A true community of lifelong learners involves the whole family and Athenian is committed to creating opportunities for parents to get involved. We welcome your participation, whether through volunteering your time, attending sports events, donating items to the auction, or becoming active in the Athenian Parent Association (APA). Our parent population overflows with talent and energy and we value your contribution. Learn about ways to engage in our Parent Engagement Guide.
We invite parents to explore the resources available to you through Athenian's library and the APA (including a parent Mindfulness class), as well as the articles below, recommended by faculty and staff.
All current 10th grade parents are invited for coffee and conversation with Dick Bradford, Head of Upper School/Academic Dean, Gabe Del Real, Upper School Dean of Curriculum, and Amy Wintermeyer, Co-Director of College Counseling.
Coffee and Conversation: Eric Niles: Looking to Next Year
I write this blog post from Shanghai at the beginning of a six-country tour to celebrate Athenian’s 50th Anniversary and our identity as a global boarding school. Shanghai is an amazing city and I have been warmly welcomed by our parents here.
As I landed, my email and texts were lighting up with notes about a radio documentary on KQED. The piece isn’t literally about Athenian, but really, it is. It is about Kurt Hahn, educator and founder of Outward Bound and the inspiration of our founder, Dyke Brown. It is about Hahn’s passion for character education and an emphasis on non-cognitive skills like persistence, leadership, and getting along with others as the means to prepare students to be compassionate citizens. It is about education as it should be. It is about Athenian.
The story is long, but I urge you to listen if you can find the time. If you want to understand why we do Focus Friday’s, and AWE, and Round Square exchanges, and emphasize the Arts, and push so hard on core academic skills–this story is a great window into our mission and our thinking. And if you want your child to visit the schools in Germany and Scotland started by Kurt Hahn, then just have them sign up for a Round Square exchange, for those two schools, like Athenian, were founders of that organization.
Part 2 of the story helps you understand why we are thinking so deeply about Athenian’s public purpose, the service we are supposed to do as an institution beyond the great education we provide every day to our students.
I know I often say “the world has come to Athenian.” This story another indication of that.
Enjoy as I take Athenian to the world for the next few weeks. See you soon.
My recommended reading for the end of the semester is one that is relevant in theme, but not in the specific details. Even though the essay is about a writer in his graduate program, it feels apt as a way to close the first semester at Athenian. One of the foundations of the Athenian pedagogical approach is the concept of "teaching through relationships." We encourage open, direct communication between teachers and students so that both parties see each other as whole people, because in that openness, we find generosity and compassion. In late October, the famed American short story writer George Saunders wrote an incredible essay in the New Yorker about two of his writing teachers, Tobias Wolff and Doug Unger. It's an essay about a graduate student in a master of fine arts program, and so as I said, the details are clearly not relevant to the ninth grade experience. But the insights that Saunders shares about how his relationships with his teachers informed his personal and professional growth delightfully echo Athenian's aspirational vision of how important the student-teacher relationship can be. I hope you enjoy the essay as much as I did.
Have you ever wondered what Athenian means when we say we "teach through relationships"? Art teacher Stacey Goodman explores this theme as a blogger for Edutopia, examining his own educational experience as a youth and his journey as a teacher. Teaching through relationships "embeds formal knowledge in the world in which it actually belongs and from which it is born: that of the complex, historical, and social world of being human."
In February, I was in an audience of about 6,000 independent school administrators and teachers at the annual conference of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). The conference was just beginning and the Association’s Executive Director, John Chubb, was giving his opening remarks. In a time of great change in education, he was remarking on the things independent schools have always provided to their students. He had listed three items and then began to talk about “the most important one—emotion.” I was in the top row of the balcony of this massive hall as John Chubb began to talk about “touching the heart and soul” of our students, about how schools are not about just “teaching stuff” to kids. He gave one example from a school in the east that created a fun way to call a snow day and then prepared to wrap up his comments.
Truthfully, I was already mentally making my transition to the first conference session (i.e., scanning my program to decide which of the dozens of presentations I would attend) when John Chubb said, “…Our schools are also good at touching kids so deeply that it changes their lives.” It was then that a picture of an Athenian AWE patrol popped up on the massive screens at the front of the hall and now John had the full measure of my attention.
From here, I will let John speak for himself. In the video, he starts talking about schools’ ability to elicit emotion at about 18:55 and then about Athenian at 21:25. You can see that talking with our students deeply touched him and he, too, became emotional. My throat tightened as well as he talked about Athenian and the way this mission moves our students. It was even a bit more poignant knowing that my son was only days away from embarking to Death Valley himself.
It took every bit of my self-control to not stand up in the back of the auditorium and scream, “That is my school!” And I would have wanted people to know that AWE is but one way we endeavor to touch the hearts and souls of our students and engender in them a life of intellectual exploration and meaningful contribution. When you respect students as humans and deep learners, and mix that with a mission that is all about applying knowledge (not simply gathering it) and using it to do good, then you get The Athenian School. This was a supremely proud moment for me, although I am proud daily by the way our faculty and students bring their passion to the world. As I have said on numerous occasions, the world has “come to us” in recognizing that Athenian’s brand of education is a supremely powerful way to prepare students for success in college and the years beyond. Enjoy.
A quick 6 minute TED talk to remind us ALL that we "lead" each and every day. And perhaps, we don't even know it!
A very eloquent reminder or "refocuser" that WHY we do something is more important than pretty much everything else. I believe, with this focus, it will actually provide us with, well, more focus and effectiveness!
A favorite of mine from legendary basketball and life teacher John Wooden: simple yet powerful foundational reminders of the difference between winning and success.
--Recommended by Matt Zahner, Middle School Faculty and Men's and Women's Soccer Coach