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Creating Positive Change in Our Athletes

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An athletics program based on character

From the Winter 2011-12 Caller

By Sandy Luu, Catlin Gabel athletics director

Character development is my top priority as I guide Catlin Gabel’s coaches and student athletes—and I would like to see excellence in all athletic programs at Catlin Gabel. In my career I have seen many coaches who taught physical skills—but thought that the development of character would just naturally arise from being part of a team. To develop athletes of character, we need to intentionally teach the skills that will help them make choices based on beliefs and principles. Our job is to build habits in our athletes that will help them make tough choices, and to consistently follow through with them.
 
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all be great athletes and win every game we play? Unfortunately, just like other areas in life, it’s not always easy, and we have to work at it. When athletes have to sit on the bench for the first time, they learn to be better teammates. When they have to battle injury for the first time, they learn to push themselves harder than they have before. The resiliency we learn through sports will last a lifetime. Take our boys varsity soccer team, for example. Last year they won the state championship and graduated 11 seniors off that team. This year they had a new coach, Roger Gantz ’89, and only three seniors. At the beginning of the season I watched these three seniors as they rallied their young teammates, learning what it takes to become leaders from Roger and from one another. They had tough losses, but they learned more about each other as they went through the semester. I was pleased by the growth that I saw as this team came together and learned to trust and rely on each other.
 
Our primary goal in athletic programs is to love and care about the kids we work with. I learned its importance personally, in my first experience with high school sports. After my father died when I was in 8th grade, one of the many changes in our lives was that I had to go to a new high school as a freshman, in our town near Sacramento, California. I had just grown five inches and turned from a confident athlete who was a leader on the court to a nervous, awkward new kid on the block. After the first volleyball practice, the coach cut me from the team, saying, “Sandy, unfortunately, you don’t have a future in volleyball.” He didn’t know about the difficult transitions I had gone through; he was only worried about having the best team out on the court. I learned that I had to be resilient and not feel sorry for myself. If I was going to make it happen, I had to work hard. I ended up playing junior and senior years on the varsity team (and also played basketball and softball) and received a scholarship to play at Concordia University. If I had listened to that first coach and stopped playing the sport I loved, my life would be very different today. I want to make sure we don’t have any kids who are made to feel the way I did. In one of the schools where I worked before Catlin Gabel, we had a sports team that was dysfunctional on and off the court. We made a difficult decision to replace the coach. I told the new coach that I hoped to see character growth as his number one priority. After losing the first three games, he came into my office, dispirited, slumping in his chair. I assured him that the team would improve as soon as he helped them learn to be better friends and teammates. Over the next two years, he helped them grow into one of the best teams that school had ever seen. He held them accountable for any negative behavior and taught them how to be good basketball players, but more importantly, to be athletes of character.
 
Coaches are the key to creating positive change in our athletes. This begins with modeling respect and responsibility. Coaches share their vision of what is right, teaching confidence, commitment, and the importance of fulfilling obligations. The daily lessons we teach about being ethical are as essential as the training we do in each sport. Developing these lessons such as honesty and responsibility will last much longer than any championships Catlin Gabel wins.
 
During my last year at Liberty High School in Hillsboro, the new head baseball coach’s team lost their first nine pre-season games. I told him that, even if it was difficult, to exude as much positive energy as he could muster. I asked him to remember that it’s great to win, but that winning is the icing on the cake—that character development was our goal. He went back and told his team that he believed in them, and he stayed optimistic. It paid off in the end: they went on a winning streak and ended up only one game away from making playoffs. The boys never gave up, and I was really proud of that. These athletes learned to overcome, rather than hanging their heads low and blaming the new coach, or each other. It’s easy to fall into that trap, but we want to teach our athletes about resiliency.
 
I am tremendously encouraged by what I have seen at Catlin Gabel during my first year here. I spent the first half of the year observing our teams and our coaches. I asked questions about character, and I have been impressed with the answers. The coaching staff has impressed me with their ability to relate with the athletes; it is clear that they truly care about our kids. The athletes here have a strong work ethic and show a tremendous amount of trust and care for each other.
 
I would love to see our students participating and contributing to our program all year long. It is important that we build a strong connection to younger students so that they feel more connected to our program.
 
To make Catlin Gabel athletics the best it can be, we need the best coaches guiding our athletes, great athletic facilities, and students willing to become athletes of character. One head coach said it best—we should strive to make Catlin Gabel athletics as amazing as our academic program. It’s wonderful at Catlin Gabel to see alumni coming back to campus to shoot around with their coaches, attend games, and spend time with current athletes. Our coaches understand how important it is to find the connection and build on it. I’ll definitely be part of continuing this tradition. I look forward, as the years go by, to hearing about our students’ successes—and their important challenges—as they go through their lives.
 
Sandy Luu has been athletic director at Catlin Gabel since August 2011. She played volleyball, basketball, and fast pitch softball during her years at Concordia University and earned a master’s in athletic administration from Ohio University. She taught and coached in China, Vietnam, and Taiwan for 13 years while she lived there with her family. In Taiwan, she served as athletic director for middle and high schools.

 

Resilience: How We Foster an Important Life Skill

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A roundtable with counselors Kate Grant (Upper School), Kristin Ogard (Middle School), and Jonathan Weedman (Beginning and Lower School)

From the Winter 2011-12 Caller

What is resiliency?

Jonathan: Resiliency (or resilience) is the ability to bounce back from hardship, which is part of life. Things happen all the time. Resiliency is about what you do, or what’s around you that helps you bounce back and move on.
 
Kristin: When I talk about resiliency with kids, they look at aspects of their personalities: Do I have a sense of humor? Is the glass half full or half empty? Am I able to try something else when my approach doesn’t work? It’s crucial for students to know which attributes they possess so they can use them when they’re stuck.

Is resiliency an innate trait?

Jonathan: Research dating back to the ’50s tells us that resiliency is built in. Some of us get it quicker than others, but eventually we all figure it out. Our goal as counselors is to teach children specifically how they’re resilient now and what they’re good at so that they can use those tools here at Catlin Gabel, and in college and their work lives. Just like we teach math and writing and reading, we teach resiliency skills. There are two kinds of resiliency builders: our innate, personal traits, and the things and people around us, what we call protective factors. With both those components in place, we can handle every hardship we encounter.

What we can do as a community to help children recover from hardships?

Kristin: Our first job is to recognize their strengths and nurture them, and the second job is to put in place the external factors that support our children. When you consider the big picture, focusing on strengths is more effective than focusing on what’s wrong or a person’s weaknesses. We can all overcome adversity.
 
Jonathan: When life coach Dr. Kathy Masarie spoke here she talked about the idea of the fragile “teacup kid.” Many kids have a sense that you get what you need from life, and everything’s going to be fine. But you have to go through hardship to be resilient. So I spend a lot of time helping kids understand that it’s a normal part of life and help them understand how they handle hardship--so when those difficulties come, they don’t fall apart.

Kristin, how do you teach Middle Schoolers about resiliency?

Kristin: We begin with every 6th grader figuring out his or her personal resiliency traits, and then their parents do the same exercise at home, and then they compare the responses. Back at school, we fill out a worksheet on “What are my strengths and how can I use them here at school when I get stuck?” The students put it in front of their binder for the whole year as a focus and a reminder of their strengths.

Kate, do we have that kind of training in Upper School?

Kate: We talk about resiliency in the 10th grade health class, and there’s a lot of self-reflection that goes on in Upper School. In English classes, there’s the “Who Am I?” essay and the sophomore “Embarrassment” essay and reflection on the writing process as a way to improve. In a way resiliency is filtered through different parts of the Upper School curriculum and, of course, in the college process. We want students to know they can grow and change and gain a new perspective. The faculty talks a lot about how to foster resiliency and to support its development.
 
Jonathan: In the Lower School we trained all the teachers in the resiliency curriculum, we have a bulletin board about it, and we talk to kids individually to pinpoint how they’re resilient. Recently a 5th grader helped me rewrite the resiliency builders so that kids would understand it better. It’s about really making it live here every day. When a child has a conflict or a problem, I always start our conversation with, “How do you bounce back?” or “How are you resilient?” Or I’ll say, “I notice you use your humor a lot. That’s a great way to bounce back.” Or “I notice how flexible you are. That’s a great way to be resilient.”

Is resiliency connected with bullying and victimhood?

Kate: It’s a huge part of our bullying discussions. It’s about how you keep going in life. You’re always going to face people who might push your buttons even if they’re not fighting you or hitting you: it’s often more subtle. But you do have to come up with your own resources, take a breath, see what you really feel and think, and decide how to react in the moment and in the future. We teach our students on both sides—both bullies and victims—how to get help from adults and how to think about their behavior.
 
Kristin: My students and I think about non-defensive strategies for responding to verbal put-downs—like using humor or ignoring it, always being honest and assertive. A genuine response to someone making fun of a sweater would be, “Oh, I like this sweater. My grandmother made it, and it’s important to me.” So they’re being genuine back, and not defensive, which tends to just stop the teasing.

Do you see kids building confidence when they learn how to cope?

Jonathan: A great example from a few years ago involved one 5th grader who failed a test and was very upset, but I knew he was a really positive guy. So I said, “What can you say that’s positive to bounce back from this?” And he said, “Well, you could say that it’s a practice, because I’m not taking a real test until 6th grade, and I guess I’m learning, because I’m here to learn.” After only 10 minutes of talking he said, “I feel so much better!” And I said, “Now you know what you need to do.” He came back a week later, and said, “I used that again! It really helps!” We know our kids really well, so we can talk to them specifically about how they can bounce back.
 
Kristin: In 6th grade we start out talking about superheroes, and their resiliency factors—Transformers, and the ability to be invisible or fly. Then we shift our focus to famous people who are resilient, and next we talk about resilient people they know personally—like their parents, coaches, or grandparents. In the last part, we talk about our own resiliency traits.
 
Kate: It’s important for parents to support their children’s resiliency. Kristin has this expression, “Don’t interview for pain.” Instead, support the growth and the lessons they’ve learned.
 
Jonathan: The biggest thing parents can do is interview for resilience. So when a kid comes home and says, “So-and- so was mean to me,” instead of saying, “That must have been horrible! Tell me more about it!” you say, “What do you want to do about that?”
 
Kristin: And that empowers them. They’re getting a subtle message from you that you believe they can take care of it.
 
Kate: What we know about brain research is that you can train your brain to think differently. So if you have enough practice, instead of thinking, “Wow, I’m just a dork,” you can think, “This experience was hard, but it can really help me.”
 
Jonathan: It’s super-important for parents to model their own resiliency for their kids. Parents can say, “I had a really rough day today. So I called my best friend, and now I feel so much better.” Or, “I’m just going to be flexible and change how I operate.” Kids pick up on everything we as adults do. They don’t miss anything.

Can resiliency be confused with just letting kids fail?

Jonathan: Sometimes failure is a part of the process. But we don’t just let kids fail and say, “Too bad.” We say, “Okay, so that didn’t work out. Let’s talk about how you bounce back from that.”
 
Kristin: Sure, there can be failures, but we also have protective factors in place. When things fail, it’s important to examine what you can try differently. And then you try again.
 
Kate: To keep it in perspective, most of the situations our kids encounter are not life altering, but their attitude toward them may be. So when they run into something difficult, they’re better able to say, “This is really awful. But I do have some inherent strengths to deal with this.” People can turn even small failures against themselves if they aren’t interpreted in a way that helps them think, “Ah, this is an opportunity for me to learn something.”

What do we do well as a school to build resiliency in our students?

Kristin: Oh, we’re great at protective factors! For one, we started the Freshman Toolkit, which is great for students in a vulnerable time. (See the article in this issue on Freshman Toolkit.) We also have C&C advisers, who track kids carefully.
 
Kate: We have a small student-to-faculty ratio, so students can learn from thoughtful adults and older students. When we have freshman and sophomore trips, we take upper-class students along so they can model self-reflection.
 
Jonathan: Our teachers use their first names, which speaks to adult support and mentoring. Opportunities for meaningful participation are also protective—like Experiential Week in March, student council, the outdoor program, service, and Campus Day. It’s also good that we set high, but not impossible, expectations for our students. That gives them a message that we know they can do it, and we know we can support them in that. And we all teach important life skills.
 
Kate: During Experiential Week, students who haven’t had the sense of shining in other areas get to shine in their own areas. They develop some sense of their own strengths and worth.
 
Kristin: We have a huge playground at school, if you will, with ways for kids to discover their strengths. And we do a really good job of celebrating them.
 
Kate: What’s important is that we give students more than one chance. Students are not known by one action here, but by a lot of different actions. Adults are always waiting for a kid to make the right decision here, and that helps them think, “I did make a mistake, but I can get beyond that.”
 
Kristin: I’m working with a student right now who is not resilient in many areas, but she excels in the arts. We jump on those moments immediately to reinforce and praise our kids— because that’s where the shift takes place.

So if they feel successful, it becomes easier to carry on.

Kristin: When they see evidence of what they can do one day, and we praise it, there’s the suggestion that they might be able to do it again tomorrow.
 
Kate: I was struck once by what a student’s mother had written in his application to Catlin Gabel. She wrote, “I hope that my child will have enough growing self-confidence and enough successes to appreciate the success of others.” We wish that for all our students.
 
Kristin: I have to keep coming back to the importance of resiliency, because research shows that when you’re focused on something that’s positive and strength based, you will shift more quickly in that positive direction.
 
Kate: A part of this is taking responsibility for what you could have done differently in a difficult situation, because it helps you both realize that it wasn’t just that other person. We have to help kids feel strong enough to both take care of themselves and optimally to take care of each other, if they can. We want to help them recognize an inherent strength that’s different from all the other things going on in their lives.

Does the focus on resiliency tie into overprotectiveness?

Jonathan: Yes, because we’re seeing products of what happens when kids are super-overprotected: they fall apart when they go to college on their own. It’s instinctual for parents to feel they should protect their kids, but there’s a balance. It’s not about protecting them from every single thing, but it’s also not just about throwing them out there on their own. Unlike the ’50s, when you could go out and ride your bike . . .
 
Kristin: “See you when the sun goes down!”
 
Jonathan: Often kids feel like that they can’t leave the house, because something bad’s going to happen to them. They pick up on this message of “I can’t do anything, and the world is not safe. If no one gives me the tools to deal with it, then I’m not able to deal with it.”
 
Kristin: “And I’m not effective. I’m a victim.”
 
Jonathan: So now we need to check in as a society and a community to say, “Whoa! Overprotection was not the answer. Completely throwing them out there on their own was not the answer. What is the answer?” The answer is to let kids fail a little bit, and then we’ll show them how they’re resilient, so they can learn from that.
 
Kate: Sometimes, when kids are down, I ask them if anything, even something small, has changed for the better. Then we explore what inside them allowed them to change.
 
Kristin: One of my students had a great sense of humor about her skills. She said, “Oh, I am so half-empty, I think of everything that way.” But she could laugh at herself, and she was very flexible—so even if the day looked horrible, she could make the shift and move on.
 
Jonathan: It’s really not about having about all the personal resiliency builders. It’s about having a few of them, and knowing what you can use.
 
Kate: And it takes the focus away from being stuck. Since our brains are plastic—especially when we are young—we can learn to shift how we think about things. So we can start early on having kids think they have some agency in life and can think about a situation in a different way, instead of thinking “The world is out to get me.”
 
Jonathan: If you’re faced with adversity and say, “Here are all these things I know I can do. I’m doing something,” you feel empowered. This approach works from everyday little things to big, tragic things. And any time someone feels like they can do something, they feel less desperate, less down, less miserable.
 
Kate: To me, the whole point is that life presents challenges to us all. It’s going to throw everyone some curveballs. So in the same way we educate our students to figure out a math problem or delve deeply into literary analysis, we want to be able to teach them how to live in a way that will sustain them. To me, resiliency is a huge piece of that learning.
 
Kate Grant has served as CGS college counselor, US dean of students, and counselor since 1997. She holds an MEd in counseling and consulting psychology from Harvard University and an AB from Smith College. Kristin Ogard has been teaching and counseling for more than 22 years. She came to CGS in 2001 and received her MA in counseling psychology from Lewis & Clark College. Jonathan Weedman joined the Catlin Gabel community in 2008.
 
More on personal resiliency builders and environmental protective factors

 

Sophomore Lawrence Sun advances to U.S. Physics Team semifinals for second consecutive year

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The American Association of Physics Teachers has announced the top students chosen to advance to the semifinal round of U.S. Physics Team selection. Approximately 3,000 students participated in the first phase of the selection process, the Fnet=ma Exam. Lawrence is one of 390 students nationwide to make it to the second round. He awaits the results of a second exam that is used as the basis for selection of the 20 members of the U.S. Physics Team.

Go, Lawrence!
 

Tuition on the Track community walkathon for financial aid

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A student-generated event


Letter from Kate Rubinstein ’12 and Brooke Edelson ’12

The English department developed the Agents of Change assignment 15 years ago, for the purpose of giving Catlin Gabel students an opportunity to employ their rhetorical skills to affect positive changes in the school community. For Kate’s Agents of Change assignment, she proposed a school-wide community walkathon fundraiser designated to tuition assistance. She and Brooke have worked hard this year pursuing the idea and planning the event.

Dear Catlin Gabel families:

Kate '12 and her 1st grade buddy, Ben, will see YOU on the track!

We are excited that the entire senior class passionately endorses Tuition on the Track and is helping us bring the walkathon to life.

The inaugural Tuition on the Track walkathon is on
Thursday, April 12, from 1 to 3 p.m.

Our goal for Tuition on the Track is to establish a new community tradition that follows in the footsteps of the Rummage Sale, which supported financial aid. We hope to raise $25,000 (one financial aid scholarship), while bridging school divisions and immersing the greater community in Catlin Gabel spirit.

Students in grades 1 through 12 will collect funds through an online pledge system and will be supported through a process similar to canvassing for the Rummage Sale. We are meeting with students in all divisions to explain the process and generate enthusiasm.

Our dream is for Tuition on the Track to become an annual tradition that makes it possible for students who could not otherwise attend Catlin Gabel to benefit from the exceptional academic and social experience our class has enjoyed together.

Thank you to all the students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni who are joining our effort. Thanks, especially, to the class of 2012, who have joined forces to organize the event and make this effort our senior class gift to the school.

 

Download the pledge form below. Print and complete the form as you canvass for pledges. Then enter the information online.

» Enter your pledge form data. 

» Parents, enter pledges for your younger students here.

Questions? Get in touch with us at tuitiononthetrack@catlin.edu

Warm regards,
Kate & Brooke
Tuition on the Track coordinators


Thank you, sponsors!

HOTLIPS Pizza

 

 

Two mock trial teams advance to state

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Congratulations!

Twelve teams competed at regionals and two of the three teams going to state are from Catlin Gabel. That's a first! The Blue and White teams wil argue a case about a burn victim who is suing a coffee company after spilling a hot beverage on himself. The claims are negligence and strict product liability.

White team members are co-captains Talbot Andrews, Grace McMurchie, and Megan Stater, with Audrey Davis, Rachel Caron, Lauren Ellis, Mira Hayward, Harry Heath, Andrew Hungate, Fiona Noonan, Eli Wilson Pelton, and Henry Shulevitz.

Blue team members are co-captains Curtis Stahl and Terrance Sun, with Alexandra van Alebeek, Abby Doctor, Ian Fyfield, Trevor Luu, Chris Park, Tyler Quatraro, Emily Siegel, Elise Thompson, Mary Whitsell, and Brandon Wilson.

The Silver team, composed primarily of first-year won their first two matches at regionalsbefore losing a razor-thin battle with our Blue team. The following students very nearly advanced to state: Jonathan Bray, Tyler Perzik, Elise Thompson, Theo Knights, Nick Petty, Nama Rosas, Nick Rhodes, Liv Phillips, Anisha Adke,  and Will Rosenfeld.

Thank you, volunteer coaches Scott Thompson, Anushka Shenoy '04, Nell Bonaparte, Jim Coon, and Bob Bonaparte '73, and adviser Dave Whitson.

 

Gambol 2012 photo gallery

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March 3 at the Governor Hotel

Thank you, Paul and Pam Monheimer, for the photos!

Click on any image to start the slide show.

Calendar highlights for next year

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2012-13 calendar-at-a-glance

Upper School orientations, book pick-ups, locker assignments (specific dates and times for each grade level to follow)
Tuesday, September 4, and Wednesday, September 5

Middle School kick-off and classes begin
Tuesday, September 4

Lower School open house
Tuesday, September 4, 10 a.m. – noon

Lower School classes begin
Wednesday, September 5

Preschool classes begin for half of class
Kindergarten orientation
Wednesday, September 5

Preschool classes begin for half of class
Kindergarten classes begin
Thursday, September 6

Upper School classes begin
Thursday, September 6

Beginning School – all classes in session
Friday, September 7

Thanksgiving break
Wednesday, November 21 - Sunday, November 25

Winter break
Saturday, December 15 - Tuesday, January 1

Classes resume
Wednesday, January 2

Martin Luther King Jr. Day - no classes
Monday, January 21

Presidents' Day - no classes
Monday, February 18

Spring break (note: Friday is a no-school day)
Friday, March 22 – Sunday, March 31

Memorial Day – no classes
Monday, May 27

Last day of classes
Friday, June 14

Graduation
Saturday, June 15

Reserved days for closure make-up (if we have three or more unplanned closures)
June 17 – 19
 

Watch Portland mayoral candidates square off at Catlin Gabel

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CatlinSpeak student newspaper staff members ran a sensational event. Congratulations to them!

Thank you, Cody Hoyt '13, for video and post-production work.

Chinese New Year photo gallery

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Celebrating the Year of the Dragon in the Barn

Two alumni businesses featured in New York Times

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Read the New York Times story about Gary Coover '00's company, Modify Watches, contracting with Riley Gibson '04's company, Napkin Labs, to turn Facebook followers into online communities and focus groups. Catlin Gabel connects!