Strong Minds. Kind Hearts.

Click above to watch "Hands on Learning" about methods being used in Upper School classrooms. You can also read the related article in the November issue of our monthly E-Letter, Among Friends.


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Finals begin in late May. On May 21st evening, come join Andrea Kelly for her state-of-the-school address and visit our new library space, to be written about next week and featured above as well.

Upper School Calendar

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Spotlight on The Upper School

In my wanderings during these last weeks before finals, I have had the pleasure of seeing the effects of Harkness teaching and even some design thinking in our English and History classrooms.  Many of the rooms now have tables that are mobile and can break apart, so students can gather round, see each other, learn how to lead and listen in seminar conversation, and then go out and work in groups on collaborative work (writing, thinking, brainstorming).  Sometimes this looks like a dinner table conversation, with lots of voices either spoken or written on whiteboards and pads around the circle (see this photo of Mr. Wetherall’s grade nines around their table) Other times the walls even speak (see, for instance, the post-it sharing on Jozeph Herceg’s classroom wall here).  

Students constructing ideas and looking at individual voices, changing thought and opinions and writing, seeing, and listening to think, revise, and rethink. Such active reimagining is going on as students learn to see things from many perspectives. It is diversity of thought and our Quaker testimonies writ large, with the goal of seeing many sides and then rethinking what we see and understand.  Exciting. Live. Student-driven. Led by teachers who care what students think.

The Spring Varsity Sports Day was a wonderful treat, with many games on campus and lots of fans and close contests.  Parent Council was wonderful in supporting a great day! This on the heels of a beautiful spring concert, celebrating 26 years of service by Martha Regelmann as our vocal teacher, made for a great early May celebration.  This Monday, we also unveiled some new furniture and design for the learning commons space to make it more student-centered, and the reception has been overwhelmingly positive so far. We are excited about this and hope to have more fun changes in store in the coming months, all with an eye to furthering our commitment to serving and supporting our awesome kids.

This past Monday we had a Global Perspectives Symposium with keynote speaker Hagar Hajjar Chemali, whose expertise has been shaped by a number of senior public affairs and policy-making positions in the U.S. Government – former Director of Communications and Spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations; spokesperson for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, as well as a Middle East Policy Advisor; and Director for Syria and Lebanon at the National Security Council at the White House.

Chemali has now formed her own consultancy and also supports a bipartisan “third party” movement in the US.  Her remarks, particularly on Genocide and Syria, were complex and powerful. During the day, GSS students, many of whom were seniors, presented talks and discussions on a variety of topics related to Global Issues of concern, including current refugee and immigration crises, gene editing, and the Me, Too movement among them.  

We had a terrific visit from San Francisco-based author Mitali Perkins, as did the other divisions.  What struck me most was her amazing connection with the students – she modeled a comfort with them I have rarely seen on stage, and she engaged them in conversations that ranged from “What books do you love more than movies about them and why?” to talk about “Code-Switching,” the latter being a topic that spoke to her learned ability to adapt to challenging new environments (she moved to NYC and the California suburbs when she was young during the “Partition” period in India’s history) without losing her own cultural and personal identity and history.  

It has been the story of our century, the challenges immigrants have faced, and it has been one of trial, sadness, but also of resilience. Mitali radiated love of learning, love of reading, love of words, love of life, pride in her country, love of long people. A powerful model citizen for us all, a forward-thinker who connects, who questions, who lived her passion after being rejected 22 times between her first and second books. She said to our students: believe in yourselves! Find your story, and write it, with your life. Our mission, simply: let your life speak, LIVE!  A blessing for us all, her example and words. Bravo, Book Fair and Parent Council, all. Let us have an author with us every year. Our world is bound by, and lives by, great stories. And thanks to my wife, Laura, for finding her for us….

Last week, Upper School students Paige Silverstein and Kelsey Nathan presented their research at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as part of CSHL's Partners for the Future program. These two students were selected from nominations throughout Long Island and comprised a final group of 12. Their work was incredibly sophisticated and they presented with clarity and poise. 

This Wednesday we gathered to watch “From the Fires: Voices of the Holocaust” from the Theatre Three Touring group.  The performance was powerful and has been given to a quarter of a million people, many of them students. The event was sponsored by the History Department, the Theater department and the school, and the questions afterward were many and important.  Actors spoke of the moral necessity of presenting the real life tales of genocide and ethnic persecution in an age and century where this still occurs and has not ended. The performance spoke to relevant issues of our time and also to some of the central tenets and testimonies of Quaker schools and beliefs.

Service Learning is embedded in Grade Nine advisory and the day we left for break, all the grade nines went out into the local community before the holidays to spread cheer and friendship.  But we got it back and then some – the seniors at the Glen Cove Senior Center were amazing, and we made new friends and had some laughs. This is what being part of a genuine community is all about.

Recently, our senior students organized, funded, participated in and named in perpetuity a student dodgeball tournament in honor of Ka’Juan Polley, a member of their class who died tragically the summer of his freshman year.  The tournament, played on a Friday night, was a big success, with a total of 16 student and faculty teams (the faculty team played nobly, but did not conquer), as well as the Polley Team, including members of Ka'Juan's family.

A terrific spirit of synergy, imagination, and sense of purpose animated the seniors in this effort, and their vision will live on, celebrating their classmate and his memory long after they have left. They continue to look for ways to leave their mark and a legacy that represents the best of them and their leadership – the great class of 2018.

This Monday we had Tom Suozzi come speak to us about politics and being a good citizen.  He was captivating, and students from our GSS and Civil Discourse areas sat on a panel to ask him questions about his positions and about national issues like DACA, gun laws and the major challenges he believes we face as a nation.

His answers were powerful, one of them outlining the ways districts and voting have been structured, leading to legislators who are not being held accountable to be changemakers or problem solvers (ie: Gerrymandering).  The absence of people who are bipartisan in elected office, and the need for people who spend time with others across party lines looking to find common ground and work hard at difficult solutions, was another concern he articulated, also mentioning the busy and changing nature of elected office in Washington.

But his point of view was ever optimistic and inspiring, especially from a recently elected Congressman. Today we also saw students lead cross divisional silent time – a voluntary act and vigil – to honor those who died in Parkland, FL.  Students have been amazing at leaning into ideas and actions that are feasible and effective, but also principled and diverse. This is the work of citizens, and it is complex, but living at FA in good ways that foster authentic student leadership.

This past week on Thursday, we had the grade nines go out into our community doing their monthly service learning work as part of the advisory program. I had the privilege of going with a group to St. Patrick's church where we visited the food back, bringing food and resources to them and then spending some time with the staff, talking about their needs and how the food back works there. The shelves were almost empty!

The students asked great questions, and they so appreciated our contributions. Then later that night, our grade 11 students hosted the senior citizens prom, a Friends tradition with amazing singing, dancing, food, and conversations between generations. Over 70 seniors came, and the atmosphere was electric, with students really engaging with their elders, and tables were full of joy and great connections. Service learning was alive at FA that day, all day.