A coeducational day school serving students JK-12

Latin Learner Podcast logo L with radio waves

The Latin Learner Podcast

What can you learn in less than 10 minutes?

The Latin Learner Podcast offers helpful information from experts in the school community on a wide variety of topics, ranging from social-emotional health to DEI efforts to learning strategies, and more.

Discover More Episodes

decorative podcast cover art

 

Join Latin’s Director of Athletics, Kirsten Richter, to learn about the mental approach to sports and how students can take these skills from basketball court to Wall Street.

TRANSCRIPT

I think athletics is such a powerful learning environment. It has the feeling of high stakes. Individuals can learn so much about themselves while also learning how to interact with their teammates.It feels high stakes. We want to win. We really want to achieve competitive excellence. But when we fall a little bit short of that, we can redouble our efforts and learn from that and get even better. A lot of times in sports will say we got to be resilient or be gritty. 100% agree. But how do we actually do that? We want the students who have learned these skills in this setting where we can take time and get better and learn and grow. And now we want that student to be able to take this forward with them when it is high stakes, high risk. Brain surgery, Wall Street trader, you name it. But they've developed this and they can use this to the benefit of their career and the benefit of those around them.

My name is Kirsten Richter, and I am the director of athletics here at Latin. The bulk of my professional background is in higher ed. I was fortunate to coach college basketball for 17-18 years. For seven years, I was an assistant at two different institutions. I spent ten years as a head coach and I got to do a lot of different administrative things and take on different administrative responsibilities, both in athletics and broader across campus, including some leadership development work.

I think athletics is such a powerful learning environment. It has the feeling of high stakes. Individuals can learn so much about themselves while also learning how to interact with their teammates. I could rattle off a whole list of things I think you can learn through competitive sports, but resiliency communication skills, giving and receiving feedback, the way in which you interact with someone, verbally, body language. There are so many nuances to it. And I think really what makes it special and unique is that it has the feeling of high stakes but with relatively low risk. So you get to practice all these skills and make mistakes and learn and do better and fail, really without too much on the line. So it feels high stakes. We want to win, we really want to achieve competitive excellence. But when we fall a little short of that, we can redouble our efforts and learn from that and get even better.

So I just think there's so much learning that can come from athletics participation. I think a big building block to the mental approach to sports, and that really fuels all that. Learning through sport is the approach outcome response cycle. So we all control how we approach a task. We don't always control the outcome, but then we always control how we respond to that outcome.

We want to win, we really want to achieve competitive excellence. But when we fall a little short of that, we can redouble our efforts and learn from that and get even better.So when you think about it through the lens of athletics, we want to think about it sort of in the smallest pieces. So not how I approach the game. Win, lose, how do I respond to winning or losing much smaller? So within a game, that cycle is happening dozens and dozens of times. So they start feeding each other. So how I approach something, the outcome doesn't go my way. Okay, now how am I going to respond? Because that's going to feed into the next approach to the next thing.

So in more tangible terms, a simple example is like a foul shot. So there's a thing called a foul shot routine. So everybody is the same thing before foul shot. That's controlling the approach outcome doesn't always go in, right? So in a big moment that's going to sting. But then what's the response? And then that feeds the next approach. So you can sort of play this out and see how this happens over and over and over. And then how a student can control that really then starts to affect their performance in a positive or negative way. And then think beyond that. I'm doing this for myself and my individual tasks. But now think about those around me. So how my approach and my response? If I'm doing that well, that's going to affect the approach and the response of the people around me.

So you start to see the team dynamics and how that's at play. And it's just a powerful concept because it can affect so much change. And I think that's important because a lot of times in sports will say how we got to be resilient or be gritty. 100% agree. But how do we actually do that, being resilient? How? So I think this is a great building block to that because this is how we can be resilient and how we can be gritty and how we can persevere. This mental approach I think has so many applications outside athletics.

So I think some of my proudest moments as a coach when I saw students really grow and learn in that mental approach, whether it was I can think of a student who sort of grew tremendously over four years and found her voice and gained confidence.Think about a student in an academic setting, the approach, how I'm studying for an exam or how I'm preparing to write a paper. The outcome. Maybe I fall a little short of my goal in that test or I didn't sort of nail that paper. How do I respond? Same concept, even smaller. Like within a class setting. I go to the board. I think I have this math problem figured out. I didn't quite get it. This happened to me all the time in high school, right? Okay, so now how do I respond? Am I embarrassed? How am I going to feel about doing the next problem? Right? There are so many applications of that. And then as students enter college and then the workforce, this certainly has applications professionally, professional, day to day setting, meetings, interactions with colleagues can go on and on. But you can see how this sort of building block of the approach outcome, response cycle can easily be put into effect in those settings as well.

And I think, again, going back to the learning environment, that's why this is such a special learning environment because as students can practice this in that setting and then 20 years from now be so well versed at it that they can take it into their professional setting. And really too, you can perform at a high level because of their ability to do this. When you're learning this in athletic setting, again, it feels high stakes, relatively low risk. So you really have the opportunity to build this and grow this skill and it translates into the workplace. So picture of student 20 years down the line now in brain surgery, super high stakes, super high risk, right? So we want the students who have learned these skills in this setting where we can take time and get better and learn and grow. And now we want that student to be able to take this forward with them when it is high stakes, high risk, brain surgery, wall street trader, you name it, but they've developed this and they can use this to the benefit of their career and the benefit of those around them.

A coach can have a profound role in teaching the mental approach to sports to students. Certainly coaches are adapted teaching sports specific skills to their students, but to really maximize students' ability to perform those skills, we want to have that parallel track of that mental approach.

So I think some of my proudest moments as a coach when I saw students really grow and learn in that mental approach, whether it was I can think of a student who sort of grew tremendously over four years and found her voice and gained confidence. And a lot of that was because of the mental approach that she developed. I can think of another student who is always confidence was not her, she was not lacking confidence, right? But it was her ability to sort of navigate team dynamics and communicate with teammates that had to grow in nuance. And she was able to do that tremendously by her senior year in the way that she knew how to sort of respond to some things one way, how to respond to something else a little bit differently, how she approach something with one teammate would be different from how she approached something with another teammate. And so much of that is just the mental approach to team dynamics in sport. And now they're young adults and they can take that with them into their professional careers. 

  • Athletics
  • Podcast
decorative podcast cover art


Join director of college counseling Alexandra Fields to learn more about test-optional admissions to colleges and universities.

TRANSCRIPT

Intro - Alexandra Fields (00:14):
There's a lot of anxiety around the move away from standardized testing. This feels like a massive shift in our community. Students who have parents or guardians who went to college, the test scores meant a lot when those parents or guardians applied to college. And so to think about how schools are evaluating students, without that data point can be very overwhelming and mysterious and scary for students and families. Spending months and months preparing to try and bring that ACT score up a point versus really, you know, acing your way through second semester, Junior year, taking the time to write a really thoughtful essay when you're thinking about bang for your buck, it is easier for us now to say that the latter choice of focusing on academics and focusing on your writing is probably going to get you further in the college process. And that is a big relief for many of our students and families. A lot of research has also been done to explore the ways that standardized tests are quite biased. They are very racially biased. They were created for a white student population taking them. And there's an entire fascinating, very upsetting history of how the SAT actually historically has been used to keep underrepresented folks out of education.

Alexandra Fields (01:52):
I'm Alexandra Fields and I am director of college counseling at Latin. Test optional, it's something that has gotten much more press and has been in the news a lot and it has been on people's minds more during the pandemic, but it actually is something that has existed long before the pandemic. And the pandemic has just accelerated and popularized test-optional policies. So basically what a test-optional policy means is that a student does not need to submit standardized test scores to be considered for admission. And so that would be the ACT, the SAT, AP scores. And these don't exist anymore, but they used to, and you might have heard of SAT subject tests or SAT 2s. None of those are required for admission. And schools, there are schools who have been practicing test-optional admissions policies for years, and the reason that many schools have taken this move is because there's a lot of really great research out there that shows that the standardized tests are just simply not the best way of measuring a student's potential to be successful on a college campus.

(03:12):
The transcript is actually the best indicator of that. And a lot of research has also been done to explore the ways that standardized tests are quite biased. They are very racially biased. They were created for a white student population taking them, and there's an entire fascinating, very upsetting history of how the SAT actually historically has been used to keep underrepresented folks out of education. They're also biased in that when we think about resources, Latin is very lucky. We have a test prep course that students can just sign up for and take. And it's a part of their tuition here. Many students and families have the resources to engage in tutoring. Even if they don't, they have a college counselor who's counseling them on when to take the tests and how often to take the tests, and what scores they need for certain institutions.

(04:12):
And so all of this means that those scores aren't just representative of a student's, you know, intellectual capability, they're representative of a lot more than that. And so schools began to realize if we are genuinely interested in creating an equitable admissions process, if we are genuinely interested in building a diverse student body in all senses of that term, we can't rely heavily on the standardized test score. So Latin students are impacted by this change in a few ways. The first, we'll say is that the vast majority of Latin students still sit for the ACT or the SAT at least once. And we recommend that they do. And the reason that we advise this is because many students do very well. And even when a school is test-optional, a strong test score is only going to help them in the process. And so most students take a shot at it.

(05:13):
The difference is students tend to not take the ACT or the SAT quite as many times as they had in the past. Maybe a student who realizes, "This is just not where I shine. I get extremely anxious. I have a terrible time with test taking, and I know no matter what prep I do, this is never going to be the strongest part of my application." A lot of times those students will take it once or twice and say, "I'm done," because they realize that they don't need it necessarily. They realize that they can still be a compelling candidate for an admission without that testing. So we have seen students testing a bit less. We also, some of the pressure is removed because you only have something to gain, right? Yes. It can help you to have a great test score, but you don't have as much to lose, because if you aren't able to achieve that great test score, you don't need to include it in your application.

(06:15):
There's a lot anxiety around the move away from standardized testing. As I kind of spoke to before, this feels like a massive shift in our community. Students who have parents or guardians who went to college, the test scores meant a lot when those parents or guardians applied to college. And so to think about how schools are evaluating students, without that data point can be very overwhelming and mysterious and scary for students and families. I will also say that the testing can be a comfort to some students and families, because it is concrete. You know what a strong test score is. You know what a weaker test score is. You can study. You can retake it. And so I think it feels much more graspable and understandable than some of the other parts of the college application process, like writing a great essay, where you can't, you know, run it through something and say, yes, this is a "36" essay.

(07:24):
No, that is much, much more subjective. And so this has been very scary and alarming for students and families. We get a lot of questions on: What are they looking at? How is this, how is my student going to do in this process? Or how am I going to do in this process without the standardized test scores? So the thing that is really wonderful to see is that so many of the initiatives and, and the direction that Latin is moving in, actually aligns perfectly with this test-optional world. If a student is not submitting standardized test scores, what are colleges looking at? They are looking at the transcript, which includes the courses that a student has opted to take and how they've done in those courses. They're learning more about their academic performance from the recommendation letters, where teachers are speaking more in-depth about how they've done. And they're reading their writing.

(08:28):
And that is an essay that students write for colleges. And then some colleges also have some additional questions that they ask. Everything about standards-based assessment is actually working toward creating students who would thrive under that type of an assessment. Because it is not about just earning the score. It is not about showing up and having a great day and acing that test. It really is about on a more macro level, a depth of understanding and a mastery. In the simplest of terms, it's moving away from very clear-cut labels, Honors level, AP level, 36, A+, whatever it is, and it's moving toward: Is this student intellectually curious? Is this student having kind of deep probing thoughts about what it is that they're studying? Is this student making connections across disciplines? All of those types of things are much more compelling to colleges and universities, and they cannot be measured in a test score.

Podcast
 

 

  • Academics
  • College Counseling
  • Podcast
  • upper school
decorative podcast cover art


Join director of college counseling Alexandra Fields for an overview of college counseling at Latin.

TRANSCRIPT

Intro - Alexandra Fields (00:14):
When done right, our office really believes that the college process can be a process that mirrors a student making their first really major adult decision in their life. We believe in a very individualized process because no two students are alike and no two students are going to navigate this in the exact same way. So the things that one student finds challenging and stressful and overwhelming about this, another student finds really exciting and fun. It can get deep. I had a student say to me, "When I think back on the college process, I didn't realize that the biggest thing I was going to get from it would be learning how to tell my story." And that to me was a sign of success. That was such a wonderful thing to hear a student say.

Alexandra Fields (01:11):
I'm Alexandra Fields. And I am the director of college counseling at Latin. I often get asked about our philosophical approach to college counseling here at Latin. And this is one of my favorite questions actually to answer because it's one that we have put a lot of thought into in our office. First and foremost, I would say the thing that guides all of our work is an approach that recognizes that yes, college counseling is about finding a school for a student to attend and, you know, spend the next four years of their education. But it really is about so much more than that. And when done right our office really believes that the college process can be a process that mirrors a student making their first really major adult decision in their life. And that is a big deal. And so guiding students through that process teaching them how to reflect and think about who they are and who they want to be and what they've gotten from their high school experience or not gotten from their high school experience that hoping to get in college university and really kind of putting together a list of priorities and taking ownership over this next step in their life is what we are all about.

(02:36):
So for us, it's really just partnering with students and families and guiding them through that process. We believe in a very individualized process because no two students are alike and no two students are going to navigate this in the exact same way. So the things that one student finds challenging and stressful and overwhelming about this, another student finds really exciting and fun. And then the thing that they find stressful and overwhelming, the other student has no issue with. There are families who feel this is, you know, their third child going through the college process and they feel like they're masters and, and they can really take a backseat. And there are families who this might be the first child, or maybe even the first person in the family to go to college. And this all feels very new and can feel really scary.

(03:29):
And so our job in the office is to meet each student and family where they're at and figure out what they need to move through this process in a way that works for them. Another major priority of ours, and a big focus of the college counseling office, is to make sure that we are a place that feels accessible, that feels comfortable for all students and families, regardless of their knowledge about the college process, regardless of how long they've been at Latin to access us and ask their questions. And so that is something that I think we have a renewed focus and emphasis on. Student experience with the college counseling office while they will see us - I mean, first of all, just in the halls and walking around and at dance shows and, you know, at different things - they won't really start working with us until second semester of their Junior year.

(04:21):
And we get in front of students before then, but it's much more in a general way. They will actually be assigned their counselor in the second semester of their Junior year. Sometimes we get asked, "Isn't that late, (right)?" "You talk a lot about the college process being so complicated (which it is) so why wouldn't we start this earlier?" Which is a very valid question, but the thing to really understand about this is that the most important work that a student can be doing to be preparing themselves for secondary education is investing in their high school experience, is loving their classes, and figuring out what their passions are and exploring theater, and then realizing that they hate theater and getting really, really into model UN and making connections with faculty members. All of these things that students should be doing, whether or not they're thinking about their next step are actually the things that are going to best prepare them for the college process.

(05:28):
And so we don't need to be intervening. We don't need to be adding that on to students when they're 14 years old, 15 years old, and just getting their footing in, in the upper school here. So we begin with them second semester Junior year, and it starts with an initial meeting where we don't really even talk about college that much. You know, some of the questions that I ask students in that first meeting are like, when did you come to Latin? And if you were old enough to have a say in coming to Latin, why come to Latin? And who are your friends and what do you guys do on the weekends and what faculty do you feel connected to and what classes do you love and how do you spend your summer? And what do you think about, you know, the lunch options?

(06:15):
Like just whatever it is to just start to get to know our students. And that's what a lot of Junior year is, is just getting to know students establishing a relationship with them. It is very easy for us in the college counseling office, given our expertise to come up with a list of schools for a student. But that list is only going to be as good as the knowledge that we have of that student. And so we want to lay that groundwork to feel like we really understand who they are and what they're about. And then Senior year stuff becomes a little bit more tactical, practical. Students are working on writing. We work very closely with them on that. Students are preparing for interviews. Students are finalizing lists and making decisions about where they're going to apply. So there's kind of a natural shift that happens between Junior and Senior year, where it goes from more theoretical and reflective to active producing, you know, the, the things that need to be done to apply to college.

(07:15):
And we're really with students throughout the entire thing including the emotional piece of it. So yes, the college process is overwhelming because there's a lot of work to be done and decisions to be made, but it also can be really hard to reflect back on your high school experience and take a good hard look at what you've done and maybe what you didn't do that you hoped you had done. It can be very hard to think about leaving this community, your friends, your family. If you're going to be if you're considering, you know, leaving the Chicago area it can be very hard, hard to think about making that transition and starting all over. And so there's a lot of personal development that happens in this. And that is, I joke, that is why counselor is in our name.

(08:12):
That is why when you come into our offices, you'll see tissues and chocolate and stress balls because it gets deep. It can get deep. I had a student say to me "When I think back on the college process, I didn't realize that the biggest thing I was going to get from it would be learning how to tell my story." And that to me was a sign of success. That was such a wonderful thing. To hear a student say. We are all about fit. We are all about helping a student figure out what the right fit is for them. We are very lucky in that our students across the board are extremely prepared to take the next step into higher education. That is not a concern of ours. And we are very lucky in that our students have options.

(09:02):
And so it is not just figuring out where can I get in, because there are plenty of places where every single Latin student will be admitted with enthusiasm, but figuring out what is the right place for me, what environment do I want to be in? What is a place that is going to foster the type of growth that I'm looking to have in my college experience? And so success looks like students coming back, visit us, which we hope they do, you know, winter break of their freshman year and say, "Oh my goodness, Ms. Fields, Ms. Jones, Mr. Zotos, Ms. Taylor, Ms. Vela, this is the perfect place. You're never going to believe this class that I'm taking right now. You're never going to believe what this professor, you know, set me up with for the summer. I have the best friends that I've ever had." Whatever it is. That is how we know that we're doing a really great job.

Outro (09:59):
Next time on the Latin Learner podcast.

Alexandra Fields (10:02):
This feels like a massive shift in our community. Students who have parents or guardians who went to college, the test scores meant a lot when those parents or guardians applied to college. And so to think about how schools are evaluating students, without that data point can be very overwhelming and mysterious and scary for students and families. Spending months and months preparing to try and bring that ACT score up a point versus really, you know, acing your way through second semester, Junior year. Taking the time to write a really thoughtful essay when you're thinking about bang for your buck, it is easier for us now to say that the latter choice of focusing on academics and focusing on your writing is probably going to get you further in the college process. And that is a big relief for many of our students and family. A lot of research has also been done to explore the ways that standardized tests are quite biased. They are very racially biased. They were created for a white student population taking them. And there's an entire fascinating, very upsetting history of how the SAT actually historically has been used to keep underrepresented folks out of education.

Podcast
 

 

  • Academics
  • College Counseling
  • Podcast
  • upper school
decorative podcast cover art


Join Upper School English Teacher and Diversity Coordinator Brandon Woods, Middle School English Teacher and Diversity Coordinator Jennifer Nabers and Lower School Spanish Teacher and Diversity Coordinator Kasey Taylor for a discussion about Learning for Justice in action at Latin.

TRANSCRIPT

Jennifer Nabers (00:15):
How's this, like, changed something I've taught? So when I looked at the social justice standards, it was then really important for me to think, like, are there memoirs I can bring in where I can really implement these standards? And so this allowed me to really shape, like, some curriculum choices that I was making.

Kasey Taylor (00:34):
Exploring identity is like a foundational element in the lower school environment. And this happens in a number of ways, but again, scaffolding the opportunities year after year after year allows kids to see how identity development evolves over time.

Brandon Woods (00:53):
Our goal of inclusion and the word I would use along those lines is belonging. And how do you gain a sense of belonging into a community? And I would say there are two possible vectors. One is being able to identify your own identity and your own needs. And what do you need as a person in the community to feel included, to feel a sense of belonging. There's also an obligation towards others.

Kasey Taylor (01:22):
Hi everyone. I'm Kasey Taylor. I am lower school Spanish for junior kindergarten, senior kindergarten, first and second grade. So the "littles" in the lower school and also lower school diversity coordinator.

Brandon Woods (01:35):
My name is Brandon Woods. I am an upper school English teacher currently teaching ninth and tenth grade. And I am also a diversity coordinator and I focus on curriculum JK through 12.

Jennifer Nabers (01:48):
Hi everyone. I'm Jennifer Nabers. I teach seventh grade English and am one of the middle school diversity coordinators. What does a unit in class or a class exercise or activity look like using this framework? Let me talk really specifically about how this changed something I've taught. So for many years in seventh grade English, we read the diary of Anne Frank. But at some point, you know, I was really interested in bringing memoir into my classroom it's, like, a really popular genre. Kids really love it. You can do a lot of writing exercises with it. It lends itself really well to, like, middle school, the middle school experience. So when I looked at the social justice standards, it was then really important for me to think, like, are there memoirs I can bring in where I can really implement these standards?

So I ended up including two memoirs. In the past couple of years, I've added, "It's Trevor Noah," which is the young reader's version of "Born a Crime." And then the George Takei graphic novel, "They Called Us Enemy. "And so this allowed me to really shape, like, some curriculum choices that I was making, because then when I look at, for example - and these are, like, the student outcomes, like, if you look in the middle school band - things like, "I am curious and want to know about other people's histories and lived experiences," or "I can explain the way groups of people are treated today and the way they've been treated in the past, how that shapes their identity and culture." So by using the standards, I could, I could make sure that the text I, I was selecting would be a really good fit for the things that I would know I would want to talk about in my, in my classroom.

Brandon Woods (03:33):
So just to talk about the ways in which this system can look outside of a conventional classroom or conventional curriculum. My partner, Adam Apo, and I are doing a project on the history of the gay rights movement in Chicago. And the final project is they're going to do a collective action after talking to a number of historians and activists who have done collective actions in the past. And the goal for them is to less lead that action, but to listen to other groups and to listen to people who've been impacted and help them with the resources of Latin and the students come up with a collective action that will better the lives of particularly LGBTQIA+ youth in Chicago.

Kasey Taylor (04:28):
For lower school, exploring identity is like a foundational element in the lower school environment. And, this happens in a number of ways, but again, scaffolding the opportunities year after year after year, allows kids to see how identity development evolves over time it's ever, you know, ever-shifting, ever, ever being reshaped. It is not something that is fixed and that's really a key component to understanding identity development that we want the kids to really own that by the time they work their way through the lower school environment. So identity development shows up in a number of ways, like, in for example in JK, self portraits are something that are regularly done, creating "Me" paints, which the kids use a different combination of colors to create their just right paint that matches their skin color is another way that identity development happens.


In first grade, they do a project that's called identity bags where they get to bring home a little paper bag and fill it with a few objects that represent parts of their identity. And then they come back to school with their bag and, and share with their peers. Fourth grade, for example, they do family heritage projects. So, they choose an object that is special to their family and do a little bit of research to understand where did that object come from? What does it represent? How does it connect to their heritage? So those are just a few examples of how identity work lives in the lower school.

Brandon Woods (06:07):
How is this framework connected to the DEI work, DEI goals and the DEI action steps of the school? Well in every way, but I would try to be as specific as possible. I think one of the ways it connects is with our, our goal of inclusion and the word I would use along those lines is belonging. And how do you gain a sense of belonging into a community? And I would say there are two possible vectors. One is being able to identify your own identity and your own needs. And what do you need as a person in the community to feel included, to feel a sense of belonging, but there's also an obligation towards others. What do I have to do to recognize other people in the community? What is my obligation towards them in terms of my, my thought patterns, my actions. And so one of the wonderful things about the, the framework, whether it's identity or diversity or justice or action, is all getting students to think in both of those ways, who am I and what is my responsibility to others? And, and to myself.

Kasey Taylor (07:16):
One of the things you hear from anti-bias educators, social justice education, is that this work is, is not necessarily a curriculum per se. Rather, it's a way of being, it's a way of thinking. It's a way of communicating. It's a way of relating and behaving with the world around you. And it's about having certain dispositions and, and inclinations towards equity and justice and, and looking for those opportunities to create a fair world, a fair world for everyone. And so the social justice standards are just as much for adults in our community as they are for students. We're all on this learning journey together. And so we're paving the way with having this framework, helping us do that together as a community.

Podcast
 

 

  • Academics
  • DEI
  • lower school
  • middle school
  • Podcast
  • upper school