Being a Courageous Bystander in the Lower School

By Michael Simpson, Head of Lower School

Character development is ongoing and constant in our lower school. As you know, academics are what we do, but we are working to help children develop interpersonal skills and self management skills too. Our character development program includes explicitly discussing our core principles of respect, honor, and compassion as well as continuously weaving them into our curriculum and conversations. On late start days fourth graders lead assemblies to introduce character topics such as the bug chart, the core principles, and as we did at our most recent late start day assembly, bullying.

This year’s bullying assembly was quite clever. The premise was a tour through a “Bullying Wax Museum.” After an introduction by me, the fourth graders acted the parts of tour guide, visitors, and wax figures. First, the guide defined bullying for the guests so they could understand what bullying really is: repeated mean behavior, on purpose. Then wax figures animated their different roles:

Physical bully
Verbal bully
Emotional bully
Cyber bully
Courageous bystander

The actors then explained what you should do if you see bullying, referring to the student-created posters and the STARS acronym visible all around our school:

Seek allies
Target needs your help
Assertively communicate
Respect everyone
Stand up to the bully but never bully back

The actors really enjoyed being wax figures, and the guide ended the assembly with a passionate charge to all Lower School students to be courageous bystanders.

I believe they took her message to heart. At every Monday morning assembly we recognize students who have demonstrated one of our core principles or teamwork. At this past Monday morning’s assembly, the following stories were read:

I would like to recognize [K] for being a team player. This is what happened: We were making a game in class and someone was not being nice to [L] and [K] helped [L] handle the problem. You are amazing, [K]!

I would like to recognize [P] for showing respect. This is what happened: Someone was saying my lunch looked bad at lunch, and [P] stood up for me! Saying “Guys, please don’t make fun of my friend’s lunch it’s not nice and if this continues a teacher will have to get involved.” And the people who were being mean stopped. Thanks [P] you rock!

While perhaps these were not instances that met the criteria of bullying, they were times when a courageous bystander’s voice was needed and certainly appreciated. This kind of “standing up” is a treasure to our community.

Erasing the Line between Art and Life

Creative Services Manager Emily Wilson writes about an Art History/English field trip to The Warehouse.

The Nasher Sculpture Center, one of the most well-known museums of downtown Dallas—and one of my favorite Saturday destinations—is currently showing a collection entitled Return to Earth, where, among many works shown, Picasso explores the theme of erasing the line between art and life. In one demonstration, he ate a fish down to the bone, then moments later, used that bone pattern for mark-making and line articulation in his ceramics.

Little did I know that I would see this very phenomenon thrive among Greenhill students two days later, and be introduced to a secret, almost hidden gallery two times the size of the Nasher.

Enter The Warehouse. A nondescript gray industrial building scant blocks away from Greenhill, housing some of the most extraordinary postwar Modern and contemporary art of our time. A private venture of collectors Howard Rachofsky and Vernon Faulconer, it is only open to four types of visitors: curators, critics, scholars, and students.

On November 5 and 6, Art History teacher Becky Daniels and English teacher Joel Garza brought their classes to this vast gallery space to take in the power of art in a profoundly theoretical and physical way.

Focusing on Japanese art from the 50s, 60s and 70s, students had previously studied the Gutai movement, which involved postwar reactionary thinking of decay or destruction revealing inner life, beauty and transformation. With this came a freedom of movement and action in art. Shozo Shimamoto, a prolific artist of the time who just died this year wrote, “I believe that the first thing we should do is to set paint free from the paintbrush… It is only once the paintbrush has been discarded that the paint can be revived.”

First, students took time to move throughout the space and pick a work that spoke to them. Then, they spent introspective time with their piece and wrote a “re-vision”, as Mr. Garza describes, a written reaction to art without the need for description, boundaries or structure. (Scroll down to read junior Rachel Davis’ inspiring re-vision.)


In a final exercise, students became physically involved. Mimicking Shimamoto’s technique of throwing glass bottles of paint against rocks, they threw egg shells filled with paint against a rock-filled canvas.

Our Upper School students, who moments before were cerebrally involved in quiet, contemplative gallery space were now taking aim, throwing intently, laughing, moving their entire bodies in the pitch—experiencing catharsis. The contrast was definitive and gratifying.

WH_IMG_8945_web WH_IMG_8963_web

In the footsteps of greats like Picasso and Shimamoto, Greenhill students erased that line—moving, breathing, creating and living within art.

Thank you to Thomas Feulmer and Francisco Moreno for their insight and guidance in organizing this event for us!

Learn more about The Warehouse here:


Untitled—Whirlpools, Shimamoto








The Three Eyes of Polyphemus

By Rachel Davis

Polyphemus saw us first as children, as a king might

see his subjects. We were barbarians, sheep

were we, and with a passing interest

he spied us

and paid us no mind.

Then he bent to our level and saw us again

and this time we were friends, perhaps,

or else amusing to see,

and we gave him sweet wine

and left him, wide-eyed and merry

too drunk to stand

and then Polyphemus fell


he had no eye to see by

but he saw us all the same

saw the truth of us through the haze

of wine and blood,

and what that truth was we do not know

because, the deed done, the fight won, we fled his cave

and nobody turned to ask him

what he had seen.