic reputation and aware that MIT’s Course 6, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, is often ranked the first in the US. I knew from such rankings that I Should apply to MIT. But only when I began to read the MIT blogs in my junior year did I decide that I Must apply. I had feared that MIT revolved only around science and engineering, but soon found posts discussing the humanities at MIT and made little discoveries such as a reference to The Tempest by a blogger. I suggest that anyone searching for a college that aligns with their potential Must look for clues in places such as student blogs to gain insight into the perspective of those who roam the campus buildings every day.
Impressed by my online encounters with MIT and encouraged by my counselor to travel to the colleges on my list, I made plans to visit in the summer. I was moved by the palpable sense of excitement for learning. Even in the summer, the campus was buzzing with activity, pulsing at a rate that matched the beat of my own heart. I learned that most undergraduates are involved in research and about the “firehose,” a symbol for the knowledge gushing into and out of the buildings at MIT. I learned about the labyrinth of tunnels that connects the departments and about the figurative links that connect academic disciplines. I learned that the buildings and majors are affectionately associated with numbers that everyone remembers. I avidly noted details in my college journal, continued browsing the admissions website, and tried to distil my enthusiasm into essays. A few months later, I submitted my application, and after another few months, I received an invitation to join the newest cohort of MIT students.
When I visited post-acceptance, I was inspired by other aspects of the MIT culture, such as the tireless tinkering. I learned that the mascot, Tim the Beaver, was chosen for his skill and diligence. I stayed in a dorm that builds a roller coaster during orientation, met representatives from robotics and coding clubs, and watched in awe as students shared their research. I Must comMIT, I thought.
I know that my Must involves connecting disciplines and ideas at MIT and probably begins with Computer Science and Engineering. But you might be wondering what this beginning of a story means for you as its reader. I challenge you to make attempts to define your Must and take steps to reach it, as Elle Luna advises. Especially to those of you who are approaching college application time, here is a request – consider not only where you Should go but also where you Must go. Let the excitement begin!
The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd
The Rev. Morgan S. Allen
May 12, 2017
Episcopal-Baton Rouge, Commencement
Grace and Peace to you from your brothers and sisters from across the Sabine River, in fair Austin, Texas! My name is Morgan Allen, and I bring you greetings and congratulations from The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Good Shepherd on the Hill, and Good Shepherd Episcopal School, communities who began this academic year with you in their prayers, and who, this Sunday, will close their seasons by holding you in prayer again. I want to thank Mr. McIntosh and Mr. Ferachi, Reverend Knight and Bishop Thompson, for the invitation to be with yall in this beautifully renewed space. I am humbled and I am excited to stand before you: I love this city, I love this state, and I believe that Episcopal education has no peer.
Now, graduates, I have done the math, and you will be the last class of high-school seniors whose majority will have been born before the turn of this century and whose birth years begin with a “19.” You know, little did your parents realize that for them to “party like it’s 1999” would mean raising you people as newborns. Nonetheless, from the list of accomplishments that Skully shared with me – from the speeches we just heard, to the college acceptances you all have achieved; from state championships to national awards – you have done exceedingly well for yourselves, and, clearly, your teachers and coaches, mentors and parents have done well by you. Therefore, be kind to them: they are excited and proud and ready for what’s next, and, even so, they’re still figuring it all out, too: going forward they will still need you, just as you will still need them.
Tonight, I bring three ideas for you to take into your new adventures, and the first is from Charles Baudelaire. A Nineteenth-Century, French poet, critic, and essayist, the academy credits Baudelaire with the term “modernity,” as expressed through art. Fond of fine clothes, prostitutes, and liquor, his writing often explores the paradoxes of progress and regress: in his city and in his soul. Tonight, we consider his short essay, “The Generous Gambler,” and I invite everyone to listen closely to see if you can identify the antagonist before he reveals himself.
The poet begins:
“Yesterday on the crowded boulevard, I felt myself jostled by a mysterious Being whom I have always longed to know, and although I had never [actually] seen him before, I recognized him at once. He must have felt a similar desire in regard to me, for as he passed he gave me a knowing wink, which I was quick to obey. I followed him closely and soon, still at his heels, [we] descended into a magnificent subterranean dwelling of a fabulous luxury beyond anything the upper habitations of Paris could boast…
“Here were strange faces of men and women…marked with the sign of fatal beauty, and…By the time my host and I were seated, we were already firm friends. We ate; we drank immoderately…of extraordinary wines…[we] smoked several cigars whose incomparable taste and aroma made the soul homesick for countries and pleasures it had never known…
“We talked of the universe, of its creation and of its final destruction; of the big idea of the century, that is, the idea of progress and perfectibility, and…of all forms of human infatuation…
“He did not complain of the bad reputation he [suffers] in every corner of the world…and [he] admitted that the only time he had ever trembled for his power was the day when a preacher had exclaimed from his pulpit: “My beloved…never forget when you hear people boast of our progress in enlightenment, that one of the devil’s best ruses is to persuade you that he does not exist…”[i]
Graduates, there it is, the first takeaway: Never forget…that one of the devil’s best ruses is to persuade you that he does not exist.
Now, be clear: I have neither interest nor belief in a red-complexioned fellow with horns and a tail, who lurks in whiskey bottles and heavy-metal records, and I am confident that neither did Baudelaire. Rather, here we encounter the beguiling deceits of our own world, personified in this character of refined taste. In his “subterranean” realm, guests need not await an assignment of punishment, for they select their own shackles: in the hell of their own excess, they (and we) choose ease before righteousness, and luxury before truth.
See, the stakes of either side assured The Beguiler of the narrator’s soul, for our friend’s desires and ambitions were themselves a concession: by wanting what the world wanted – ease before righteousness, and luxury before truth – the narrator had lost that truest and dearest mark of his Creator long before he shook to the devil’s deal.
The poet continues:
“Even after several hours, it seemed to me that I was no more drunk than he[, however, gambling] had interrupted…our frequent libations, and…with heroic heedlessness, I had played and lost my soul in a binding pact. The soul is a thing so impalpable, often so useless, and sometimes so in the way, that I felt [little] emotion over its loss…”
“And this famous character…said to me: “As I want you to take away an agreeable remembrance of me, I – I, Satan himself – am going to prove to you…that I can sometimes be a good devil…[And so] To compensate you for the irremediable loss of your soul, I shall give you the same stake you would have won if chance had been with you. [Therefore,]:….Never shall you formulate a wish that I will not help you to realize; you shall dominate your [fellow men]; flattery shall be yours, and even adoration; silver, gold, diamonds without your [lifting] a finger to obtain them…”[ii]
So our friend, the narrator, meets this amiable stranger who invites him back to his place for a drink. As it turns out (and an unfortunate turn, admittedly), the stranger turns out to be the devil, and “his place” is hell. Then, our friend, drunk on excesses, gambles with the devil and loses his soul in a bet. However, because the devil is cunning and (regrettably) our friend is feeble, the story reveals that the game had been rigged from before its outset, and that the devil had won the wager before it even began. See, the stakes of either side assured The Beguiler of the narrator’s soul, for our friend’s desires and ambitions were themselves a concession: by wanting what the world wanted – ease before righteousness, and luxury before truth – the narrator had lost that truest and dearest mark of his Creator long before he shook to the devil’s deal.
And, Graduates, this leads to the second takeaway, which is a good news/bad news bit. I’ll start with the bad news, and the bad news is this: the game is rigged…the game is rigged. That is, the powerful and the powerless, the haves and the have-nots: we’ve all set our thumbs on the scale, and the American Dream is as fixed as the 2009 Alabama-LSU game when Patrick Peterson intercepted that sycophantic Greg McElroy and the refs stole the game from PP7 and from us (you watch the replay and tell me that man didn’t tap his foot inbounds). Indeed, the world has made fools of us, tricking us into believing we desire what will only further shackle us.
So that’s the bad news – and it’s pretty bad – but there is good news that accompanies it, and the good news is this: the game is rigged in your favor. Hear that again: Graduates, the game is rigged in your favor. Now, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have to work for worldly success or put forth your highest and best effort in order to achieve the goals you now set for yourself. Rather, understand that what you have accomplished by graduating this institution has set you in a position of incredible privilege and precious few limitations. Not everyone could do what you have done, and far fewer even have the chance to try. Can you lose it all? Of course. But understand: the game is rigged, and it’s rigged in your favor.
The poet concludes:
“If I had not been afraid of embarrassing [Satan] before [his] vast assembly [in Hell], I would willingly have fallen on my knees at the feet of this generous gambler, to thank him for his unheard-of munificence…[However,] after I [finally left the devil], little by little, doubt crept back into my breast; I no longer dared to believe in such prodigious good fortune, and when I went to bed that night, idiotically saying my prayers out of habit and half asleep, I murmured: “Oh God! Lord, my God! Make the devil keep his promise! [Amen.]!”[iii]
Our friend now completes his failures to recognize his power and to measure his losses. Though he consents to play a rigged game, its unfairness can only be achieved with his complicity. Indeed, at any point, all our friend needs do to overcome his danger and to begin reformation of his world, is to refuse the wager. If only he will leave the table, he will make possible even greater rewards, but he has not the eyes to see his peril nor his privilege. Likewise, and in his blindness, he misinterprets the faint stirrings of his soul, and he snuffs his spark again and again…indeed, so desperately that he does not recognize even the contradiction of his praying to God for the devil’s integrity. He condemns himself to suffer this life of unending, unfulfillment.
Graduates, so the third and most important takeaway is this: you can change the game…you can change the game. You can walk away from the worldly table and refuse its stakes. Recognizing that, in fact, we do influence the course of history, and that as much as every day presents us the possibility of improvement, every day we do not labor for progress, we guarantee a procession in the wrong direction and move ourselves closer to destruction.
You, however, can work against the world’s most vulgar and dangerous momentums. Accepting your agency and choosing righteousness before ease, you can take your thumbs off the scale and use your privilege for the world’s good, rather than for your own comfort. You can risk your status and your position [which – oh, by the way – have absolute value only in that subterranean realm] and you can risk your privilege for truth and for justice; for reconciliation and for peace; for love and for mercy. For be clear, the cost of your luxuries attained without grappling seriously with the inequalities of this world will not be the sacrifices of time and talent that your financial or professional successes required…no, the cost of that ease will be nothing less than your very souls.
Hear me on this score: you can win on every worldly count, and, yet, discover that you have nothing. For though the trappings that tempt you will seem compelling – flattery and adoration; silver and diamonds and gold – it is with exactly those comforts that the world hides its injustices in plain view, and rather than fulfilling us, those rewards will only worsen that nagging in our spirits.
I offer these ideas with what gift and grief I have known in my life, and I offer them humbly, for every morning I wake up with my own thumb on the scales for my own benefit. Every day, then, is an act of resistance – a battle between progress and regress: in our world and in my soul – and I fail at least as often as I succeed. Baudelaire’s clever vision, then, rings true to my ears and experience, for – see! – all around us are the brutal costs of this rigged game, from Washington, D.C, to right here in Baton Rouge.
Even so, I believe in you – in your promise and with your privilege…what you have accomplished already, and what is now before you – and I remind you that you have known the greater reward:
The shared sacrifice of athletes laboring for a common achievement, only to discover – win or lose – one’s spirit strengthened? Graduates, that is righteousness and not ease.
The mystery and magic of more than 100 of you and your classmates partnering to present a performance with the scope and subject of Les Mis, offering and receiving one another’s graces and discovering your own? Graduates, that is truth and not luxury.
When you left behind your own flooded home to pull rotting sheetrock off the walls of friends’ and strangers’ alike? Graduates, that is love, and that is mercy, and those are the pursuits that merit the best of these gifts that you been given.
Now that you have been blessed, I encourage you to become a blessing. Believe in yourselves, as we believe in you: for that stirring in your souls, and for the sake of the world.
[i] Baudelaire, Charles. “The Generous Gambler.” Paris Spleen, translated by Louise Varèse, New Directions, 1970, pp. 60-61.
[ii] Ibid, 61-62.
[iii] Ibid, 63.
It was a busy week in Lower School! Visitors were pampered and celebrated this week in a series of special events.
Fifth grade hosted their annual Farmer’s Market. The students have been hard at work this year preparing for this event. Everything sold was grown by the class from seed to plant. Shoppers purchased vegetables, herbs and flowers and sampled refreshments prepared with the ingredients that the students had grown. The students planned and ran the entire event from start to finish, including running the booths, collecting and counting the money, and documenting and photographing the day. Overall the students raised $2,754, which will be donated to the Episcopal Greenhouse.
First Grade Animal Project
First Grade began the week with their annual Muffins for Mom event. Guests enjoyed breakfast and a presentation from the students. The following day, first grade presented their Animal Expeditions. Each student researched an animal, designed a habitat and wrote an informational book about their chosen animal. Friends and family toured the exhibits as the students shared their projects.
Superheros Ice Cream Sundae Party!
In celebration of 100% participation in the eFund, Mrs. Arceneaux's third grade class was treated to a Superheroes and Sundaes party. Students dressed up in their most creative costumes and enjoyed ice cream sundaes. Mrs. Willis’ kindergarten class reached the goal later in the spring, so they celebrated with a popsicle party on the playground.
Spring Spa Day
Kindergarten hosted a Spring Spa Day for their friends and family. Guests were treated to manicures and hand massages in the Nail Salon, snacks in the restaurant, and stories in the Reading Lounge. Visitors left relaxed and refreshed as they head into the summer!
Mother's Day Tea
Second grade invited their moms to a Mother’s Day Tea. Dressed in their finest and donning coordinating hats, the students served tea and cookies and performed a musical number for their invitees. They read passages from a book that they had written and presented their mothers with a special piece of artwork.
Mother's Day Tea photos by Cali Sabolik
Imagine, if you can, corralling the energies of 21 butterflies. This is what it is like for me every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon as I lead the Episcopal Girls on the Run team. Our team consists of 21 girls in third and fourth grades. They are delightful, happy and gifted with youthful exuberance. And, they LOVE to run!
Since early February, Coach Jody (Kennard), Coach Jenny (Murphy), Honorary Coach Shelley (Massengale) and I have been leading this group of amazing girls. The intent of the GOTR program is to inspire girls to recognize and celebrate their unique strengths through dynamic discussions, activities and running games. Our season wraps up with a celebratory 5K event. Our team is so excited about completing the race, for some of them, their very first 5K.
Beth Lemoine is a native of Baton Rouge and has taught grades 2 through 12 French at Episcopal for 23 yrs. She has organized the Upper School French exchange and Quebec trip during her time here. Her daughter Chloe is in 8th grade at Episcopal.
A Year in Reflection
Eli Haymon, Student Council President
"Ever since I was a freshman, I knew I wanted to be president. I remember watching Charles Cooper from all the way up in the back row with the rest of Mrs. Sofranko’s advisory and telling myself “I want to be up there one day, making stuff happen.”
And now, a year after that dream had finally been realized, I cannot imagine a better group of people to have the privilege of leading.
This past week I've been reflecting on the last nine months, and I just want to say how proud I am of us and how far we've come in this short time together.
I'll quote the Episcopal mission statement - “Episcopal nurtures and develops the whole child -- spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically…”
Looking out at all of you now, I see a room full of remarkable individuals who are testimonies of that mission. We have some truly outstanding characters among us who will change the world one day soon.
And though our individuality makes us strong, I think one of the defining characteristics of this place, and the one thing that makes me proudest to be a Knight, is the community that we strive to build here each and every day.
This year I have seen what a group of people can do when its members share an unconditional love for each other.
When we have 200 strong driving to New Orleans on a Tuesday night for a soccer game- that's community. When we spend a whole day listening to and interacting with our thesis students, sharing new ideas with each other- that's community. When we drop everything we’re doing to go rip out a stranger’s floorboards because they had four feet of water and hadn't slept in three days- that's a community that I want to be a part of." - Eli Haymon
What Eli captured, for me, is the essence of “life at Episcopal.” Our students wholeheartedly embrace and challenge one another. They engage in research through programs like project based learning in PreK-4 and Honors Thesis in Upper School. They help lead Chapel through our Student Vestry and they seek opportunities to serve their community. They work alongside their peers on our courts and fields and they take center stage in musical and dance performances. Each aspect of our mission is important, and our students are the stories that bring the Episcopal mission to life. Yes, this is a community I want to be part of.
Each fall, the monarch caterpillars make their appearance in the Pre-K4 garden. Students spend time observing and learning about the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to butterfly. Just as the caterpillars undergo a big change, our youngest students have experienced a large transformation this year as they prepare to enter Kindergarten in the Fall.