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Students in CGS urban studies program impress Portland's mayor

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When students from several area high schools in Catlin Gabel’s PLACE (Planning and Leadership Across City Environments) program recently presented their summer project on the redevelopment of Holladay Park, they caught the ear of Portland’s mayor, Sam Adams.

The students talked about their work, which they did on behalf of the city’s  Bureau of Planning and Sustainability at a development workshop co-hosted by the City of Portland, the Portland Development Commission, and the Oregon Department of Transportation. They explained the plan they created to improve one of Portland’s most underrated and misperceived public parks to the public and government officials who attended the event.
 
After he heard the presentation by Catlin Gabel’s Reid Goodman and Samme Sheikh, and Stacey Abrams from Lincoln High School, Mayor Adams spent about 10 minutes asking questions and teasing out solutions. He said he was impressed with the scope of PLACE’s work and the students’ dedication to making the park a jewel of the community. He also mentioned that their work should be featured on the City of Portland website. 
 
Some of the officials attending the workshop encouraged the students to continue pushing for a better Holladay Park at the center of a redeveloped inner east side. The students left the event exhilarated that their efforts are paying off in real influence at the governmental level in Portland.
 
For more information, email place@catlin.edu
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Girls and boys soccer teams advance to state finals

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Go Eagles!

Both the boys and girls soccer teams play in the state finals on Saturday at Liberty High School! The occasion is made even more momentous because it marks Mike Davis’s final game as boys head coach. He retires in June after 23 years at Catlin Gabel. 

A strong showing of Catlin Gabel fans at the championship games would be awesome.

Come cheer on the mighty Eagles as they play back-to-back games for the state championships.

State Finals

Saturday, November 20

Girls vs. St. Mary's of Medford at 10:30 a.m.

Boys vs. St. Mary's of Medford at 1 p.m.

Google map link to Liberty High School in Hillsboro

You can watch both games with the same admission price of $8 for adults and $5 for students.


Can't make it to the games in person?
Watch the action streaming live or keep track of the stats online

Girls stats: http://w3.osaa.org/scorecenter/gsc/10-11/brackets/live/3A-2A-1A
Streaming video:
http://www.osaa.tv/events/13253

Boys stats:  http://w3.osaa.org/scorecenter/bsc/10-11/brackets/live/3A-2A-1A
Streaming video:
http://www.osaa.tv/events/13248 


» Link to highlight reel of Mike Davis's final home game. Thank you, Jennifer Davies, for taping, editing, and posting video.

Soccer semifinals on Tuesday.

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Go Eagles!

The boys and girls varsity soccer teams play in the state soccer semifinals on Tuesday, November 16.

The boys play at home against Boardman's Riverside School at 7 p.m. on our home field. This is Coach Mike Davis's final home game. He retires in June.

The girls play Rogue River High School at 3:30 p.m. The game will be played at Grants Pass High School.

OSAA admission fee $7 adults, $5 students.


Watch the Eagles score and soar

Thanks go to parent of alumni Jennifer Davies for posting exciting videos of Catlin Gabel goals made in the quarterfinal games.

Girls quarterfinals (final 2 goals v Blanchet)

Boys quarterfinals (winning goal v OES)
 

 

Thanksgiving Break is Better with a Good Book!

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The leaves are falling, and in a matter of days, all of the Upper School students will be enjoying Thanksgiving Break.

  Here's what we're featuring in the Upper School Library just now:

• The Karl Jonske '99 Collection:  Come browse your way through delicious works of fiction or a good biography.  The US Library honors the memory of 1999 graduate and voracious reader, Karl Jonske, whose family created the book fund as a memorial to Karl after his untimely death in a car accident.  Honor the memory of one of Catlin's brightest and kindest by enjoying the books that bear his nameplate inside their front cover.  There are hundreds of titles to browse. 

• The Poetry of Billy Collins:  Collins is this year's Jonske speaker.  We've got copies of several of his books of poems on hand, and have a Billy Collins poetry window just inside the front door.  Want a fun, visual approach to his poems?  Check out Billy Collins Action Poetry website.

We have new subscriptions to Outside and Seventeen magazine.  Come by for a browse, or to check out an issue. 

See you soon,

--Sue Phillips, US Librarian

Service Corps @ Food Bank Photo Gallery

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More than 75 Catlin Gabel community members worked together to pack food at the Oregon Food Bank.

Catlin Gabel News Fall 2010

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From the Fall 2010 Caller

NEWS FROM AROUND HONEY HOLLOW

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality named Catlin Gabel a five-star member of Fleet Forward, DEQ’s diesel recognition program. . . . . Upper School science teacher Becky Wynne won the University of Oregon High School Teacher Award in appreciation of the fine teaching that has prepared students for the university. . . . Upper School English teacher Art Leo was recognized by Stanford University’s School of Earth Sciences as a “Most Influential Teacher and Mentor.” He was nominated by Kate Johnson ’06 when she received a dean’s award for undergraduate academic achievement.
 

THANKS TO ALL FOR ANNUAL FUND SUPPORT

Congratulations to everyone for an inspiring fiscal year wrap-up on June 30. We reached our Annual Fund goal with 80 percent of parents, 92 percent of staff, and 100 percent of faculty participating in giving to the fund.
 

MODERN LANGUAGE AWARDS: WE ROCKED!

Upper School students earned a prestigious 10 gold, 12 silver, and 16 bronze medals along with 46 honorable mentions in the National Spanish Exams. In the “Grand Concours” national French exam, eight Upper School students placed among the top 10 nationally in three proficiency levels. For a full list of winners, visit the June 2010 All- School News page.
 

OUR AMAZING STUDENTS

Ted Case ’10 toured this summer as pianist for the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, one of the premier high school bands in the country. . . . Eli Coon ’10 was awarded the Judge Nicholas A. Cipriani Outstanding Performance Award at the national mock trial competition in Philadelphia. . . . Professional musicians in the 13th annual “Hearing the Future” Young Composers Concert at Lewis & Clark College performed an original composition by 4th grader Aditya Sivakumar ’18. . . . .Larissa Banitt ’15 took second place in the Kay Snow Writing Contest for grades 6 through 8 for her short story “They Save the Worst for Last at Ol’ Dogwood,” competing against writers from around the country and abroad.
 

ATHLETICS AND SPORTS KUDOS

The 2009–10 spring season was a great one for the Eagles, with three state team wins.
 
GOLF
The boys golf team won the state championship, and Matt McCarron ’10 was 1st in state, with a new school record.
 
TRACK & FIELD
The girls track and field team won state, and the 4 x 100m relay team came in 1st— Eloise Miller ’11, Mariah Morton ’12, Linnea Hurst ’11, Cammy Edwards ’12, and Fiona Noonan ’13. The 4x400m relay team won 2nd—Eloise, Mariah, Linnea, and Cammy. Leah Thompson ’11 was state champion in 3000m and 1500m, Eloise was 1st in triple jump and long jump, Mariah came in 2nd at long jump and triple jump, and Cammy was 2nd in 300m hurdles. In boys track and field, Nauvin Ghorashian ’10 was 3rd at state in 110m hurdles.
 
TENNIS
The boys tennis team won gold at state, and Peter Beatty ’13 came in 1st, Andrew Salvador ’12 was 4th, and Rohan Borkar ’10 was 3rd in state, with Reid Goodman ’11 and Will Caplan ’11 taking 3rd in doubles. The girls tennis team was 4th at state, with Kate Rubinstein ’12 winning 2nd.
 
Katy Wiita ’12 and her MAC Synchro trio team won gold at the U.S. Open Synchronized Swimming Championships in Irving, Texas, in July, competing against top national and international synchronized swimmers. . . . McKensie Mickler ’10 and her club volleyball team finished 2nd at the Emerald City Classic tournament in Seattle. She was one of six players out of about 360 girls in her age division selected for the All Tournament Team. . . . Miguel Gachupin ’17 won the bronze medal in the 12 and under foil fencing competition at the State Games of Oregon.

 

The Class of 2010

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Our grads, and their college plans and awards
From the Fall 2010 Caller
Zanny Allport
Tufts University
 
Jasmine Bath
University of Chicago
 
Erica Berry
Bowdoin College
Nat’l Merit Finalist, English Award
 
Sam Bishop
Hamilton College
Athletics Award
 
Rohan Borkar
University of Oregon Honors College
 
Reed Brevig
Boston University
Technical Theater Award
 
Ted Case
University of Southern California
Nat’l Merit Finalist, Music Award
 
Koby Caster
Skidmore College
 
Brynmor Chapman
University of Oxford
Nat’l Merit Scholar, Awards in Mathematics & Science
 
Priyanka Chary
Scripps College, Nat’l Merit Finalist
 
Kalifa Clarke
Smith College
 
Margaret Clement
University of Puget Sound
Thespis Award
 
Abby Conyers
Williams College
 
Eli Coon
Claremont McKenna College
 
Catie Coonan
Wake Forest University
Media Arts Award
 
Becky Coulterpark
University of Oregon
 
Lauren Edelson
Stanford University
Nat’l Merit Finalist
 
Christopher Eden
Colby College
 
Kevin Ellis
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Computer Science Award
 
Yale Fan
Harvard University
Nat’l Merit Finalist, Science Award
 
Lucy Feldman
Brown University
Theater Award
 
Eddie Friedman
Brown University
Nat’l Merit Finalist, School Ring, Outdoor Leadership Award
 
Sophie Fyfield
Mount Holyoke College
 
Oliver Garnier
University of Washington
 
Nauvin Ghorashian
University of Washington
 
Max Gideonse
Bridge year, Bennington College
 
Charlie Grant
Bates College
Pat Ehrman Award
 
Duncan Hay
University of St. Andrews, Scotland
 
Molly Hayes
Whitman College
Ceramics Award
 
Kent Hays
Oregon State University
Woodworking Award
 
Sara Hensel
Whitman College
Awards in Visual Arts & Modern Languages
 
Will Jackson
Bennington College
 
Keenan Jay
Rhode Island School of Design
Visual Arts Award
 
Donald Johnson
Evergreen State College
 
Joey Lubitz
Oberlin College
Visual Arts Award
 
Juliah Ma
Occidental College
 
Adam Maier
University of Southern California
Media Arts Award
 
Ian Maier
Pomona College
 
Matt McCarron
Williams College
Athletics Award
 
Carter McFarland
The University of Montana, Missoula
 
Matthew Meyers
Franklin College, Switzerland
 
Luke Mones
Occidental College
Japanese Award
 
Leslie Nelson
Pitzer College
Pat Ehrman Award
 
Rahee Nerurkar
Washington University, St. Louis
Photography Award
 
Maddy Odenborg
University of Washington
 
MK Otlhogile
Scripps College
 
Michelle Peretz
Emory University
 
Rose Perrone
Stanford University
Awards in Community Service & Science
 
Devyn Powell
Tufts University
Nat’l Merit Finalist
 
Jessica Ramírez
Macalester College
French Award
 
Emma Rickles
Williams College
Nat’l Merit Scholar, Mathematics Award
 
Luke Rodgers
Bridge year
 
Stephanie Schwartz
Santa Clara University
 
Samantha Selin
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
 
Alma Siulagi
Reed College
 
Olivia Siulagi
Kenyon College
 
Ben Streb
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
 
Kimmy Thorsell
University of Oregon
 
Jordan Treible
Davidson College
 
Matthew Trisic
McGill University
Chinese Award
 
Sam Tucker
University of Redlands
Athletics Award
 
Ingrid Van Valkenburg
Scripps College
 
Andy Vickory
Carnegie Mellon University
 
Maddy Weissman
University of Oregon Honors College
 
Leah Weitz
University of Puget Sound
Spanish Award
 
Christine Weston
Washington University, St. Louis
 
Andreas Wilson
Goucher College
Band Award
 
Yannie Wong
Pacific University
 
Tommy Young
Oregon State University
 
NOT PICTURED: Toby Alden, Whitman College; Irene Milsom, Oberlin College, Nat’l Merit Finalist, Creative Writing Award
 

 

Reflections on Reading: Bringing Progressive Ideals to the Adult Classroom

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One teacher spends her summers teaching reading, and it's not only her students who benefit

By Ann Fyfield

From the Fall 2010 Caller
Summertime is a chance for teachers to gain that much-needed balance that prepares them for a busy year back at school. Although many of us take classes or go on vacations, I return every summer to the community college where I first began my career as teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL). Now I use that background—and the progressive philosophy I bring from Catlin Gabel—to teach reading to adults of all persuasions.
 
After receiving my master’s degree, I began teaching again at the community college level, joining my new focus on reading with my love of ESL. I taught the lowest remedial reading classes, with students ranging from high school age to 55, from countries spanning the globe, and with many working full time trying to juggle school and families. Thanks to what I had learned teaching at Catlin Gabel, I soon realized that some of these students came with non-diagnosed reading or learning disabilities. For many reasons they had not fully learned the tools to decode words, or had not learned the important study skills that help students prioritize and persevere through discomfort. Many had been demoralized or fallen through the cracks in their teen years of schooling, yet still they had the fortitude to try schooling again.
 
Their fear or anxiety about education came out in a variety of ways. One young high school dropout looked at me sullenly on the first day, and said, “Don’t try to tell me what to do. I’ll always say no.” One older man pleaded with me to never ask him to read aloud in class, because he couldn’t pronounce the words. With John Dewey’s progressive philosophy in mind, I began allowing them to choose their own readings and used techniques of group work, the reading and telling of individual stories and responding to others’ reading. This paid off. On the last day of the class, I received a note from the sullen student, who wrote, “Thank you for letting me choose the book for the final project. Now I can love reading.” The man who hadn’t wanted to read aloud said his teenage children began reading a book after he told them about it.
 
At Catlin Gabel, teachers provide thoughtful commentary on a student’s progress instead of giving a grade. In community college level, a passing grade can mean the difference between receiving financial aid or not. But a passing grade says nothing about what a student has learned or not learned. Sometimes I hand back tests with no grade, but with comments in the margins. This leads to a lively discussion: does the grade motivate you, or does the learning? As the debate goes on, an authoritative response from a quiet Hispanic woman says it all: “I came here to learn, not to get a grade. A grade says nothing about whether I can speak or read English,” she says. At the end of one such class, a young man asked for his homework back, saying that he hadn’t put enough effort into it and wanted to do a better job. He became a different student after that class.
 
Spending time teaching adults renews my devotion to the belief that a strong foundation in reading and study skills during middle school carries on throughout life. It also affirms my belief that the progressive ideals we hold true at Catlin Gabel, those that value and build on a student’s interest and the rewards of effort and taking risks, can be brought to places outside of our privileged environment and ultimately understood and appreciated by everyone. That’s what I obtain from my strongly held belief in progressive education. That’s the balance I find in taking my teaching beyond Catlin Gabel.
 
Ann Fyfield is a reading specialist in Catlin Gabel’s learning center and teacher of 6th grade humanities. She has also served as Japanese instructor and worked in the admissions office.

 

Has Technology Changed How We Read?

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By Paul Andrichuk

From the Fall 2010 Caller
The scene repeats itself at coffee shops all over Portland; people staring at their computer screens as they move from site to site, document to document. It’s worse if you are a parent, watching your child avoid eye contact or other social cues as they “study, read, or research” (even as the music plays). We react as the cranky adults we swore we would never be.
 
That’s the emotional, personal reaction, but in the back of our minds we wonder if people are really reading and learning. Has Google made us stupid, as the Nicholas Carr article in the Atlantic suggested? He seems to come down on the side of believing the internet has rewired his brain, affecting his attention and ability to sustain reading:
 
“Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, and begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”
 
You may be nodding to yourself in agreement, even as you curse technological breakdowns that suddenly make your life more difficult. You hate our reliance on technology and pine for the good old days without it, but it sure is great to find a restaurant when you are lost or Skype with your sister in Florida.
 
Here are my three basic thoughts regarding reading in a technological age.
 
* Books and computers are here to stay (short term), and young people will be reading from both.
 
* The brain is constantly evolving, including rewiring itself. Indeed, Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, argues that we are not born to read. The brain will continue to change in response to new symbols, the speed with which information comes at us, and the myriad forms it will take.
 
* Critical thinking skills transcend how and where reading is done.
 
The evolution of the brain
 
The brain has been changing and adapting since the invention of language. That’s reading the symbols, but more importantly it’s about how the brain connects the meaning of words to the experiences and imagination of the reader. If our brains were able to begin this evolution with the advent of written language 6,000 years ago, surely it can adapt to the speed and scope of information, especially language, available on the internet.
 
Reading begins at infancy
 
One of the best indicators of reading is how much time children spend listening to adults who read to them. The gobbledygook on the page are words, and words will make up your son’s or daughter’s universe.
 
This point has little to do with computers and reading, but it’s an important one to make for three reasons. Books are not going away. Reading is a great family activity. Students often say they have always remembered their parents reading.
 
Finally (and it is a related point), always remember that you are your child’s first and most important teacher!
 
Reading means independence
 
Socrates feared that reading would make people too autonomous and, worse, would retard the brain’s capacity to infer, analyze, and think critically. He was mistaken. Images of the brain during fluent reading light up areas that indicate all of these things are happening.
 
If Socrates was incorrect about literacy, then perhaps we are mistaken in our assumptions about reading and technology. Young people understand that there are different types of reading, depending on its purpose.
 
Questions for Catlin Gabel
 
Schools like Catlin Gabel can be explicit in how they teach reading and use technology. Computers are here, they are not going away, and they are great educational tools. So what does this mean for the young people in our charge? What does it mean for parents?
 
Critical thinking makes stronger readers
 
Catlin Gabel students are critical and independent thinkers. It’s an aspect of the school culture that is celebrated, but more importantly, it allows students to be careful consumers of all information. Reading skills are guided, modeled, and practiced, regardless of whether the information is on the screen or in a first-edition novel.
 
I connect critical thinking to reading, but it’s equally important to connect critical thinking to a careful assessment of the source, especially internet sites. After all, if what you’re reading is inaccurate or false, it tends to affect the educational process.
 
The value of time and reflection
 
Getting lost in a book is a luxury, so is getting lost after you’re done with it. Just as Goodnight Moon allows you to see the connection of words to a child’s world, so does connecting ideas in a book to our notion of possibilities in the world.
 
Youth should be “multitextual”
 
Students are naturally making judgments about how to read based on the purpose of their task. A general survey of the news on the front page of the Oregonian, reading four pages of a biology text, and reading an online editorial in the New York Times require different levels of attention.
 
I’ve meandered a bit through this discussion of reading in the digital age. I was prepared to subscribe to Nicholas Carr’s viewpoint, but I simply cannot. Computers and technology are no longer luxuries but necessities, both in terms of our quality of life and our education. In addition, books and computers can coexist— and we will read from both. Those who worry that the internet may be rewiring our brains are correct, and the evolution of this vital organ continues, just as it has responded to every other substantial change in human history. What remains at the core of reading—from books and computers—is that we continue to value and teach the thinking skills beyond the symbols.
 
Paul Andrichuk is the head of Catlin Gabel’s middle school.

"Somewhere on this list is a book that will change your life."

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The personally transformative books of our young lives
From the Fall 2010 Caller

History teacher Pat Walsh recently sent a list to incoming Upper Schoolers of books that had inspired faculty and staff members when they were teenagers. This is just a part of that glorious list, in which J.D. Salinger reigned supreme, with Kurt Vonnegut a close runner-up. Maybe your inspirations will be found here, too.

Deirdre Atkinson, drama teacher

Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
William Goldman, The Princess Bride
Carson McCullers, Member of the Wedding
J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
 

Chris Bagg, English teacher

Junot Diaz, Drown
John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
Tony Kushner, Angels in America
Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies
Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
 

“If I were a rapper, I’d freestyle an ode to Crime and Punishment: I like big books. Dostoyevsky’s character arcs and setting transported me in a manner far more profound that any cinematic experience I’d ever had. I went from a child who wore a white bathrobe and braided her hair into Leia’s signature cinnamon rolls, to a young woman who spent an inordinate amount of time at the kitchen sink trying to wash the stain of Raskolnikov’s guilt from her own hands.” —Nance Leonhardt, media arts teacher

Nancy Donehower, college counselor

Robertson Davies, Fifth Business, The Manticore, World of Wonders, and The Rebel Angels
J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey, Seymour, An Introduction, and Nine Stories
Lincoln Steffens, Moses in Red, also his autobiography
Theodore H. White, The Once and Future King
 

Enrique Escalona, Spanish teacher

Issac Asimov, The Foundation Trilogy
Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones
Alan Moore, Watchmen (graphic novel)
Friedrich W. Nietzsche, Also Sprach Zarathustra
JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit
 

“In Mr. Blue by Myles Connolly, I was attracted to a uniquely American character who embraced the challenge of living a pure life in adherence to a simple set of altruistic principles. Mr. Blue is a radical idealist, a mystic, a poet, and his example has prompted me to think more deeply about the values implicit in many of the decisions I have made in my life.” —Art Leo, English teacher

Peter Green, outdoor education director & dean of students

Ray Bradbury’s novels
Albert Camus, The Stranger
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground
John Knowles, A Separate Peace
William Golding, Lord of the Flies
John McPhee, Coming Into the Country
Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
 

“I read Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find with a teacher who was passionate about her work. He introduced me to her writing as a comment on the human condition, and I was both shocked and completely captivated. It was a powerful and formative experience.” —Michael Heath, Upper School head

Andrew Merrill, computer science teacher

Richard Feynman, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman
Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
Douglas R. Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach
David Lodge, Small World
Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, All The President’s Men
 

Lark Palma, head of school

John Barth, The Floating Opera
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Willa Cather, My Antonia!
John Fowles, The Magus, The Collector
Hermann Hesse, Demian
D. H. Lawrence, Women in Love
Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Emile Zola, Germinal
 

Sue Phillips, librarian

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, and all of her novels
Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
John Donne, Songs and Sonnets
Nikolai Gogol, short stories
Proinsias MacCana, Celtic Mythology
Muriel Spark, Memento Mori
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One, Decline and Fall, Brideshead Revisited
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, Jacob’s Room
 

Peter Shulman, history teacher

Pat Conroy, The Great Santini
Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt
Richard Wright, Black Boy, Native Son
 

Nichole Tassoni, English teacher

James Baldwin, Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
William Golding, Lord of the Flies
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman
Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
 

Becky Wynne, science teacher

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Robert Heinlein, The Door into Summer
Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
Larry Niven, Ringworld
Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle
Roger Zelazny, Doorways in the Sand
 
 

 

The Art of Deciphering Math Texts

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By Joan Piper

From the Fall 2010 Caller
The Catlin Gabel math department reaps huge rewards from how our English department teaches active reading. That’s the only way to read a math book!
 
In doing active reading, we expect that students will come across things they don’t understand. What happens next depends a great deal on the level of the course. In advanced mathematics textbooks, there’s considerable depth, and you want your students to sit there with pencil and paper and not take any single word for granted. Higher-level textbooks commonly leave out explanations that are key to understanding.
 
In lower-level courses such as Algebra I, it is often difficult for students to read, interpret, and solve word problems. Doing the algebra is not the problem: it’s transforming the words to symbols that stumps them, and here the teacher needs to help.
 
When I was an editor of math textbooks for Houghton Mifflin and Prentiss Hall, I got an inside look at the publishing industry. What goes into textbooks is generally prescribed by state standards, and we independent school teachers have little control over it. What shows up in the books can differ from what we want to emphasize. For example, in our two-year integrated Algebra 2/Geometry course, we want to use texts that focus on deductive and inductive reasoning. We designed our courses and then looked for a book, not the other way around. We compensate by using a lot of additional resources, and we’ve made it work pretty well.
 
Some independent schools have decided to produce their own math materials because of this predicament. I hope that after one or two more years of teaching the integrated course, it will make sense for us to do so, too.  

 

How We Teach Science Reading

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By Dan Griffiths

From the Fall 2010 Caller
Reading science at any level is like reading a foreign language book. Students encounter so much technical language for the first time. They have to translate the jargon, and they have to integrate the language with concepts they’re trying to get the hang of. We constantly and gradually introduce and reinforce terminology. By the junior and senior years, these words and phrases have become a part of students’ vocabulary.
 
We start teaching students how to read science in Science I and II. A lot of the homework is reading comprehension: we ask them to interpret the text and pull out information, which checks understanding and builds skills. There’s a big difference between reading and understanding. You can learn things by rote and regurgitate the information, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use concepts in different contexts accurately.
 
We help students cope with new terms and concepts by having all regular Science I classes meet five days a week, instead of meeting fewer times with more homework. This way there’s always someone available to go over new material in class. We don’t assign huge chunks of homework, because there’s too much in science reading that’s unfamiliar.
 
As in math, it’s hard to find good textbooks, so we use texts as just one of a number of tools available to students. We have to produce a lot of our own materials to supplement the books that are too limited in their scope for our curriculum.
 
One of our aims is for our students to be able to come across a science article in the New York Times or Scientific American, for example, see that it is an opinion piece, and critically read, evaluate, and understand it. They should be able to understand sources and the vital peer review process of scientific journals. They must understand where the material they’re reading is coming from.  

 

Mindful Pleasures: Developing Lifelong Readers in the Catlin Gabel Upper School

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By Tony Stocks

From the Fall 2010 Caller

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” —Lemony Snicket 
 
If you read at all— newspapers, periodicals, that purported destroyer of the art of reading known as the internet—you’ve probably come across accounts lamenting the decline of reading in America. A much-quoted 2004 report from the National Endowment for the Arts claimed that less than half of American adults read any literature at all, and the decline was said to be even more precipitous among young people. News like this hits English teachers especially hard. Reading is not only the central focus of our profession—it’s also our passion, and often the only factor that allowed us to survive adolescence. Yet as you may realize when confronted with huge, intractable social problems like the specter of global warming or the rise of Justin Bieber, the only practical response is local. We can’t stuff the internet genie back in the bottle (nor, I suspect, would most of us want to), but we can keep working to develop skillful, enthusiastic, lifelong readers, giving our students in the Upper School the tools to read incisively and professionally, with the maximum of enjoyment and understanding. Here are four major strategies that we use to accomplish that goal.
 
Diverse, Challenging Reading Lists
We challenge our students by assigning them rich, multifaceted texts, drawn from both the traditional Western canon and from those alternative traditions that contemporary academia is thankfully taking more notice of lately. There’s nothing simplified or dumbed-down about the pieces we ask students to read. At all levels of the program, we ask them to read adult texts, almost always in their entirety. And our students tend to rise to this challenge with a maturity and enthusiasm born of being treated like grownups. According to my colleague Nichole Tassoni, our ninth graders remark, at several points in the year, “We read the whole Odyssey” (the epic poem by Homer), at first in disbelief at the task before them, but later with a growing pride as they tackle the book. Last year’s junior class spent part of the spring working their way through Toni Morrison’s Sula, a challenging novel that offers visceral and sometimes disturbing perspectives on race, sexuality, and social class. Despite the book’s difficulty, it emerged as one of the most popular pieces of the year; in large part, I suspect, because it confirmed our students’ feeling that they’re ready to tackle mature subject matter.
 
Active Reading
In order for students to get the most out of their reading, we insist that they always read with a pen or pencil in their hand, and record in the margins of their texts those elements worthy of remark that they encounter. Such a strategy not only ensures that students will retain key points of their reading for the future, but has the larger advantage of shifting the act of reading from passive absorption to active engagement with the text. As American philosopher Mortimer Adler writes in the essay “How to Mark a Book,” which all Catlin Gabel students encounter at the start of their sophomore year, active reading assumes that “learning doesn’t consist of being an empty receptacle . . . and marking a book is literally an expression of differences, or agreements of opinion, with the author.” It’s always gratifying to note instances where students have scribbled “neat,” “beautiful,” “huh???,” or even “WTF?” in their books, as these indicate that students are engaging emotionally with the text.
 
Early in their Upper School careers, many students resist the demand that they read actively. They argue that active reading slows them down too much, or that it spoils their pleasure in reading. But as they move through the program, most come to see active reading as a necessary weapon in their academic arsenal. They realize that the reduction in speed required by active reading is usually compensated for by a greater centering of attention that tunes out distractions and allows them to complete assignments more quickly. They also discover that there is no single formula for active reading, and that students need to develop individualized strategies to match their own mental habits: some will scribble notes in the margins as they read, others will wait to summarize a crucial point or two at the bottom of the page, some will write a short outline or paragraph at the end of a chapter. Most will also come to redefine the pleasure of reading, preferring a harder-won understanding to a facile breezing through the text. At the very least, all will realize that actively reading a text at the time it’s assigned eliminates the need to reread it when exam time rolls around.
 
Reading Through the Lens of Literary Terms
Just as physicists, attorneys, and skateboarders all employ a special terminology that both maps the conceptual territory of their respective fields and marks off the professional from the layperson, so literary critics have developed a jargon for the domains of poetry, narrative, and drama. We certainly want our students to be able to toss around fifty-cent words like “allegory,” “epithet,” and “anagnorisis” in order to impress their future college professors, but our insistence that they learn and wield this vocabulary goes beyond our desire to make them big noises on campus. For in mapping the terrain of literary study, these terms allow us to formulate fruitful questions that might not be possible without them.
 
For instance, for many readers the terms “story” and “plot” are more or less interchangeable. But Catlin Gabel students learn early in their careers that, for professional literary critics, a story is defined as any sequence of events in chronological order, whereas plot refers to the manner in which the author manipulates that sequence to create certain artistic and emotional effects. Armed with that distinction, our students can begin to ask why works like the Odyssey or Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane begin in medias res (“in the middle of things”) and then flash back to earlier actions. Similarly, a student reading Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar familiar with the concept of “caesura,” a break or pause in a line of poetry, may begin to notice how the poet uses that device as a subtle means of characterization. While the headstrong Cassius tends to speak in lines with few internal pauses (“Now in the names of all the gods at once/Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed,/That he is grown so great?”), Brutus’s caution is marked by frequent caesurae that break the forward motion of his speeches (“That you do love me, I am nothing jealous;/What you would work me to, I have some aim.”)
 
Reading as Active Response
Finally, reading is actively integrated with the other elements of the English program. If, as Adler suggests, every encounter with a text is ideally a dynamic conversation with its author, then every text our students read becomes part of a larger dialogue with their classroom community. Whether students are debating the question of racism in Heart of Darkness, or teaching the first act of Waiting for Godot to their peers, they are compelled to become active caretakers of the text, to explore its implications, to take a stand on its meaning and significance, and to convey their interpretation to their teachers and fellow students.
 
There’s nothing particularly innovative or trendy about any of these approaches to reading (in fact, Adler’s article dates from the early ’40s). But graduates still return to campus eager to talk about their recent reading, librarian Sue Phillips reports that non-required books fly off the shelves before winter or summer vacation, and we often overhear the finer points of The Great Gatsby, or Beowulf, or the latest masterwork featuring Northwest teenage vampires, being debated in the student lounges—suggesting that at least at Catlin Gabel, the future of reading may not be so bleak after all.
 
Tony Stocks has been teaching English in Catlin Gabel’s Upper School since 1999. He is the proud father of Clarissa ’16 and Charlotte ’19 Speyer-Stocks.

 

The Unlimited World of Readers

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By Lark P. Palma, PhD, Head of School

From the Autumn 2010 Caller

When I hear teachers talk about the breakthroughs—the aha! moments—when a child makes the leap to linking the sound and letter of a word to its meaning, I am a bit envious. When I worked as a middle and upper school teacher, my job was to solidify and enhance what my students had learned, helping them become more sophisticated readers. What I learned about secondary reading is sound advice: spend almost as much time preparing the student for reading as for the reading itself. My work seeking the hooks on which to hang the reading, finding the deeper meanings and leading my students to discover those meanings for themselves, helped them become analytical readers who came to comprehend texts with depth and insight.
 
However great that was, I never had the opportunity to teach a young child to read. Despite all the methods, the science, and the research, the moment when a child recognizes a word and its meaning still seems magical to me. Recently I discovered a picture of my 5-year-old self in footie pajamas reading the comics. It brought back memories of figuring out from the illustrations what Brenda Starr or Prince Valiant was saying. Eventually, I could pair the repeated words with what I thought was going on. But although I don’t remember much about the moment I learned to read, I was fortunate that someone took an interest in me as a young reader and put wonderful books in my hands.
 
Dick and Jane, Tag, and Through the Garden Gate—the books we were all supposed to read—bored me beyond words. We lived on a tiny coastal island, and the library was the size of a small living room. But the unforgettable Miss Chastain was there, and she kept handing me books to read that she knew would spark my interest: The Five Little Peppers, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, The Secret Garden, Misty of Chincoteague, The Arabian Nights, Treasure Island, and many others. Her gesture implied “You will love this.” When no one else was there (which was often), she would let me read adult fiction. I gulped down great historical novels by Anya Seton and others, with their thrilling battles and momentous events. I felt like I was right there in the throes of the Puritan Revolution, the Great Plague, the building of cathedrals, and the Viking invasion of Britain. (The truly transformative books came later: the existentialists, Richard Brautigan, John Barth, Walker Percy, John Fowles, Kurt Vonnegut, D. H. Lawrence, and Virginia Woolf.)
 
Just as I had passed my books on to my brothers, so did I dole out the special books to my cousins and friends. The tradition continues today through two more generations. If you have someone in your life who sets the table and joyously offers you a smorgasbord of books, you will partake with gusto and pleasure.
 
I am so proud to be part of a school whose teachers make the world of reading come alive for their students. They place the right books in their hands, just as Miss Chastain did for me. Our teachers understand how to reach readers of all types of learning styles, so that they too can take part in absorbing and thrilling experiences with just the turns of a few pages. This issue of the Caller is full of stories of the transformative acts of both reading and writing, another area that we teach extraordinarily well. Please enjoy these stories, and don’t hesitate to share a much-loved book with me.

 

 

Knights donate big to Catlin Gabel

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Portland Business Journal article, October '10

Annual Fund off to a great start

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What a great start to the school year and response to the 2010-11 Annual Fund launch! A tremendous thank you to those who already have contributed and to our tireless volunteers who give so generously of their time and funds to ensure we reach our goal of $935,000. To date, 53% of faculty have participated, 45% of staff, and 17% of parents. A remarkable outpouring of support! It’s easy to give online. Thank you! We value your investment and commitment to our exceptional community.

Great schools don’t just happen. We make them so.