Returning to Field

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Field recently held its annual alumni-varsity basketball game here at Field, and had a great turnout of past and present students. The following blog post contains the reflections of two recent alums who came back to Field to see friends, former teachers and classmates, and to participate in the game. 

From 2011 graduate, Rebecca Gale: 

Walking into the Field gym is nothing new to me. Having spent three years playing basketball for Field, my athletic endeavors were a highlight of my high school experience. When I walked in on Wednesday, however, the feeling was new; it was my first time walking in to play a game as an alum, and it made me miss Field athletics more than ever.

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Wolf Boltansky ’09 and Zack Bruno ’09

Many faces greeted me; some were familiar friends with whom I had graduated, and some were faces I had never seen before, as their time at Field ended before mine even began. Regardless, it didn’t take long to realize that everyone—despite their graduation year—was happy to be back. This only confirmed my conviction that Field is more than a school; it’s a community, a family, and a home.

The game itself wasn’t exactly my most phenomenal athletic outing, but it didn’t take long to feel like I had gone back a few years and was battling a PVAC foe. From Sonya Boltansky’s unwavering encouragement, to Q’s [Quintus Cunningham’s] brightly colored shoes, to the halftime pep talk Officer Bill gave me, it was clear that no matter how many miles away we may travel, Field remains the same and is a part of us all.

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Joshua Merriweather ’12

When we come back together in the place where we played, learned, and grew as students, it doesn’t matter when each of us attended Field, but rather that we all experienced Field.

I have yet to meet someone in college who had a high school experience quite like mine, and when I come back to Field for events such as the alumni-varsity game, I’m reminded why this is the case. There simply is no other place quite like Field. Field transcends time, age, and distance, and when alums from 1978 to 2012 come together to engage in a friendly game of basketball with current students, it’s clear that no matter where life may take us, Field forever connects us.

From 2012 graduate, Zach Klaiman:

Besides family coming into town, football, and all that wonderful turkey, the Field School Alumni-Varsity basketball game is what I most look forward to during Thanksgiving break. Up until this most recent game, I had been playing for the non-alumni team. I hadn’t the slightest clue as to the identity of some of these older people I was playing. All I knew is that they went to Field at some point, so we had some kind of connection.

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Forrest Rilling ’07, Jay Nemeyer ’05 and Jared Coleman ’06

Some of the people I played against in previous years were very close friends of mine—Field graduates from two to three years ago. I loved seeing what they were doing with their lives and asking them about their experiences both from their time at Field and beyond. It always made me excited to think about how, very soon, I would be on the other team while the current Field students would be looking at me the same way I looked at the ones before me.

Going back to Field to play in the alumni game, as an alum this time, truly was an interesting experience.Honestly, it was a little strange at first. This was my first time home since I left for college in August, so this was my first time on theField campus as a college kid. I walked through the doors of the gym and sure enough, Officer Bill and Kermit, two of my biggest supporters and best friends during my time at Field, greeted me with open arms. It felt just like senior year again.

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Current students Celia Boltansky, Saige Honig and Sydney Klaiman

I continued to see familiar faces as more people arrived for the game-—teachers and fellow alumni I had not seen in awhile. I saw current Field students who have been like little siblings to me over the years. A little trash talk for the upcoming game took place, but that was inevitable. I wanted to chat with them all day and catch up, but that would have to wait. It was game time.

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Sam Mason ’11 and Jay Nemeyer ’05

Playing against the current Field varsity team, I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of them. I dedicated so much of my time at Field to the basketball team. The relationships I had made with my coaches and teammates are ones that I will never forget.I still know the plays like the back of my hand. So playing against them and not being part of the team felt strange and honestly a little sad at first. However, as the game went on (and might I add that it was a very intenseand well played game), it became clear that I am still part of the team. All of the alumni playing are still part of the Field basketball team. Even though we aren’t at the school playing in the games anymore, we are still there in spirit and in heart.

I feel like that is the purpose of the Field Alumni-Varsity basketball game. To bring the whole team together. The game came down to the wire, but in the end the opposing team won. I was disappointed but also very proud—proud to be part of a community that can be such great friends off the court yet compete and give nothing but their all on the court. I can’t wait until next year!

Be True, Fly High, Go Field!

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Wyoming Ave. Alumni Reconnect on Foxhall Road

Field School classes of ’81 and ’82 had a reunion on Saturday, October 20th from 6-8 pm on the school’s new campus (well, new to the classes of ’81 and ’82) in the Cafritz living room. Persephone Zill took the time to write about the experience of seeing her Field classmates again:

Field Classes of ’81 and ’82

It was wonderful to be together Saturday night at the reunion in DC. A bunch of us were struck by the bond we quickly re-established despite all the years that have passed… Here’s who came from our class: Tom Canick, Julian Ferris, Josh Harris, Judy Vogt, Alex Ladd, Mary Lee (via phone), Jane Pfeiffer, Peter Sonnenreich, Michael Wainwright, Alex Weiner, Dan Wiley, John Williams, Elizabeth Wolstein, and Katherine and Persephone Zill.

Sharaine Ely and Natalia Kormeluk

We took a tour of the new campus and were really impressed. Field remains quite intimate and yet now has a full scale amazing gym, high tech computer and chemistry labs, lunch rooms, and even a bar/club space with a dance floor for performances and creative classes. We saw our teachers Barbara, Natalia and Sharaine, and reminisced about classes and trips we did with them.

John Williams, Peter Sonnenreich, Judy Vogt James, Alex Weiner and Katherine Zill

Afterwards (at the Town Hall restaurant),we caught up about our lives, sharing our professions, details about kids and pets, the need for reading glasses, etc. We stayed until after midnight, enjoying the chance to reconnect. We all agreed we should definitely do more (we want to see everyone) and we’re thinking about a possible New York gathering, a 76ers game in Philadelphia, and the Field School 40th anniversary events next spring.

Katherine Zill, Persephone Zill and Dale Johnson

A great big THANK YOU to Janine, Joanne, Will and Dale for all you did to make it a great evening! I’ll end with Field’s motto (created by Elizabeth in Latin) which our class certainly achieved:

Dare to be Wise,

Persephone, ’82

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Returning Home to Field

On Thursday evening, October 18, 2012, The Field School hosted the first of two “Elements of Education” forums as part of celebrating its 40th anniversary. This panel discussion focused on the ideas in the book The Element by Sir Ken Robinson. The panel was moderated by Chris Osmond, a professor of education at Appalachian State University in North Carolina—who taught Spanish, English, Theater, and Music at Field from 1993-1999.

Also on the panel was Helen Steinberg, mother of Arielle Steinberg ’98, and a specialist on students with learning differences. In addition, the panel boasted the presence of Chris Willcox ’06, who is an artist and television producer, working with Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel on current research in the human brain.

We asked Chris, Helen, and Chris each to reflect on returning to The Field School after some time away.

Chris Osmond with Field Alumna Joanna Navarro

Chris Osmond:

I do not remember the first time I walked into a Field classroom, not clearly. But I sure remember the vibe of the main lobby on Wyoming Street: loud kids with bright eyes and frayed, sagging pants who hung on each other like stadium blankets, teachers who seemed to move through the hall to their own theme songs (Tait Colberg’s was “Dynamo Hum;” Craig Farmer’s was “The Boys Are back in Town;” Claire Calvin’s was “I Saw the Sign.” Perhaps I was the only one who heard them). I could tell from the beginning that this was a place where different kinds of work happened, and that the kind of energy I wanted to bring into teaching would be welcomed here. Most of all, I remember wanting, desperately, to get a chance to do it. I could not have imagined a place like this had I not seen it. I could not imagine what it would be like to teach here. But I wanted to find out very, very badly.

That’s pretty much how it went down for me. I remember fighting traffic down 16th street on dazzling fall mornings, trying combinations of class ideas out in my head until I screeched into the treacherous car pile-up behind the Old Building ready to announce “Will, I know what we’re going to do today.” I remember cross country runs drafting on Dale and Will McFadden and Will Lang and Michael “the Gurminator” Gurman, sailing between the pedestrians on Connecticut Avenue like young gods. I remember holing up in the Carriage House during Work Internship and on Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings pulling together this play or that one, this song or that one, endless hours lost in the no-time and no-space of raw, real creation, coming back to the world to walk to Embassy Market for Doritos and Diet Pepsi before plunging in again. The stunned applause of an audience amazed to see us pull off Little Shop of Horrors or the break in “500 Miles High,” or the swordplay in Moon Over Buffalo or the set change in My Fair Lady. Danielle and Adam and Michelle and Sean and Hannah and Cory and Johanna and Emre and Oscar and Blair and Patti and Lauren and Brandon and always, always, always, Michael Tyner. The yearbooks are over there on the shelf, but I don’t need them to remember your names and hear your voices again. I will never, never forget you.

To go back to Field is to go back to the spring that fed the best ideas I’ve ever had: Teaching is a vocation – a civic duty of almost unimaginable importance, and at the same time something you can do every day and still love to do. Difference and discord is beautiful and vital and a sign of life. Working for a long time at something means it becomes part of you and you of it. Beauty matters. Precision matters. Giving a damn matters. Telling the truth about what it is like for you matters.

As I prepare North Carolina public school teachers now, I am almost embarrassed to cop to the richness of the environment where I cut my teaching teeth:

  • I was never dissuaded from pursuing an idea of what we might do.
  • No one ever told me that “wouldn’t work here.”
  • My strengths were lavishly recognized, and my weaknesses were welcomed and forgiven and nurtured into new strengths.
  • I saw each of my students as individuals, and was encouraged to help them be whatever they were on their way to being.

I was the luckiest teacher in the world.

 —Chris Osmond

Helen Steinberg:

 “Keeping Field Field” was the most important consideration when the decision was made to move The Field School from Wyoming Avenue to Foxhall Road. Founder Elizabeth Ely, the Board of Trustees, students, teachers, and parents were obsessed with the idea that this unique educational institution needed to maintain its initial mission despite a move to arguably the most beautiful setting in Washington, D.C. Did we succeed in maintaining The Field School’s philosophy and mission?

Without a doubt, the answer is “yes.”

Having spent last Thursday night at The Field School, as a participant in the Elements of Education program, it was reassuring to meet current students and parents, as well as new and veteran teachers, and hear the same themes we talked about ten years ago. Field stands out among its friendly competitors because of its focus is on the student. Field does not make empty promises to students and families. Students get what they need without hesitation. Although the school has increased its population, class size remains small so that students can get individual attention.

And The Field School continues to admit students with different strengths and weaknesses and supports those with learning differences and ADHD. The Admissions office welcomes artists, athletes and academicians, understanding that having students with a variety of skills and interests sitting together in the classroom creates a much richer learning experience. It is understood that adolescence is a time of questioning and risk-taking, and both teachers and administrators are prepared to deal with students who may make mistakes, who can experiment with and explore their passions. Working in the ceramics studio on a daily basis or trying out a new sport allows students to stretch themselves in a way that is unique when compared with other schools. Field recognizes that the process is more important than the product—a test score or grade on a paper does not tell the whole story.

As I sat in the Cafritz house, I was surrounded by beauty both inside and out, a far cry from The Field School on Wyoming Avenue. Most importantly, I knew that through the stewardship of Dale, Will, Natalia and so many others, Field has indeed remained Field.  In the final analysis, it’s the message and not the mortar that has changed the lives of so many students.

—Helen Steinberg

Chris Willcox:

There’s a special awkward ambivalence about going back to high school. It’s a nostalgic familiarity of Well Here We Are Again tinged with all the retrospective unease that typically surrounds face-to-face reunions with persons from one’s adolescence. There are mild but ultimately deep-seeded expectations of redemptive rekindlings of formerly asymmetrical student-teacher relationships, and a vague hope of rediscovering something about yourself you had left behind in those since-forgotten hallways. No part of this feeling is alleviated when the occasion of your return is an afterschool presentation attended by your former teachers, principal, and, like every other high school event, your ever-doting mother. This familiar audience gives the whole thing an eerie aspect of temporal displacement, which only heightens the nostalgia, except this time on the stage instead of belting out another awkward teenage rendition of “Blue Bossa” or “Take Five” or whatever other middlebrow pre-1970’s jazz favorites the school band used to play, you’re sitting amongst a panel of austere PhDs telling parents and teachers about how to “educate the workers of the twenty-first century.” I guess high school always was a little surreal.

Like many other so-called creative people, I have mixed feelings about my secondary education. Granted, the Field School isn’t exactly known for jock-and-cheerleader social exclusion, but even in a place so thoroughly permeated by hardcore leftist open-mindedness there are features of adolescence awkwardness that leave you invariably feeling alienated. High school is that special time in which you figure out key aspects of your personality and natural disposition. It is a time in which you answer such key questions as Am I funny? Am I smart? Am I popular, or athletic, or attractive, or kind of not really any of those? And then, well . . ., then what? The method of discovery here is partially trial-by-fire, partially imitation of The Big Kids, and almost always doing whatever you can to avoid social ridicule. These methods typically cash out in ways too personally humiliating and professionally compromising to commit to writing of any kind, but the memory of the terrible clothing and even worse haircuts will forever reverberate through the halls of my alma mater. This said, the most dramatic part about going back to high school is the juxtaposition of your at least slightly resolved adult self meeting your totally unresolved adolescent self on its home turf, which is basically the same kind of experience as when Marty McFly’s girlfriend meets the future version of herself in Back to the Future Part II.

What makes the whole affair even weirder is when you’re coming back to school not just to satisfy the yearning of your own nostalgia but in order to be the alumni presence on a panel of qualified experts. According to one administrator I was the panel’s “prized wildcard,” which strikes me as one of the more flattering ways Field School administrators have described me. As a student I skirted expulsion a number of times, I was rude to my teachers, disruptive, and generally a pain to be around.  That seven years later I would be invited to present to the community shows the sort of remarkable place that is The Field School. If the role of secondary education can be construed as fostering a safe environment in which students are allowed to take risks and make mistakes in order to carve out their own personal and intellectual path, then The Field School excels. The key to the school is and always has been to see the student not as an agent of youthful and recklessness behaviors or as a set of standardized scores, but as a unique individual with a specific potential. Rather than taking the easy path of creating a homogenized troupe of high-scoring well-behaved overachievers, Field aims to pull personhood out of the student in that necessarily messy and awkward form that growing up has to take. Of course, the goal has never been to end up with a fully formed and self-actualized eighteen year old by the end of the program, but to instill in the minds of the students what the rocky road of self-identity ends up being. The Field School’s approach to personhood, which, by the way, is the right one, is summarized well by the novelist Philip Roth: “The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again.”

—Chris Willcox

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Field Homecoming 2012

For the last few months, Janine Werkman has served as Director of Alumni & Community Relations in Field’s Development Office.  She succeeds JoAnne Scribner in that role, who is now Field’s Director of Development. Janine brings her past fundraising and event planning experience to the school as we kick off our 40th Anniversary year.  Janine played a big role in making this year’s Field Homecoming Celebration a great success. Here is Janine’s take on the past weekend’s fun and festivity as well as her new role at Field.

Saturday, October 13th was an exceptional day to visit The Field School. The sun was out, autumn was as beautiful as a season can get, and the campus was buzzing with life. Homecoming!

This year’s Homecoming was a great success. Not only did we have gorgeous weather, but we also had the spirit that the day is all about: community. Homecoming was a day for students to play sports, for alumni to visit, for parents and siblings to join in, for teachers to relax—and for all of us to celebrate the great sense of purpose and generosity in our community.

Since coming to The Field School this summer, I have been consistently knocked out by the way everyone pitches in. On Saturday in the first part of our day, we had the support of our Field parent and student community as we raised money (and awareness) for a local non-profit, Hope and A Home. This is a wonderful organization that works with low-income families and has partnered with Field in past to educate our students about the needs of the homeless in DC. Field’s cross country team helped to lead a wonderful group on a walk/run that made a difference for people beyond Field’s ten acres.

Maybe it was the draw of our fine sports teams or the great food, but we had an overwhelming number of current families and faculty attend our events throughout the day. From the moonbounce to the face-painting to the sales of brand-new Field spiritwear, the day was alive with color and enjoyment. In addition, Saturday’s Homecoming had the largest number of Field alumni in history—a great testament to the meaning of this school to its students. They stay connected long into the future.

As Field’s new Director of Alumni & Community Relations, I also had the great privilege to organize several Class Reunions over the weekend including the Classes of  ’86, ’87, ’91, ’92, ’96, ’97, ’02 and ’07. We welcomed over 60 alumni back to Field, some of them making their first visit to the Foxhall campus since the school’s move ten years ago. Alums were thrilled to be back and were happy to see that, although the school has moved from the former Wyoming Avenue address, the students and our school’s mission remain intact.  Many of these former students had not seen each other since graduation. Dale welcomed the crowd home again, and veteran teachers Chris Lorrain, Natalia Kormeluk and Will Layman gave tours of the campus. What a great night of reminiscing!

Over the next few months, I will continue to reconnect with alumni across the country by organizing class reunions, regional alumni gatherings in Chicago, LA, San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia and Boston, and by continuing to keep Field alumni informed and coming back to our campus. Also, I work with parents and the Field Parents Association to encourage the spirit of community and contribution that is obviously at the heart of this wonderful school.

Thank you to so many for welcoming me into this community. There’s no place like Field!

—Janine Werkman

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Field’s Ninth Grade Gets Burned by Cellphone Ban

For one day this past week, the 9th graders experienced the loss of their cell phones. This came as a surprise to the students, who arrived for school expecting it to be the same as any other day; their English teachers gathered them together in groups upon their arrival, boxes in hand. These boxes became the cell phone collection boxes, and the hallways were soon filled with the voices of fifty-nine 9th graders who spoke in indignation, anger and amusement, as their younger and elder peers looked on.

Ninth grade English teachers, Kata Solow, Laura Gill and Liz Kim, describe the ideas that went into the 9th grade experience of a one day cell phone ban: This Fall, in the 9th grade, we are reading Ray Bradbury’s prescient novel, Fahrenheit 451. In the society portrayed in the novel, books are banned, seized, and burned, and the inhabitants of the society are addicted to technology. Even though Bradbury wrote F451 in 1953, his exploration and portrayal of peoples’ relationship with technology as well as our need for meaningful, reciprocated relationships makes the novel feel as if it could have been written yesterday. We ultimately chose F451 for its relevance to our students lives (not to mention our own) as well as its challenging language and subject matter. We want our students to be challenged as readers, but we also want them to enjoy what they read and be able to relate to it.

We decided to take away cell phones for the day for similar reasons. We wanted to continue to push students to relate what they were reading to their own lives and have them undergo the experience and shock of having something taken away for a reason other than punishment. Moreover, though, we wanted to challenge them to think about and reflect on their (and our!) dependence on technology. It’s one thing to talk about how much you’re addicted to texting during a class discussion, but it’s a completely different experience to be forced to go through the day without texting at all.

We notified parents the day before about our plan (and asked them not to tell their children), and the responses we got were one hundred percent positive. I can’t even begin to count the number of emails we got asking us to keep the cell phones permanently. One family that was out of town on Friday decided to institute their own cell phone ban on their trip. Student response was (understandably) slightly less positive. There were a lot of shocked faces and wide eyes and “why are you doing this to us”-es. In English class, after allowing students to air their grievances, we talked about why we took away their technology, how it felt to have something taken away and to go a day without a cellphone, and what their reactions meant.

We’ll definitely be doing this activity again next year, so watch out 8th graders!

The reactions of the students spanned a wide range, starting with the downright melodramatic, Quincy Fuller: When the phone and iPad tragedy occurred, I felt outraged and betrayed. When I walked into the ninth grade area, it was like entering a void of darkness. Words could not describe my dismay and disappointment in the people who claim to be the higher authorities.

On the opposite spectrum from Quincy was 9th grader, Colin Trinity, who had a much calmer and less concerned reaction: It [the cell phone ban] was so funny, because everyone was freaking out and I just did not care at all because I never use my phone. I only use it to update my parents because I’m just not really into that whole social media and texting thing. So I could not care less but everyone else was freaking out. They were talking about overthrowing the faculty and staff! They basically proved that they could not handle a day without a phone.

Freshman Ben Kaunitz described the experience as neither enjoyable nor horrible, so much as unsettling: It made me feel really uncomfortable, like, constantly, because I would keep reaching for it and it wouldn’t be there. It’s not like I use it a whole lot for games and stuff like that during the day even though I do a little bit, but just little things like being able to check the time instantly, and being caught up on the world. It was really unsettling.

Ben’s classmate, Shelby Trible, shared his views, as did a majority of the 9th grade class: I thought it was an awful experience. I’m one of those people who doesn’t know how to tell time without my phone.

What did you miss most about not having your phone?

Shelby: Having it [provides] a secure feeling. It’s… I don’t think it would [have been] as bad if I had lost [my phone] but knowing someone had it and I couldn’t was really hard.

Despite the varied reactions of the students, their teachers felt that such an experience was a positive one for the students to have, and they plan on repeating it again next year with their next group of English students.

— Kata Solow, Laura Gill and Liz Kim

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Bridget McKeogh on Field Athletics

For four years Bridget McKeogh worked as the assistant Athletic Director in Field’s Athletics Office. This year, Bridget made the transition to AD and is working with new assistant AD Erik Borresen. In addition to her athletic duties, Bridget teaches Advanced Algebra and Trigonometry and a sixth grade World Cultures class.

I have been an athlete and athletic supporter my entire life.  I truly got the bug when I played AAU basketball as a kid.  There is nothing quite like being part of a team, sharing victories and struggles and working towards a common goal.  I hope that Field’s athletic department allows young athletes to feel that same sense of comradery and fulfillment through sports.

Field’s athletic program is quite unique.  Everyone gets a chance to play.  Erik and I, along with the coaches, hope to meet all of our athletes at their level, while pushing each individual to be their best.  I love that at Field, if we have 47 boys try out for high school basketball, we don’t cut players, we add another team!  This allows the coaches to put each athlete in the best situation possible: a competitive varsity team with a very full schedule, a junior varsity team to hone skills get game experiences or a third varsity where there is a bit more flexibility and a schedule of games where all the teams are focused on sportsmanship, fitness and the love the of the game.

Bridget and Erik—making Field sports GO for 2012-13!

Erik Borresen is the most recent addition to the Field Athletic Office as he takes over the role of Assistant Athletic Director. Erik originates from the small, but exciting town of West Bend, Wisconsin and finished his undergraduate studies at Lawrence University (Appleton, WI) in 2011. He has been most intimately involved with the game of basketball both as a player and a coach, and still considers it his first love. However, he has experience with a wide variety of sports and is currently most excited about his assistant coaching duties with the Field JV Girls Soccer team.

I believe that playing on a sports team does so much more than simply providing a physical workout. Learning how to work together as a team, how to rebound from a difficult practice or a disappointing performance, and how to push yourself to become better than you were the day before are lessons that are best taught through team sports. This approach to athletics meshes well with the many opportunities The Field School affords its students, and I look forward to promoting this mindset throughout the Field community.

Another important piece of athletics that sometimes gets overlooked is how sports can bring a community together.  As a teacher at Field, I see my students everyday for 40 minutes.  I see their parents twice a year: on back to school night and at conferences.  I rarely meet their siblings or grandparents.  But as a coach, I see my athletes’ families on a regular basis.  We celebrate, we battle, we talk about what we can do better next time—all together.  Sports bring us all closer, which makes our community even stronger.

The fall is off to great start, and we have many months exciting athletics to come!

—Bridget McKeogh

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Faculty Professional Development in the Summer of 2012

For students, summer typically means going to camp, working, or traveling with friends and family. For Field’s faculty, summer is a time to expand their horizons and develop a richer understanding of their respective fields through professional development conferences. Each year, Field dedicates significant resources towards making professional development opportunities available for its faculty and staff.  The conferences, workshops and experiences that comprise these opportunities range from nationally-recognized symposia on multicultural competency to trips through the Florida Everglades centered on one’s own self—discovery. Below are some reflections written by a few of the faculty who engaged in a professional development opportunity this past summer.

Athletic Director Bridget McKeogh, English teacher Laura Gill and History & Journalism teacher Lauren Lewis, along with a group of Field students, attended a Gender Conference.

In June we traveled with a group of students to Connecticut to attend a three-day conference on the different ways in which gender, and specifically the female experience, can impact student life in independent schools and the world at large. The conference provided a wonderful opportunity to think critically about what it means to be a woman in these environments, and provided ideas for how to bring those conversations back to schools. Beyond that, the students were able to bond with each other and with other young women from around the country who attended the conference.

Math teachers Jake Hirsch and Brian Orzechowski, science teacher and admissions counselor Florence Sun, and math and science teacher Adrienne Dass attended a one-week Diversity Conference at The Brooks School in Massachusetts.

The conference focused mostly on racial diversity and multicultural issues in independent schools, but we also spent time learning about privilege and LGBT issues. We listened to many distinguished speakers who shared their cultural stories as Heads of Schools or counselors at other independent schools. We also had focus groups where we were able to discuss specific issues that had arisen in our personal experiences. We realized during our time there that we are moving in the right direction on these issues at Field, but there is still more we can improve on and continue to do to make Field a diverse and open environment for all every day.

In June, middle-school teacher Maddy O’Donnell and math teacher Dave Nelson attended the The Kingenstein Summer Institute.

Dave and I agreed that this was the best form of professional development we have done since we started teaching at Field.  The two-week long program focused on three areas: teaching strategies and educational philosophy, your own curriculum, and multiculturalism.  Much of our time was spent sharing our practices and seeking out feedback from other teachers and both of us came out with a ton of concrete ideas to implement in the classroom here at Field. The theories, practices, and research that we were introduced to was fascinating and relevant, however, we both felt that the most beneficial aspect of the program was being able to share and listen to 80 other motivated teachers in Independent schools.

Finally, Brian Orzechowski and science teacher Sky Lesnick went on an 8-day outward-bound trip geared towards self-discovery and experiential learning.

Sky and I got to go on an amazing Outward Bound wilderness course for educators. We were invited to go this trip because we had sent a rather large group of our students on an Outward Bound course for Winter Internship. Our course was located in the Pisgah National Forest. We flew into Asheville Airport and were immediately split into two groups. We boarded vans and were quickly whisked away to the mountains, leaving all semblances of technology and hygiene behind.

After a relatively short ride we were dropped off into a clearing in the woods where our instructors were waiting for us. The 8 day course was unofficially split into two parts. In the first 4 days we did multiple 7+ hour hikes with 50 pound packs on our backs. During those first 4 days we had to learn how to read a contour map and get ourselves from Point A to Point B without any help from our instructors. After the 4th day of 5 mile hikes we slowed our pace a bit and started doing more challenging activities, which really took us out of our comfort zone (if there was even anyone who was still there) and really forced us into our stretch zone the rest of the trip.

The final 4 days consisted of waking up early and hiking for up to two hours to get to our day’s activity, which included rock climbing a 50 foot wall face at the summit of a 5,000 foot mountain, doing an up and over wall, as well as a ropes course that was 45 feet in the air at it’s highest point.

The last thing the trip focused on was using experiential learning as a way of teaching. In other words, instead of standing up and lecturing about a lesson, how can we get our students to experience the learning first-hand? For instance, instead of teaching students about Spanish in a classroom, how can we use the diverse community around us so that they can experience speaking Spanish in a real life scenario?

Overall this was not only one of the greatest experiences of my professional life, but of my life in general. I think as adults it is easy to stay in your comfort zone constantly, because you are the one who makes the decisions over your actions. And I think as a result of this that adults tend to forget what it’s like to truly feel uncomfortable in a situation and to really stretch themselves beyond what they think their limits are. One of the best things I got out of this conference was remembering what it is like to struggle and feel uncomfortable in an environment, which is something that I think every one of our students goes through in some way everyday.

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