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PFA leadership for 2014-15 announced

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Thank you for your volunteer service to our community

Executive Council

President – Pam Lloyd
Vice President – Sarah Stascausky
Advisor – Zoe Edelen Hare
Communications Coordinator – Ingeborg Holliday
New Family Intergration Coordinator – Marjorie Dial
Inclusivity Coordinator – Aminata Sei
Treasurer – Kevin Reedy
Upper School Coordinator – Azin van Alebeek
Middle School Coordinator – Kirsten Brady
Lower School Coordinator – Indira Nallakrishan
Beginning School Coordinator – Arah Erickson
Spring Fest Coordinator – pending

Grade Representatives

Preschool – Janina Malone and Lisa Levy
Kindergarten – Alayna Luria and Genie Kaady
1st grade – Lara Sales and Katy Swaim
2nd grade – Robin Skarstad and Diane Malhotra
3rd Grade – Heather Billups and Christine Wolahan
4th grade – Julie Proksch and Maran Sheils
5th Grade – Nicole Lee, Judy Cheng, and Reg Hamlett
6th grade – Teri Simpson and Tracy Stout
7th grade – Sarah Vogel Masback and Dina Meier
8th grade – Aruna Chittor and Becky Edington
9th grade – Patrick O'Neill and Elaine Underwood
10th grade – Nicoya Hecht and Molly Newcomer
11th grade – Beth Cavanaugh and Laura Ford
12th grade – Julie McMurchie and Emma Gilleland

Can Praise Harm?

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 From the Winter 2012-13 Caller

By Dawn Sieracki & John Mayer

Our 2nd grade class is huddled in a circle on the rug, we’ve cleaned up from our math workshop, and we’re about to leave for lunch. Before we go, we attend to our daily ritual of discussing what we found challenging during math time. I ask, “Did any of you have any ‘Aha!’ moments during math today?” At least five hands shoot into the air, students eager to share what new learning happened for them. Sydney responds, “I was trying to balance a number sentence, but I couldn’t get it to work. I kept trying different numbers and then I realized there was a pattern. I tested the pattern and it worked!” “Hmm,” I respond, “I notice Sydney mentioned it was hard for her, but she kept trying different strategies.” Alex interjects, “Yeah, she didn’t give up because if she did she wouldn’t get smarter.” Twenty heads nod in agreement as they scamper out the door.
 
During lunch, my students sit casually discussing the perennial thought of seven-year-olds, “What do I want to be when I grown up?” They give varied answers from scientist to writer to doctor. The reality is, in our world where the amount of information continues to grow exponentially, they don’t know—as their teacher, I don’t know—what jobs will look like a decade, two decades from now. I do know they will need to know how to access information, how to learn, and, perhaps most importantly,they will need a highly defined internal drive to become flexible, continuous learners. Gone are the days when someone could develop a specific skill set—say, become a software engineer—and then work at that job until retirement. Instead, today’s students will need to survive in an ever-changing environment where the necessary skills and knowledge are continuously expanding.
 
Catlin Gabel has long dismissed the outdated factory model of education, with teachers as dispensers of information, and students as receptacles, moving passively through the system. In the 21st century, we do not need students who are compliantly ingesting information; we need students who are actively creating knowledge. How do we create classrooms that, by their very structure, build a capacity for continuous learning?

What is a growth mindset?

Through the ways we talk to and praise children, parents and teachers are passing along our society’s notion of intelligence. According to psychologist Carol Dweck, four beliefs about success are common in our society:
 
• students with high ability are more likely to display mastery-oriented qualities (the desire for challenge with an attitude of perseverance in the face of adversity)
• success in school directly fosters mastery-oriented qualities
• praise, particularly of a child’s intelligence, encourages mastery-oriented qualities • students’ confidence in their intelligence is the key to mastery-oriented qualities
 
Surprisingly, research shows those beliefs are not true. Dweck’s research has demonstrated that children who have internalized our society’s beliefs about success develop a fixed mindset, the idea that intelligence is wholly innate and they do not have control over it. Children who have internalized a fixed mindset are more likely to shy away from challenges and give up when faced with setbacks. These children often seek out easy successes in order to confirm their self-perception. In other words, the very praise teachers and parents bestow on them, believing it will shore up children and enable them to take on challenges, may be having the opposite effect. In contrast, those with a growth mindset, the notion that intelligence is malleable and they can choose to strengthen it, are more likely to seek challenges and persevere when faced with difficulties.
 
Although language and behaviors fostering a fixed mindset are common in our culture, they are not necessarily prevalent across other cultures. Education researcher Jin Li has studied the cultural frames of children’s learning beliefs, as well as conversation patterns between mothers and children. She found European-American mothers often spoke to their children in ways that supported a fixed sense of self, “I’m so proud of you. You’re so smart.” In contrast, Eastern Asian mothers were more likely to reinforce a malleable sense of self, “I remember when you weren’t very good at _____. How did you get better?” Other cultures are developing a growth mindset in their children; how can we do the same for our children?

What we can do to support a growth mindset

Luckily for all of us, human experience has taught us that the growth mindset can be cultivated, and neuroscience is catching up with supportive evidence of our brain’s malleability. Knowing so, we want to empower children to have a shame-free and lifelong relationship with the possibility of growth. A classroom is the perfect place for such a relationship to begin.
 
Just as any of us can practice in order to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, so too can we can encourage the habits of mind that help children see challenges as possibility and recognize that easy is not always good. Sydney and Alex’s willingness to discuss challenges is an example of children in the midst of developing a growth mindset. How did we get here?
 
In our classrooms, we have purposefully created a community that honors challenge. We have done so by ritualizing conversations in which perseverance is of primary value because we know it will lead to mastery and success. Dialogues such as the one between Sydney and Alex are now commonplace in our days. In addition to being delightful to listen to, they are important markers of a shift in the tone of the discussions.
 
We teachers are intentional about orchestrating every aspect of our classroom to support this notion of growth. In response to correct math answers, we don’t celebrate with high fives and cheers, but rather ask, “How did you do it? How are you sure? Could you do it another way?” or, depending on what the child had been doing recently, we might respond with, “Last week that was hard for you, what did you change?” Likewise, incorrect answers are not met with, “Try again” but rather we might say, “Aha! Now you’re doing a mathematician’s work . . . let’s find where it went wrong.” These are very small adjustments to any classroom, but the pattern serves to buttress the idea that we are all on a path, moving forward is our goal, and mistakes help us get there—even more than “being correct.”
 
Something meaningful happens to a child’s affect in the classroom with these types of interventions and praise. Many children stop asking if they got it right, because they know that such a question will be met with the challenge for the proof. Rather, they approach the teacher—and one another—with something more like, “I think this is the answer and here’s why.” This confidence and independence is ultimately our goal in the early years of education, when children learn the fundamentals of how to learn—which means to be independent, reflective, and thoughtful about the process. When confidence is paired with a lack of shame that comes from mutual celebrations for sticking with something hard, children know they are on a path like we all are 

Stretch projects: a shift in thinking

In combination with these everyday ways of talking to children, perhaps the most profound shift in our classrooms happened when we implemented what we called “stretch projects.” Students designed and built projects where they would intentionally work on getting better at something that is hard for them. We’d been learning about Harvard researcher Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. We presented the idea that we are all good at lots of things but also have plenty to stretch towards, and that no two people’s stretches would be exactly the same. When asked early in November to articulate their struggles to the class, there was a predictable embarrassment from some kids until one brave boy spoke clearly and openly about his struggles to learn to read. “I’ve been trying and trying and I see some of my friends reading hard books that my mom reads to me. I know I’ll get it, but it’s hard for me.”
 
Here is a child who inherently understood that his struggles were just that, his struggles, nothing to be ashamed of. At this public admission, the ice broke; the empathic stories of struggling to learn to ride a bike, write letters in the right direction, or make a friend on the playground came pouring out. The truth that we all struggle was coming out into the open. Once there, we decided to collectively tackle these challenges by designing projects that would stretch us in purposeful ways. Upon systematizing the practice, and giving language to what it is to struggle, the playing field of the classroom was newly leveled. There weren’t smart kids and less smart kids; there weren’t math kids and reading kids. Instead the classroom identity is a collective one of learners grappling with how to grow purposefully.
 
Second grade teacher John Mayer has been at CG since 2006. He holds an MAT from Lewis & Clark College. Dawn Sieracki has been a 2nd grade teacher at CG since 2011. She holds a BS in elementary education from Bradley University and an MA in educational leadership from Maryville University.
 

CITATIONS AND REFERENCES

Boulanger, Lisa M. “Immune Proteins in Brain Development and Synaptic Plasticity.” Neuron Review 64 (2009): 93-109.
 
Dweck, Carol. “Even Geniuses Work Hard.” Educational Leadership 68 (2010): 16-20.
 
Dweck, Carol. Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development. Philadelphia, PA: University Press, 2000
 
Kanevsky, Lannie. “Deferential Differentiation: What Types of Differentiation Do Students Want?” Gifted Child Quarterly 55 (2011): 279-299.
 
Li, Jin. “Cultural Frames of Children’s Learning Beliefs.” In Jensen, Lene Arnett, Bridging Cultural and Developmental Approaches to Psychology: New Syntheses in Theory, Research, and Practice, 26–44. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2011.
 
 

 

 

Video: 2012 seniors talk about their college choices

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Catlin Gabel seniors are excited to be off to college! Several students talk a bit about where they're going, and why their college choice is a good one for them.

» Link to class of 2012 list of college acceptances

 Eli's going to Harvard!

 Megan's going to Columbia!

Ramtin's going to Dartmouth!

Logan's going to Oregon State University Honors College!

Grace is going to Whitman College!

Comments

Thanks!

Young men and women who really know what they want!
Good luck to you all! (So proud!)

Meant to reply to this..not write a new comment..

Thanks, Lisa!

Two CG students selected to compete in Intel International Science & Engineering Fair

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Oregonian article, March 2012

Two Catlin Gabel students have earned spots to attend the prestigious Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in May in Pittsburgh.

Freshman Valerie Ding won one of five spots as an individual high school finalist at the Intel NW Science Expo on March 23 with her project, "Shining Like the Sun: A Quantum Mechanical Study of White-Light LEDs."

Junior Terrance Sun earned a spot on 28-member Team Oregon, consisting of students who had won in six regional fairs in the Northwest Science Expo System.

Both middle school and high school students competed in the Intel NW Science Expo at Portland State University with 583 projects, and they were from from 87 schools and organizations statewide. Congratulations, Valerie and Terrance!

Read the Oregonian article.

Gambol auction in Oregonian

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Oregonian article, April '11

PFA seeking volunteer leadership for the 2011-12 school year

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Family involvement and communication are critical to the overall success of the school

All parents and guardians interested in a leadership position with the PFA can put their names forward. Go ahead, nominate yourself! Serving in a leadership capacity with the PFA is a great way to get to know fellow parents, work with the faculty, and feel connected to Catlin Gabel.

The PFA welcomes parents who are new to the school and parents who have not considered leadership involvement before. We also value experience and try to put together class teams of parents who are new to volunteering at the school and those with prior experience. Generally, we recommend starting out by volunteering as a grade representative before serving on the executive council. Nominating yourself is strongly encouraged.

Please e-mail pfa@catlin.edu to nominate a candidate (including yourself) for any of the following positions

  • Grade representatives (preschool through twelfth)

Executive Council

  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Spring Festival coordinator
  • Advisor to council
  • Beginning School coordinator
  • Lower School coordinator
  • Middle School coordinator
  • Upper School coordinator
  • Treasurer
  • Vice president

Nominations will be accepted until April 15. The PFA nominating committee – PFA president, advisor, vice-president, and two parents from the community – will review the applications and generate a slate of officers for the executive council. The executive council election takes place at the May general meeting, Thursday, May 19, at 8:30 a.m. in Gerlinger Multimedia Auditorium. All nominees for executive council and grade reps will be contacted by May 1.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact anyone on the current PFA council, or e-mail pfa@catlin.edu

 

Welcome to our guests from Martinique

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Bienvenue!

Nineteen students and three chaperones from Martinique are hosted by the Middle School. French language students provide the homestays.

What's Next for What's Next?

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Introducing the Catlin Gabel Service Corps

By Middle School head Paul Andrichuk and communications director Kitty Katz ’74

We’re going to cut to the chase and announce the What’s Next plan, then we’ll review how we got here. After months of consensus building, research, and input, we are excited to launch the Catlin Gabel Service Corps: Multigenerations Working Together for the Greater Good. The Service Corps preserves many of the best attributes of Rummage, is sustainable and doable, and is consistent with the mission of the school. We are not replacing Rummage, which had become unsustainable. We are doing something new.

The Catlin Gabel Service Corps initiative will take time to grow and become an institutional tradition. After all, Rummage began when one parent organized a small secondhand sale to meet the Catlin-Hillside School’s budget shortfall in 1945. The sale was not immediately embraced as an annual ritual: it grew over time.

A Corps Core group of faculty, staff, and volunteers will work on the details and long-term planning for the CG Service Corps. The Corps Core will be composed of can-do people who have demonstrated leadership in community service.

How did we get here?

Readers of this newsletter will recall that early in the school year we announced that the Rummage Sale would retire after 65 years. The people closest to the sale had concluded that it was not a sustainable operation, when it raised only 7 percent of our financial aid budget and volunteer numbers were declining. After the final sale was over, the What’s Next process began. A steering committee with representatives from all school constituent groups led the consensus-building efforts. At a community-wide workshop on January 23, more than 100 people generated four ideas for the steering committee to consider. (People who could not attend were invited to send ideas via the website.)

• Expand campus days to include a bigger work force that would encompass parents and alumni. Out-of-town alumni would be invited to volunteer in their communities on the same day(s) in solidarity with the events on campus.

• Enhance the current garden projects to engage people of all ages year round and cultivate more produce to use in the Barn.

• Create a multigenerational Catlin Gabel service corps to volunteer in the Portland community as well as on campus. Again, out-of-town alumni would be invited to represent Catlin Gabel in their own communities. We imagine that Catlin Gabel volunteer T-shirts would be an important part of this initiative.

• Find opportunities for the community to “barn raise” on campus, such as building a greenhouse, painting classrooms, or replacing siding. The Lower School playground project is the model for this initiative.

The steering committee broke into four sub-committees to research the ideas and explore the feasibility of launching them. The committee members met again after spring break to report on their findings and determine what needs to happen, so that Catlin Gabel can officially adopt one or more of the big ideas. The ideas were brought to Lark, division heads, and department heads for their input and reaction.

School leadership response

All-School Campus Day
An all-school campus day was initially appealing, but further investigation and input from the grounds crew caused us to reconsider. The current campus days are very successful and provide important services (leaf raking and bark chip distribution). Finding work and managing larger numbers all on a single schoolwide campus day could compromise the success of what we currently do. Working toward increased participation from parents and alumni and adding a celebratory element are positive outcomes of this investigation.

Garden Project and Fall Festival
The garden project is taking off, which is a great thing for our community. As the garden expands there will be more opportunities for planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting. However, there is not enough work for masses of people all at once. The idea of a harvest festival is very attractive, but fall of 2010 may be too soon. Perhaps Spring Festival could include a homegrown food and garden component.

Barn Raising
We are keeping our eyes and ears open to opportunities. However, there is not a large-scale on-campus project suitable for a significant crew of volunteers to undertake at this time. Building codes and safety regulations make this a difficult undertaking.

Community Service “Job Fair” (offshoot idea from the Service Corps subcommittee)
There was limited interest in a service fair and adding an event to our calendar. Students would not likely get this project off the ground without a great deal of supervision and staff support. However, if the Service Corps concept outlined below takes off, we can imagine adding a Service Job Fair to expand our reach and diversify our service.

Catlin Gabel Service Corps
This proposal gained the most traction with the admin team. It seems to best embrace the Rummage attributes we hold near and dear. The leadership team pursued the Service Corps proposal with greater specificity and looked for ways to combine it with other ideas such as campus day, the service fair, and a food festival or potluck.

Creating a Service Corps Committee (the “Corps Core”) of representative constituents was proposed. This long-term group will consider schoolwide themes, establish guidelines, and set school community goals that chart our progress.

What? Another committee?

Funny, yes. The What’s Next steering committee’s assignment is complete. They were charged with getting us to this point. Forming a new group to manage the Catlin Gabel Service Corps is essential for this initiative to successfully take root. the Corps Core will begin their work this summer. (It is premature to announce the members, but we have some great folks on the invite list.)

We are excited about the possibilities and know many Catlin Gabel community members will have great ideas for the Corps Core to consider. Here are a few suggestions the steering committee kicked around: How about a specific day when local community members and alumni around the world serve on behalf of Catlin Gabel? Drop everything and serve. Let’s kick off the Catlin Gabel Service Corps idea homecoming day – we’ll have a built-in celebration! Students could have a Rummage contest knockoff with blue and white teams collecting on behalf of the Oregon Food Bank or the Community Warehouse or Outside/In. We hope you are as enthusiastic as we are about the What’s Next: the Catlin Gabel Service Corps.

Viola Vaughn from Sénégal to speak at Catlin Gabel on April 7

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Vaughn, a CNN "Hero," is founder & director of 10,000 Girls, dedicated to the education of girls

Viola Vaughn, founder and executive director of the nonprofit 10,000 Girls (http://10000girls.org) in Kaolack, Sénégal, West Africa, will speak at Catlin Gabel on Wednesday, April 7, at 12:45 p.m. in the Middle School Commons during her tour of the United States.

Dr. Viola Vaughn

Vaughn is an American with an Ed.D. from Columbia University who received a CNN “Hero” award in 2008. She is a social entrepreneur who has built 10,000 Girls from an idea to a vibrant program currently serving 2,567 girls in 10 towns and villages in rural Sénégal. She periodically tours the U.S., speaking and participating in conferences to raise awareness of her organization's success in helping West African girls succeed as students and entrepreneurs. During her time in Portland Vaughn will also speak at Portland State University.

Video of Viola Vaughn #1          

Video of Viola Vaughn #2            

Video of Viola Vaughn #3

Viola Vaughn and the 10,000 Girls Project from Memory Box Productions on Vimeo.

10,000 Girls has two primary programs: after-school education and skill-building, helping girls stay in school and complete their educations; and entrepreneurship, teaching a craft or trade and business basics to older girls who have already left school and need life skills to become self-reliant. The educational component provides tutoring and resources to help girls succeed in school. Older girls, who are no longer in school, learn sewing, baking, and other marketable skills, creating products such as dolls and table linens, which they sell locally and online. The girls also grow, harvest, and produce hibiscus, which they transform into tea and hope to export to the U.S. as Certified Organic. The girls in the entrepreneurial program have decided to donate nearly 50% of their earnings to the program, making 10,000 Girls entirely self-sustainable. In Sénégal – where 54% of the citizens live below poverty and 48% are unemployed  – 10,000 Girls transforms the lives of  participating girls and their families.

The dynamic Viola Vaughn, a long-time resident of Sénégal, dramatically describes the challenges and joys of running 10,000 Girls and speaks with passion about her organization's mission. She can relay fascinating stories, including how she convinced banks to open accounts for young girls, a first in Sénégal; why the girls chose to bake and sell cookies to raise money (like America's Girl Scouts); and the what poignant questions the girls pose at summer Democracy Camps in  Sénégal. 
 
In Portland, Violla Vaughn hopes to connect with individuals and organizations interested in the education of girls, as well as with businesses that might want to sell 10,000 Girls' products. She will also encourage individuals intending to volunteer for 10,000 Girls in Senegal.

 

Gambol Auction Needs Your Help

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Dear Parents, Alumni, and Friends,
 
We are proud members of the Catlin Gabel community. The school is inspiring to children, parents, teachers, and alumni. Being involved in Gambol committees during the last two years, and seeing the good that this event does for the entire Catlin Gabel community, we are honored to co-chair this year’s Gambol Auction.
 
Dear Parents, Alumni, and Friends,
 
We are proud members of the Catlin Gabel community. The school is inspiring to children, parents, teachers, and alumni. Being involved in Gambol committees during the last two years, and seeing the good that this event does for the entire Catlin Gabel community, we are honored to co-chair this year’s Gambol Auction.
 
As you may be aware, it has become increasingly more difficult for schools to meet all of their budgetary needs. Although Catlin Gabel is more fortunate than most schools, the Gambol supplies essential funds needed to achieve several goals. It helps our incredible teachers hone their skills and further their educational goals through professional development, enabling them to create fresh and current curricula for our children. The event’s special appeal goes directly to the school’s financial aid program — more than 25% of our students receive financial assistance.
 
This year’s “There’s No Place Like Home” theme is inspired by what is important: family and community. Not only would we love for you to join us for what will be a fun and exciting evening, but also we would be especially grateful if you would participate by donating an item or experience to the auction. We need many items to make this year's auction a success and have complied a wish list to help generate ideas. The list is just a sampling of suggestions; any other ideas you have for donations are welcome. If you prefer to be an event sponsor or buy an advertisement in the auction catalog, please download the necessary forms by clicking this link.
 
This year we start an exciting new tradition with a Gambol Online Auction available November 9–23. The online auction will expand our participation to alumni, family, and friends. The Gambol Party & Live Auction is on Saturday, March 13, at the Nines hotel. Please join us as we celebrate our children, honor Catlin Gabel's outstanding teachers, and make this a successful year for the Gambol to give back to our amazing community. 
 
We are working hard to make the Gambol a success, and we need your help. Please use the donation form to pledge your support today.
 
Thank You,
Heather Blackburn ’90                                    
Gina Wand                                         
Gambol Co-chairs

 

Seniors Talk 2008

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Q&A discussion between seniors and parents

Q & A discussion between seniors and parents

Toward the end of each school year, we ask a panel of seniors to meet informally with the PFA at a general meeting to talk about their Catlin Gabel experiences. The seniors never fail to impress. They address questions and concerns raised by parents of children in all four divisions of the school.

Kate Grant, college counselor and dean of students, forms the panel by asking students who represent a diversity of experiences and interests. Some students are Lifers; others entered at Middle School or Upper School. Some are athletes, others artists or computer buffs. Some are academic superstars, others are more laid back about school. This year seven seniors were on the panel.

Most questions are answered by more than one student. Each bullet point is a different person's answer.

  1. If you could take one thing from Catlin Gabel that you wouldn’t change, what would it be? (Each new paragraph is a different student's answer.) more
  2. Extracurricular vs. curricular – looking back, do you wish you had done something else or do you feel it balanced out over the years? more
  3. Can you talk about college prep in terms of applying, selecting colleges, anticipation of getting admitted? more
  4. Did you have enough time to work on college stuff or did you have to do it on your own time? more
  5. You talk a lot about stress. Who helps you deal with that? more
  6. What about drugs and alcohol here on campus? more
  7. What have your parents done to help you here? more
  8. Stress comes up a lot. Is that an internal thing about you, or how much is imposed by this environment? Are there any relaxed people on this panel? more
  9. What’s the balance at home? Do your parents make you help around the house or do they let you focus on your homework? more
  10. What about other high schools in this community? more
  11. Do we really have kids who are hurtful and/or disrespectful? Did you raise awareness with kids? more
  12. What forms would the outreaches take? more
  13. Did you do more service hours in Middle School? How many do just 15 hours? more
  14. Given the desire to relate to community and experience diversity, how many have considered a Gap Year program? more
  15. Did your parents want you to come here? Did you feel that CGS offered more? What made you come here? more
  16. Being a Lifer, how was the evolution of your academics and investigations curriculum, going from no letter grades to letter grades? more
  17. Do you have a better foundation? more
  18. How are your experiences with math and science? more
  19. How well prepared were you for high school if you came from Catlin Gabel’s middle school? more
  20. About joy – where does the happiness come from? more
  21. What about your down time? During or after school day? more
  22. Diversity – how do peers support each other? What are the cliques like? more
  23. About outdoor education program: it’s evolving with input from students, too. more
  24. Small numbers – boyfriends, girlfriends, dating? What’s it like? more

  • If you could take one thing from Catlin Gabel that you wouldn’t change, what would it be? (Each new paragraph is a different student's answer.)
  • • Catlin Gabel’s size. We benefited from close relationships. It can be kind of insular and it would be great to have more outreaches to the outside community.

    • Rigorous academics I wouldn’t change – it made me feel that I was doing well because of things I learned – I feel prepared for college.

    • Wouldn’t change academic rigor – AP level is normal

    • There’s been a movement to lower homework but don’t think it’s a good idea.

    • There are some areas – English needs to be reined in once in a while. Overall it’s a strong program, and that’s what you come to CGS for.

    • Some value to homework – but it is vastly overrated! Extracurricular experience has been helpful in discovering who I am as a person – homework doesn’t cover that. CGS can play a bigger role in emotionally/psychologically developing students, not just academic.

  • Extracurricular vs. curricular – looking back, do you wish you had done something else or do you feel it balanced out over the years?
  • • This year I ran track for the first time but I wish I’d started sooner. It’s always a struggle to choose school trips vs. homework; family stuff is important, too.

    • Did soccer, cross-country and track, this year robotics and bowling. There is such a wide variety of extracurricular choices. You have to figure out priorities and put some things on hold, but there’s a balance you can achieve. It is stressful to do too many things at once. Everyone knows what you’re taking.

    • You can burn out – I'm an average human being. Commuting via bus takes so much time but you do a lot of homework. There’s a lot of extracurriculars I couldn’t have done, like Model UN -- I thought I couldn’t miss that much school. Bowling was fun! I would practice piano if I had less homework.

  • Can you talk about college prep in terms of applying, selecting colleges, anticipation of getting admitted?
  • • There’s some prep but not that much that came with classes, academics. I applied to 9 colleges; some were very academic, some weren’t. I liked different colleges for specific reasons. I didn’t feel CGS stressed that I had to go to highly academic college. In the end the transition wasn’t that hard; just another step in the timeline. It’s all incorporated – not so much special prep.

    • Best part of it is being able to pop into someone’s office and talk about the waiting and the application process and cry to Kate [Grant] about how stressful it is. I’ve been writing college essays since junior year and it was easy to choose from practice ones. Just the waiting was hard.

    • Kate and Robyn Washburn (registrar) were good about reminding us of deadlines so that we were aware of them and got the applications in on time. The SAT people were horrible. I didn’t know how to apply, etc., by the deadlines or that you needed to pay to apply to colleges. Other teachers were helpful besides Kate. Robyn helped a lot with deadlines.

    • Catlin Gabel tends to funnel you into smaller colleges, which is good for some, but there are other suggestions needed for bigger schools.

    • College counselors make a lot of difference. Junior year is the hardest -- that’s the GPA they see, then the grades from the first semester of senior year. There’s no reason not to do early action/early decision.

    • Counselors make the differences. Kate, John Keyes.

    • Senior year was harder than I thought – classes are tough and then you have college on top of it.

  • Did you have enough time to work on college stuff or did you have to do it on your own time?
  • • My GPA took a hit. If I saw an extracurricular I liked, I did it.

    • The teachers talk about it like they do give you time to work on college applications, but I don’t think they do.

    • We were in creative writing – college essay was the biggest part for me. In creative writing class we could use our essays so it was helpful to do class work that would work for college. In some ways it was built into the curriculum to work on essay skills.

  • You talk a lot about stress. Who helps you deal with that?
  • • Peer Helpers are there to help you talk about things. George Thompson (Upper School Counselor) is a great help. (Others agree.)

    • I wouldn’t normally go to him but I hear he’s great.

    • I’ve gone to my C & C advisor when things got tough my sophomore year. Dave Tash (math teacher) is here early in the mornings and I have appreciated his “tough love” approach.

    • There’s a strong sense of security with teachers; they’re approachable and great to talk to. You’re never afraid to talk to George Thompson. Peter Green (outdoor program director, and dean of students starting July 1) is another very approachable teacher.

  • What about drugs and alcohol here on campus?
  • • It’s definitely here but it’s easy to avoid. If you really want to [do drugs/alcohol] you can, but it’s also easy not to. There is no “peer pressure” pressuring students to take drugs, but your friends feel comfortable telling you not to do them. The level of work here is a big deterrent.

  • What have your parents done to help you here?
  • • I did stuff on my own. If you have stress, then that’s when parents need to step in. But parents should let the student do their own homework or paper. Parents can ask them how it was, but don’t tell them how to do things anymore. Be a friend, not a parent.

    • Parents weren’t involved – they cared and I could talk to them. The biggest thing was during college process, they didn’t pressure me to look at this or that school. They let me decide what schools to apply to

    • It’s good to know how the student is progressing but a hands-off approach is very healthy. Freshman and sophomore years I didn’t do so well, but junior and senior years I did better. Having your parents reading your papers and otherwise looming over you adds to anxiety.

    • If your son is in his bedroom listening to Nirvrana, take it as a hint!

  • Stress comes up a lot. Is that an internal thing about you, or how much is imposed by this environment? Are there any relaxed people on this panel?
  • • I put more on myself to do well than anyone else. My expectations are higher.

    • I’m a little nuts, but it depends on the person and what stresses you out. It depends on how difficult a paper is for you.

    • Stress is a hot-button word at CG. It makes student think they aren’t pushing themselves if they aren’t under stress. In Spain (during an exchange year) it was more relaxed and it gave me perspective about realistic expectations. Stress is not healthy. Time away gave me good perspective.

    • The amount of stress depends on circumstances – if you focus only on school, your stress level will be lower. If you have a job, Catlin Gabel doesn’t take that into account.

  • What’s the balance at home? Do your parents make you help around the house or do they let you focus on your homework?
  • • My parents want me to do chores (I live on a farm). My dad couldn’t do it alone -- I had to help out and do my part. They didn’t force me but they really appreciated it when I did.

  • What about other high schools in this community?
  • • They are easier. (Others nod in agreement.)

  • Do we really have kids who are hurtful and/or disrespectful? Did you raise awareness with kids?
  • • People aren’t being malicious; they just don’t get the black perspective. They had no idea. They thought it was just about music and movies. It was a shock to them that my feelings were hurt. It’s not an unsafe community – it’s about educating the ignorant ones. (Answered in reference to a comment about casual use of the "N-word.")

    • When I started here, we had a great diversity conference – now it’s just our own students talking about issues. We need more of a diverse community; more students from the outside community would help a lot. With the same friends you just get the same perspective.

  • What forms would the outreaches take?
  • • Just get kids to meet more outside CG. Go out into the bigger community and meet people different than you.

    • Volunteering hours are very small – 15 hours. Should be more.

    • We volunteer at Cinco de Mayo festival, at other schools; my Spanish class does a lot outside CG. I’ve gained enormous perspective.

    • CG is small and you’ll learn more about the world in college.

  • Did you do more service hours in Middle School? How many do just 15 hours?
  • • Most did more, especially in the summers. Volunteering is important but you have to fit it into your academic life.

  • Given the desire to relate to community and experience diversity, how many have considered a Gap Year program?
  • • I am doing that. I will travel and volunteer.

    • After spending time in Spain I have a better perspective.

  • Did your parents want you to come here? Did you feel that CGS offered more? What made you come here?
  • • I moved up from California from a public school – applied to Jesuit and CG and got into both. It was my decision to come here. I don’t remember why. I visited and it didn’t feel like a stereotypical high school.

  • Being a Lifer, how was the evolution of your academics and investigations curriculum, going from no letter grades to letter grades?
  • • Actually, we aren’t supposed to have letter grades. High school has been the best part. I wish I had been elsewhere for part of it just for the experience. Lower School grades were less academically centered.

    • Coming in 9th grade, I appreciated it, and the lower grades sound so fun!

  • Do you have a better foundation?
  • • No better than anyone else. Depends on where or when you transferred. And it depends on what the school emphasized, whether math or science prep from other schools vs. CG. It built up nicely and works. Wish I’d had a bit more of a broad experience.

    • Lots of sophomore boys know all the songs from elementary school!!

    Other responses to why they came here

    • One boy came from Arbor School; graduated with 17 kids. CGS was a huge step up!

    • Arbor didn’t have grades. I wasn’t assigned a single grade except maybe a math score. They keep you up to speed.

    • I applied to OES and CGS. My principal (Kit Hawkins) prodded me more toward CGS. CGS was more accepting than OES. CGS students were more welcoming to a newcomer than OES.

    • My mom made me come. I was unmotivated in 8th grade; went to Japan for school; my mom made me apply to CGS. I tried hard on the app, but didn’t want to leave my friends. I liked where I was and didn’t want to commute. I had lots of reasons for not coming to Catlin Gabel. I now love it and I love being in these classes. English class is the most memorable part of Catlin Gabel; sophomore English (Tony Stocks). I wouldn’t have been as challenged; I wouldn’t have been able to go to Bard.

  • How are your experiences with math and science?
  • • I’m a big math-science person, taking calculus, and AP computer. CG’s math/science programs are very strong. They get smaller as you go up, but calculus class is challenging and thorough. I was prepared for the AP test. For advanced physics – it’s one of the best classes. Math-science courses allow you to take off more. Resources are there if you take advantage of them.

    • I was better prepared coming from public school. When I came CGS was top in state for SAT and ACT. So there has to be something there. We beat OES!
    I hate math with a burning passion. I could have stopped with Algebra II; Dave Tash is the greatest teacher; he’s really patient.

    • I was born in Poland and my parents were both scientists. They saw my homework in MS and said that’s for second grade! Catlin Gabel’s math program is strong enough for me. I’m not a big math person.

    • They integrated Bio-Phys-Chem and do that each year. Junior and senior year you can take electives and branch out, regular or advanced. Teachers are great.

  • How well prepared were you for high school if you came from Catlin Gabel’s middle school?
  • • Transition from 8th to 9th is hard no matter where you come from.

    • I could write essays and lab reports, but 9th grade is just a big transition year. MS sets you up for high school but it’s stressful for everyone. And it evens out during freshman year; everyone is on an even level. All agree that it’s hard for everyone.

    • You’re at a disadvantage if you don’t come from Catlin Gabel’s Middle School.

    • Coming from Arbor, it wasn’t that hard.

    • Kate –we’ve been more intentional in working with the 8th grade team about the transition to 9th. We teach them time management and study skills to help them. We incorporate that into freshman orientation.

    • It’s best learned over the year; it’s the best way to learn. We aren’t supposed to focus on grades, right?? That’s how they grade you – if you show improvement by the end then it’s great.

    • One thing I’d not change is the nonemphasis on grades – what’s the point if you get all As?

  • About joy – where does the happiness come from?
  • • The work is hard, but it’s fun. Detective class (Art Leo) was great; I chose to take classes I really liked; I stopped history class.

    • This year I’m having more fun, especially if you choose the classes you like.

    • A good paper conference. You have to experience stress before you can feel really happy! All the hard work can then bring you joy.

  • What about your down time? During or after school day?
  • • I love English class! The joy is in the work. You have to like school.

    • The most fun I had was the extracurriculars. Golf at the end of the day -- getting out of the classroom is the most fun.

  • Diversity – how do peers support each other? What are the cliques like?
  • • Cliques are a more subtle distinction. There are the more outdoor kids, but everyone kind of floats around. We do support each other more. It’s hard to support someone you don’t see that often.

    • Kate G – What every faculty member loves about Catlin Gabel students is how gracious the students are about the successes of other students. Accomplishments are celebrated, like giving a standing ovation to a sophomore who played a piano recital.

    • There’s room for students to be appreciated for who they are. It’s what keeps most of us here. It’s a place where students celebrate each other. You get to know people you wouldn’t ordinarily get to know elsewhere. You learn to appreciate people you didn’t know before.

  • About outdoor education program: it’s evolving with input from students, too.
  • • I am very involved in the program. Peter does a really good job of introducing us to experiences. It’s one of the biggest parts of my experience.

    • Doing a trip is good but you need a lot of time spent away from homework – you have to plan ahead for weekends.

    • It’s a popular program and Peter always wants kids who haven’t been on trips before.

  • Small numbers – boyfriends, girlfriends, dating? What’s it like?
  • • Dating happens a lot earlier in HS – people find each other early and your friends stay the same.

Seniors Talk 2007

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Q & A discussion between seniors and parents

Toward the end of each school year, we ask a panel of seniors to meet informally with the PFA at a general meeting to talk about their Catlin Gabel experiences. The seniors never fail to impress. They address questions and concerns raised by parents of children in all four divisions of the school.

Kate Grant, college counselor and dean of students, forms the panel by asking students who represent a diversity of experiences and interests. Some students are lifers; others entered at Middle School or Upper School. Some are athletes, others artists or computer buffs. Some are academic superstars, others are more laid back about school.

Eight students began the session; two departed for other obligations and were replaced by others. The questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.

  1. Tell us about the homework rumors. Are six or seven hours of homework accurate? Is there time to do anything else? What are some outside things you’ve been involved with? more
  2. How do you maintain your friendships going from Middle to Upper School? more
  3. How was the transition from Catlin Gabel 8th to 9th grade? For those who are lifers, do you see now the value of Middle School as preparing you in a way you couldn’t have otherwise? It seems like they are very different schools, but there’s intentionality with transitions. What are your perspectives? more
  4. What about laptops? Are they valuable to you? more
  5. Has grading changed how you learn or interact with each other? more
  6. Do you feel the grades you receive represent the work you put into papers, tests, projects, and labs? more
  7. Parents send their kids to other schools so they can get better grades and get into the college of their choice. How do you feel about that? more
  8. Did the college placement office help you plot your course? more
  9. Have you all chosen colleges? Are you happy where you’re going? more
  10. How did you manage your classes during Upper School? Did you do all your required courses in the first years? Did the school help you? How did you select? more
  11. Have you studied everything you wanted to? Could you follow all your interests? more
  12. Reflecting back on different areas of study, what’s the strongest? more
  13. The general impression is that Catlin Gabel is more arts oriented, and less science and math oriented. Is that a reasonable reflection? more
  14. What are your thoughts about drug and alcohol abuse? more
  15. What could be done to reduce that? more
  16. Is there alcohol awareness? more
  17. What are the challenges you faced in the Upper School? If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change? more
  18. Are there other things you would change? more
  19. . Is there a perception of CGS being supportive of either females or males? more
  20. . In the real world there is lots of competition. CGS students are confident, but do you ever feel like you won’t be ready to compete compared with your friends who attend more competitive schools? more
  21. What is the theater experience? more
  22. Are any of you involved with the outdoor program? How many students are involved with that? more

  • Tell us about the homework rumors. Are six or seven hours of homework accurate? Is there time to do anything else? What are some outside things you’ve been involved with?
  • All of the students are involved with extracurricular activities from sports, to voice lessons, to robotics and community service. Perfectionists may take a long time to do their homework, but others spend just a couple of hours on homework most nights. The homework load varies depending on the course load, the time of year, and the student’s learning style.

  • How do you maintain your friendships going from Middle to Upper School?
  • In Middle School you hang out with students in your own grade. In Upper School, students from different grades form friendships. Your friendships broaden. You might not have classes with an old friend, but if you value friendship you can maintain important relationships. Lifers have a special bond with each other even if they are not everyday friends.

  • How was the transition from Catlin Gabel 8th to 9th grade? For those who are lifers, do you see now the value of Middle School as preparing you in a way you couldn’t have otherwise? It seems like they are very different schools, but there’s intentionality with transitions. What are your perspectives?
  • The transition was smooth, but challenging – in a good way! The academics in the Middle School were good, but the approach was different. The laptop made the transition a little difficult because it was a distraction at first. Creativity is fostered in the Middle School. It’s not as strenuous academically and it’s more about developing socially. Things like the 8th grade musical build a dynamic in each class that carries over to the Upper School. All the bonding with each other and with teachers helps you relate to people when you are emotionally crazy. It’s touching, really.

  • What about laptops? Are they valuable to you?
  • We have a love-hate relationship with the laptops. The laptops are integral to our academic lives and we’d be drowning in paper without them. It helps with organization, learning software like PowerPoint, and online research.

  • Has grading changed how you learn or interact with each other?
  • The Catlin Gabel style of non-competition endures in the Upper School even though work is graded. Students study and work collaboratively because we are not competing against each other.

  • Do you feel the grades you receive represent the work you put into papers, tests, projects, and labs?
  • Because the school hasn’t succumbed to grade inflation, when you get an A, it really means something. Sometimes you may think the teacher is unfair, but the grades almost always reflect the amount of work you put into an assignment. You compete only with yourself, not other students.

  • Parents send their kids to other schools so they can get better grades and get into the college of their choice. How do you feel about that?
  • They may get better grades, but the education at Catlin is what is valuable. Catlin Gabel prepares you better because the teachers are better. Some of our classmates transferred to other schools and then came back to Catlin Gabel. The small colleges most of us want to attend know Catlin Gabel and our grading system. College freshmen come back to Catlin Gabel and tell us college is easier.

  • Did the college placement office help you plot your course?
  • Emphatically, yes. You are ultimately responsible for researching colleges, getting things written and filled out on time, and taking the lead in the process, but Kate Grant and John Keyes help you starting in junior year.

  • Have you all chosen colleges? Are you happy where you’re going?
  • (Many happy smiles here). We are attending Brown, Middlebury, George Washington, Pepperdine, Columbia, and a couple of us are undecided and considering Whitman, Oberlin, Syracuse, and Lawrence School of Music.

  • How did you manage your classes during Upper School? Did you do all your required courses in the first years? Did the school help you? How did you select?
  • Don’t defer classes, because then you can take more electives during senior year. Taking a range of classes early on led to connections and interests in subjects they might not have thought they would like. Get all you can out of Catlin Gabel so even if you have met all your requirements take a full load senior year.

  • Have you studied everything you wanted to? Could you follow all your interests?
  • Absolutely. If you want to study something you can. The teachers really encourage students to follow their passions. You can do independent study or internships, or go off on a tangent within a class.

  • Reflecting back on different areas of study, what’s the strongest?
  • English!

  • The general impression is that Catlin Gabel is more arts oriented, and less science and math oriented. Is that a reasonable reflection?
  • English is a powerhouse department, and the homework load in English is the heaviest, but the other departments are strong. If you’re good at math and science, it’s there for you and you can excel. (Ed. The makeup of this particular group did not include students who favor math, science, and computer science, though many students do.)

  • What are your thoughts about drug and alcohol abuse?
  • It’s around, but it’s no more so than at other high schools. You can definitely avoid it and it’s okay to say no. It’s not a problem. People are safe.

  • What could be done to reduce that?
  • Trust your child to make good decisions and make yourselves available as parents.

  • Is there alcohol awareness?
  • We have programs such as the trauma nurses who spoke at assembly and showed photos of alcohol-related accidents. Kate interjects: “Freedom from Chemical Dependency is an organization the school has hired to work with students and parents. It was launched this year for 8th and 9th grade families and will come back next year to work with more grade levels.”

  • What are the challenges you faced in the Upper School? If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change?
  • Learn to manage your time. The homework load was too heavy freshman year, and that should be changed. You do acclimate to the expectation. Kate Grant points out here that the school introduced a freshman class called Freshman Toolkit where ninth graders learn to acclimate to the Upper School, how to best use free periods, and how to focus attention.

  • Are there other things you would change?
  • More diversity, particularly political diversity. We get into a liberal bubble mentality.

  • . Is there a perception of CGS being supportive of either females or males?
  • The school and teachers are supportive of everybody, and there is no bias you could point to.

  • . In the real world there is lots of competition. CGS students are confident, but do you ever feel like you won’t be ready to compete compared with your friends who attend more competitive schools?
  • It’s good not to be so competitive. I attended a summer program for high school students at the University of Texas and found that other participants were obsessed with academic competition, SAT scores, etc. I just didn’t care about those things, and it was freeing.

  • What is the theater experience?
  • Academics take the lead, but the theater director, Robert Medley, is fantastic. He allows us to produce controversial work that might not be allowed at other schools. He’s very supportive and a great resource for independent theater projects. There are lots of opportunities for acting, playwriting, and play production.

  • Are any of you involved with the outdoor program? How many students are involved with that?
  • Some students are involved with the outdoor program through a PE class that meets twice a week for activities such as hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing. Others participate on trips like the recent Mt. Hood climb, rock climbing at Smith Rock, or cross county skiing near Mt. Adams. Peter Green and Aiyana Hart-McArthur do great things with this program and are really good at getting students and teachers to challenge themselves.