One thing Latin students say frequently is that our buildings “feel like home” to them. Making kids feel at home is something that all adults, from classroom teachers to reception staff, strive to foster. On March 12, 2020, this sentiment took on a whole new meaning when Latin shifted to a remote learning model for all students due to COVID-19. Suddenly we were faced with making homes across the city feel like Latin.
Our vision for educational excellence compels us to expand each learner’s capacity for purposeful learning, and never before has that vision been more imperative. As the pandemic has progressed, each and every one of us has had to expand our capacity not only for learning, but also for teaching, for communicating, for decision-making and for leading.
We are strong together. We are loyal and true together. And we will remain Romans together.
No one could have imagined back in August how the meaning of our annual theme, Together, would be tested over the last months. We have proven it does not describe only physical closeness, but rather a feeling of connectedness that can withstand shelter-in-place orders, can withstand quarantine and can withstand social distance. Now, the meaning of “together” is much more synonymous with our school motto, fidelitas, which is the Latin word for faithfulness. On the day we first had to close the doors of our buildings we adopted the hashtag #RomansTogether because: We are strong together. We are loyal and true together. And we will remain Romans together.
See how students, faculty and alumni have proven that learning something new, making memorable experiences and giving back to the community can happen anytime and anywhere.
Blue and Orange Olympics
The 2020 Summer Olympic Games may have been postponed, but the Lower School Olympics went off without a hitch. All the events are designed to be completed indoors or outdoors using common household items, including a laundry basket or bucket, paper, a towel, a blanket, painter’s tape, string or streamers, pillows, a timer, a paper ball or sock ball, paper plates, markers or crayons, and a mop or broom. Six activities per grade level (JK–4th grade) were posted on Seesaw along with the details of the event as well as a “how to video.” Based on the videos students submitted via Seesaw, they definitely took home the gold!
Egg Drop at Home
The Egg Drop changed a little this year due to remote learning. Fourth grade students still engaged in the engineering and design process and considered the problem and materials they could use to solve it. However, this year, they were tasked with designing a container built from any household materials of their choice that would protect an egg from breaking when dropped from a minimum height of six feet. All 64 students in the grade submitted videos of their egg drop, and the vast majority had success. A silver lining to completing the egg drops at home was that whole families got involved.
Family Music Makers
On any given day, if you were to walk into the lower school music room during class, you’d probably see students collaboratively singing, moving, composing, and playing drums, xylophones, shakers, triangles and all sorts of percussion instruments. So what better way to kick off the remote music learning series than to re-create the joy of music-making together with families. The instrument choices were boxes (drums), cutlery, lids, pots/pans/cans or other items that could creatively be turned into musical instruments. Everyone could join the band – babies, toddlers, younger and older siblings, grown-ups and even pets.
Sixth Grade Foodies
Middle school students don’t just take computer science (CS) courses; they also incorporate CS techniques into their classwork, which provides a more real-world experience utilizing those skills. An example of this collaboration is the one between middle school CS teacher Bobby Oommen and middle school Language Arts teacher Sarah Abaza on the sixth grade food writing unit. Back in January, Oommen and Abaza planned for students to take on the role of food critics and compose food reviews, then publish them online by coding their own websites. Despite transitioning to remote learning in March, Oommen and Abaza moved forward with the plan so that students could share their published sites with others. Oommen’s detailed, step-by-step tutorial videos helped the students create and personalize their sites once they finished composing the review. Warning: These reviews will make you hungry!
Middle Schoolers have Eyes for “City Spies”
Seventy middle school students chatted with author James Ponti via Zoom about his most recent book, City Spies. He first told students about this book when he met fifth and sixth graders in person in the fall. When City Spies came out in the spring, the students were very excited–they even took a photo with the book! Ponti arranged a Zoom talk with the middle schoolers during which students got to ask their burning questions about the book.
Two key writing skills middle schoolers learned:
- Self-editing is necessary. But at a certain point, you need an outside perspective to see your writing anew.
- If you want the reader’s attention, you should evoke their senses. Abstractions like beauty and love sulk on the page unless charged with life-giving sensory detail.
Romans, we are here for you.
The world premiere performance of I’ve Found My Way Through concluded the virtual vocal music concert in June. Its words were written by seniors in Ann McGlinn’s Modern and Contemporary Poetry class earlier this school year. The students wanted to illustrate how they can help one another through difficult times through these lyrics, which are now more timely than ever. The song’s commissioned composer, Reena Esmail, incorporated melodies by students in the upper school chorus, directed by Gabriel Di Gennaro and Sarah Glieberman. The faculty and staff who speak during the climax of the piece were nominated by chorus students who were asked, “Who has helped you through a difficult time at Latin?” A true testament of the year’s theme “Together,” the final piece combined the work of 16 poets, 19 singers, seven instrumentalists and a video editor, all of whom are current or recently graduated Romans.
Meet me on Zoom
Beginning on March 31, the Latin Alumni Office hosted a series of Zoom calls with current and retired beloved faculty and staff as well as an alum. The lineup included movie recommendations from retired athletic director and movie aficionado Coach Tom Bower; office hours with Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Eleannor Maajid ’97; a cooking session with History Department faculty member and freshman/sophomore dean Bridget Hennessy and her son, Baby William; a boat-building discussion with retired faculty member and theatre arts designer Ken Bowen; rock ‘n’ roll journey of his favorite concert moments with Mike McCarthy ’69; creative activities for 4- to 6-year-olds with the dynamic retired teaching duo of Shelley Addison and Vicki Kendall; and a trip down memory lane on how the Fight Song was written with retired Performing Arts Department Chair and Instrumental Music Director Mike Teolis.
For more about these Zoom calls, visit Events in Roman Connections.
The Latin community found ways to give back to organizations in need around Chicago. Upper School Innovation Studio Manager Shane Enderle didn’t let the studio’s 3D printers sit unused. He created more than 100 face shield parts to donate to Swedish Covenant Hospital during the early stages of the pandemic, when hospitals were in dire need of personal protective equipment. Student Keely Moll ’22 raised $1,400 with her no-contact bake sale and donated the funds to Lakeview Pantry. Mia Banks’ ’23 Stay Safe and Smile kits caught the eye of local media as she distributed more than 1,000 kits around Chicago. In addition, Latin students and families made masks for others, collected and donated surgical gloves and masks to local hospitals, and made well-wish cards and posters for healthcare and essential workers as well as residents at retirement and nursing homes.
The Learning Still Continues
A poem by an eighth grade student captured so much emotion shared by students and teachers during the last quarter, but it also offered hope.
No feet stomping through the halls
No loud bouncing of basketballs
No stampedes and wails in the race to lunch
No rocking chairs, no backs in a hunch
No kids scurrying to class
No loud notes from the brass
For the classrooms have grown so quiet, yet teachers are not scarce
Because the learning still continues and there is knowledge to be shared
As we sit and lay in front of our screens
We thank technology for these machines
Though it saddens us to not be with our friends
We know our time away soon will end
Even though we are apart
Our orange and blue stay in our hearts
And though summer is approaching and I will miss them all
I can’t wait to do it all over again in the fall
–McKennzie Boyd ’24