By Zack Martin '18
This year’s second edition of the Close’s “Sports Game of the Week” recaps the STA Varsity Soccer matchup last Thursday, September 14th, against Good Counsel. The Dogs came out on top at home in a tight 1-0 battle, making up for two ties and a loss (2-2, 0-0, and 1-2) in their previous three games. The lone goal was scored by Mikey Brady ‘19, and assisted by Trevor Child ‘18. Trevor gained possession of the ball and sprinted down the entirety of the field, beating four opposing defenders, before assisting Mikey for the goal. As Varsity player Alden Summerville ‘18, stated, “We showed signs of brilliance, and as the season progresses I think we’ll hit our stride. We’re having a little trouble finishing, but with practice, we can be a deadly team.” This win is certainly a step in the right direction, and hopefully the Dogs can keep up the momentum as IAC play approaches.
By Kubair Chuchra '18
Washington DC’s political landscape is more interesting than ever before. Polarization, Gridlock, and party in-fighting plague it. Natural Disasters like Hurricane Harvey and Irma unify it. President Trump’s and Senator Ted Cruz’s tweets humor it. While taking Politics in America, Mr. Sahr’s spring elective at NCS, I got to study it.
Politics in America, which I took during the second semester of my sophomore year, remains my favorite class in highschool so far. Mostly comprised of politically active second semester seniors, the class has a relaxed atmosphere centered around political discussion and debate. Most days, a student brings in an article for the class to read and reflect on. Often, speakers visit and lecture on trending topics; during my year alone, we heard from an NCS alum covering the Trump campaign for Time Magazine and an Obama official working closely on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Nightly homework includes light reading. Likewise, there are a handful of essays sprinkled throughout the semester. Don’t be scared by these essays; Mr. Sahr grades generously.
The highlight of the semester is the pre-spring break field trip. In my class, we visited Politico Magazine’s Headquarters, the Capitol Office of Congressman Frank Pallone, and the amazing Good Stuff Eatery. We had the chance to speak to several important figures in Washington, including Jake Sherman of Politico and, briefly, Congressman John Lewis. The trip inspired many in the class, including myself, to work on political campaigns the following summer.
Whether you’re passionate about politics or are just looking for an easy, interesting class, Politics in America is perfect for you. By taking it, you will gain a better understanding for the political landscape our schools call home.
By Sara Roberts '19
The Harkness Method – you either love it or you hate it. Personally, I’m a fan of Harkness because it has taught me to speak up without the constant fear of being wrong—a fear which many of us members of the intense environment of the Close often have. Though I appreciate this system, it has its downsides, and my experience with it these past two years has really shaped my view on it.
To the people who do not know what Harkness is, it’s a system that allows students to have round table discussions surrounding the topic being studied. Though topics of discussion are proposed by the teacher, the conversation is carried by the students who address prompts by using evidence and analysis. A large factor of a student’s participation grade is how often they contribute to this round table discussion, and how they interact and respond to other students’ ideas. Often times when students come to class, they have a multitude of points to make about the reading, and the struggle of Harkness is that talking way too much can harm your grade just as much as talking infrequently can. In any class, there is a students who will make a million points on the reading per class. Consequently, a skill that many, myself included, have developed is how to appropriately and politely talk over people like this before they say something in order to voice ideas. This is usually followed by awkward exchanges of “Oh, sorry, you can go” and “No, you can go”, but in the end, everyone who wanted to make a point usually gets to make it. Though situations like this are sometimes frustrating, it teaches me to have confidence in what I have to say.
Harkness has helped me develop skills of speaking up and voicing my ideas on the literature being studied. I entered NCS as a freshman who hated the Harkness method, because the idea of speaking up regularly in a class of unfamiliar faces was daunting. After some time, I realized that making claims on what I thought about the reading was not something to be afraid of, but instead something that boosted my grade and made me feel better about myself. On the other hand, I can definitely see why people might not like the Harkness Method. This could be because they like more structure and specific questions to answer, and not everyone enjoys voicing their ideas as much as others. Trust me- after nights where I got six or less hours of sleep, the last thing I look forward to is being expected to actively participate in Harkness discussions. Nevertheless, the Harkness Method is something that I have learned to appreciate during my time at NCS, and taught me new aspects of learning that I have never experienced before high school.
The STA Arts Credit
By Will Nash '20
Since its inception, St. Albans has prided itself on being an institution that produces well-rounded men. St. Albans, at its core, is a place where boys can try new things and be exposed to different ideas, concepts, and disciplines that they would otherwise not experience. Students are urged to get outside of their comfort zones, and in so doing, broaden their minds. After these four transformative years, the boy who entered St. Albans emerges a well-rounded man. This approach to education is applied to all three central disciplines at St. Albans: academics, athletics, and the arts. Academic credits are a requisite to graduate from most every school in the nation. Athletics are also required at almost every school in the form of physical education or health classes. St. Albans, however, is unique in its requirement that all students earn at least one art credit.
At a time when many public high schools are shrinking or shutting down art programs because of lack of sufficient funding, fine arts classes seem to survive as a part of the curriculum only at private schools and universities. That St. Albans still has art courses, let alone requires them, is an anomaly in this day and age; an anomaly, however, that we should cherish. Although there are multitudes of studies alleging a correlation between fine arts education and higher standardized test scores, I believe that a fine arts education should be championed because it is a part of any well-rounded education. Art gives us a way to express ourselves, whether it be through playing an instrument in the St. Albans Orchestra, or singing in the Chorale, or writing for Gyre, or painting in the studio. Art can unlock the creativity inside all of us. This same creativity is responsible for some of the greatest achievements in science and technology. Art or Ensemble periods during the day give St. Albans students a respite from the business of their academic lives, while also allowing them to express themselves in artistic endeavors. This creativity of expression they can then take to other subjects, such as math or science, and use to achieve in those fields. In taking classes in fulfillment of the art credit, a student may discover a passion for an art that he never would have discovered otherwise. This passion could develop into a lifelong hobby or profession. High school is a time of discovery, of finding new passions, and the art credit enables students to branch out and expand their interests. If exposure to the arts does not lead to a passion, it may lead to a profound respect or appreciation for the arts that will stick with the St. Albans graduate for the rest of his life.
To conclude, I believe that the mandatory art credit is a great way to unleash creativity and expand one’s passion or appreciation for the arts. St. Albans produces men of the future, and can anyone imagine a future without art?
Power, Knowledge, and Connection Within the Arts
By Prasanna Patel ‘19
“The arts credit is so annoying.” If you relate to this statement, chances are my eight-year-old self would have agreed with you. I remember spinning begrudgingly on my dance teacher’s cold basement floor, while fighting the numbing pain of by bells digging into my ankles as my feet reluctantly slapped the floorboards. Fatigue overwhelmed by mind as the dizzying yellow lights from the ceiling danced in my eyes. I wanted so badly to collapse onto the floor and yank the bells off my feet, but my teacher’s persistent encouragement, or should I say yelling, instilled enough fear in me that I knew I had to keep spinning; I could not give up. Finally, after evaluating my options, I accepted the challenge. My flailing arms became sharp and directed, my eyes and zeroed in on one single point at the end of every spin, thus replacing the dizziness with focus, and my feet pounded against the stone floor with strength. Every footstep, every arm gesture, every movement was deliberate and had a purpose, yet my mind was free of thought. It turned off, allowing my body to be unfettered from the fear that consumed me, and replace it with courage.
That was my earliest memory of feeling powerful. I was unstoppable and strong, but at the same time I was at ease and had no limitations in my mind. This is why I love dancing; it allows me to escape the fear that cripples my mind every day, and lets me explore my strength and confidence in a way that no other activity can. Yes, dancing, alike most art forms, is challenging and frustrating, but that feeling of fearlessness and ease you get when you finally master a routine is priceless. Similarly, most performance arts have the power to boost the confidence of students and give them a sense of self-expression.
Not only is art used for self-reflection, it also gives you a better understanding of others and what they believe in. With the migration of people comes the globalization of art and culture, people learn about others through their music, food, dances, and visual aesthetics. The arts are used to bridge gaps between countries, cities, and people in ways that words, numbers, and lab experiments cannot. Before language was created, societies used art to express their beliefs, and to this day, art is still used to preserve culture under the forces of assimilation. Therefore, in order to interact with today’s diverse population, one needs to be open to understanding the various cultural expressions that exist within their larger community. Even if you do not understand a culture’s language, or agree with its religious beliefs, you can still appreciate and learn from a culture through its various art forms.
However, you might be thinking, “Understanding people and making connections is not going to give me an A in a class or help me make money in the future.” That is a fair point, however, even doctors, lawyers, engineers, and entrepreneurs need some artistic education in order to stand out in their field. The fine motor skills that are gained from taking visual arts courses are necessary for surgeons and dentists to have, because they allow the doctor to have a precise and steady hand. For entrepreneurs and lawyers, thinking outside the box is crucial in creating a successful business or making a challenging argument. In the academic world, an arts education can allow a student to exercise their mind in a unique way, which makes for a more creative and well-rounded mindset in the classroom. These examples show the benefits of an artistic background in exceling in traditionally non-artistic careers.
My eight-year-old self dreaded dance class every week, and I wanted so badly to give up on it because I feared the challenges that preceded my moment of confidence. However, as a young girl I did not realize that the pain, fatigue, intimidation I felt by my dance teacher, and the multiple failures I endured were all worth it, because today I can say that I feel powerful.
By Mannan Mehta '18
It’s the night before the essay is due, and you’ve realized that the one sentence you have written needs to become 800 words by 8 AM, which is about 8 hours from now. In between lots of phone breaks, slapping yourself to stay awake, and in the end only getting about 3 hours of sleep, you somehow manage to get it done. You walk in the next day and turn it in, proud of yourself for writing something that makes sense, in modern, written English, given the circumstances.
Your end of the bargain has been completed, and it is now time for the teacher to hold up theirs. When they get around to it, they will surely tear into it, reading not only every line, but also every in between, to make sure you used every word to its full potential. But the emphasis is on when. When will they get around to it? It’s going to be a while.
The suspense is probably the worst part. At first, you have flaming confidence in your writing ability. You feel as if you essay is indestructible, even by the harshest of graders. You think that nothing could ever stop you, and that your work is going to be used as a sample essay for students to come. Week one goes by, and someone dares to ask the teacher, “When can we expect to get our papers back?” The answer they get? “I haven’t had time to start grading them yet, but once I do, expect to get them back in a week.” Okay, you say. That’s fair enough.
As week two slowly chips away, you decide you would like to go back and read the essay again with fresh eyes. As you scroll through it however, you notice a place where a comma should have gone. You may have formatted that quotation incorrectly. Or should that have been a block quote. Who knows? But you have faith in your content and you can leave it alone. The teacher, sensing the yearning of the students to get their essays back, says, “I have done about half, for the most part they look great! I should be done by Monday.” So you leave it alone, and now have the weekend to worry.
Going back on the document to quell your boredom Saturday afternoon, you read your essay closer. Yes, there is an issue with the tense that you didn’t notice before. But you still have faith in your content, and the teacher for being able to pick the bad parts out from the good. Monday comes by, and you are almost sweating with anticipation. Until you are hit with the news. “I am so sorry guys, I found myself very busy this weekend and I have a few more to go through.” So you trudge home, dejected, and wait one more day.
Another week goes by, almost two. At this point, your mind has moved on to better things. You have taken 4 tests, and gotten every single one back, with stellar results. You show up for English class, and just when you’ve completely forgotten, the teacher goes, “I have your essays, I will return them at the end of class.” Suddenly, you are put back on edge. The entire class, you can’t think of anything else. You watch every minute pass on the clock, certain that you will have grey hair before you get the essay back. But the teacher finally finishes a few minutes early, and begins to hand out the essay. You get yours back and you open it.
This is where you insert yourself. Everyone has their stellar results and their not so stellar ones. You win some, you lose some, but however you did on that paper, it’s okay. The point is, it will always take a long time to get them back. But really, teachers are busy people, and you can wait. Yes it sucks, I agree, but you will live. Do your best not to overthink what you have submitted, and if you are seriously worried you can always go have a conversation with the teacher about it after your work is returned. And make an effort to start your essay a few nights before it’s due. Please.
By Kyle Morin '19
Now that it has been 2 years since the “Block” was implemented, it’s about time to examine the system that has definitely caused every STA student to arrive late to at least one class this year. If you are unaware of what the schedule was like before the change, here’s the basic rundown: you would have all 6 periods every day at the same time, but only for 50 minutes; additionally, there would be no class after lunch. When I first heard this, I immediately thought that the block schedule was worse, as it took away the opportunity for me to arrive to school at 8:50 every morning since I had first free. But the more I think about the schedule the more I realize how bad it must have been. Picture this: you have precalculus as your first period class. And you have precalculus every morning. At 8 AM. I don’t know about you, but I’m lucky if I’m fully awake by the start of 2nd period.
While I do complain about it from time to time, I never realized that before the block schedule, people like me who take six classes would have all six everyday. That is so much worse than what I’m going through now. Perhaps the biggest benefit of the block schedule isn’t how you get to miss that one class which you could drop if it wasn’t required (I’m looking at you Precal), but how it limits your homework load to max of 5 classes per night. That is assuming that you did not procrastinate any of your homework from previous night, which I’m sure no one, especially me, is guilty of. All joking aside, the “Block,” once everyone got used to it, was a much-needed improvement that both improved everyone’s grades and, most of all, prevented me from having to go to Precalculus first period every morning.
By Avery Kean '19
In this issue of Exchanged, we thought it would interesting to hold interviews with some members of the STA/NCS faculty, to hear their perspective on close life, and what it is like to teach here. I interviewed NCS’s beloved Mrs. Bohlen; the school guidance counselor and teacher of health and human sexuality. All of NCS depends on her for her kind smile in the hallways and constantly open office door, ready to chat about anything and help with any type of situation.
Avery: When did you start teaching at NCS, and is this where you saw yourself when you first started?
Mrs. Bohlen: AH! That’s funny. Not at all where I saw myself, and I started teaching here in the fall of 05’. And teaching has always been sort of a secondary responsibility, so obviously counseling is the primary role. I’ll admit, it was my biggest anxiety, because I had never taught health and human sexuality before I took this job.
A: What would you say is the best part of the job now?
MB: The best part is you all! I love working with you all, even my husband says it. He laughs, he’s like, “You love those kids” and I’m like “yeah I do!” So yes my favorite part is you all and watching you grow and change from coming in as ninth graders to who you become as seniors when you leave.
A: But what would you say is the hardest part?
MB: The hardest part is having to deliver bad news to parents, and it's really hard. And feeling that no matter what we do as an institution, we’re not being helpful or supportive enough to someone.
A: What do you love most about teaching, or about the school environment?
MB: School is fun. Being in a school helps keep you young, we really do age but you know we’re always ninth through twelfth graders! I mean I definitely am up on the more “hip” things because I work with teens.
But with teaching, my favorite thing to teach with health and human… I think one of my favorite things is teaching you all about contraception methods, and kind of doing a show and tell and you all are like “OH MY GOD!” And seeing your faces. Oh! Also birth and pregnancy. That’s always fun. In general I like teaching health and human because it affords me an opportunity to get to know you all in different ways, as in a student-teacher relationship rather than just in a counselor-student relationship.
A: Do you have a best/funniest/most embarrassing/most memorable moment while teaching that you can remember?
MB: Oh yeah! Oh yeah most embarrassing definitely. I was doing the contraception lesson, and I had this contraceptive foam. I tried to squeeze it out of the can, and it just EXPLODED everywhere and all over a student. Luckily, it was student with a sense of humor, and we all just started laughing but of course I was mortified!! This poor girl had contraceptive foam all over her arm and her sleeve! That was really embarrassing but it was really funny too.
A: Final question- what is the one thing you want your students to know (about teaching, about you, about life?)
MB: Don’t sweat the small stuff. As a teenager I think things always feel so big, but remember just to take a breath and sometimes take a step away and try to drown out some of the clutter in the background, so you can see things more clearly.
Many thanks to Mrs. Bohlen for letting me ask her questions and giving some wonderful answers!
By Alex Knapper '18
This issue of the Exchanged features a new “type” of article. We thought it would be interesting to interview certain faculty members about their time on the close; to gain a unique perspective on those who teach us daily. To start off this week is Ms. Dunn. She currently teaches Honors Precalculus and AP Calculus AB at St. Albans. While any student of hers can attest to the fact that her class is challenging, any student will also undoubtedly say that the class is both interesting and fun. She’s great, teaches incredibly well, and will always have her door open if any of you need help with math.
Q: So Ms. Dunn, how long have you taught at STA?
A: This is my tenth year.
Q: In your 10 years, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from teaching?
A: Oh my goodness. You know what, there are so many. Keeping it real, you know? The boys just want to see you for who you are. Always having my door open and being available for help at anytime. Understanding who boys are and that they need a little wildness, and they need to laugh, and they need to get up. And I think what shocked me the most about this place is how close we are. After my boys graduate I get those emails and letters. It’s like a family, and it continues past your experience at St. Albans.
Q: What do you love about teaching so much that makes want to come back each year, excited for every new school year?
A: Making ya’ll love what I teach; literally, I mean you’re dreading either Honors Precal or Calculus, and I like to convert ya’ll. I want to make you all know how exciting mathematics is. I love your minds. Every year you surprise me with some weird way of looking at a problem or some extension that I never thought of
Q: What’s one thing that’s changed the most about STA in your 10 years here?
A: The schedule. The schedule has changed the most. Other than that, nothing really, and the fact that we have beautiful fields. What I do like now though is that I used to have to wait to see the majority of my students after lunch, which was after school. I like the fact that they can find me more during the day. There are more opportunities. It doesn’t have to all be before athletics.
Q: Is there anything you would change about the curriculum, more specifically, the math curriculum?
A: Yeah I would! I would open it to more math electives. The two years for Algebra 2 and Precalculus seem kinda long. I think we could shorten that, and add in some Statistics course that everyone takes. Still, I, of course, want everyone to take Calculus, because it’s the most amazing course ever! But I really like idea of getting away from textbooks. Create our own problems, you know? Let the boys do more open ended problems.
Thanks to Ms. Dunn for taking time out of her day for this interview, as well as giving awesome answers!
By Luxmi Mathivannan '19
The 2016-2017 school year ended with quite the surprise for many NCS students: a new dress code. NCS students are now saying goodbye to their beloved yoga pants and sweatpants and turning to jeans.
No longer will there be any discrepancies between leggings and yoga pants, or the length of athletic shorts; the new dress code is short and simple. While many students hoped that NCS administration would permit leggings into the dress code because of their similarity to yoga pants, they decided to go in the other direction. The new dress code entails zero athletic clothing except for sweatshirts and t-shirts, and a new 5-inch inseam for all shorts, skirts, and dresses.
While this change will not affect the lives of some students, many are outraged, and some are even turning to alternative options. A big concern for many students is shopping for new clothes to fit the dress code. To them it feels unfair that they are now required to spend money on clothes that they may not wear outside of school. For several students, it seems that a uniform would make life easier and less stressful. The idea for a uniform, resembling Lower School, would follow the dress code, has become increasingly popular amongst many of the juniors and freshman. However, this raises concerns as to what this would do for the school’s image of individuality and spirit.
For many, the installment of a uniform would be counter-intuitive and hurt not only the school as a whole, but us as individuals. When schools require uniforms, they run the risk of promoting conformity over individuality. But when we’re able to choose our clothes, we can distinguish ourselves for our uniqueness, and bring out a certain school spirit that a uniform diminishes. We typically don’t realize it, but the way we dress says so much about ourselves and a uniform would only limit this freedom of expression.
Regardless of how it may threaten our sense of individuality, the fact remains that the installment of a uniform would logically not be helpful. NCS has directly stated that the lack of a uniform helps their admissions, as we are the only all-girls school in the DMV area without a uniform. Many people forget that in previous years, the NCS upper school had a uniform that was eventually dismissed, so readopting one would be an enormous task that should not be taken lightly.
Although it’s annoying to have to purchase new clothes, the better alternative to buying $160 uniforms would be to express our voice in the way we dress instead of surrendering this right completely. After all, would you be more comfortable in a polo shirt and a khaki skirt, or a t-shirt and jeans? As the days grow colder and wearing the same routine of clothes becomes tiresome, one has to ask: how long will these girls be willing to keep this up?
By Ellie Bailey NCS ‘19
On June 5, 2017, a single user posted a comment in the NCS Class of 2019 Facebook group that resulted in a digital burst of shared excitement and frustration among the then rising Juniors.
For the amount of discussion and chaos that arose from that day, the original comment was surprisingly brief. It was eight words long: “like this if ur down for a uniform”. Of the sixty-two users who viewed the post, over half “liked” it.
This somewhat unusual comment out of context resulted from the Upper School meeting that had occurred earlier that day, in which the updated dress code was unveiled to the student body. To the dismay of many students, the new dress code prohibited sportswear, ripped clothing, and shorts with an inseam shorter than five inches.
Following the original post in the Facebook group, internet polls were sent out, “likes” abounded, and counter arguments were posted. Everyone seemed to have a strong opinion about the dress code or potential uniform, yet the school had not even mentioned the possibility of a uniform.
Exactly three months after the first mention of a uniform in the Facebook group, the original poster published links to purchase a uniform that she and a friend had designed. She specified that the uniform was “obviously completely optional and not restrictive in [any way].” The girl who designed the optional uniform declined an interview, asking to remain anonymous until she starts wearing the uniform to school on September 25, but she invited other juniors to wear the uniform to school, noting: “we decided on a khaki skirt & navy polo, and of course [students] could choose to vary the colors of polo, or mix and match in any way.”
When asked their opinions on the optional uniform, upper schoolers are divided. Out of thirty-one junior girls polled on the issue, thirty-nine percent declared that they would not wear the optional uniform, thirteen percent declared they planned on wearing it, and the remaining forty-eight percent remained undecided.
Bridget Clare articulated: “The dress code isn’t that bad. We don’t need a uniform, but I’m also not against a uniform. [The girls who want to wear the uniform] can [wear the uniform] if they want, but I think compared to St. Albans and other schools, our dress code is pretty good.”
An STA Junior, confused by the concept, commented: “I don’t understand the point. If it’s optional there’s no point in having it at all.”
Maggie Wang noted a similar sentiment, explaining: “I think the idea of having an optional uniform detracts from the purpose of having a uniform at all because it would create a divide between the students who would want to wear the uniform and those who don’t.”
A different junior, Izzy Allum, said: “I don’t really care what [the girls who are creating the uniform] are doing, but if you are going to make your own uniform, you might as well make it prettier than a khaki skirt.”
Katelyn Craven sympathized with Izzy, stating: “If it wasn’t a khaki skirt I would buy it. Khaki is gross.”
Conversely, Nina Miller commented: “I am for the optional uniform because I think it will make mornings easier for me. I won’t have to stress out about finding outfits to wear every day. Last year I could just throw on leggings and leave. It was a lot less stressful. [This year] I can just throw on a uniform and leave. The new dress code is a lot more restrictive on what you can wear. Every day you have to wear nice, sometimes uncomfortable, clothes so a uniform creates another option.”
The jury is still out on whether the optional uniform will be a popular outfit this fall or another passing fad. Keep your eyes peeled for upper schoolers wearing khaki kilts in the coming weeks to see how this trend plays out.