Friday, November 30, 2012

"It has inspired me to lead more service projects."

We have good people here. They showed true compassion and leadership.

My advisory has "adopted" an elderly couple—Margot and Anthony—in the Rockaways Beach area of Queens, NY.  This neighborhood is home to many policemen and firemen, middle income residents and retirees, and it was ravaged in late October by Superstorm Sandy.  Margot and Antony’s home was nearly destroyed by the flooding and high winds of Sandy.

Anthony, a World War II veteran and artist, lost hundreds of his own paintings and sculptures in the storm, along with most of their personal possessions.  Through my friend's charity, Rockaways Beach 119th St. Rockaway Angels, we have raised funds to donate a Home Depot card to help the couple offset the expenses of clean up. To date, our students’ efforts have raised $1621.  Even better, an anonymous donor in New York City will match our funds. 

My advisees have passed a bucket at the Vanguard/Giant Steps show, sold water and popcorn at the two Middle School play performances in November, and they organized a Middle School bake sale on November 20.  All efforts are being organized and staffed by the students and their parents.  We recently received word that Anthony was so moved by our efforts – especially that artists are helping artists – that he is giving us one of his salvaged paintings. Obviously, the kids were thrilled with this news.

Marcie Allen, a native of Nashville and president of MAC Presents in New York City, is my friend who founded Rockaways Beach 119th St. Rockaway Angels She joined us on Campus on November 27 and addressed the Middle School during Assembly.  After thanking our students for their hard work, Marcie presented Anthony’s painting to my advisory, which we have hung with great pride.

When I asked my students what they felt after providing so much for an elderly couple they said:

- "I was really inspired."- "It makes me want to help again."- "It's about being a good citizen."- "When I think about elderly people without things, it really makes me sad."- "It touched our hearts."- "It has inspired me to lead more service projects."

For me, it was very emotional. Thinking about Margot and Anthony living without power, heat, or easily accessible food and medicine breaks my heart. I was also inspired by the enthusiasm of my advisees and proud of them for leading the fundraising. It takes a lot of courage to ask people to believe in YOUR cause... to help fix a problem that means something to YOU.  These kids organized the fundraisers, made posters, passed the bucket at the concert, asked people if Anthony and Margot could "keep the change" when they sold water and popcorn at the play performances, and inspired an entire school to donate. The rest of the student body came to our bake sale with their allowances, bought a single brownie, and told my kids to "keep the change." Students popped into my classroom on a regular basis who were not a part of my advisory and offered a couple of dollars from their allowances for our fund.

I couldn't be more proud of my advisees and our middle school students. We have good people here. They showed true compassion and leadership.

Shelley Roberts McLay ‘93
Middle School Faculty

Mrs. McLay's Advisory Group includes: 
Ryan Sneed, Ella Rose Gallimore, Olivia Tutt, Nikhil Paluri, Avery Witt, Zach Bankemper, 
Mia Churchill, Sally Kate Zaft, Christina Conrady,
Mason McKnatt, Sean Harris

Friday, October 5, 2012

"Our objective is to finish the elements of a solid education, and we will try to cultivate self-control, truthfulness and a right sense of honor among our pupils."

Thanks to our guest blogger, Jason Gregg, BGA Class of 1990 and Director of Alumni Relations. Below are his remarks from Upper School Assembly on October 5, 2012.

Today October 5th, is a very important day in the history of BGA, and I would like to take just a few minutes and tell you about it.

In the summer of 1889, a group of Franklin residents felt the need create a school in order to provide their children with the most current educational opportunities. They appealed to all citizens of Franklin to help, and a group of stockholders was formed.  According to the book A Monument to Education, these citizens felt the school should be “entirely non-sectarian: yet sound morals, good citizenship and Christianity will be its corner stone.”

So in July of 1889 six acres of land was purchased for $1,140, the site was across the road from the Carter House, and was the location of Mr. Moscow Carter’s Cotton Gin that stood during the Civil War. You would know that site today as the location of Dominos Pizza on Columbia Ave.

The cost to build the school was $10,000, and each stock holder was asked to contribute $800 towards the construction cost to help keep the school out debt.

The stockholders then sought two well know educators Mr. S.V. Wall and Mr. W.D. Mooney to head the school.  The original school charter listed the school name as Battle Ground Academy, a name suggested by Mr. Mooney, but following the custom of the day, the school was also  known as the Wall and Mooney School. An early school catalog for prospective families said,

“If you wish to place your son in Vanderbilt University, Yale, Harvard, Princeton or thorough college, then send him to us and let us fit him for it. Our objective is to finish the elements of a solid education, and we will try to cultivate self-control, truthfulness and a right sense of honor among our pupils.”

On Saturday, October 5th, 1889 the town of Franklin gathered as Battle Ground Academy was dedicated. The dedication speech was delivered by General William B. Bate, a Civil War veteran, former governor of the State of Tennessee, and a United States Senator. I would like to read brief passage from his speech…….

This building, in architectural form tasteful and useful, has been built by the free contributions of a patriotic, brave, and generous people – an educational monument, so to speak – in memory of that battle, which occurred years ago on this spot, and to that successful training of youth which is of the hopeful future.  It is a memorial to patriotism and heroism of those who, a quarter of century ago, fought and fell on this historic ground, as it also is a building dedicated to the public good where the gold-dust of knowledge from the hands of educators will be scattered over their budding intellects of the present and future generations.  This cultured and generous people, proud of their lineage, their home, and their history, will see to it that this shall become a school where students will feel honored to have been graduated, not only in the branches of common English education, but in the Arts and Sciences, in the Greek and Latin, and modern languages.  Its name, by which we baptize it today – Battle Ground Academy, and the site on which it is erected, are suggestive of those wonderful historic events in our country that had a cause as well as a consequence, and which most appropriately call for a brief reference on this occasion of its dedication.

Happy Founder’s Day and here’s to another 123 years.

Photo of the Class of 1889.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lazy Hazy Days of Summer

It is a pleasure to welcome our families back to campus after the summer break.   The rhythm of the summer’s end and the return to school are always bittersweet for our families and students (and even a few faculty and staff).  Many of you may have followed recent discussions in Davidson County about the move to the balanced calendar and the impact on the usual summer holiday (as well as the reverse in Williamson County).  As is well documented, the movement to and from balanced calendars (with many schools in California and Texas having abandoned the experiment) has been fraught with politics and injected with strong emotion.  Data supporting the so-called summer learning loss has been called into question for a variety of reasons, and the issue is far from settled in academic research.  In reading about the calendar change, I was reminded of a book that I read this summer (the summer is certainly a time for me to catch up on some of the books piled on my nightstand).  The book, Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow is by Michael Thompson, a renowned psychologist and consultant to a Boston boys’ school, Belmont Hill.   Thompson’s other books include Raising Cain, Speaking of Boys, and Best Friends, Worst Enemies.

Homesick and Happy resonated during this balanced calendar discussion because it captured some of the intangibles lost in these debates.  A paean to summer camps, which Thompson argues can have a powerful impact on children and adolescents, the book reminds us that some of the most significant learning experiences—what we often call experiential learning in schools—take place outside of the boundaries of traditional classrooms and away from the watchful eyes of adults—both parents and teachers.  The product of the kind of “concerted cultivation” that Malcolm Gladwell depicts in his book Outliers, Thompson acknowledges at the opening of the book that his parents prodded and directed him towards organized lessons and activities throughout his childhood in New York.  During the summer some of these pressures abated:

In June, July, and August there was no summer school, no music lessons, no sports camps, no grades, no striving.  We went to live with my grandparents in their rural home by a lake in Massachusetts [. . .] The kids hung out together all day; we saw the grownups only at night.  We spent our time in the woods, inventing games, talking, sharing secrets, competing.

Beyond just waxing nostalgic about the kinds of summers that many of us enjoyed as kids, Thompson found that these memories of summer camps and similar experiences influenced his work with young people.  As he remarks, “Finally, it was clear to me that many students who exhibited tremendous gains in character and confidence were finding that growth outside of school and away from their families.”
As we contemplate the return to school and its own pace and patterns, it is worth remembering these comments about the richness of learning that extends beyond the classrooms.  Dana and I think often of how her summer experiences will shape our own daughter Claire.   Certainly, debates on these topics will always be highly charged.  I hope that your children return to BGA with some experiences that have reinforced their competence, tested out their independence, and cultivated their sense of adventure—even if, as with our three-year old, it is only in catching fireflies and rolling down sand dunes in a season that has its own rewards.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

To The Class of 2012: Vincit Omnia!

Battle Ground Academy
123rd Commencement Address
by Dr. John Griffith, Head of School
May 20, 2012

Last year at commencement, I paid tribute to the writer Shel Silverstein.  While I thought of a lot of structures for a poem to celebrate this class, I had one that I kept revisiting.  Although I have used the model before, I wanted to adapt it for the class of 2012.  After years of reading wonderful children’s books to our three-year old daughter Claire, I cannot help but have some place in the synapses in my brain that is entirely occupied by the rhythms of Theodore Seuss Geisel, or Dr. Seuss.  Moreover, this is commencement, after all, and endings and beginnings are on all of our minds, and Dr. Seuss is a great one for beginnings.

As I have said before, I have always felt a connection to Dr. Seuss, perhaps because he had lived across the quad from me at Oxford or spent a lot of his youth in the same part of New England.  Though you will hear a lot of sage advice this weekend, I want to focus on your Seussian qualities: your quirkiness, your humor, your absurdity, your sense of fun, your kindness, your passion, your compassion.  All of these qualities are evident in the anthropomorphic creatures who inhabit the work of Theodore Geisel.  So with apologies to Dr. Seuss, I have written an occasional poem for the class of 2012.

“How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before its June.   
My goodness how the time has flewn.
Is commencement day here so soon?

You’ve sung on the stages of Carnegie Hall
You have showed horses, played hoops,
Scored clinch soccer goals.
You’ve played the piano and ping pong and dodge ball,
Bowled in the states, and kept us enthralled.
You have tutored and mentored,
You have golfed and won races.
You have dressed up as wildcats
And painted your faces.
You have gamboled, cavorted, on countdown days,
You have hackeyed and partied, hoorahed and hoorayed.

You have cherished our honor code,
And have made time for fun,
You have played lots of baseball,
While there was stats to be done.
You had classes recumbent, and conversed in the sun.
You have hollered and cheered,
Pulled for Plato or Greer;

You have acted in Fools
And in many a show,
You have wowed us in Guys and Dolls
As you no doubt know.
You have danced and done tumbles,
Set, spiked, and rumbled.
You have played tennis, and football, and worn soccer cleats;
You’ve won at mock trial,
You’ve studied the Greeks.
You have beaten a lot of great teams on the way
A few that we treasure, BA, MBA.
You are National Merits,
You have bled gold and blue.
Today you are You,
That is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

We praise scholar-athletes,
And the great feats they’ve done,
We celebrate the Mack Hatcher Mob,
Who helped us to have fun,
We stop to praise the introverts,
The extroverts, the funny,
We give a nod to pragmatists
Who’ll go out and make the money,
The orators, the altruists,
The wrestlers and the runners,
The jazz cats, the cheerleaders,
And the go-out-and-have-funners.
You are tall, you are thin.
You are legacies, you are twins.

Though your parents have fought you
And prayed for and taught you
And tried hard at times not to
Strangle or throttle you.
They are proud you’ve been feted
And much celebrated
As you leave BGA
Your friends are elated.
Your heads crammed with facts but your zest’s unabated.
You’ve been irrepressible,
(I think you know who)
And simply unguessable
In some things you do.

Your voices are loud,
Singing out with the crowd. . .
Though you’ve had some demerits,
You would not be cowed.
You have made your mistakes
Though none too egregious.
You’ve baffled, surprised,
Delighted, and pleased us.
You’ve done all these things, but there’s much more to do
And where you will travel, we have scarcely a clue:

You’ll go off to Auburn,
Play ball at Sewanee
You’ll be landing at Samford, you’ll cheer for UT.
You will wow them at Centre, U Penn & Wake Forest,
WPI, Kentucky, and Belmont, of course.
You will QB at Iowa, study nursing at Martin
Play jazz and write tunes at the College of Charleston
Take the gridiron for Yale; dance at OSU,
Barnard, Ol’ Miss, UVM, and IU.
To Martin, TN Tech, and MTSU,
To Northwestern (it’s cold there) and to David Lipscomb
You’ll wow them at UTC, Roll Tide, and Princeton,
You’ll ride horses at Maryville
Pellissippi, and Richmond,
You’ll go on to be Generals, you’ll be singing at Furman
You’ll shine on the diamond of Walters State,  
Places Mr. Whitehill had told you were great:
Brown, Freed Hardiman, and to SLU.
You’re off to the navy, to Vanderbilt, too,
Campbellsville, CS, and Bellermine U
Eckerd, Southern Miss, and ETSU.

But wherever you go
And whatever you do
You will do greater things
Than most others will do. . .
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
You are the ones who'll decide where to go.
You’ll be on your way up
You’ll be seeing great sights
You’ll join the high-flyers who’ve soared to high heights.

So from all of your teachers:
The tall and the small
The hirsute and those without much hair at all.
The bearded, the peevish, the kind and the tart,
The ones with great brains,
And the ones with great art.

For education, Yeats said,
And he said it so well. . .
Is a fire to be lit,
Not a pale to be filled.
And Seuss himself said in his Seussian way
That all good schools will have really one thing to say. . .
He said schools that count,
At the end or the start
Are the schools that have trained
Both the brain,
And the heart.

And though we’re not Diffendorfer School,
To these seniors we can say. . .
We’ve been blessed to have you with us,
And we wish that you could stay.
So to all BGA wildcats on this most auspicious day
Vincit omnia, conquer all,
Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!”

Friday, March 2, 2012

Reflections on Technology (Part II)

          A few weeks ago, I reflected on the technological changes that we see on the horizon in the next two years and spoke about the group that has been testing out the iPad as a potential device.  The iPad continues to be an attractive option, and I am eager (like the rest of the world) to see what the next iteration will be, when it is released this month.  After a lot of conversations about what is the best device for each division, however, we have come to the conclusion that the likely device (which we will announce soon) for the 1:1 program in the upper school is the MacBook Air.             
           The potential advantages of the MacBook include the speed, solid-state processing, weight, and memory  The likely choice of the MacBook Air has been deeply considered for optimum learning and durability.  The iPad is a great device, and may be the right age-appropriate tool for lower and even middle school students.  The upper school college preparatory curriculum demands more in creativity, writing and collaboration than the iPad or similar devices can deliver at this time. The iPad still also has some limitations in its compatibility with software that we use such as Vernier software and instruments for science labs.  The new MacBook Air marries the world of apps and full Mac computing into the right tool to take 9-12 grade students to new heights.             
            We've already had  alumni remark on the advantage they've found in coming from a 1:1 program and the benefits as they start college.  Already equipped and experienced in the best of creativity, collaboration and organization, they walk into their classes with a significant head start.  That edge will stay with them in both their remaining school years and the years beyond.          
 As we develop our plans for a k-12 program in the rapidly changing space of technology, we will likely look for some blend of devices (though we believe there are still disadvantages to a bring-your-own device approach).  The goal of the 1:1 program is to provide common and consistently reliable operating systems in each classroom environment. That goal includes insuring that all students have the correct applications, and homogeneous imaging to insure the teacher will be able to ensure that all students have a high caliber device.  Too often in bring-your-own programs, the class becomes captive to the lowest-common-denominator technology in the room.  The most effective means for assuring that reliability is through common devices and software.
We are at an exciting phase of development of a new technology plan that will include a major infrastructure overhaul and an anticipated transition to becoming a 1:1 program from kindergarten through 12th grade.  These discussions are centering on the likelihood of a blended model that combines the iPad in lower school (a very attractive option), possibly extending that use through 6th grade, along with a MacBook model for 7th through 12th grades.  This transformation would also likely include Promethean or Smart Boards (through 5th or 6th grades).
                Again, while we are still assessing our opportunities and preparing the technology plan, we will continue to communicate about the ways in which technology will continue to enhance the outstanding academic programs at BGA.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Buggy Whips and Horseless Carriages

This week I, in my first post since the new year, am blogging on the iPad.  When I say blogging on the iPad, I am not referring only to the topic but also literally to the device.  As a school, we are engaging in a small pilot program, and I am typing this blog on the iPad (with the wireless keyboard).  The process of evaluating the iPad as a device is part of a much larger technology project within our strategic plan.  The new plan will include a complete overhaul of our current network (badly needed), examination of our technology in all three divisions, consideration of our staffing and service approach, revision of our professional development, etc.  

To put this in context, I should begin with the confession that I am neither an early adopter nor a Luddite.  The conversion to our 1:1 program in the upper school at BGA was a project the strategic plan committed us to before I arrived at BGA seven years ago.  During that time, we have changed devices several times (Lenovo, Dell, Toshiba) and always review the available options at this time of the year before making an announcement to our parents.  The discussions centering on the iPad in our iPad users’ group have been productive and provocative, and we are certainly discovering the pros and cons not only ourselves but through visits and discussions with peer schools across the country.  While I do not want to short-circuit those discussions, I have begun to think that the conversations we are having may be redundant in light of the adoption curve of the iPad and the market forces beyond our beautiful campus or Franklin, Tennessee.  In some regards (hyperbole acknowledged), I feel as if I am being asked if I would prefer that we invest in buggy whips or this new device called the horseless carriage or the automobile. 

Admittedly, that is a dramatic analogy.  Other devices will surely continue to exist in the market, and we will continue to be a dual platform school for the foreseeable future.  Our upper classmen will continue to use their tablets, and our faculty may gradually shift (possibly using more than one computer for a time).  Eventually, we may move to becoming a BYOD school (bring your own device).  There are clearly still some disadvantages to the iPad, which has been gradually transitioning from a consumer content-use device to a more viable educational and interactive product.  These are well known, and I am in no position to add to that conversation (the inability to view websites with Flash, some synching issues with smart board technology, issues with the stylus, the small keyboard with a different configuration, warranty issues). 

Next week I will blog more on these pros and cons; however, I will highlight a few of the reasons we must consider these devices very seriously as an attractive option and an eventual replacement of our current tablets.  These include:
  • the rapid adoption of etexts, with Apple’s recent announcement of its agreements with prominent publishers, as well as with the enormous catalogue already available from Amazon (a game-changer, in my view)
  • the long battery life (7-10 hours), which is dramatically different from that of our current devices
  • the portable and lightweight design (it actually fits on our desks)
  • the price point for our parents as we engage in serious discussions about affordability (many families are already investing in the iPad as a second or third device)
  • the excitement and engagement of students and prospective students (an informal poll of my freshman English class confirmed this)
  • the rapid proliferation of new apps (many free or inexpensive) that are solving issues on a daily basis (the adoption curve and the profitability make this inevitable)
  • the impact on differentiation of instruction
  • the possibility of more of a move toward a (more) paperless environment and both green efforts and cost-savings
  • the difference in repair rates we are hearing from peer schools (which affects staffing and service in out tech. department).
Next week I will continue this blog, but for now let me say this. . . I am still using my buggy whip, but I am very intrigued by this horseless carriage.

Friday, December 2, 2011

BGA Thankful List

As the holidays are upon us we are ever thankful for our family and friends. At BGA, we have many things of which to be thankful and below is a partial list of those items. This list was emailed to alumni and parents a few days before Thanksgiving. If you missed it, we hope you enjoy reading it today.

1                 Teacher for every 9 students
2                 Art galleries for student art exhibits in the new Mary Campbell Visual Arts Center
4                 HVAC Championships for the Middle School (2 individual championships in
wrestling, 1 team championship in cross country, 1 individual championship in golf)
5                 Art Studios in the Mary Campbell Visual Arts Center for Middle and Upper School art
6                 National Merit Semi-Finalists
6                 National Merit Commended Scholars
10               Newly inducted members of the BGA Hall of Fame
11               Members of the BGA Alumni Board
14               Years of education experience (average) of faculty and  staff
20               Upper School Students to participate in the first ever BGA Fall Build for Habitat for
23               Alumni Class Agents working to keep their classmates  informed
27               Middle School Students selected for the National Spanish & French Exam recognition
39               Senior Student Athletes (18 football, 5 cheerleading, 6 soccer, 6 cross country, 3 golf, 1
66               Volunteers helping BGA meet our $400,000 goal for the 2011-2012 Annual Fund
122             Years of BGA history and tradition since our founding in 1889.
143             New students enrolled for 2011-2012
200             New lockers for soccer, track & field and football in the soon-to-be complete 50,000
 square foot Athletic & Wellness Center.
219             Upper School students involved in fall extra-curricular  activities
286             Friends, and growing, to "LIKE" our new Facebook page
349             Student Greers on campus
351             Student Platos on campus
550             Alumni and friends who have attended an alumni event this fall
900             BGA family, friends and alumni who attended the 6 Friday Night Tailgates hosted by 
the Advancement  Office Staff
1419           Flowers to bloom at the Lower School this spring from the bulbs planted this fall by
                        parent and student volunteers
2884           Volunteer hours completed this school year by over 420 parent volunteers in the Arts
 Council, Parents Club and Wildcat Club
4000           Hours of community service to be completed by Middle School students by May 2012
10,000        Books checked out of the Middle School Library
33,000        Net Dollars raised from magazine subscription sales in August/September
70%            Faculty with advanced degrees
99%            Extracurricular participation of students in the Middle School
100%          Faculty and Staff support for the 2011-2012 Annual Fund
44,000,000   Words read by Lower School students in 2011