Special thanks go to Tricia Hunt and Alice Wright for organizing all who contributed to this exam season's well-stoked faculty table. Nancy and Lowell Hays supplied us with some refreshing exam fare throughout the year as well. We appreciate the beautiful array of breakfast as a kind acknowledgement of our hard work as adults stranded here all day, all year, with your precious children.
As the say, the days are long, but the years are short.
Quite literally. Of the almost fifteen hundred of us assembled, my class was seated in the rear, and we exited last. This is my view on the way out. It was quite a boisterous affair for those of us accustomed to our more disciplined graduation formality in Dixie. I found the contrast to be refreshing and appropriate for the post-grads.
Walk with me, if for only a moment, as we recess from within the grand Cathedral of St. John The Divine, New York City, where Columbia University Teachers College held 2011 graduation exercises this past Tuesday.
Below, my friend, John Dewey, greets me for the last time on 125th Street. He encouraged my forty classmates these last two summers, offering his steady presence in contrast to our often hurried dispositions. All independent school teachers and/or administrators in our particular program, we were awarded our degrees upon completion of our 60 hours (M.Ed.) over these past two years. That's a little deceptive because we actually completed 32 hours of study here, but previous hours assigned from one's M.A. degree are applied where those hours qualify and accumulate towards the M.Ed. degree.
Finally, how about this for a graduation setting aimed towards encouraging our high expectations? I peered over my shoulder just before jumping in our cab at Amsterdam and 110th and captured this view before dashing off to the reception. Glad I did.
Even with children, development is not a mystery, says Susan Engel, a psychologist at Williams College. "It's a crystal ball. You just have to know how to read it." The trickiest part may be finding—or deliberately creating—situations most likely to elicit the traits you want to observe in action.
Not claiming that we "know how to read it," but we do see a lot in the Lower School of what Ms. Engel implies about forecasting who a boy is likely to turn out to be in the future based upon the character he displays as a younger boy. With a Honor Code, rigorous academics, a rotating schedule, discipline system within a spirit of freedom, and a single-sex enrollment among an achievement population, we certainly are guilty of "deliberately creating situations most likely to elicit the traits (we) want to observe in action" with these boys.
We often discuss our own practices within the school, criticising ourselves about better ways to deliver an education to these boys. While we may not air our laundry publicly, we wrestle over everything from the pros and cons of introducing iPads into the classroom and curriculum to what is the healthiest lunch for the boys at a fair price.
Similarly, we constantly entertain options and opportunities for specif students to maximize their time here, and where we find places for "deliberately creating situations" that better the chances for a boy to be encouraged to grow into the school's mission... for both his betterment and the school's, we try. Sometimes we don't do a very good job for some elusive reason, but it not for a lack of trying. Kids find their way, we think, within the structure and culture we offer more than they respond to our particular mandates.
Often, we see a student's character traits emerge within whatever activity is at hand, and in the incidences when we see his future state in comparison to who he was as a student here during one of these various processes/class discussions/teams, we much more often than not are not surprised at the result. Why? Because we saw his early character traits. In other words, we help, but much of what becomes of our students is the result of what each brings within the complexity and mystery of his own dynamics. Character traits support about everything that these boys do... or fail to do, in other words.
Roberto Olvera and the Mayor renew an old acquaintance at the National Hispanic Professional Organization luncheon today on the University of Memphis campus Thursday. Mr. Peters (right) renewed their acquaintance, reminding the Mayor that our eighth grader is a future leader for Memphis, someone whom the Wharton Administration wants to know! The two first met during SLAM at MUS the summer before Roberto began his seventh grade year at MUS.
Following the mad dash to the boys room in order to secure their freshly-awarded regalia, Ahmed Latif, Robert Gooch, Yunhua Zhao, Richard Ouyang, Jerry Oates, Will Farnsworth, Sherman Tabor, Griffin Wilson, Jack Gray, Jeffrey Zheng, Matt Stephens, Jack Hirschman, and Andrew Elsakr transform and strike a pose before admiring family and faculty at last evening's annual Springfield Scholars dinner at the University Club.
Tabor, Farnsworth, Gray, Gooch, and Wilson pause for a shot with their principal following the evening's activities, basking in their well-deserved honor.
Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice... Level II.
A beautiful May afternoon greets some fine young students assembled in the maintenance compound as they assist with the distribution of a mulch product. At the end of the semester, demerits must be retired from an individual's account in order for the student to take exams, and the opportunity to spend from 2:30-4:00 p.m. beautifying the campus allows most to expunge their record while serving the ongoing Campus Beautification effort.
These fellas appreciated Mr. Rutledge's encouragement for them to show up for today's planned event rather than to tempt fate that he may not remember their demerit and they might therefore chance it as exams begin next week. Wise owls, these birds.
"If the future competitive global economy is predicated upon the collaborative efforts of teams solving challenges together, employing critical thinking to problem solving skills, supported by the appropriate technology, then boys figuring out how to move a mound of mulch with shovels is a fine start," opined Plant Facilities Manager Willie Hollinger.
When the results of the test were released in the winter, Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education secretary, pointed out that despite not being in the top of any of the subjects tested, "U.S. students express more self-confidence in their academic skills than students in virtually all OECD nations. This stunning finding may be explained because students here are being commended for work that would not be acceptable in high-performing education systems."
It's as if the United States were cast in one of those cliché Hollywood movies as the 29-year-old dumb and balding jock who still wears his high school varsity jacket.
For one, we understand the temporary glory of the "high school varsity letter jacket." From what we know of our long hours of labor on campus, of both student and parental investment over the years, and mostly from what we see animated in the lives of our alumni, the best fruits of all this work on Park Avenue often do not sprout until many years later. In our competitive global economy, we see that a resilient, disciplined, and able student must emerge in order for him to develop into a serious candidate for leadership on any level. MUS grads know this. The tasks required are incremental, often redundant, not always fun, but it's good, exercised among peers and mentors who care... and it works.
MUS is not an immediate gratification exercise, however many accolades and trophies we earn... including the diploma awarded after our boys graduate. "High School is halftime," we like to remind our boys. College, grad school, work experience... marriage, family, community service... he who was a work in progress while here remains a work in progress for the rest of his life in many ways, to the benefit of all around him. We'll more honestly know the value of The U for the class of 2011, who graduates this Sunday, in about 20 years, for example. Tell that to the letter jacket crowd still revelling in the big win as their chief claim to fame, fun and real as it was and remains to be in the trophy case.
As for the current status of academic skills that we in River City can affect within the developing ranks, we see a lot from the local landscape as we inherit our students from many other schools beginning at our grade seven. More, as an independent school, we are by definition selective in our admissions. There are a lot of options out there, and we offer a particular brand of education that serves an achievement mindset seeking ability, character development, and results more than a self-esteem mindset deluded by castles in the sky without the necessary foundations built to support. Thank you, Mr. Thoreau.
Historically, the vast majority of those interested in enrolling here are qualified applicants having completed adequate coursework at the elementary and middle school levels, and they are primed for college-prep work, suitable for "high-performing educational systems," to sooth CNN's Mr. Granderson. Many of them have experienced an extended academic year as well, in some form or another. Maybe he's on to something for the broader culture.
For what it's worth, many MUS students experienced our school early, like many of us used to do through the old MUS Day Camp. Summer served as an ice breaker, as a parental aid, and as an enhanced experience for maturing boys. A more sophisticated introduction into MUS now exists with practical experiences coalescing into what amounts to a "year-round" school, in other words.
A MUS student can extend his annual academic hours by taking extra-curricular courses in the summer and still get a needed break to recover from the grind of the year. We even host area students from other schools for a variety of classes. For example, our Academic Adventures offer a variety of math, language arts, and fun electives for numerous 12-15 hours courses. SLAM is our "school within the school" for boys especially interested in the MUS experience and the requirements for college-prep coursework. MUS Summer School offers for-credit courses for MUS students. All aim toward accelerating a student's entering grade essential course concepts.
Students planning to enroll at MUS in the next few years would be wise to investigate these classes as well, similar to what either those currently matriculating here do in the summer or those local students serious about their continued improvement as they return to their own school.