This time of year, we have a large number of boys who are working through some accumulated less-than-optimal habits. They are mistakenly thinking that they are working hard to succeed/hoping not to get in trouble all the while gaining the sober realization that unless they change the habits that are not working for them, they will receive the same disappointing results. It's a tough, existential trip for some!
Middle school at MUS is both a fair and reasonable experience for mission-appropriate boys, and a coordinated, functional small army of support engages them toward the general trend of their own personal success. Each boy has his own journey, his own DNA, his own home life, and his own willingness either to trust the system or to resist the system. It's a process. Change occurs over many moons when years of patterns require adjustment. Timelines for success vary. However, adult patience, wisdom, attention, accountability, and love serve them to discover the better angels of their natures. Even Homework Detention helps. However, blowing off Homework Detention does not. Smartphones can also distract when reading, writing, and 'rithmetic come to call. Therefore priorities and opportunity costs emerge, possibly for the first time for many.
Our guys are figuring out a lot about life right now, and some are especially in the season of trying to reframe and reform. In doing so, they actually enter prep for our Upper School expectations and beyond. It truly is a college-prep mentality that serves our students, and every year at this time we account for the same general breakdown within our enrollment: half the guys are hard-wired for college prep, demonstrating both the ability and the personal responsibility in order to get there; the other half are not there yet. That's ok. This is middle school life. They'll all get there sooner or later.
The above graphic serves both groups as they build their "personal icebergs," their body of work/character/citizenship resulting from the common challenges life presents on a regular basis. Help the boys be mindful of the value of what is unseen that supports that which is seen by the world. Share your personal struggles and challenges from your adolescence, and try to articulate the people and habits that worked to support the success you have today. Encourage the lads. They are sometimes delicate souls, yet clearly capable and maturing boys, all works in progress!
Here we see a motivated student planning his work and working his plan, all this in his natural habitat.
The boy was motivated to get his chores completed in order to get to go to the Hutchsion pre-game dance followed by the MUS varsity football game last Friday. This live-action photo captured the event at 6:15 a.m. All business!
Upon further investigation, sources tell us that this student is required to iron his pants for school as an agreement in exchange for his shirts to be sent to the cleaners. His father taught him how to iron. The parents report that they recommend he get his ironing for the week completed on Sunday afternoons after church. When those best laid plans do not come to fruition, the early morning is reserved for the task.
Great reporting from the domestic front! We appreciate a peak behind the curtain exposing what these boys can do as welcomed additions to their families assisting the larger family mission toward helping at home.
We thank MUS parent Mrs. Karen Fesmire who forwarded this thoughtful piece from the Washington Post published earlier this summer after having just dropped off her recent MUS grad Witt at Vanderbilt University.
It comes from Dr. Chris Alexander, associate Dean and professor of political science at Davidson College. He offers some sage advice for parents to their children/students when it comes to offering room for growth, healthy perspectives on school, and framing short-term situations in context of the big picture. Much of what he says applies to MUS parents encouraging their sons to adjust to a competitive environment as the lads grow in wisdom and stature.
Here's a sample:
[Parents] can help them maintain balance in their lives: Invest in people, not just school work. Remember that success and happiness in life depend on relationships. College gives most young people their first chance to begin building independent selves that connect to others. Learning to do this well and joyously is more important than any grade they will earn.
And bestowing your perspective from a distance might be the best strategy. Because perspective requires distance. You can’t help your young person see the big picture if you become a character in it. You surrender your vantage point when you climb down into the details of their daily lives (emphasis ours).
You can’t remind them that the world will not end when they get a “C” on a paper if you spent hours on the phone helping them write it. You can’t give good advice about managing a conflict with a professor or a roommate if you’ve become part of the drama. You can’t help them make choices that will be wise in the long term if your own vision gets constrained by their short-term view.
Wise words, indeed. Trust your son and his teachers to help him help himself as he authors his own successful path through school. He'll thank you just like Witt thanks his mom and dad for letting him grow up through MUS as he prepares to tackle Vandy!
A teacher overheard some seventh graders talking about putting each other in sleep holds in order to "pass out." He confirmed with some of them that this is indeed a “thing” right now. Multiple kids seem to have tried it. Consider this notification as a Public Service Announcement alerting parents to this trend, particularly as they start to have sleepovers.
These dangerous activities are not happening on our campus, and allegedly are occurring in homes.
Eighth grader Arjun Puri (left) gave us permission to document his locker organizational strategy (entropy motivated by the chaos theory) in contrast to his classmate Will Portera's more conventional approach informed by his appreciation of Sabermetrics.
"Portera is a baseball and math guy, and given that haircut, I'm just spitballin' here, I don't want to go too far out on a limb, but I'm guessing that he's more of a conservative mindset," opined Puri. "He's going to go with what he knows as statistically reliable, and, hey, he's got to do what he's got to do. It works for him being in Honors Accelerated Algebra and all. Ride the horse that brought you, you know what I mean?," he concluded."
As for the disarray of his hallway neighbor, Portera seemed unfazed.
"Puri embraces the theory of how small perturbations can have huge consequences, the Butterfly effect, I think it's called," said Portera, marveling at how one's seeming disorder can result in Puri being a Dean's Scholar like himself.
"Two roads leading to the same destination, man," concluded an unfazed Puri as he methodically dug amidst the cacophonous detritus in advance of his next class.
Representatives from the administration could not be reached by press time, but a Lower School spokesperson did relay that it is standard practice to leave boys alone if the students produce predictable, strong grades with a relatively normal and happy affect. MUS will not intervene in their organization habits unless requested by a parent or instructor.
Eighth grader and Lower School Student Council president Gregory Guo had a terrific season under the direction of Coach Jason Peters winning medalist honors in three regular season matches, and he was the individual champion in the Shelby League Senior Division Tournament at Mirimichi. Today during assembly, he received the Randall Ash Perkins Lower School Golf M.V.P.
Following the extemporaneous trophy presentation, the 2015-16 Russell-Shelton Spelling Bee finals commenced, these eight-grade boys being the Final Four: Guo, Connor Hamilton, Jim Keegan, and Blake Sexton. Clay Hancock made the fabulous Five, but our photographer was late on the draw.
The Finals! Keegan battled, Guo counter-punched...
In the end, Keegan and Guo battled ferociously up until after the bell, but the nascent, auspiciously burgeoning Guo survived the day. English Department faculty Mr. Dax Torrey and Mrs. Sally Askew presided. The crowd went wild. Everyone was summarily late for class.
Last Song to Memphis is the introduction film that the eighth graders watched before heading out for the day last Friday in Downtown Memphis. We cannot find a better brief conceptualization of the textured experience we aim to provide for our Memphis Leaders tour of the city's unique soul, spirit, and food. Enjoy.
Mr. Jim Buchman, native Memphian and aesthetic godfather of form and function, braved the bus for the day with minions in tow, offering his cosmopolitan sensibilities at various points along the way. Having lived through public school integration, the 1968 MLK assination, downtown's ensuing economic fall and it's gradual rebuilding, culminating in its current renaissance, Mr. Buchman provides an invaluable perspective for the boys who really don't know what any of this means yet. One day, however, they will.
Reenacting the classic pose from withing the STAX Museum of American Soul Music, Sloan Miles, Billy Weiss, Liam Turley, and Ben Cox represent. Miles actually gave it his best Wattstax attempt going solo before settling for these three fellas.
Check for any potential similarities yourself:
The newly-renovated National Civil Rights Museum is quite impressive, and following our meal at our world-famous Charles Vergos' Rendezvous, the boys got up close and personal with an incredible display presenting the unimaginable horrors of the international Atlantic Slave Trade to the New World as well as the troubling history of the African-American struggle for equality, both across America and in the South, including Memphis.
J.J. Johnson steps back in time...from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike to 2015 and the diverse enrollment of MUS, significant social progress has resulted from the thousands of people who sacrificed so much for the current generation of Memphis Leaders. We await the next wave, these emerging leaders, to increase the opportunities and build up our city even more as thy work to secure a more perfect Union built out of their own friendships, hopes, labors, and dreams. Who knows--maybe even from their music?!
While we think that we've known this all along, it's nice to see some recent science in support of a demanding, varied, and disciplined school environment for benefiting middle school-age boys . While we have our faults, we are trying very hard to deliver to our boys much of what this positive article says about teaching these students.
"When a country’s adolescents trail much of the world on measures of school achievement but are among the world leaders in violence, unwanted pregnancy, STDs, abortion, binge drinking, marijuana use, obesity, and unhappiness, it is time to admit that something is wrong with the way that country is raising its young people.
That country is the United States."
Ouch! Well, we're not going to stand for it here. First, however, more pithy quotes:
"Prefrontal development is stimulated by novelty and challenge, it is essential to expose students to demanding courses that push them intellectually."
"The brain region most important for self-control (prefrontal cortex), which is the foundation for critical 'noncognitive skills,' such as perseverance, determination, and the delay of gratification - a combination that some experts refer to as 'grit.' Studies have found that grit is more predictive of success in school and work than any other attribute, including intelligence or talent. If schools were to include activities that encourage prefrontal development, students would have additional strengths beyond those conveyed through conventional academic instruction.