Homecoming Spirit

Darryn Sandler, Greenhill alum, teacher, coach, advisor, and more, wrote the following words on the spirit of Greenhill and why Homecoming can be such a uniting force in the school community.

Two weeks ago, Seniors Devin Bullock and Mikey Stanley spoke to the student body at the Upper School assembly for about ninety seconds. In that short minute and a half, they demonstrated the class and leadership that has been displayed by the senior class and has had such a positive impact on the entire Upper School.

Devin and Mikey delivered two messages. First: “Thank you to the students and faculty who took the time to come out and support the football team on a Thursday night and at our previous games. It really means a lot to all of us on the team.”

We always hear the captains of their respective sport teams get up at our typical C-day assemblies and thank the students for coming out to support them after a big win. The only difference is that the football captains did not do this following a big win. I would argue, though, that these young men are winning. They go all out every week, giving everything they have with fewer people on their roster than any of their opponents. Coach Jeff Hollway is teaching these boys about leadership, work ethic, commitment, teamwork, and dedication. Members of the football team are not walking around with a defeated attitude or bringing down the morale of the Upper School. They are cherishing their time in football and with each other while trying to find ways to build the spirit and pride of the Greenhill student body.

The second message that Devin and Mikey delivered was to go out and support the other sports and events on campus. “If you can come out to a football game on a Thursday night, then there is no excuse not to go out and support our volleyball and field hockey teams during the week.”

This is a powerful message. This was the first time that I have ever heard the captains of one of our athletic teams ask the student body to support the other teams on campus. Mikey and Devin conveyed why Greenhill is such a special place to be a student, an employee, and alum: At Greenhill, we value the entire community. Mikey and Devin encouraged the students to have pride in all of our students and teams.

In the week following the message from Mikey and Devin, I attended two volleyball games. About half the football team and several other students came to support our volleyball teams. On Saturday, Holland Hall and Greenhill battled it out for the top seed in North Zone. Following a late night football game in Cedar Hill, about twenty football players showed up to cheer on their peers. It was exciting to see the pride these students felt when our athletes were playing and succeeding on the court. After trailing two games to zero, our girls fought hard to pull out a 16-14 comeback in the fifth and decisive game to earn the top seed heading into SPC. Many of the volleyball players said that the crowd helped them keep their heads up and focused during this great comeback!

With such great leadership from the senior class, we have reached a time in which school spirit is at the best I have witnessed during my 21 years at Greenhill as a student, alum, and faculty member. This is extremely exciting as we enter Homecoming Week. With school spirit and pride at a high, I am excited to see the students, faculty, parents and alums come even closer together during this exciting week for the community.

We Are Always Learning

First Grade teacher Valerie Reynolds takes us on a journey of adult learning that, of course, circles back to the children.

As a teacher, we are always making connections between life outside the classroom and time spent with students. Below is a story I wrote about the unexpected things that can happen when we put ourselves in the learner’s chair, and about how we as teachers and adults in a child’s life can cushion learning with compassion.

Tonight’s Lesson…
A story in two voices

Last summer, I rediscovered a love of tennis. I have since wondered, “Why did I ever quit playing?” But the most pondered question is, “WHEN will I play?” I have to get creative sometimes trying to fit it into our family schedule. I do have a couple of places that I like to go to for drills, but one week I decided to check out a new place.

I get to the unfamiliar tennis center and I meet the instructor. He has a friendly smile. Minutes later we are on the court, and he suddenly looks very serious. What happened to the friendly smile I wonder? There are only eight of us. The coach immediately breaks us into two groups and gives directions so quickly that I have no idea what he just said. I know I heard my name for what court to go on, but other than that, I am guessing. I had been playing it safe with lessons for 2.5 level players, but I quickly realized that this is not going to be the same kind of lesson. I now know I will get lots of practice tonight, but will it be what I need?

I started to make a connection between playing “out of my league” and readers reading “out of their league.” The instructor’s tennis vocabulary was a bit unfamiliar to me. He is talking so fast. I am trying to use context clues to fill in the missing pieces. Do I have enough experience to figure out what to do?

One drill seemed easy, but it was actually kind of hard because I wasn’t sure if I should hit the volley hard to win or soft to keep it in play. My teammate and I actually discussed, “…Not too hard, not too soft, but just right!” I immediately thought of my first graders and how we say that usually a book shouldn’t be too hard or too easy, but just right!

How many times have I had that discussion with a young child picking out a book? Each tennis move is like a child plugging away with the text. Sometimes I reach out and surprise myself with a good return. Other times I totally miss it. Readers do the same thing as they reach into their tool bags for a strategy to try.

We rotate courts to begin another drill. I know my partner is better than me. He is friendly and encouraging though. I am grateful. He asks me, “Do you need anything?” “What does that mean?” I wonder. I want to say, “I need to leave!” But instead I just say, “No, just trying to get some good practice. Oh, I might need patience from you though.” He laughs and says, “No problem.” He adds, “I’m a leftie. Can I start on this side?” I make many mistakes in this doubles game, but I am so glad that my serves are ok. When it was over, I thanked him for being a good sport. He said, “Your first serve went in every time.” Wow – he found something encouraging to say even though he knew I was in a little over my head.

When children get in over their heads with a book that is too hard, how do we respond? Do we encourage and support them to try? Or do we immediately tell them to try it another time? Do we scaffold them to succeed? Do we try to find at least one positive thing for that child to apply in other books that he will try? Do we leave our reading time together with an encouraging word?

When our lesson was over, I went to thank the coach. I said, “I think I was playing “up” tonight, but I sure appreciate the practice.” He smiled, and agreed that it was for 3.0 and up… yeah, slight detail I overlooked. He said, “You know, there is another class for 3.0 only on Mondays and Thursdays. That would be great for you.” I immediately thought, “Yes, that sounds JUST RIGHT!”

On my way home, other connections are swirling around in my head. I think of Regie Routman’s book Teaching Essentials and her advice about making time for doing things you love, and how it can enrich your teaching. I feel like I have just put myself in my kids’ shoes – tennis shoes – and have a strong feeling to write it all down. Those connections that we make between reading and writing and our life experiences are all coming together in my head. I feel a mini-lesson forming, and I am so glad I made time for tennis tonight – in more ways than one.