Raven Review, April 2020
Wendy’s Words of Wisdom
In the midst of these challenging times, I find a great way to reduce my stress is to focus on gratitude. I’m grateful for the technology that allows us to provide continuous education to our students: Canvas, Zoom, OneNote, tablets and virtual whiteboards, Google, RenWeb, scanners, phones that can screenshoot and more. I’m grateful to be able to see our students’ faces each day! I’ve been so impressed with the enthusiasm and positive attitudes of my students in “class,” and I’ve enjoyed meeting a number of family pets along the way. Last but not least, I’m grateful for the people I work with who have been incredibly generous with their time, preparing their own classes and supporting other teachers in this transition to a new mode of learning. Secondary teachers are committed to continue providing a quality Montessori education to all of our middle school and high school students. I am proud to work with such a dedicated group!—Wendy Coulombe, Secondary Program Coordinator
College Decision Time
By College Counselor Jill O’Keefe
No matter how you report it, gleaning 13 offers of admission from 16 applications is an astounding achievement…yet that is exactly what our senior, Taylor Sibthorp, has achieved.
Last fall I would have characterized Taylor’s approach to her college applications as a mix of practicality and lofty aspiration. Today, in a world where walking your dog and grocery shopping require courage, I have a different way of looking at things.
Taylor put together a collage of stickers she has received from some of the schools she has been accepted to. Shown in the image above, it is an interesting statement on what we ask of our college-bound youth. Myriad references to courage mixed with invitations to “make some noise” and then enjoy a tea break reflect our cultural expectations. While it is unlikely that these stickers were produced with COVID-19 in mind, in light of the circumstances we find ourselves in today, they seem somewhat prescient.
Did Taylor’s achievement require courage? Was Taylor required to act even when fearful? To a certain degree both of these statements are true. Doing the work required to compile a competitive application to an academically strong college is not for the faint of heart, but Taylor worked through her uncertainty and trusted that her education and the WMS community would serve her well. She took a leap of faith and had the courage to work through her fear to achieve something extraordinary.
Now she is facing a different challenge…how to choose among 13 excellent opportunities at a time when she can’t venture much beyond her front yard. Again, some courage is required. But the leap of faith she needs to take at this juncture has an inevitable outcome—Taylor will attend a stellar college and experience her dream, an excellent, horizon-expanding education.
Our final unit in high school Biology is Bioethics. Students are ready for this unit, and will bring their knowledge of biochemistry and genetics to bear as we investigate a variety of topics—and some current events—along with a specific approach to ethical questions.
The curriculum is based on the National Institutes of Health curriculum “Exploring Bioethics,” and it’s fantastic. We’ll be looking at issues around genetic testing for diseases, modifying animals for human benefit (or entertainment), athletes and gender identity, embryo selection and much more. We will even be reading a novel! The current health crisis in our world provides additional opportunities for rich discussions. Homework assignments will be reduced due to remote learning adjustments, but will mainly consist of short news articles relevant to the topics we’re studying.
Lucky for us, a unit on bioethics is more conversation-based than lab-based, so remote learning should work out just fine.
Virtual Greetings! Spanish lends itself well to being delivered online. It certainly isn’t my preference, I miss my students and would much rather be in the classroom, but we are finding our way around the digital world. We wrapped up the third quarter with some remaining work out of the textbooks, utilizing breakout rooms in Zoom to work in small groups, and continued reading our novels: “El Nuevo Houdini” in Spanish 1 and “Esperanza” in Spanish 2/3. Students presented their research and posters on Spanish-speaking countries and we’ve been able to sprinkle in videos and interesting articles to read just as we would in the classroom. I look forward to seeing everyone in quarter 4, hopefully in person by the end of the school year!
Since our remote activity learning started, it has been a little challenging to adapt to a new learning experience for students and teachers. How can we turn this challenging situation into an advantage of learning from home opportunity? It turned out there are a few “silver lining” aspects for the Japanese language class due to the remote learning.
For example, one thing that came to mind was a virtual “show and tell” by having students share an item with the class that they are comfortable with sharing. For example, “Share something related to Japanese Anime,” “Share a musical instrument,” “Share something scientific,” etc. Then the students explain their item in Japanese. The students often made personal comments regarding their items, and that made us feel a little more close to one another.
For the Japanese culture class, we did the same basic type of “show and tell” activity. The theme for them was to share something that represents another country’s culture. It turned out to be such a wonderful learning opportunity for everyone. The items that the students shared ranged from musical instruments to religion-related cultural items. What was so wonderful through this opportunity was to see the students learning something new from their peers, not from textbooks or the teacher. When the students saw their peer's items that were important to them, they listened to one another very intently and learned about them in such a respectful manner.
I thought this was it! The primary purpose of the Japanese Culture class is to introduce Japanese culture in general, but I also wanted this class to be a platform to share other countries' culture as well. The significance of learning about different cultures is not only understanding about it but also, and perhaps more importantly, to listen about something new with an open mind. Because of the remote learning, we were able to do it virtually “in person” online! While the remote learning has some challenges, it also has given us an opportunity to shift from “classroom to home” to “home to classroom”!
High School Humanities in the World of “Continuous Learning”
I can identify this particular period we are living through as perhaps the most challenging I have faced since joining Woodinville Montessori School in 1996 as an Upper Elementary teacher. The inability to be seeing faces, hearing voices—and gauging moods and feelings—on a continual basis in a shared classroom and community is really tough. In the present circumstances, where it is inevitable that so much is going on in our students’ and their families’ lives, emotions and thoughts at this time, I keep hoping I am not missing some knowledge that could help me be better and do better with my students—and undoubtedly, I am.
What I am trying to do is keep meaningful, critical thinking alive and growing in the separate homes, hearts and minds of my students. I can’t do the same sort of sensing I might when we are together in person, but every 50 minutes I spend with 9th and 10th-graders in their World Literature, and with my 11th and 12th-graders in American Studies, gives me a chance to see their faces on a Zoom call and hear them as we think, read, discuss and write.
The content we are addressing seems eerily relevant in March and April of 2020. In American Studies, we have spent a quarter learning about the 1929 stock market crash and the multiple elements related to it. We have been thinking together about how economic situations impact people’s lives, and also about the issues around power, nationalism, nativism, Anti-Semitism and racism that swirled in the cauldron of the years from the start of the first World War to the end of the Second World War—and that continue to arise.
Crises release both what we can fairly identify as some of the negative tendencies of human nature, but also grow what the writer has notably termed “the angels of our better natures.”
Those extremes of potential human qualities have been at the forefront of recent work done together in 9th-10th World Literature. The “Epic of Gilgamesh” and “Othello” offer rich, differing ways to think about power, how it is used, and the way in which it may or may not last. Iago confronts students with a character of such manipulative skill and profound heartlessness that they cannot help but see him as an outstanding example of adverse human behavior. He is the type of person one is well-advised to be able to spot, to red flag, to stay away from and to warn others about. I think that is one of Shakespeare’s gifts to anyone who reads “Othello”: “this guy Iago is truly evil; look out for anyone like that—and don’t be like that. Ever!"
Behind, around, and driving Iago’s evil is the avid pursuit of power—power not just of position, but as a hold over other people’s minds, as a shroud with which to cover their good human qualities, as a means to an end where no one else matters. As the play unfolds, we see the tragedy of what that form of grasping power can wreak.
“Othello” also engages us in consideration of the importance of communication and the value of a firm footing in integrity. As the students have pointed out, why did Othello not allow himself to trust his wife, to really live in their love enough to accept her truth? Why could he not measure his friendship with Cassio better? Why didn’t he just communicate? These are key questions that are among the many that Shakespeare’s play raises.
Furthermore, the questions today’s audience raises about “Othello”: queries about the issues of identity, of a person being viewed as “other,” of the way women were treated and how they were and were not believed, are critically applicable beyond this play. Shakespeare gives us food for thought to explore right now, in our current, lived circumstances.
Fortunately, with the help of technology, we can continue our conversations in Humanities with some opportunity to hear and see each other; that’s a gift that makes grappling with this type of deep content far easier than it might be during a time when we must be physically so far apart.
Ethical Relationships—Humanities student projects
Students, after reading “Othello” by William Shakespeare, were asked to submit work in any format of their choice that addressed the following prompt:
An ethical relationship is one in which power is fairly held and justly balanced, one in which trust is implicit and explicit, one in which a foundational quality that can be relied upon is mutual respect.
Enjoy a sampling of students’ interpretations of this project.
For the Ethical Relationships project, I wanted to do something a bit different from what I normally do for creative projects, which is drawing something. I really love Doja Cat’s music, so I really enjoyed making a parody of her song. I’m not good at singing, but that’s ok, because I really just made this for fun and for jokes more than anything. Listen to Aina’s song on YouTube.
This art piece illustrates what makes a relationship ethical and what makes it unethical. The visual conveys certain feelings that, when introduced into a relationship, make it unethical in addition to what should be in an ethical relationship in the first place. The hand is all the negative feelings that knock the positive ideas, the water, out of the relationship, the glass.
“The Green-Eyed Monster” (graphite, color). This represents how the jealousy in Othello drove him to murder his wife on an assumption. The only evidence he had that she was cheating on him was a handkerchief. The eye represents how Othello begins to be affected by Iago in such a way that he sees jealousy in the world and the people around him.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
This shows the scene where Allie feels the power from the electric eels. I really like this scene because it describes how powerful something that seems small and useless can be.
“…That’s not all electric eels can do. They can ‘remote control’ the muscles in their prey by interfering with the electric signals in the brain…This is a mighty power indeed.”