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Posts Tagged "Upper School"

I Love Reading Shakespeare

June 24, 2016
By Chelsea Carrier

5 Reasons I Love Reading Shakespeare with Middle School Students

Chelsea L. Carrier

 

When my 7th and 8th grade students first hear that we’re going to read Shakespeare, many slouch in their chairs, groan, gag, and roll their eyes. But each time we open A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet, they find out how accessible and enjoyable the Bard can be, and I’m reminded of five reasons I love reading Shakespeare with my middle school students.

1. It’s accessible.

In honor of the Bard’s death on April 23rd, my students and I drank tea, ate donuts, and read a few sonnets. Then they had a challenge: write a sonnet in 10-15 minutes. The form might not have been as precise as the bard’s, but hopefully the resulting verses dedicated to potatoes and sushi not only helped them remember the rhyme scheme and standard lengths of a Shakespearean sonnet, but enabled them to recognize Shakespeare as something they could regard with a bit more familiarity than fear.

2. It’s challenging.

Language has changed dramatically over the past four-hundred years. Not only does Shakespeare's language include archaic words, but poetic devices. Add that to the fact that we are reading aloud, something not everyone enjoys. Both drama and Shakespeare require a level of vulnerability - everyone feels awkward and self-conscious, and sharing that draws us closer together. In fact, I probably hear more encouraging remarks among the students to each other during this time because for once, all of them are intimidated by the reading, and it brings them together.

3. It’s relational.

Since my students are encountering Shakespeare for the first time, we read the plays together in class. They love this, if for no other reason than they don’t have homework. As we read, I often stop them so we can discuss, and while many times the pauses enable us to clarify the basic plot or highlight a witty comment, we are also able to reflect and sympathize with the characters’ experiences, both tragic and comedic.  

4. It's physical.

Drama is the marriage of the abstract and the concrete, the literary example of the Word becoming flesh. Plays are meant to be performed, so when we read, we don’t simply sit around the room and read parts. We move the tables and chairs aside, do a few drama warm-ups (voice exercises, tongue twisters, and concentration games) and then we perform an informal dramatic reading. Sometimes I’ll stop the students in the middle of their reading, and we’ll discuss what the character would be doing in that moment, and then we back up and actually do it.

5. It’s enjoyable.

What? Yes, actually, during these weeks multiple students come in and ask, with anticipation in their voices, “Are we going to read Shakespeare today?

Ten Mile Markers Along the Road to College

February 05, 2016
By Lynn Hicks

Ten Mile Markers Along the Road to College

by Lynn S. Hicks, College and Career Counselor

 

I can remember feeling fear, trepidation and excitement all knotted together in my stomach as my mother and I set out across the southeast to visit more than ten colleges during the fall of my junior year in high school. Some schools were higher on the list of priorities, so we scheduled formal tours and admissions office interviews. Some schools held intrigue and mystery which necessitated a drive through campus just to experience the ambiance of a large state school or the wonder of an ivy league university. At that point, I’m not sure which made a bigger impression ­­ -- the schools we visited or the delicious food we savored along the way! I can vividly remember standing on the campus of Furman University in front of the front gate fountain and thinking with extreme clarity the following words from scripture, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21). Was it the beauty of the campus, the small sense of community, or the emphasis on academic excellence? All of those factors were true but I just knew it was the “right fit” for the next four years of my academic career. For my mother, I seriously think it was the huge iron gate surrounding the entire campus including a guard gate station monitoring everyone entering and leaving!  I had a peace and assurance in my heart:  Furman was my next home.

 

At Cornerstone Academy, we equip our high school students with the tools necessary in order to choose the best college for their individual needs. Colleges are becoming increasingly more competitive and more expensive. Therefore, it is important for each student to find the “best fit” in order to maximize their funds and minimize time enrolled. Cornerstone has implemented a program called College and Career Pathways to assist students on this journey. This program guides and prepares our students through the decision-­making and college acceptance process.

 

  1. In August, juniors, seniors, and their parents attend an informational college and career meeting.  Students receive timelines stating specific tasks to be accomplished in each month.
  2. In the fall, juniors and seniors attend the college fair hosted by Carson Newman in order to speak with admissions representatives from over seventy colleges and universities. The students evaluate these schools on factors including size, geographic location, cost, private/public, Christian values, sports, majors offered etc.
  3. We encourage students to attend preview days hosted by their top three to five college choices beginning the fall semester of their junior year. This gives the student a personal representation of what it would be like to be a student on that campus.
  4. The guidance office provides ongoing one­-on­-one counsel and assistance as students apply to colleges of their choice and pursue various scholarships. Students identify their academic strengths and weaknesses. They also explore their own career interests (as reported on the ACT interest inventory) as they compare to other professionals in various career fields.
  5. Juniors complete an autobiographical sketch in order to begin organizing their extra­curricular activities, clubs, honors/awards, leadership and service activities. This form assists the student in completing college applications and also to assist teachers and staff in writing letters of recommendation.
  6. In order to assess academic strengths and weaknesses, students complete a battery of standardized tests.

High school testing sequence:

  • In the spring, sophomores take the ACT Plan to prepare for the ACT.

  • In October, juniors take the PSAT to prepare for the SAT as well as to determine eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship.

  • Juniors and seniors are instructed to register for multiple ACT dates in order to achieve the highest score possible.

  1. Cornerstone offers dual enrollment courses through Bryan college for college credit. The Dual Enrollment Grant funds these classes with certain limits and criteria. Cornerstone Academy faculty teach these classes on our campus. Students may also enroll in dual enrollment courses after school hours at WSCC. These opportunities allow the student to accrue college credits with minimal financial commitment and to enter college with a jump start on college hours.
  2. The guidance office sends transcripts and letters of recommendation on behalf of the student.
  3. Students must complete fifteen hours of community service per high school year which comprise a blend of school, community, and church based service.
  4. We encourage students to meet TN Promise deadlines for applications, meetings, FAFSA, and service hours. This government scholarship will pay for any student enrolled in an AA program for two years at a participating community college or four year university up to $4,000 last dollar (after all other scholarships have been applied).

Now, as the mother of a senior, I have a whole new perspective on this road trip to college. No longer am I the senior making the “best fit” college choice, but instead I hold the role of a praying parent for my daughter to capture God’s vision for the next season of her life. It is our mission at Cornerstone Academy to prepare our students for the future by providing them with a Christ-­centered, classical education that equips them to achieve academic excellence and spiritual maturity.

Showing the Gospel to Our Children

October 09, 2015
By Chelsea Carrier

One Way to Show the Gospel to Our Children

Chelsea L. Carrier

 

Recently I went on the annual high school trip to Doe River Gorge. On the first night we had a bonfire on the railroad tracks, and the headmaster led a hike above the gorge. No flashlights were allowed. We were to stay between the tracks and follow the headmaster’s voice and the person directly in front of us to avoid falling over the edge of the cliff. Most kept saying they couldn’t see their hand in front of their face, and I had to agree. The only thing I could see was the phosphorescent mineral on the tracks, an occasional glow worm, and the stars. Fortunately, I was right behind a young man who, despite his quiet demeanor, had the thoughtfulness to communicate each step.

“Watch your step here, Miss Carrier. Go a little to your right. Now back to the left. Watch the rails.”

He was only a few steps in front of me, but when walking in pitch darkness, the next step is all that really matters.

On our journey through life, hopefully with Christ, we may feel at times as though we are only one step in front of those following us. We may not really know our own next step. We are in just as much confusion as they.

As a young teacher who is still single and has no children, I often wonder what wisdom I could even offer my students. I’m still a student myself in so many ways, constantly having to seek counsel. But what I find from my colleagues and mentors is that we are all learning. Sometimes we are walking behind someone, sometimes beside, and sometimes just one step in front. But God uses all three. As I continue to learn through my own imperfections and contemplate the incarnation highlighted in our theme verse for the year, John 1: 14, I’ve determined that one of the best ways to exemplify the gospel is through my own brokenness.

Many situations and ideas come to mind with a word as broad as brokenness, and I’ve been contemplating this term for well-over a month now. After brainstorming on my own and discussing this word with a friend and colleague, I’d like to share the following three aspects of brokenness:

  1. human limitation
  2. consequences of a fallen world
  3. consequences of sin

 

In other words: being human. With the exception of Christ, who was fully human and yet never sinned, part of the human condition is experiencing all three forms of brokenness. In this post, I’ll only focus on the first one.

As I’ve developed relationships with students over the past four years, I’ve learned a few ways to “come alongside” students as we struggle with human limitation.

  • Sharing with them that I’m not a math person, that I had a meltdown while taking the ACT for the first time, that I was the kid in college who always had her hand up, not because she knew the answer, but because she had a question, that I got mad at my mom for making me rewrite a paper in high school, that I’m just plain tired this week--those are the things I have to weave in my conversations with them.

 

  • Asking for help passing out papers, opening a door, or cleaning the classroom--those the small ways to show them I am not above receiving help.

 

  • Allowing them to pray for me on a bad day when I can no longer hide it--those are the moments when they realize that I am human.

 

I don’t have to share every detail, and I’m not advocating the glorification of past struggles or complaining as a perpetual victim or martyr. That’s not truly sharing brokenness. But even scripture is filled with examples of godly people honestly sharing their brokenness with others for the encouragement of others and glory of God. This is the story of the gospel: the God of the universe so loved the world that He accepted the vulnerability of becoming a man, and while He never sinned, He suffered as one who had.


Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 4:5-8)


Work Cited

The ESV Study Bible. Ed. Lane T. Dennis. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008. Print.

 

Why Broken Stories Matter

May 22, 2015
By Dane Bundy

Why Broken Stories Matter

 

     A few weeks ago, in rhetoric class, my students and I finished studying a number of short stories to look at persuasion’s role in fiction. Among the stories, “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne evoked the most rewarding discussion (maybe the year’s best). At first it didn’t look like this would be the case. A number of students found the lead character wretched: a man who is obsessed with creating human perfection. His obsession ultimately produces a dark narrative that concludes with little redemption in sight. It is a broken story.

 

     Daniel Taylor in his work, Tell me a Story, places stories into three helpful categories: whole, broken, and bent. He defines a broken story as one in which good is portrayed as good and evil as evil, however, in the end, good is not victorious, but evil is.

 

     When I think of a broken story I first think of the book of Judges. At this period in biblical history, the Israelites have worked themselves into a downward spiral of rebellion. Though we see glimpses of redemption from time to time (Ruth comes to mind), the story of Judges ends with the haunting lines, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (21:25). Gulp.

 

     Over the last couple of years, I’ve thought a lot about the purpose and value of broken stories. Shouldn’t Christians feed themselves on what Taylor calls whole stories? He defines whole stories as tales in which redemption takes place and good (not evil) is victorious.  The Bible itself is a whole story. We may also include Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.

 

     At Cornerstone, we don’t limit ourselves to whole stories. Actually, we read plenty of broken tales, ranging from the Greek or Shakespearean tragedies to the dystopian novels of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984.

 

     I admit, broken stories are dark and unnerving and difficult to navigate at times. Have you ever had a grand piano dropped on your chest? I have: the afternoon I finished 1984. I was hoping, and expecting, Orwell would use Winston to expose and topple Big Brother; instead our hero is consumed by it.  

 

     If you let them, broken stories will burden your soul.

 

    Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize that broken stories may serve an important purpose: they affirm what it’s like to live in a fallen world. Often it is the righteous who suffer and the wicked who prosper, and some people never experience a happy ending.

 

    However, broken stories may stir significant questions.

 

  • Why did the villain win? What did the villain want? Is there hope the villain will ever find redemption?

Why is this character the villain?   

  • Why did the hero fail? What did the hero want? Is there hope the hero may conquer the villain?

Why is this character the hero?

 

     A couple of these questions led our rhetoric class to consider man’s pursuit of perfection. However, the bell rang and the students left with no answers, just a handful of questions, terribly applicable to their own lives.

 

     Why does man seek perfection? Will he ever attain perfection? Is anyone perfect?

 

     Good literature asks questions like these, questions that apply to my students, but also you and me, and, for that matter, all who are human. Storytellers have a high calling: to tell the truth. They turn their backs on their craft when they sugar-coat or misrepresent what takes place in the world. The author of Judges, and the author of every book in the Bible, fulfills this high calling. Because of this, when we read Scripture, we read about murder, rape, depression, persecution, and betrayal.

 

     The Bible does not sugar-coat, because God always tells the truth: our world is a broken one. If you are human, you are broken. If you are human, you will never attain perfection. Left alone, we will never muster a happy story. It’s true: evil will always win.

 

     My students must hear this. I must hear this.

 

     If I don’t listen, I will never understand what’s about to come next: God became man and carried our burden of brokenness. Indeed, it was so heavy, it broke the god-man in the most violent fashion. But, after three days, God delivered justice, destroying evil in blinding glory. God made it clear: the only way to wholeness is through the god-man. This is the good news.

 

     The broken stories of human existence matter because they can lead us to the whole story of the Gospel, and as a teacher at Cornerstone, I am called to help my students understand the road from broken story to whole story. What a privilege it is.

Part II: Ten Things I Love About Mock Trials

May 12, 2015
By Dr. Faith Acker

Ten Things I Love about Mock Trials: Part II

Faith Acker

 

In my last post, I discussed five traditional benefits of mock trials. They are a wonderful pedagogical tool, provide great practice for real-world situations, and help students learn to think and to express themselves more clearly. These are all good academic defenses of mock trials, but the mock trial structure also has some less traditional benefits.

6.  Objections! The trial process is filled with rules and structure, as well as opportunities to challenge others who do not follow this structure. Learning how to challenge or contradict other people respectfully is one of life’s most important lessons. If practiced in secondary school, it will help these students in college (especially if they enroll in secular colleges), their careers, and even their relationships. While I don’t advocate shouting “Objection!” at a classmate, employer, or spouse, I do encourage my students to raise questions—and talk through the answers—not only in the mock trial process, but in all our English classes.

 

7.  Pathos reigns supreme. Trial arguments require not only logos (clear logic) and ethos (appeals to standards), but pathos. The most persuasive opening statement in the world still must survive the emotional appeal of a bereaved witness pleading for the other side. Trials, of necessity, include all forms of rhetorical appeal, students must learn to identify (and respond appropriately to) whatever rhetoric the world offers them.

8.  We study opposing views. Learning to understand differing schools of thought is an important part of the classical education, and both mock trial and debate allow students to anticipate and analyze differing opinions. My ninth graders are currently working on a mock trial of Creon (from Antigone), and at least two of them are annoyed that I’ve put them on the “wrong” side. Defending both sides of a given position is at the heart of the classical (Socratic) methodology, and it will also help us—as Christians—practice respect and discernment.

9.  Trial preparations are frustrating. Life is full of unexpected complications, such as the closing statement that mysteriously deletes itself the night before a trial, the witness who does not remember key details, or the irksome lawyer who makes repeated objections. Learning to deal with frustrations with grace is an important part of life; it is an especially crucial part of Christianity. We are called upon to live our faith not only in the blessed times, but also during the trials, and the annoyances and panics that plague long and complicated projects (such as mock trials) offer safe opportunities to practice appropriate responses.

10.  Trial preparations enable grace. Life is full of unexpected complications, and these also allow others to show us grace. Many of my students are (like me) fiercely independent and self-motivated. As Christians, we are expected to live in community, and in addition to serving others, we also sometimes need to allow others to serve us. During our Lancelot trial, one of my most independent students (who has many great skills, but is not the most accomplished typist) was driven by necessity to ask for last-minute typing assistance from a classmate. For her (and for me), learning to accept help with grace and gratitude is an important spiritual lesson.

As a teacher, mock trials require extensive (and sometimes exhausting) preparations and planning, but their benefits are tremendous. They are challenging and exciting in the moment, and some of these benefits will (I pray!)  last these students for decades.

Why we study The Odyssey (and not contemporary fiction)

November 20, 2014
By Faith Acker
  • Why we study The Odyssey (and not contemporary teen fiction)

 

 

As I write this post, my ninth-grade English students are reading about the homecoming of weary Odysseus, whose hostility towards the son of Poseidon (the Greek god of the sea) has caused numerous complications and frustrations to delay our unhappy hero.

 

Our journey through the book is not without its own delays and frustrations.

 

“Why is Odysseus so mean to the Cyclops?” one student asked.

“I didn’t understand anything that happened on page 326,” another student journaled.

“Why does he have to sneak around in disguise?” my students demanded on several differing occasions.

 

 

Reading The Odyssey is, for many students, an odyssey in its own right. We read it for the better part of a school quarter, and it is one of the most detailed and dense books on the Cornerstone curriculum. Some students struggle with the line breaks and the elaborate poetical language; others are frustrated by the lack of proper nouns. A large percentage of them would prefer to read Divergent and The Hunger Games, with whose main characters they identify more strongly.

 

However, The Odyssey has one significant benefit: it provides a safe arena in which students can evaluate and critique the actions of other human beings.

 

In many first-person present-tense teen novels of today, the stream-of-consciousness monologues of the protagonist-narrators leave readers little room for literary interpretation. Towards the end of The Hunger Games, protagonist and narrator Katniss says,

 

“I can’t get caught out here. . . . Not only will I face death, it’s sure to be a long and painful one. . . . The thought of [my sister] having to watch . . . keeps me doggedly inching my way towards the hideout” (223).

 

  • Collins’ readers can have no doubts about Katniss’ motivations; she wants to protect her sister from any harm or suffering. Her explanation isn’t wrong, but it means that discussions of the book focus predominantly on facts and personal reactions. Readers are not encouraged to discuss and analyze Katniss’ motivations, because the author has already revealed the answers.

 

In contrast, consider The Odyssey:

 

“They sent their ravishing voices out across the air

and the heart inside me throbbed to listen longer.

I signaled the crew with frowns to set me free--

they flung themselves at the oars and rowed on harder . . .

But once we’d left the Sirens fading in our wake,

once we could hear the song no more, their urgent call--

my steadfast crew was quick to remove the wax I’d used

to seal their ears and loosed the bonds that lashed me” (277).

 

Like Katniss, Odysseus is in great peril and great agony. Although his statements, like those of Katniss, are in the first person, my students were quick to query:

 

“Why does he want to listen?”

“Why do only the sailors seal their ears?”

“Why is he so desperate to get free?”

 

Both The Odyssey and The Hunger Games can be used to answer important and meaningful questions, and many of the same questions can be applied to both. For instance:

 

How does this book present a hero, or a savior?

What is the source of the protagonist’s strength?

What does this book teach about friendship, loyalty, or truth?

 

When the discussions have faded, however, uncertainty about The Odyssey remains. We could discuss and debate The Odyssey for an entire year, or read it once every year, and at the end of that year, there would be more to discover and debate. For a few, the same could be true of the newest teen novel; for thousands, this has already been true of The Odyssey.

 

Citations:

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, 2009 (2008).

Homer. The Odyssey. transl. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin, 1997 (1996).

Why "Waste Time" in School

November 20, 2014
By Dane Bundy

Why “Waste Time” in School

 

Two years ago I walked outside and stumbled upon a striking image. There, sprawled on the ground (no doubt a fire hazard), were a number of my students eagerly “wasting time” in conversation.

As I approached them, I noticed they were exchanging words with unusual vibrancy. They had books in their hands (philosophical books) by authors like Anselm and Lewis. They were dialoguing about the Trinity!

What have I done right, I thought. How can I patent it?

But, that’s the catch, I hadn’t really done anything. This “waste of time” was all their doing!

I only provided the opportunity. We cut “productive” time out of their busy school day to make room for “unproductive” time, or leisure. Or as James V. Schall puts it: “wasting time.”

As odd as it sounds, history, Scripture, and experience offer compelling reasons for why we should “waste time” in school.

 

Leisure in History

 

Leisure and learning have a rich history as close friends. The word “school” actually comes from the Greek word schole, which means “leisure.” Josef Pieper argues that the great Western thinkers saw leisure as the basis for culture.

The Greek and Roman thinkers drew stark distinctions between work and leisure. A slave who had to work could not afford time for leisure. The liberal arts (or the free arts) provided individuals with the tools and essential knowledge to live a life of learning and deep contemplation.

We can define leisure as time spent on things that are ends to themselves, such as friendship, conversation, and contemplation.

   

Leisure in Scripture

 

God has a word to say on this topic as well. God instituted the Sabbath for man on the seventh day after his own rest and leisure. As outlined for the Jews, the Sabbath was a day specifically marked for time away from work or productivity. It was “wasted time” in rest: the rejuvenation of the mind and body.  It was “wasted time” in leisure: prayer, contemplation, celebration, and worship.

To the modern Christian “wasted time” with God may take the form of Bible reading, meditation, Christian fellowship, and corporate worship. “Be still and know that I am God,” writes the Psalmist. What a much needed exhortation to stop, be silent, and consider the deep things of God!

 

Leisure and Experience

 

In leisure, a strange phenomenon takes place: learning can feel more like joy than work.  Leisure can spark a desire to learn for its own sake.

But, ironically, places of learning are often more characterized by work than leisure and by busyness than contemplation. Administrators, parents, teachers, and students all are busy.

Please don’t hear me say busyness or hard work is bad (God ordained the Jews six days of it). I’m also not saying leisure is easy. Contemplation demands sustained focus.

But what if our students are too busy and too overworked to stop and focus and contemplate? Would you not agree something is awry?

 

Leisure at Cornerstone

 

At Cornerstone, we have sought a number of ways to match leisure once again with learning.

Within the classroom, we discuss and debate ideas, and the students journal on a regular basis. I even designated a corner of my room (furnished with our theatre props) for leisure called Socrates’ Circle. We have it all planned out. When my students think an idea deserves debate or discussion, they shoot up their hands to give the signal. If the timing is right, I return the signal, we cry out “Socrates!”, and rush to the corner!

Parallel to the classroom, we’ve established the Contemplatorium. As the name implies, it is extended time for students and teachers to read, contemplate, and discuss. The students are assigned mentors (CA teachers) who match them with texts to interest and challenge them. There are no grades or exams for this time, and no competition or demand to produce anything. Most of the time it’s marked by silence, unless broken with the exchange of ideas.

 

As I write this post, my students are sprawled across the room. One is lying on the carpet in Socrates’ Circle and another sitting in the rocking chair. If all goes well, much time will be “wasted.”

 

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