Learning from the Experts: Journalism Class Goes to SF Chronicle

A reflection on the Journalism as Literature field trip to The San Francisco Chronicle and KQED. 

by Rosalie Kenward ’19

I arrived in San Francisco at 8:30 am yesterday morning. The air was crisp and cool, and I found myself clutching the edges of my coat together in order to encase my chest in whatever small bit of warmth I had the power to retain. The doorway to the Chronicle was composed of thick glass, which appeared to have stood for perhaps longer than even I had. The panels were encased in a dark wood frame and two curved bronze handles. I wrapped my numb fingers around the left fixture and entered.

As soon we stepped into the cramped elevator, packing ourselves in like matchsticks, I felt the excitement and anticipation accumulate within me as we shot upward.

The hallway we were deposited onto was fairly narrow, opening up into a room lined with cluttered desks and harried workers typing furiously on their computers, papers strewn haphazardly as they drew hurried dregs from their coffee cups, allowing the caffeine to pull the exhaustion from their sunken eyes.

We soon entered the site of the meeting. The room quieted instantly upon our entrance, and I felt that all-too-familiar feeling of “latecomers’ guilt.” We squeezed in as tightly and diminutively as possible, making our way to the small row of chairs set aside for us. The editors sat around a large, ovate wooden table in dark, plush chairs which appeared to recline slightly when met with one’s weight.

Phrases were thrown back and forth from editor to respondent with a kind of furious exasperation. We watched in awe, as tomorrow’s newspaper was outlined before our eyes, created in our stupefied presence.

But none of it compared to talking with Kevin Fagan. His words spilled effortlessly from his throat as if his mind had its own personal team of editors. Each phrase was expertly crafted and unique, as we attempted to peer inside his churning mind and latch onto some understanding for the nature of genius.

Concussed: Learning for Living


The moment the soccer ball slammed into my head, everything went white and then black. When I first opened my eyes, a blurry, light, and dizzy world surrounded me. I will never forget that view of the world. – Emma Cottrill ’17

At Athenian, we believe the best way to master academic subjects is to experience their application firsthand. Our academic program resonates and sticks with students because we all learn by doing, by applying what is learned to real world situations. Whether in or out of the classroom, this approach allows our students to incorporate their learning with their living, laying a strong foundation for a life of intellectual exploration and meaningful contribution.

Inspired by a freshmen Interim trip where Emma Cottrill ’17 bonded with classmates and teachers over photography, she continued to study photography throughout her Athenian experience.  Emma’s final photography project created a digital gallery of photographs and reflections on her recovery from a traumatic concussion. Emma begins her piece with the following:

My life changed forever the night I was hit in the back of the head with an over-inflated soccer ball. The impact from the ball caused my head to whip forward. Simultaneously, the momentum forced me to the ground, where my head violently slammed into the turf. Concussion was the immediate diagnosis, but the two-week normal recovery morphed into months. Isolated. Bored. Angry. Initially, I hated that this happened to me, but eventually, I recognized that I could resent the accident or embrace it.

My approach to the world altered after I got hurt. Before my injury, my life was black and white. Numbers and science drove my beliefs, and I required proof for acceptance. However, after my injury, the gray areas became more interesting to me. Less rigid, more whimsical, I embraced the magic in the daily simplicities. I found energy and inspiration in the imperfect.

In Concussed, I photograph all aspects associated with my concussion: the way I see the world, my view of soccer, the doctors, the medicine, my brain, and who I became.

Emma describes herself on her project’s website, “In addition to the creativity that comes with photography, I also enjoy structure and procedure and a rigid schedule. I love my Chemistry and Math classes, and I am a competitive swimmer who is training intensely with a goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials.” Emma’s work reveals a mastery of photographic theory, a comprehensive understanding of concussion science and medicine, a facility with meaning-making, and a great capacity for self-reflection. As a senior, Emma applied her many skills learned through years of scaffolded Athenian experiences to conceptualize an independent, self-expressive project, applying her usual rigorous and creative approach.

This is just one example of what is possible here. Each one of Emma’s 83 senior classmates could tell their own Athenian story revealing how they have discovered “there is more in you than you know.” We could not be more proud of our students.


When My Teachers See Me as a Whole Person

Originally published in the spring 2017 edition of The Pillar, Athenian’s student newspaper by Jenna H. ’19


Ginger and Jenna

As I embark on the second semester of my sophomore year at Athenian, I have had time to reflect on my educational experiences. At my public middle school, although I was successful academically, something left me feeling unfulfilled and, frankly, upset from time to time. To my surprise, I couldn’t pinpoint a moment in which I was honestly excited to go to school or felt as though I was part of a larger community. It was an environment in which no efforts were made to know me on a personal level. No teacher went out of their way to talk to me; if I wasn’t getting into trouble, why bother?

Amongst the 1,200 students in the whole school, I was not seen as anything more than a grade, simply a student you didn’t need to worry about because you knew I’d graduate. For three years, I simply went through the motions, becoming more accustomed to the lack of communication and genuine connection.

At Athenian, I feel as though I have come to be appreciated as a whole person. I think students at our school might not always realize it, but the kinAmanda.5d rapport between teachers and students on our campus is a remarkable blessing. Meeting with a teacher to receive extra help on an assignment, or simply having a teacher check in with me about my well-being was something I had previously never experienced from an adult at school. Here, I feel that teachers not only celebrate their students’ successes but help them navigate challenges and overcome their failures. Occasionally, I am still surprised when I see a student being treated as an equal, even a friend by an adult on campus.

From my experiences, thus far, the relationships I am able to have wPhoebe_1576ith my teachers has positively impacted my communication skills, further contributing to my academic success and overall enjoyment of learning. In a way, I think this is an homage to the wonderful faculty and staff on our campus, the heroes who aren’t always recognized for everything that they do, as well as their efforts to foster a community of mutual respect and well-being.

Athenians Win NYT Year In Rap Contest Again

Athenian classes have won The New York Times’ Year In Rap Contest 4 out of its 5 years. The sophomores in US History begin the year by looking back on the previous 365 days’ of news. In one class period, each class worked together to craft a poem of rhyming couplets capturing the year 2015 in an original rap. This year, two of Athenian’s entries were among the 11 winners from over 800 entries.

Take a look at Athenian’s 2015, 201420132012 entries and contest winners, too.

Winner: Jackie, Rosie, Annie, Kyle, Diego, Ashna, Maria, Sofi, Avrah, Robby, Catherine, Cailin, Jonathan, Josh B, Josh T, Josiah (US History)

Twenty-sixteen made us laugh and cry,
Keep reading below and soon you’ll know why:
We lost Princess Leia, Willy Wonka, and Snape
Stop with the videos- we get it, you vape!
Throughout the year, we watched in agony;
Brussels, Orlando, Nice – we saw tragedy
The Obamas’ priorities were global education,
But Melania never learned about plagiarization
As Black Lives Matter took the nation by storm,
Quarterback Kaepernick refused to conform
The Dakota Access Pipeline was heavily debated,
Celebrities joined in because the project was hated
Britain left the EU 52 to 48,
Trump won – will Americans now emigrate?
Michelle’s moving lessons won’t pass us by
Remember:  when they go low, we go high

Winner: Gopaal, Chika, Henry, Olivia, Haley, Anne, Ginger, Jenna, Avery, Jason, Sydney, Jin, Darya, Liam, Derek, Z, AJ, Bryan (US History)

2016 was a crazy year to say the least,
And ISIS continued to prevent world peace.
Even though Hillary won the popular vote
Donald Trump now has a reason to gloat.
Mosquitos carry Zika, tiny bugs aren’t a joke,
But in 4 new states it’s now legal to smoke.
Seventy-five years since Pearl Harbor was bombed,
Obama and Abe apologized for what their countries did wrong.
Harambe being left on the rocks to bleed
might be worse then the Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead
Britain left the EU leaving Europe in dismay,
Assad and the rebels left Aleppo in disarray.
The deaths of celebrities such as Prince, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali left people low
All across the world people played Pokemon Go
Far, far away, two black holes collide,
Waves were detected when a chirp rang inside.

Lulu, Sravani, Kamcee, Kate, Olivia, Alina, Kaitlyn, Ben, Justin, Hannah, Blake, Noah, Jade, Sam, Grant, Siena, Nick G, Nick W (US History) 

Rain drop, drop top
2016 has come to a stop-stop
In Orlando Florida 49 Pulses cut short
‘Cause LGBT people Omar didn’t support
Dakotas halt construction of the oil pipeline,
we witnessed the downfall of Clinton and Vine
Kaepernick took a knee for police brutality;
Keith Lamont Scott, and many more casualties
Bombs from planes create Syrian ditches
Warriors throwing games like the Cubs throw pitches
Melania gave a speech we all know Michelle did
Politics dragged – like Harambe did the kid
And don’t forget Hamilton, the show that swept the nation
Got a record breaking 16 Tony nominations
Man buns, memes, and dabbing continue to roam
These trends need to die and Pokémon go home

Mojoyinoluwa A., Will C., Ellie C., Vikrant G., Karthik G., Rosalie K., Jerry L., Julian M., Isabella M., Jack M., Tyler M., Evan R., Matthew R., Amanda S., Chris V.  (US History)

We say goodbye to Obama after eight historic years
Clinton is Trumped, bringing half the country to tears
Planet Pluto, no longer a stranger
and as of now, pandas aren’t living in danger
The death of Alan Kurdi is a tragedy of its own,
now the war torn Syria has become a hazard zone
A choker trend reached an all-time high,
as contouring served as the ultimate disguise
Samsung has a really bad year, phones exploding everywhere
while Apple kills off their jack as if they don’t even care
The Cubs celebrate their first win since 1908
while the Brazilian soccer team suffers a much darker fate
In 2016 we lost so many great artists
Rest in Peace to all those departed

Alisa C., Toby C., Hemen D., Savi D., Dara G., Karen H., Lauren H., Yevhen (Jake) H., Jolene K., Michael K., Jackson M., Vincent P., Jennifer S., Mark S., Jacob V., Yifeng (Steven) Y. (US History)

2016 was an elevator, with many ups and downs
Freedom had a price, while hate was making rounds
In the land of the free and home of the brave,
Clinton v. Trump sends the nation into rage
We’re still fighting Zika, Flint’s flooded with lead
Yet with cancer tests and transplants, humanity’s not dead
The cosmos, now mapped, full of gravity waves
While bats’re drinkin’ nectar in shadowy caves
Samsung catches fire, VR and drones take flight
Cyberterrorism and hacking become a public plight
Phelps and Biles winnin’ metal at the Games
Broncos, Cavs and Cubs, takin’ pride in their names
Princess Leia and her mother, in death honored
Wonka, Snape and Bowie, heroes’ talents squandered

Brad A., Rahul A., Emily A., Aidan C., Trang D., Mackenzie H., Lilly H., Chloe K., Hannah M., Kylie P., Charlie R., Joseph S., Thuan T., Sophie T., Sally V., Hannah W., Sunny Y. (Vietnam Seminar)

2016 is one we’ll never forget
An auspicious leap year leaves us with regret
Although the Cubbies broke the curse of 108 years
The end of Muhammed Ali brought us to tears
May he rest in peace with Comrade Castro
Don’t forget Bowie, music fire as Tabasco
Top celebs like Kim K and Wintour
Lit up the MET carpet in crazy couture
Samsung tried to create a virtual reality
Now phones blowing up is just a normality
Britain’s exit shocked the world to the core
Obama drops the mic and is President no more
Look into the future with the US polarized
Gotta try and see through each other’s eyes
In 2017 we hope for the best
Even as humanity is put to the test

Abant B., Cameron C., Courtney C., Abigail E., Monty G., Nadia K., Zoe K., William L., Caleb M., Will M., Lily N., Evan S., Oliver S., Timmy T., Olivia W. (Vietnam Seminar)

Russian hacking sent the public into a fury
Virtual reality being bought in a hurry
The UK voted Brexit and problems have arisen
The Feds arrested Chapo and put him up in prison
On his way to the grave is Fidel Castro
With Bowie, Prince, and Cohen in tow
Muhammad Ali remembered as a great swinger
Float off now butterfly; now that’s a real stinger
Chicago Cubs ~ no more World Series drought
Team USA winning day in, day out
Zika made everyone in Rio freak
Injustice at home brought riots to the streets
A twitter warrior; many called him unfit
And now a Trump presidency has the nation split


Being an Exchange Student at Athenian

As a member of Round Square, Athenian participates in a robust international exchange program. We send more than 35 sophomores abroad to sister Round Square schools every year and host just as many on our campus.
We recently hosted a student from the Bridge House School in South Africa. She wrote our Round Square Director, Mark Friedman, a lovely letter about her time at Athenian.

Hi Mark!

I wanted to apologize because when I left Athenian, I never got to formally thank you and Emily for the effort and thought that you all invested in order to make my exchange so memorable.

When I asked past Bridge House students that had attended Athenian on exchange about what to expect, they immediately smiled and told me that I was going to love it. I then met Justine earlier in the year [when she came here on exchange] and I knew that if your students were similar to her, I would find it difficult to leave, and I was right. I have completely fallen in love with your school, the food, the lifestyle and most importantly, the people. I have made memories and friends that I will never forget; and even though Athenian is not like the typical American public school that we see on TV in South Africa, it is perfect just the way that it is. I admire the determination and passion that your students have for their work, their constant big smiles and the happy atmosphere throughout the campus, and (I’m sure that you have heard this many times before) the absolutely breath-taking views. I find it difficult to convey how perfect my experience was to my friends and family because it went way beyond anything that I had anticipated. I notice myself constantly thinking about everyone that I miss.

Mathomo and I are excited to share our experience with the younger Bridge House students that will be attending Athenian in the years to come. I now know that they will never be able to forget these two months of exchange, because how could they forget two of the best months of their lives.

I hope that everyone is doing well.
All the best for 2017,
Ella Solms

Another student from Bridge House School recently applied to come to Athenian. In her application, she wrote the following:
“I have a great interest in The Athenian School in California in the USA, because most of the people that I look up to and my friends have been to the school and have nothing but great praise for it.  They almost all recommended me to go there.  What mainly attracts and interests me about The Athenian School is that they are said to embrace cultural diversity, encourage intellectual independence and tolerance of different global perspectives. …  Why do I think I am the most suitable candidate for the exchange program? I am a young and talented African woman with exceptional leadership qualities. I am thirsty to broaden my future horizon and learn more about other people’s different way of life. Given this opportunity I would be a great ambassador of not only my school and my community but also my country as well. I intend to share my values of Ubuntu with my host school and community.”
Athenian’s exchange program continues to grow. This year, we have students traveling to and coming from Argentina, Australia, China, Columbia, Germany, India, Peru, South Africa, South Korea, and the UK.

Understanding The Industrial Revolution Through Paper Airplanes

img_7276The Industrial Revolution was a turning point in Western Civilization that affected every aspect of daily living. The 9th Grade World Cultures classes are beginning a unit on industrialization and imperialism before launching into globalization. To give them a taste of what the revolution was all about, the classes simulated a factory environment.

Nancy, dressed in foreperson jeans and work shirt, barked out orders to the factory workers: they had to build as many paper airplanes as they can in 5 minutes that could fly a predetermined distance. After a brief planning period, the students attempted a variety of methods to build airplanes. Some students worked together in an assembly-line fashion while others worked independently.

img_7289Then came the quality control. They went out to test the airplanes and only a fraction of them were successfully assembled.

While paper airplanes were never built in factories during the Industrial Revolution (that we know of), this experience gave students a taste of a factory workers’ life: a competitive environment, unreasonable expectations, only seeing a piece of the whole, and experiencing efficiency as the highest value.


What We Learned at Model United Nations

Model UN is a simulation of the United Nations conference, which brings high school students that represent one of 193 countries together to discuss international issues and crises and propose solutions to them. According to the UN Charter, the mission of the United Nations is to encourage and maintain international peace and security, friendly and diplomatic relationships with other countries, as well as to create an international center for nations to work to achieve these common goals. Each delegation is assigned a country, and as a class we represented Israel.  As delegates of Israel, we were divided into separate committees where we discussed and debated issues such as drones, organized crime, and the Zika virus, hoping to pass resolutions proposing solutions to the problem through Israel’s perspective.

Preparation: Preparing the Country Book

In order to be fully prepared for Model UN, we began by researching the political history of Israel and various country policies before going in depth on our particular committee topics. After we finished researching Israel’s global priorities, human rights concerns, and current events, we started to focus on our assigned committees and wrote position papers to further delve into and propose solutions to the topics we would discuss in our committees. Despite the arduous process of researching and putting together our country book, our hard work paid off at the conference when our books provided valuable information that we were able to quickly utilize during our committee sessions.

Committee Experience

In the committee meetings themselves, we were challenged explain and advocate for our country policies to the best of our ability, and apply these policies to potential solutions.  We talked about issues in moderated caucuses and we wrote resolutions and collaborated with other delegates in unmoderated caucuses. In our experience, representing and speaking for a certain country in a conference was be challenging at first, but once we got used to the MUN procedures and language, most of us became much more comfortable and active participants. This came much easier to Elliot Sasson, a student-delegate who represented Israel because it is a country that he has an emotional connection with and has visited multiple times. The MUN experience was admittedly challenging, but we learned a lot during the process and gained experience we can apply throughout our lives.

Take Away

Despite the common perception of Model UN as a debate tournament, it actually entails much more preparation, applied skill, and enthusiasm. As someone who has participated in parliamentary debate, I can tell you that Model UN is a totally different experience. Instead of short prepared speeches delivered by participants in a formal debate, committee meetings are unpredictable as there is no clear victory or defeat. Other than a one-minute speech, the rest of the meeting depends solely upon the opinions brought up by the delegates, which contributes to how much energy is needed to participate. In regards to the personal interaction during the meetings, it is definitely out of some people’s comfort zone to constantly engage with strangers who you refer to by the country they represent. Nevertheless, Model UN is a must-do for anyone interested politics or international relations and will definitely boost one’s knowledge of world affairs in general, which perfectly envelopes the Multicultural understanding pillar at Athenian. As a class, we performed very well at CCCMUN and 2 out of the 5 delegates representing Israel won awards. Hannah Williams won the award for “Outstanding Delegate,” the top most honor that can be received and Rahul Arockiaraj won the award for “Exceptional Delegate,” the second most honorable award. Also from the F Period class, Devin Dhaliwal won the “Distinguished Delegate” award which is the third highest honor.

As participation within the Athenian community grows, so will our opportunities to explore deeper into the world of MUN. For example, this year we got invited to visit the New York City MUN, which takes place at the UN headquarters. The competition includes possible appearances from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. This and other potential opportunities that may come up only benefit the Athenian community, in general. Again, as a class, we would like to stress the amount of knowledge gained from MUN and strongly recommend it to anyone who is even remotely interested. Please spread the word to anyone else you might think will enjoy taking part in MUN.

Coming of Age at The American Indian Film Institute Festival

By the Indigenous Gothic Literature Seminar: Lily H. ’17, Julian L. ’18, Bill L. ’18, Nat M. ’18, Jordan M. ’17, Harry M. ’18, Poppy N. ’18, Matthew T. ’18. Photos by Nat M. ’18

The Indigenous Gothic Literature Seminar taught by Andrea Cartwright visited The American Indian Film Institute Festival in San Francisco on Thursday. There, we spent the day viewing films created by different Native American filmmakers, including students from the AIFI Tribal Touring Program Youth Series.

The films tackled issues of cultural appropriation, loss of tradition, stereotyping, and reservations, while simultaneously celebrating varying Native cultures through creation stories and dance.

As a class, our favorite films were two documentaries that focused on coming of age: the first was Ohero: Kon Under the Husk, a documentary about two Mohawk high school girls participating in a four-day fast as part of a coming-of-age ceremony.  We drew some parallels to own experiences on AWE.  The second documentary we enjoyed was Little Wound’s Warrior, which unpacked a recent suicide epidemic on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota through interviews, mainly with high school students.

After our trip, we remarked that we now have a better understanding of the importance of including diverse voices and perspectives in media; for many, the festival’s slogan, “Defending Our Way of Life Through Film,” was particularly resonant.  Junior Natalie MacIlwaine observed: “I can now more clearly and directly see how the media is used as an outlet and way to express emotion of young people, as well as inform and further unify a community that shares similar feelings and culture.”  Senior Lilly Huang noted that: “As people who are minorities, often their voice is lost. When expressing their voices in such creative ways,  I think it really calls to attention what they want to say.”

Cultivating Screen Awareness

by Mark Lukach, Ninth Grade Dean

Once I was walking through San Francisco with my family, and I walked right into a pole. I was texting-while-walking.

It really hurt.

It was also embarrassing. My wife and son laughed at me for the rest of the day about it, and I deserved it. My crash jolted me into momentary self-awareness about my phone use. My head throbbing, I was suddenly convinced that I was never going to text and walk again. I was going to keep my head up, shoulders back, and engage in the world, from here on out.

This all happened about six months ago. I couldn’t keep track of how many times I’ve reverted to old habits and broken that pledge.

More problematic for me are the Friday evenings when we all pile into the family room to watch a movie, and my four-year-old picks the same Disney movie to watch for the hundredth time, and within a few minutes, I take out my phone to read the news, and my wife takes out her phone to do whatever it is she’s doing, and there we are, all in the same room, but all engaged with different screens. “Alone together,” as Sherry Tuckle calls it.

I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has caught themselves in these behaviors. In fact, with my office in the Commons and my windows looking out at the activity of the Quad, I know for certain that I’m not the only one. I’ve seen all of us walking while texting or spending time in a group while isolating in our phones: students, faculty, parents, admin…all of us.

As Ninth Grade Dean, I spent the summer reading two books about technology use: Mindful Tech by David Levy and Alone Together by Sherry Turckle. After our visit by Catherine Steiner-Adair, I’m planning to check out The Big Disconnect as well. I also read a lot of articles about tech use—ironically, on my phone, in bed, before going to sleep, all of which I probably shouldn’t be doing—like Andrew Sullivan’s essay “I Used To Be A Human Being”.

Many of the books and articles in this genre sound the alarm of tech addiction throughout 80% of their subject matter, and it’s a dizzying Siren song to hear, but they don’t get into solutions until the last 20%, if at all. I think we all already know there’s something going on. I recently asked ninth graders if they think we have a problem with tech overuse here at Athenian, and the overwhelming majority agreed that we do.

The book I resonated with most was David Levy’s Mindful Tech. His masterful little book is pretty much entirely about solutions. Not necessarily big picture, society-wide solutions, but intensely personal solutions, for how to become more aware of our tech use, to empower us to make changes if we want them.

I especially like his emphasis on mindfulness as a lens for examining technology, because mindfulness deliberately distances itself from guilt. I don’t want my approach to tech to be about shaming. Not for myself, my family, or my students. (Although people who walk into poles while texting are sometimes caught on security cameras, and are definitely shamed!) This is instead about becoming more aware and empowered so that we can all make decisions that better our experiences and enhance our relationships.

So what’s that looked like for me?

For starters, I’ve made a lot of personal changes. I really do try and avoid texting and walking, especially on campus. If I need to text, I stop walking, and then when I finish the text, I put my phone away and keep moving. Another change has been if I’m in a group of people and I need my phone for something, I announce to them why I’m going to be using my phone (“let me check MyAthenian to see what we’re doing during today’s Morning Meeting”), and then I put it away when I’m done. I’ve also scheduled tech-free times during my day, especially in the evening during family time, so that I’m not always available via email or text.

Of course, I don’t do these things perfectly all of the time. But I’m trying, and I have to say, I’m already noticing a difference in how I engage with my phone and the people around me.

As for my job as Ninth Grade Dean, I’ve been experimenting with this in our ninth grade advisory program, and most recently on PSAT Wednesday, when the ninth grade has a half-day with an open agenda that I get to shape around current needs. I took some of Levy’s exercises and applied them to our ninth grade, not to shame them or mandate any change, but instead to help the students realize their own behaviors. Students were asked to pay attention to which app they use the most on their phones, and how frequently they check the app. In that exercise alone, without any mandates to enact changes, several students opted to restrict their use of the app.

Even cooler, on PSAT Wednesday, students brainstormed a few Town Meeting proposals to bring before the School to vote upon, such as creating tech “blackout” days during the school year, or places on campus where no technology is allowed (like designated rooms in the library, or the Main Hall during lunch). Very cool ideas. We’ll see where those ideas go.

I know that this is just the beginning, but I’m glad Athenian is getting more involved in this conversation. I am only one voice of many here who want us to be more active about addressing our tech use, and I’m excited to see where it’s going to take us. I’ve always admired this school for being at the forefront of the most advanced educational thinking practices, and I suspect that more thoughtfulness around tech is going to be a big part of that going forth.

If you’re interested in observing or changing your own practices with technology, I strongly encourage you to check out Daniel Levy’s book Mindful Tech. Just do yourself a favor and get the real book, rather than download it your phone. I don’t think we could handle the irony of reading that book on your phone while walking across campus.

Athenian Teachers Are Learners, Too: Working with Master Teacher Bonnie Mennell

By Lisa Haney, Dean of Upper School Faculty and Humanities Teacher

img_6083Bonnie Mennell, in the midst of her fourth visit to Athenian as a teacher coach, had just observed an 85- minute period of Applied Calculus. As they walked across campus together, Lalitha Kameswaran, the Applied Calculus teacher asked: “Wasn’t that boring?  All that math?” Bonnie laughed, explaining: “The math is not what I am paying attention to. I don’t understand the complexities of calculus. What I am watching is the presentation of the material, students’ engagement with the material, how questions are asked about the material and how they are responded to by the teacher. I am watching the learning.”

Bonnie and Lalitha later sat down to go over the notes she had taken, focusing first on Lalitha’s own assessment of how the class had gone; then Bonnie offered her perspective on what had gone well, and what could have gone better.

img_6077In talking with Lalitha about the experience later, she reported being grateful for the opportunity to see her work through the eyes of another and exclaimed: “Bonnie is awesome!”

Indeed. Bonne Mennell has been a teacher, teacher coach, and educational consultant for over 40 years: she brings a wealth of wisdom and expertise about teaching and learning to her work with our faculty, staying on campus for a full week, and in the last two years has come in the fall and the spring.  While she spends the bulk of her time with first-year Athenian teachers, she also visits other teachers’ classes as time allows.  She is also happy to simply meet with individuals to talk over teaching conundrums or share her knowledge of practices in other schools. Her work with teachers is outside of the more formal professional development and evaluation process; her observations and conversations with teachers are completely confidential.

img_6068As one faculty member put it, “having someone from outside of Athenian with Bonnie’s experience is an amazing way to get valuable feedback. Bonnie’s awareness of the big picture and the concept that less is more is really refreshing. She is ultimately concerned with what serves the students but her feedback is so well tailored to the individual teacher.”