ABS Thursday Notes - May 14, 2020

How We Do It and Why
By Mary Siebert

“The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.” – Igor Stravinsky

Each grade level at ABS takes on a large-scale project that demands disciplined, focused preparation for four to six weeks. These productions are typically conceived and created at the school. (One or two are rented works, interpreted uniquely.) The productions are flexible enough to be somewhat fluidly adapted to each class. They are initially inspired by examination of the grade-level state standards. Ideas can sometimes be seen to converge across disciplines, if they are examined together rather than only as isolated subjects. The state recommends this exploration of interrelated ideas as an effective way to teach.  For example, the NC State Standards detail five defined strands of ancient world history for 6th grade. Their guidance is: “The standards are organized around five strands and these strands should not be taught in isolation, but woven together in an integrated study that helps students better understand the ancient world.”

Weaving together subjects as disparate as science, social studies, math, and language arts into dance or theater is a rewarding way to create energized, richly integrated study. (For one thing, it’s fun, and fun is a great motivator for learning. Even Stravinsky, the fellow quoted above who composed The Rite of Spring, and whose personality was described as “peremptory” and “severe,” could be playful. He incorporated “Happy Birthday to You” into one of his pieces.) It’s not uncommon to use this practice in other fields. An accomplished artist, scientist or athlete isolates processes or ideas, studies or perfects them, and then re-synthesizes them. Richer understanding and more precise execution then allow the individual to respond to real-world challenges…such as a performance.

This year’s productions will be different, because we anticipate constraints. Fortunately for us, our teachers and specialists are accomplished creatives. We are accustomed to collaboration, and we have well-established practices and infrastructure that allows us to adapt to change with fresh ideas. Once we know what the federal, state, and local guidelines are for protecting our students, staff and families from the Coronavirus, we will reinvent this year’s productions accordingly. We’re preparing multiple possibilities now, so we’re able to head in any direction. No audience? No problem, we’ll adapt a video or live-stream version. Wearing masks? We’ll incorporate it. No touching? OK, we’ll dance differently. Quarantine in the middle of preparation? We now have some experience with distance techniques to guide us, and we won’t be taken entirely by surprise. We’ll consider that possibility.

We anticipate a year that will draw on our collective sparks of genius. Like Stravinsky, we expect that constraints will lead to exceptional work. Bring it on.

Music for Rising 5th Graders
At this time of year, we traditionally introduce and select beginning band instruments for rising 5th graders. This year, we will wait until we have more information about how procedures will be designed, guided by our federal, state and local advisors, before we decide when and how to teach band. 

Congratulations to ABS alumnus Jackson Calhoun (big brother of rising 8th grader Myla,) who just signed his first contract as a professional dancer, with Richmond Ballet!  

Yearbook Order Deadline is TOMORROW!
This sure will be a year to remember! Ordering is open until this Friday, May 15th online so order yours today! We are getting close to selling out of our original order. If we do, there will be another order placed but those will be limited also. Orders can be placed by visiting the Strawbridge website at Strawbridge Studios – Professional Photographers and School Pictures and clicking the red “Order Pictures and Yearbooks” button at the top of the page. The price is $22 and our school code is YB106312.

A Note from our School Counselor- Amanda Sullivan
Week nine.  I’m thinking about how we are all helping each other through these crazy times…

In last week’s Thursday Notes, Mary Siebert wrote a beautiful piece about finding and thanking her former piano teacher for the difference that he made in her life. She also stated how good it is—both mentally and physically—to be grateful. I, too, was thinking about gratitude last week and how very transformative it is, especially for children.

In my experience, children who are genuinely and generally positive and grateful in life have a lot less stress and anxiety, far less peer pressure, and a deeper sense of purpose. They seem to make better choices in life and take greater responsibility for their actions.  Stress that enters their lives is not seen as devastating but instead as a chance to learn.

But how as parents can you get them to that mental space where gratitude and positivity thrive?

Expressions of gratitude and positivity in children go hand-in-hand, but they have to be deep and thoroughly planted to be meaningful. In other words, gratitude is cultivated over time, and not just tied to “getting things” and the obligatory “thank you” that our parents usually force us to say. Saying thank you when given a gift is an excellent start, but it alone does not cultivate a grateful life.

In these strange pandemic times, it is so very easy to get caught up in the negative: how frightening COVID-19 is, how confused the world leaders are in trying to deal with the pandemic, how distant we must be from each other. There is a lot of stress all over the world right now, and it is easy to hang on to the negative instead of looking for the positive, especially since the news of the day is often overwhelmingly bad.  Finding gratitude in pandemic times can be tough.

When my kids were young, I read a book called The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents by Deepak Chopra. I’m not sure why I picked up the book in the first place, but it came into my life at a stressful time, and a few of the suggestions in the book still stick with me today. In essence, the book focuses on giving parents the tools they need to teach their children a deeper connection to the world and their place in it, a sense of gratitude and purpose. It helps children to be responsible for their own actions, which can be quite transformative. A child who takes responsibility for his or her own choices doesn’t look to place blame, but looks to correct his or her own actions. That’s a very powerful tool. 

The daily questions parents can ask their children to help cultivate gratitude and purpose are simple.  Things like:

  • How did I make a difference today?
  • What talent did I uncover or nurture?
  • What did I do to make someone else feel special?
  • What did someone else do to help me?
  • What is one thing you are grateful for today and why?

It can be as simple as walking outside and saying out loud, “What a beautiful day! We are so lucky to be here to see this!”  Or helping your child to recognize a talent that benefits them during these difficult times of school-at-home: “I’m really good at memorizing, so that helps me remember what I’ve learned.”

To help children cultivate responsibility, talk to your children about how it feels to make one choice over another and ask the following:

How does that choice feel? And, if someone else was involved, how did it make the other person feel?

Though I didn’t practice everything that was in the book, I do remember sitting down at the dinner table and asking the question, “What did you do to help someone else today?” And because my kids knew I was going to be asking that question from time-to-time, they started recognizing the little things that they were doing to help other people. And then they started noticing the little things that other people did for them, too, and gratitude shifted from being a simple “thank you” for a gift received to recognition of the things—both great and small— that we do for each other every day to help get us through the tough times in life.  Like right now.

If you are interested in learning more about the book (there is so much more information in it that I didn’t cover here!) here is a link to an excerpt.

Preparing for the End of the School Year
Here are some important dates as we work to complete the school year:

  • Mon, May 25 No School. Memorial Day.
  • Thurs, May 28 Last day for new assignments with distance learning. Teachers will still be available to connect with and support students online until the last day of school, June 5.
  • Tues, June 2 All assignments due. Math I and Math II Grading decision due.
  • Wed-Fri, June 3-5 Parent-Teacher conferences via ZOOM. Teachers will prepare and provide student narratives and offer end of year virtual conferences for parents.
  • Mon-Wed, June 8-10 Staff at school (following all health and safety guidelines) organizing rooms and preparing student items for pickup.
  • Thurs, June 11 Parent Drive Thru Pick up line to retrieve personal items. We are working on plans and logistics for families to retrieve their personal items from the school and to return school property such as library books and musical instruments.  Stay tuned for more information.
  • Fri, June 12 Alternate day for Parent Pick up in the event of rain.