VOLUME 9, ISSUE 3 (DECEMBER 2011)

L.E.T.!

James Marlow ’12 and Shannon Grant ’12

Welcome to LET! Jmarlow and Sgrant are just jumping to get to your questions. Let’s

begin!

What holiday food makes you feel cozy?

Jmarlow enjoys the classic of gingerbread. Sgrant personally enjoys a cream cheese

cookie, which one could really just see as bagel having an identity crisis.

Who is going to win the Republican Primary of 2012 and why?

Guys, that’s not fair. There are no winners in a Republican primary.

How much work can one student have at one time?

In qualitative terms, one can have so much work that they fall asleep in the library

bookshelves or in the hallways. Neither Jmarlow nor Sgrant are judging.

Jmarlow and Sgrant apologize for the abbreviated column. Let’s just say the third

answer stems from personal experiences from the past week or so. Happy holidays

to all from us here at LET and we cannot wait to answer your questions in 2012!

 

TEACHERISMS

Isabel Seckman Gadd ’13

“When I see that you are not smiling, I just think to myself that you have a raisin brain.” —Mr. Hernandez

“You know it. You have it in you. We just need to extract it. That’s why I have a degree in dentistry.” —Dr. Schubert

“Here, have some sexiness.” —Professor Johnson

“We have really swinging Saturday nights at my house.” —Dr. Birch

“Questions, Comments, Threats, Prayers?” —Dr. Youngren

“And then looking up, Isaac said, ‘Hey dad! What are you doing with that knife!?’” —Dr. Clark

All Teacherisms are printed with the explicit permission from the teachers cited. If you have a funny quote you would like to submit, please post it on the Facebook Teacherisms page or email me at isabelseckmangadd@gmail.com

 

 

JAPANESE CULTURE HAS COME TO BHSEC — IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE

Micaela Beigel ’14

When I was considering where to go to high school eighth year, I considered a number of varying factors, one of which being the foreign exchange opportunities I would have at that school. As many may be aware BHSEC offers quite a few exchange programs to its students: the Chinese exchange program available to tenth grade students and older, the Spanish exchange also available to tenth grades and up, the Turkish exchange for 10th graders and Year 1’s, as well as the semester in Spain. Last week, BHSEC had the pleasure of hosting another exchange program, wherein nine of my tenth grade classmates took on the responsibility of hosting an equal number of Japanese high school students in their junior year. This exchange has been in the works for over a year and was spearheaded by Dean Brutsaert.

The Japanese exchange program was announced last November, a year ago, and it encouraged ninth graders to apply. The faculty was looking for seven excited and bright participants to fuel this unique exchange. It found those participants in ninth graders, Thea, Alex, Odette, Jennan, Nikki, and twins Alea and Alisha. The exchange was scheduled to take place last spring but just days before the BHSEC students were set to leave for Japan, a deadly earthquake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear damage ravaged the country. For a few uncertain weeks it almost appeared as if the exchange would be canceled but due to the exhaustive effort put forth by both Dean Brutsaert and the faculty of the Nagoya University Affiliated Upper School, the exchange was rescheduled for the 2011-12 school year. With the start of the new school year, Dean Brutsaert looked for two more students to join the program and accepted Sara and Lara to be American hosts.

Last week the first half of the exchange took place right here in the halls of BHSEC, as we became host to the five boys and four girls sent from the Japanese City of Nagoya. Mikiko, Koh, Toyoda, Mai, Nagasaka, Asami, Matsumoto, Mino, and Takehana stayed with their host students and were fully immersed in New York City culture. On the first day of the exchange, Monday, December 12th, the Japanese students accompanied their American hosts to their everyday classes including Chemistry, Chinese, Algebra and Geometry and an English class, and immediately spotted differences between our school system and their own. In their school the class size is twice ours, with the class average being about forty students. BHSEC’s general class structure is a seminar discussion with interaction between the professors and students existing in the classrooms. However, in at their school, all classes are structured as lectures; the students are instructed to keep quiet and listen to their teachers, and in their school uniforms are strictly enforced. One student commented, “In our school, when the teacher talks everyone stays quiet. We’re afraid.”

While the students were at BHSEC, they presented to a few different classes namely Physics with Calculus, where they showed a different method for finding the midpoint of a rectangle and Dean Brutsaert’s Immunology class. In Immunology, they gave a lengthy presentation on the geographic prevalence of a specific gene that indicated a tolerance to alcohol using DNA chips, and the implications their experimental procedures had for Cancer research. Many of the methods they used to extract their results are commonly taught at BHSEC namely Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and gel electrophoresis. Although they struggled with some of the words, each of the presenters managed to deliver a coherent and intelligent presentation on some very difficult material. While their was a language and cultural barrier, the students seemed to connect over the universal language of science.

What have they been up to with the freedom New York City offers? During the school week, the students were able to utilize the many attractions New York has to offer including the Statue of Liberty, the Natural History Museum, and Ellis Island, and even the immigration museum off the shore of the Hudson River. When asked what they most wanted to see in terms of sightseeing, one by one they responded, “The Statue of Liberty.” This response was followed by a chorus of “Me too…” and they all blushed as they tried to think up something else that interested them on the spot. They were able to experience American foods, which they said were tasty, but that they will be glad to go home and have the comfort of their regular delicacies since American food was deemed unhealthy and served in large portions. The evenings were filled with scheduled events between, but in between there was room for fun with their American hosts. One BHSEC student even took her student to one of the many concerts “The National” played the last week. Some of the students were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. Only one was undecided while the others responded: anchorwoman, pharmacologist and scientist. Needless to say, the first half of the exchange was considered to be a complete success, and the BHSEC students cannot wait for their turn to experience new cultures when it comes to be their turn in March.

Contributions by Nika Sabasteanski ’12

 

 

THE DYNAMICS OF GROUP WORK

Isabelle St. Clair ’13

Throughout my entire academic life, I have simply dreaded group projects and regarded them as one of the worst punishments a teacher could possibly give. And I am not alone in voicing these thoughts, as this seems to be the consensus among BHSEC students. Here at BHSEC I have been truly spared much of the labor-intensive projects that schools like Beacon put so much emphasis on and happily rejoice at that. However, there is also something that I seem to be missing, something BHSEC is missing as well.

The types of group work ranges from huge research projects, in which we must create a power-point presentation, read many documents, and write copious analyses, to smaller projects, where we form a group for a single second to figure out a question on the board. However, the bigger ones are given for a reason.

The huge projects require not only cooperation from all of the group members, but also the tolerance and people skills. It is this team building aspect of group projects that teachers love so much, yet it is exactly what leaves their students in despair. Working together is so much harder then everyone makes it out to be and the group that is able to stay together is the only one that actually accomplishes anything. Group projects build these skills of collaboration and partnership, but it is only through continuous projects that we are truly able to learn anything.

So far at BHSEC I have only been assigned three huge group projects in which presentation to the class was mandatory. I learned about working with other students, but I lost any ability to create a successful project involving a group of people. Of course, this is all inside school. I was having an adept conversation with one of my teachers, who remarked that students are able to work together outside of school, but not as well inside of it. It dawned on me that this was true and the way we handle school is the complete opposite from our, shall I say, extracurricular lives. It is these group projects that meld our social and academic lives together. This is the combination that we all despise.

The smaller group projects are to everyone’s liking because we can converse with each other, but don’t have to incorporate schoolwork into our personal lives. It is difficult for these two worlds to collide. Thus big group projects are a result our many fears. Firstly, some students get stuck with all the work. Secondly, and most terrifying, we find ourselves in a blender with school and the world we live outside of it as the major smoothie ingredients.

However, it is important for these worlds to crash because it is another skill we must learn, accept and understand. The group work we do gives us the breadth to come together and deal with scholarly and social interaction. BHSEC is a combination of high school and college, but it should also remember the importance of working together. Although I am not and will not pressurize teachers to assign more group work, we need to be aware that the rest of the world is based on our interaction with other people. That said, if teachers were to assign more group work, students would have to learn how to delegate and how to step up to the plate so no one person has to do the work for the entire group, with a fraction of the credit.

 

 

TEACHER FEATURE: MR. GARCES KILEY

Sophie Houser ’15

Before I was an English student in Mr. Garces Kiley’s class, I never saw myself as a large magnet attracting the metal in a dumpster or a mother chewing bits of food to break it down into small enough pieces to feed to her baby. But Mr. Garces Kiley uses metaphors to help his students relate to and remember what he’s teaching, so a large magnet attracting metal is just like how we are supposed to pick out the important, meaningful bits in literature, and a mother chewing food for her child is really us breaking down quotes so readers can understand and take them in. Clearly Mr. Garces Kiley views the world in a very creative way, seeing endless connections between seemingly unrelated objects and experiences. As he explained, “I have this kind of secret belief that there are correlations between phenomena in the world and what we think and how we think.”

For Mr. Garces Kiley, teaching is part of a larger mission in life. He follows the Baha’i Faith, which encourages people to be unified and embrace each other’s differences. It places a high premium on finding meaning in life and on helping others to find meaning. Through teaching, Mr. Garces Kiley aims to bring people together so they can talk to one another and, “see each other as being important.” By teaching literature, he also hopes to inspire students with a love of reading while also developing the ability to share their ideas candidly and listen to others with open minds.

Growing up, Mr. Garces Kiley experienced first hand what it feels like to be part of a community where people don’t embrace one another’s differences. When he was six, he and his family moved from Detroit, Michigan to a small town in southern Wisconsin. The community was almost all white, while Mr. Garces Kiley’s family was half Latino. Kids threw rocks at him and his sister on the first day of school. They had to climb to the top of the monkey bars in the playground for safety.

This experience as a child had a profound effect on Mr. Garces Kiley, inspiring in him a strong desire to make a difference in the world so that other kids wouldn’t experience the kind of discrimination that he did. After graduating with a degree in Women Studies and African American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Mr. Garces Kiley joined Teach for America, an organization that places recent college graduates as teachers in low income schools. Eager to teach in a region of the country where his Spanish would be helpful, and with a romanticized idea of what rural Texas would be like, Mr. Garces Kiley chose to be placed in the Rio Grande Valley. He ended up in Donna, a small rural town a mile north of the US-Mexico border where he taught bilingual first grade. Though Mr. Garces Kiley loves working with teens at BHSEC, he thinks, “there’s something awesome about working with little kids,” because of the way they show their emotions so openly.

After his stint in rural Donna, Mr Gaces Kiley moved to Houston where he taught first grade and then 8th grade history. He then taught math and language arts to students who had been institutionalized and were getting ready to go back to public schools in San Diego. In New York, Mr. Garces Kiley’s Spanish skills were helpful once again when he taught a bilingual 2nd grade class in Brooklyn. Mr. Garces Kiley then returned to school himself to get a graduate degree at Columbia University in Fine Arts in Writing, specializing in poetry. He also taught writing at Columbia as a Graduate Student.

He was so determined to work at a school where, “kids wanted to be [and] were excited to be,” that he applied for a job at BHSEC last year. He loves the diversity and the energy of the student body, and he observed, “I’m working with really motivated people from a wide variety of backgrounds.” He’s also impressed with the faculty and how well they get along. “Here there’s no backstabbing. I just don’t see people vying for control over each other. The relationship between faculty and administration is really positive and respectful. I think part of that has to do with the fact that all the professors here are really interested in what they’re teaching and they feel really good about it. It’s by far the best teaching experience I’ve had so far.”

When he isn’t teaching, Mr. Garces Kiley spends most of his time with his six-month-old son, Pablo, and his wife who is an art professor. They live in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and love to travel. Mr. Garces Kiley has been to all the major national parks in the country where he has seen almost all of the main American mammals in the wild. He is also working on his own book of poetry, which he’s very excited about. He is looking forward to sharing his poetry at a poetry reading at Blue Angel Wines on December 2nd. He told us, “There’s something surprising about poetry. You’re able to do things with words that you never expected you would do.”

 

 

BHSEC’S FIRST GRADUATING CLASS, 10TH ANNIVERSARY COLUMN

Juliet Glazer ’12

They came from all over the city. In the fall of 2001, they left their old high schools and dove into the yet un-chartered waters of a tiny brand new high school called BHSEC. They were the members of BHSEC’s first graduating class, and some of them still with us today.

Working in the admissions office and the attendance office, Lizzie Stemmer (‘03), Dwight Hodgson (‘03), and Olga Carmona (‘03), have returned to BHSEC.

In 2001, Ms. Stemmer and Mr. Hodgson were both attending regular public high schools where they felt they weren’t being challenged. “There was a full page ad in the paper for an open house,” recalled Lizzie. At the open house, “I kept sinking lower in my seat and cursing under my breath,” she said, “because I really liked [BHSEC] and didn’t want to go to the trouble of applying.”

“BHSEC totally changed the course of my life,” said Ms. Stemmer. “The things that made me odd and feel uncomfortable in my old environments were now the things people liked about me. It was the first time teachers believed in me… challenged me, and wanted me to succeed.”

Mr. Hodgson cited a diversity of perspectives in the student body as he valued at BHSEC as a student. His seminar class stood out to him because, he recounted, “[The school] did a great job in creating a diverse class, not just ethnically, but in perspective.”

Asked about how BHSEC has changed from its first years, Mr. Hodgson said that the school is the same at its core. He cited the resources now available to students, like the science and computer labs, as positive changes. However, he admitted that the school appears to be more homogeneous, observing that students seem to stay more in their own cliques. “In the ideal world, I’d like to see a little more diversity of prospective and demographics,” he said. He explained some of the change by the natural and positive coming-of-age of the school. “Now everything is more formulaic… we feel as if there is already a base and its up to students to form their own culture,” he said.

Ms. Stemmer also said that she feels as though BHSEC is less diverse, although she admitted that she hasn’t seen statistics. “I think fundamentally the same spirit is there, even if it doesn’t look the way my class remembered it,” she said. She also expressed frustration about the fact that as BHSEC’s prestige has grown, it has gotten lumped in with the Specialized High Schools. “There’s no other school I know of that serves the same role of providing a diverse, non-competitive, writing-heavy, intellectually curious population,” she said.

The class of ‘03 entered in Year 1 and so never technically graduated high school. Some have gone on to get GEDs, but some, including Ms. Stemmer, haven’t found it necessary. After graduating BHSEC, Ms. Stemmer went on to get a degree from Bard College in three years. Mr. Hodgson graduated from SUNY Geneseo and then obtained a master’s degree in Public Administration from MCNY.

Ms. Stemmer came back to BHSEC in 2007 to work in the admissions office. She had majored in American Studies at Bard, but knew that she wanted to work with kids in education. Ms. Carmona was already working in the admissions office at BHSEC, and told Ms. Stemmer that the admissions office needed help. When Ms. Stemmer came in, she recalled, “Ray [Peterson] said, ‘hey, good to see you, do you want a job?’ And I ultimately landed here [in the attendance office].”

Mr. Hodgson had been working in adult education and felt frustrated with his work environment. “I heard about this position and I thought, here’s something I know about and am passionate about.” He came to work at BHSEC in 2010, and feels as though he is contributing in a small way to the development of the minds of people who will change and critique the world.

Concerning her intentions for the future, Ms. Stemmer said, “apparently, I told Dr. Mazie when I was 17 that I was going to come back and teach Sociology.” She added, “maybe someday I’ll work here as a teacher, maybe not. But I’ll definitely be here for a while.”

 

 

LOWER “EATS” SIDE: CLINTON ST. BAKING CO.

Isabel Seckman Gadd ‘13

In a cheery storefront with huge picture windows and a red vestibule, Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant is a great place to escape the rain and cold. The warm, delectable dishes leave the customer satisfied and cozy. Located on (you guessed it!) Clinton St. just off of Houston, it opened ten years ago as a small pastry shop. As time went on, the management thought it might be nice to start selling egg sandwiches and the like. Eventually, this turned into other sandwiches and omelets until it finally became the full-fledged restaurant it is, with menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pancakes, however, are their specialty. The pancakes come in four flavors—plain, wild Maine blueberry, banana walnut, and chocolate chunk—and are served all hours of the day. The owner is a New Yorker, born and bred, but has always had a thing for southern cooking, which has heavily influenced the menu (cheese grits, buttermilk biscuits, sugar-cured bacon, fried chicken). The menu features classics like Huevos Rancheros, French toast, five different burgers, and fish tacos, as well as classic dishes with a special spin, like the smoked salmon scramble and the green chile burger.

My companion and I ordered blueberry pancakes, the Spanish scramble, a side of cheese grits, and a hot chocolate each. It was a tad pricey (for high schoolers, at least) with most entrees not below ten dollars, but it is definitely worth it as a treat.

The Spanish scramble ($13) was absolutely delightful. It was made up of three eggs, chorizo, tomatoes, caramelized onions, scallions, and melted Monterey jack; served with hash browns and sourdough toast. The eggs were perfectly cooked and the proportions of the extra ingredients were impeccable. The caramelized onions and cheese worked wonders with the eggs and the chorizo gave the dish a thicker flavor. The dish was very well executed, although I was not as impressed with the hash browns. I asked for them well done (as one always should because they are bound to come out undercooked), but they were still lacking the crispiness I craved. Not only that, but the side itself more resembled mashed potatoes than hash browns. Despite this mishap, the dish was impeccably executed.

I was delightfully surprised by the grits ($5)—most of my southern grits experiences haven’t been this thick. They were absolutely scrumptious: creamy, cheesy, melt-in-your-mouth-good. And best of all, the portion was huge. Grits are the kind of side you always want more of, but you’re never served enough. Luckily, this side was almost as big as the scramble itself, leaving me satisfied for the whole meal.

And oh, the pancakes ($13). Those pancakes! Those incredible, fluffy, blueberry-filled stacks of joy! Never have I had such pancakes. The blueberries were perfectly moist and juicy, but not too sweet. The pancakes were flawlessly light and fluffy—which made them not too filling, an automatic plus. The maple butter was a confection I’ve never experienced: hot melted butter and maple syrup mixed together in a little cup. The result was nothing but heavenly. The syrup was so delicious I actually ate most of it by itself, something I am not ashamed to admit.

As incredible as the meal was, my full dining experience was left incomplete due to the mediocre service offered to me. Our waitress was friendly, but incredibly slow. The restaurant was quite busy while we dined, which is all the more reason why a waiter should be fast-paced, especially when the place is as small as it is (some twelve-odd tables). She never once came to the table to ask how our food was, which is the top rule in the server’s handbook—after making sure you take the customer’s order and bring them their food. When we asked for the check, it took ten minutes for them to actually bring it to us. I was a little offended by the lack of attention the server gave us. In the restaurant business, “one must always do more than is expected,” but I did not see this adhered to at Clinton St. Baking Co.

I left satisfied, full, and very warm—a nice feeling on a cold, rainy day. I plan on going back to taste the other flavors of pancakes and possibly some dinner dishes. Despite the totally mediocre and irritating service, which I admit might be an aberration, I highly recommend it if you are looking to spend a couple extra dollars—you really do get plenty bang for your buck.

Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant

4 Clinton St. (btw. E Houston + Stanton)

646-602-6263

Food: *****

Service: **

Atmosphere: ****

Cleanliness: ****

Overall: ****

Price: $$$

Cuisine: American, Southern

Other notes: Brunch!!

* Awful.

** Mediocre

*** Satisfactory

**** Very good

***** Fantastic!

$$$$ Very expensive

$$$ Pricy

$$ Manageable

$ Cheap!

 

 

OOPS, AND OTHER REPUBLICAN 2012 PLATFORMS

Jack Jenkins ’12

The “failures” of the Obama presidency as the right perceives them, especially the spike in unemployment despite his expensive programs to rehabilitate working-class jobs, has made the opposing party’s bid hotter than is usually the case in a reëlection. Republican candidates have sprung from their congressional seats and out of pizza boxes, with slogans promising radical moral revolutions in politics and America in general: “Restore America now” (Ron Paul), “I will make this country strong again” (Herman Cain) and “Overhaul Washington” (Rich Perry). But the excitement among Republicans of selecting a moral, passionate and refreshing candidate came crashing down in light of recent scandals and bloopers.

I’m inclined to think that the Republican base is so sure of its victory in the general election that the candidates have determined that they can afford to put the vitality of the party as a whole after the integrity of their platforms. The debates themselves have been relatively civil and most of the candidates have actually, from what I have seen, grown to like each other. But frankly, every viable candidate has proved him/herself screwed in a “Ten Little Indians” fashion.

After winning the Iowa straw poll, which is essentially a chance for candidates to appeal to voters by distributing greasy food and hiring popular musicians to perform between speeches, Michelle Bachmann just faded away from the scene.; her performance in the actual debates was mediocre and she was ridiculed for her inability to compete with the other candidates in this way. Newt Gingrich, whose values, long since haunted by the ghost of his affair in the 1990’s, were further criticized when he went on a cruise around the Greek archipelago in the midst of his campaign. Gingrich went out on a limb, distancing himself from the average American, in stating that his cruise gave him a sense of the profound impact of Greece’s economic collapse.

Mitt Romney, who was advertised as having enough experience and the sobriety to lead the nation, in the most recent debate bet Rick Perry $10,000 regarding the technical issue of what Romney wrote in one of his books. Though it may have been intended as a joke, it resonated as an arrogant remark that detracted from the image of him as a realistic leader and reminded everyone of how little the millionaire has in common with the bulk of America.

Herman Cain’s sexual accusations which led him to “suspend” his campaign and Perry’s chain letter worthy blunder – forgetting one of the three federal bureaus which he would eliminate as president – more than deserve to be added to this list. As these ridiculous candidates continue to do Obama’s negative campaigning for him, one can only wonder whether the candidate pitted against Obama will continue to advertise himself/herself as an agent of change, because it sure looks like if they win, America will undergo an irreparable change.

 

 

A PREVIEW OF “THE GOOD WOMAN OF SETZUAN”

Mack Cummings ’13

This semester, Professor Jordan and her assistant directors were presented with a challenge, which was the large number of students she has enrolled in the fall semester. With 19 students (2 directors and 17 actors), this is going to be quite a production. Not only is the amount of students an obstacle, the play itself, “The Good Woman of Setzuan”, written by the famous German playwright, Bertolt Brecht, should prove intimidating if nothing else. The play is about three gods played by, Iesha Hodges (‘13), Edna Campos (‘13), and, Nya Thompson (‘13), who are trying to find someone who is considered good in their eyes. After searching all day until night, they come across Shen Te played by Aya Abdelaziz (‘12), a prostitute who apparently has a heart of gold for taking them in for the night. For her hospitality they give Shen Te money so she would not have to sell herself and she opens a tobacco shop. But with a large family rooming for free, and a landlord and carpenter demanding their pay, Shen Te cannot seem to handle the stress. Using her cunning, she transforms herself into her alter ego, her cousin, Shui Ta, to create some order in the tobacco house, and aspire to be married to the person she loves.

I was lucky enough to attend a class, watch the actors practice and talk to the assistant directors Maddie Hammingson (’13) and Tsiann Hills (’13) as well as Aya Abdelaziz about the challenges of this play as well as their thoughts of what it means to be good.

Before diving straight into the interviews, a little background information on Brecht is necessary. The German born Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was part of the Expressionist movement, which was a smaller sect of a modern art movement in theatre, music, cinema and art. Expressionism was supposed to present a subjective perspective and stimulate moods or ideas in the piece and in the audience. Brecht adopted this idea, and coined it as the alienation effect. The approach to acting in Brecht’s play was radically different, wherein the actor really attempts to interpret the character, depicting their actions and personality. It is almost as if the actor assists the audience in critiquing the character. Brecht calls this acting in quotes.

I was able to talk to Maddie and Tsiann, both who have had experience as a director prior to this play in tenth grade scene study, and asked them about the challenging aspects. Tsiann stated that, “Some challenging aspects were getting to know the actors and who they are. I had worked with some of them but not everyone and as a director its really important to me to connect with the people I work with, so I had to get to know my actors before actually being able to stage them and help them further develop their character”. Maddie also said it was a lot harder to perfect the performances in each scene because of the large cast. The showing dates are Tuesday, January 10th at 6pm, Wednesday, January 11th during Dean’s Hours, and Thursday, January 12th at 4pm.

 

 

THE COLLEGE INTERVIEW: CAN IT HELP?

Alyssa Freeman ’12

Racing up the Romanesque style steps of the former mansion of Otto Kahn, the German born banker who donated his home to the Society of the Sacred Heart, I reached the second floor and for a moment allowed myself to imagine being inside a Roman Palace. Beneath the ornate sculptured ceilings, surrounded by antique furniture I stared out at the Renaissance courtyard. The grandfather clock literally struck 11: 00, and I realized that I better sign in for my George Washington University interview, scheduled for 11:15. The Convent of the Sacred Heart, the oldest girls’ school in New York City, was hosting George Washington’s interviews for the weekend. Given that this was my 4th interview, I was bold enough to ask my interviewer how many applicants would be seen over the weekend. I was told “over one hundred” and that there were not enough admissions personnel to interview everyone who wanted to be seen that weekend.

College admissions have become increasingly competitive, and most of us do whatever we can to demonstrate interest. A quick review of the relevant web sites clearly indicates that interviewing communicates the seriousness of one’s application. Admissions counselors have territories across the United States, many extending their outreach globally. The BHSEC Year 2’s that I interviewed, like myself, interviewed for several colleges, meeting admissions people in various locations around the city: coffee shops, Barnes and Nobles, hotel lobbies, Roman Palaces, Bryant Park and the World Financial Center, to name a few. A number of people interviewed on site, at the college they were applying to. The admissions personnel ranged from college seniors to admissions officers. Most anonymous Year 2’s I interviewed felt that interviewing only helped their application. “I don’t think an interview can hurt, unless it goes terribly. If anything it shows the school you are very interested. It can help you get a sense of what is important to the particular school, and what types of students they have. Based on my experience, any student who is very interested in a school and willing to talk about himself or herself, their interests, and their academic experiences intelligently, should definitely interview for those schools,” said one Year 2 who wished to remain anonymous.

Most students did some preparation for the interviews by reviewing the web site. Many found that the interviews began with some formality but quickly moved into a mutual conversation. Another Year 2 said, “I prepared for all three interviews, mainly by looking over their websites. The interviews generally were pretty unstructured, most of the time they stopped feeling like interviews and just felt a lot like a conversation with a random person- that said, they were very easy going for the most part. I think my interviews helped my application mainly because I’m very good at talking to adults and I think that being able to explain and show who I am as a person in a conversation comes off much better than how I come off in my common application college essay.”

Is there anyone who should not interview? “I think any student who can talk comfortably about themselves, and is outgoing to an extent, should interview. Basically, if you can talk comfortably to your parents’ friends, you probably will be capable of having a good interview.” Fortunately, BHSEC students are expected to express themselves fully in classes and relate to teachers maturely. BHSEC has prepared us to interview. Advice from the Year 2s interviewing this fall is to talk about yourself in a manner that allows the interviewer to connect to you. “Ask direct questions, relate and be yourself.”

 

 

NEW AMSTERDAM

Nika Sabasteanski ’12

“He shouldn’t have been making me angry when I had a baseball hat in my hands,” the younger one said in a thick New York accent when I entered the M train at Marcy Avenue. Wonderful, I thought to myself, I’m stuck between the subway doors and two thugs, ready to bash some poor unsuspecting victim’s head in with a child’s plaything. The whiskered hipster next to me wisely wore his iPod buds and faced the window, staring out at the vast expanse of the East River. This was one of my many humid and unmerciful commutes to my internship at Cooper Union this summer. One of the consequences of the ceaseless journey across the Williamsburg Bridge is that if you get stuck with the two boys I was forced to ride with, you’re two options are to walk to another car, which I am mortally afraid of doing, or to bite the bullet and write down their conversation for a “New Amsterdam” article.

These two teenaged boys, probably around my age, stood in the corner of the car next to me. They seemed to be clones of each other, albeit they were different heights, and both wore knee length plaid shorts, chunky white sneakers, polo shirts, backwards baseball caps and from what I could tell, blonde buzz cuts. The wiser one, as I came to call him, rode with his Lennie Small counterpart, a slightly smaller boy who seemed to hold his friend’s words as prophetic. From what I could tell, they were on their way to a summer program of their own, the specifics of which I am not familiar with because their conversation centered around the other kids whom they had to deal with, not the activities themselves. I return to their opening line, which really set the tone for the ride, and must clarify that this story is meant to be told verbally, not to mock anyone, but to do justice to the character of their accents and spirits.

For openers their peers, at whatever program they were involved with this summer, had rejected them as Freudian others. They had essentially labelled the boys, whom I learned were from Maspeth, as foreigners, since they felt some sort of misplaced entitlement coming from Brooklyn and Manhattan and the boys were attempting to make sense out of their spurning. The younger one said, “Ow can dey dtell?” Remember this is how it sounded so I am returning to the inventive spelling that P.S. 321 taught me all those years ago to get the message across. The older one replied, “Dey can dtell,” and he put his hands on his heart and nodded solemnly, closing his eyes for effect.

After a pregnant pause in which both boys ruminated on their discovery, they began to discuss people that they had labelled as ‘others.’ This set included New Jersey kids, the younger boy’s cousins from Long Island and the older one’s cousins from Philadelphia. “Let me dtell you ‘bout my cousins from Philly,” the wiser boy said, about to provide an example to support his developing thesis. “Go ‘head dude,” the younger one encouraged, sporting bright eyes and an eager face. “Dey come to New Yowk and when we’re goin’ dto ged dinnah, dthey say, ‘Aren’t we driving?’” The younger one laughed at the absurdity. “Dey wanna drive, when dthere’s Chinese down da block,” he concluded and slapped his thighs. The younger one chimed in, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, bro, I know whad you sayin’. I go ‘in order Chinese when I don’t want da walk down da block. I tip ‘em, I’m helpin’ da economy,” he defended his actions. Both repeated stories of their suburban cousin who expect to drive everywhere. They had been rejected by the New York ruling class and in turn they decided to explore their identities as native New Yorkers.

One by one, they worked through the characteristics that made them indigenous. These features included being able to walk to the Chinese take out shop, the quality of the food they expected and the culture that they associated with their families. The younger one decided to expand upon their theory. “Did I ever tell you ‘bout when my mom wentd do Ohio?” he asked, putting a space after the o, the hi, and the latter o, like Neil Young in the song of the same name. “No! Dtell me,” the wiser one responded extending his hands outward to invite the example in. The story consisted of his mother going to Ohio for an unknown reason and the food was so terrible that she decided to buy a pizza, but couldn’t find one. “I know,” the wiser one whispered, “My dad always sayds: You’ve got Califownia and New Yowk, and everyone in bedween is brain dead.” This revelation excited them so much that the conversation turned back to baseball bats, which were now completely justified as they had proved that they were native New Yorkers. After all, they could find pizza wherever they looked. Like any good logician or philosopher, they brought their argument full circle.

What struck me was the fact that I have had analogous conversations on this very topic with my friends. In fact defining what being a New Yorker entails is essentially the entire theme of this column. There is a snobbish, superiority one feels when they are from New York, but is it not at least in part somewhat justified? The boys continued their conversation. “I wouldn’t raise my kid anywhere but da cidty,” the wiser one said. I found myself silently agreeing with their observations and soon enough discovered that I was sympathetic to the two boys, minus the baseball bats of course.

 

 

THE READERS OF HOMER

Eliza Fawcett ’15

This coming spring, through the simple power of the human voice, a millennia-old text will be resurrected for the BHSEC community. The text will be Homer’s celebrated epic, The Iliad, and it will be read orally in an all-day marathon reading organized by “The Readers of Homer”, a successful group whose purpose is to do exactly that.

The Readers of Homer is a not-for-profit “literary event” company that organizes and stages all-night or all-day readings of Homer’s two great epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, in, “locations humble and sublime.” It was founded in 1998 by Kathryn Hohlwein, who is a graduate of the University of Utah and the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, a long-time lover of poetry, and teacher at the California State University at Sacramento. Hohlwein formed the company only after she had retired from her teaching position—and thus her passion for sharing Homer’s works endures far outside the classroom and has now even reached a global scale. Although the main purpose of her organization is to foster appreciation for Homer’s epics and, “masterful language,” in general, Hohlwein does write in her founder’s statement that it is also a, “direct attack on the culture of sound-bites.”

The readings are completely audience-generated—that is, willing readers are pre-assigned passages of the poem (a few minute’s worth of reading) and one after another, stand at the podium and simply read. The readings are organized so that the poem is read in the most continuous way possible. Furthermore, Hohlwein created two crucial rules for the readings: readers, “may not comment and may not apologize.” After all, she concedes, “Only Homer comments. And how.”

Reading Homer’s poetry aloud has particular literary significance, since originally, the poems would have been performed and repeated in the oral tradition. As Dr. Clark, one of the Latin teachers here at BHSEC, points out, it is a way of, “being true to [the poem’s] origin.” More specifically, he continues, the meter of the poem, dactylic hexameter, has a “chanting” characteristic that can only be fully appreciated if read aloud. The dynamic between the reader and the audience is a significant one: Hohlwein writes that, “it places participants in the continuity of tradition; they learn from one another to care more about their words…their implications.”

The Iliad is by no means a dusty, archaic text: the poem is exceedingly relevant in our modern era, for it deals with essential human nature. Dr. Clark believes that, “it’s about living, dying, and community at its most basic, and there isn’t any work of literature I can think of that discusses these issues as powerfully and beautifully as The Iliad.”

Besides this reading at BHSEC, the Readers of Homer have a busy schedule planned for forthcoming events. In fact, they intend to produce both national and global readings in the next year. These include an unedited reading of The Iliad at Bard College in the spring, a reading of The Iliad at the Hellenic Center of London, England while the Olympics are in action there—ironically, “an (almost athletic) feat of endurance”—and a reading in St. Petersburg, Russia at Bard College’s Smolny campus in the fall. Previous readings over the years have been held in Greece, Uruguay, Egypt, California, and several in New York City.

The very fact that we host this reading here at BHSEC seems to demonstrate and validate the intellectual atmosphere we strive to create. As Dr. Clark concisely puts it, “we don’t have pep rallies, we have Homer readings.”

 

 

A HISTORY OF THE SAT

Hannah Frishberg ’13

Less than a century after its creation, the SAT has had a huge impact on college admissions and student mindsets across America. It is known, used, and dreaded internationally, and has the power to change both the university and mindset of prospective undergraduates. An immensely influential test, many high school students are familiar with its current format and strategies for high scores, but far fewer are familiar with its history.

College Board, the national nonprofit membership association which administers the SAT, was founded in 1900. Created by administers from 12 prestigious universities, College Board’s initial mission was to standardize the college admissions process and unify the curriculum of New England boarding schools. In 1901, College Board conducted its first set of exams, which consisted of essays in English, French, German, Latin, Greek, history, mathematics, and physics. It wasn’t until 1905 that the concept of an IQ test was even invented, and the early stages of the SAT didn’t begin until the First World War.

During World War I, Harvard professor Robert Yerkes became the first person to administer a mass IQ test. Yerkes’ Alpha and Beta tests were used on roughly two million US army recruits to assess potential officer candidates, with an emphasis on evaluating intelligence, not educational reform. After the Alpha and Beta tests’ initial success, Carl C. Brigham, one of Yerkes’ co-workers on the tests, administered an adjusted version on freshman at Princeton and Cooper Union. College Board then commissioned Brigham to create a test to evaluate a wide group of high school students. In 1926, 8,000 male high school students took the very first SAT, then called the “Scholastic Aptitude Test”.

The 1926 version of the SAT was strikingly different from the test administered today. Containing nine subtests, seven having verbal content and two with mathematical content, there were a total of 315 questions, with an allowed time of only 97 minutes. This early form of the SAT did not gain popularity until 1933, when then Harvard president James Conant decided to use the test to evaluate candidates for Harvard’s new scholarship program. Only a year later, Harvard began requiring all applicants to take the SAT, and by 1938 all member schools of the College Board (meaning all Ivy League schools) used the SAT as a scholarship test. Opportunely, 1933 was also the year IBM machines advanced from the Markograph, making multiple choice grading far easier. The SAT tests administered between 1928 and 1929, as well as those in1936 –1941, did not contain any mathematical questions.

In 1942, because of the war, College Board abolished all admission tests but the SAT. Then, in 1944, the Army and the Navy administered the SAT to over 300,000 people nationally. 1952 saw the first use of the structure of questions for the verbal section used today, in 1957 over half a million students took the SAT, the highest annual number up until that point, 1959 brought with it a new testing organization, the SAT’s main competitor: American College Testing (ACT), and in 1960 the University of California system began requiring all applicants to take the SAT.

In more recent years, notable changes to the SAT have included the 1993 name change when, due to ambiguity regarding the SAT’s functionality as an intelligence test, the SAT went from being the Scholastic Aptitude Test to the SAT I: Reasoning Test. Today, the SAT does not actually stand for anything, and is an empty acronym. 1994 brought in the inclusion of student-produced response questions and a policy permitting the use of calculators.

Today, an external advisory panel called the SAT Committee, made up of administrators and university and high school faculty have the job of considering potential changes for the test. In recent years, changes such as further liberalizing time restraints, eliminating analogy questions, switching from the current formula-based scoring system to a rights-only one, adopting guidelines regarding what is and is not permissible vocabulary, and the prohibition of certain types of calculators have all been discussed and considered.

The SAT itself may not be enjoyable for many students, but when looking at its history the observer gains a profoundly rich understanding of the American educational system. A test that arguably defines college admissions in this country, the SAT is only 85 years old but the observations that can be made based on the results it yields supply the observer with an extensive understanding of racial differences and education in this country over the last century.

Facts and Stats on the SAT

Number of people who took the SAT in 1998-99:

2.2 million

Number of high-school seniors who took the SAT in 1998-99:

1.2 million

Mean SAT scores of high-school seniors in 1998-99:

Combined – 1016

(Verbal: 505 / Math : 511)

Percentage of four-year colleges that currently require SAT tests:

83% — a drop from 86% in 1997-98

SAT registration fee:

$23.50

Cost range for SAT preparation materials and courses:

$15 for test prep books; $500/hour for private tutors

Money spent on preparation in 1995-96:

average student spent $8 preparing

(47.8% of students spent no money; 12% spent an average of $400)

Range of time spent preparing for the SAT in 1995-96:

average student spent 11 hours studying

(44.8% of students spent 10 hours or less; 8.3% spent more than 60 hours)

All data retrieved from

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/sats/test/facts.html

Questions from Past SATs

a) 1934: Double Definition

Choose the most appropriate word set.

A___ is a venerable leader ruling by___ right.

mayor 1 patriarch 2 minister 3 general 4

paternal 1 military 2 ceremonial 3 electoral 4

b) 1942 Six-Choice Antonym

Select the two that are opposite in meaning.

1-divulged 2-esoteric 3-eucharistic 4-refined

c) 1943: Paragraph Reading

Cross out the inappropriate word.

At last William bade his knights draw off1 for a space2, and bade the archers only continue the combat. He feared3 that the English, who had no4 bowmen on their side, would find the rain of arrows so unsupportable5 that they would at last break their line and charge6, to drive off their tormentors7.

Answers: a 2,1; b 1,2; c 3

All data retrieved from

http://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/pdf/rr20027_11439.pdf

 

 

TUTORING TABULATIONS: HELP WHERE IT IS NEEDED MOST?

Alexi Block-Gorman ’12

I could not have been more excited when I signed up to work at the Library’s “Tutoring Table” at the beginning of the semester. I had spent almost every Friday morning at that table as a spring-semester Year 1, working hard with a Year 2 peer tutor to try and master some tough Latin texts. Fighting my way through each rhetorical device, I paused only to empower myself by imagining the distant future when I would be able to pass on the knowledge I gained by doing a little tutoring of my own. What I was not prepared for was the tedium of sitting at an empty table, waiting in vain for the arrival of some help-seeking ninth or tenth grader. A few did come at first, but soon the motivation to find help petered out. Where, I wondered, were the people who sought assistance on a regular basis? Did they all go exclusively to their teachers?

An informal poll was enough to give a solid image of the tutoring demographic, and to expose a sad truth about the acquisition of much-needed tutoring, or lack thereof. A poll of twelve teachers, a few from each of the five core disciplines, revealed some pretty low estimates of how tutoring opportunities are utilized. Of the teachers polled, the amount of students each teacher has currently ranged from 60 to 99 students, the average being 82 students per teacher. Of the twelve teachers polled, some said that on an average day, they tutored as few as one student; others said that on an average day they might tutor as many as 12 students. If our teachers would all tutor as many as 12 students a day, and assuming it was a different twelve every day, that would allow the teacher to meet with 60 students a week, still only about 73% of the teacher’s total students, provided that the teacher has about the average amount. However, most teachers do not meet with twelve students on an average day, and rarely would that group of twelve consist of all new faces each day of that week.

For the twelve teachers polled, the average number of students a given teacher tutors on a normal day is about 5 students, and out of the average number of students per teacher, that comes to approximately 6% of a teacher’s students receiving tutoring. This pathetic percentile might be forgivable if it were a different 6% of the teacher’s students each day, but sadly that is not the case. According to those same teachers, on average 3 of the 5 who come for tutoring on a given day will come for tutoring multiple times that week. Thus, on average only 13 different students will come for tutoring on a given week, a meager 16% of the students for a teacher with the average amount of students.

The number of students that these twelve teachers felt actually needed tutoring averaged out to be about 17 students. This number may seem happily close to the actual average number of students who see a given teacher for tutoring, 13, but usually there is little if any overlap between the 13 who do come and the 17 who should. As Ms. Rowen explains, “My experience is that the ones who come for tutoring are the students who are generally doing well otherwise, and doing everything they can to improve their understanding. The students who need to come often don’t come.”

One of the core reasons that BHSEC is indeed equipped to provide its students with a packed, full two years of post-secondary education is that our teachers make themselves so readily available, as is the fact that we are given the opportunity to receive as much assistance as needed outside of class. Tutoring can often mean the difference between success, not only in passing a class but also in excelling at BHSEC as a whole, and surrender. It seems ironic, therefore, that the intimacy of small group tutoring, which is what makes BHSEC so conducive to all manner of learning and developing, would be necessarily sacrificed if everyone who is entitled to tutoring took advantage of that opportunity. If a teacher tries to tutor all of his or her students in one day, or even in one week, so many questions might have to go unanswered, so many concepts might remain only vaguely illustrated, and one on one attention would certainly not be possible. What dynamic is created, then, if the students who truly need tutoring, by their absence, enable the student who merely desires it? In what way might the system of voluntary tutoring exacerbate the stratification between proactive and passive students? If tutoring only helps people who help themselves, how can we change that to help those who need more help, as we all do sometimes, without overloading our teachers?

Then again, not every student needs tutoring, and managing your time between tutoring and working independently is a valuable skill in and of itself. Perhaps it is best just to celebrate the culture we have created that applauds students who sit for hours on end struggling to solve a math equation or form the perfect thesis.

 
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