A coeducational day school serving students JK-12

 
 
TRANSCRIPT

Nathan Goldberg '14 is a professional bird-watching tour guide for Red Hill Birding, a local bird-watching tour company based in Chicago. His "life list," which is the total number of birds seen in a lifetime, spans about 1,230 species. Listen to his adventures of traveling the country to spot some of the rarest species of birds. 

Nathan Goldberg '14

What is your favorite memory at Latin?

My favorite Latin memory was probably going to Iceland or south Florida for Project Weeks. And we went snorkeling and played with dolphins and it was an amazing experience. 

How did you get involved in birding?

When I was about 13 years old, I actually saw this bird called a wood duck at North Pond, which is right near Latin actually. And it blew my mind and I realized that there were way more birds than I had ever recognized and started sort of honing in on that and was really fascinated by that and decided to dive in, buy a field guide and explore the birding world.
Nathan Goldberg '14
I got involved in the birding world through a variety of different avenues. I began when I was really young having an interest in collections. So Pokemon, cards, coins, you know, mini vinyl art figures, and all of that sort of compartmentalized on one side and then a passion for the outdoors was on the other. But I never really had a bridge between the two that made sense to me. And when I was about 13 years old, I actually saw this bird called a wood duck at North Pond, which is right near Latin, actually. And it blew my mind and I realized that there were way more birds than I had ever recognized and started sort of honing in on that and was really fascinated by that and decided to dive in, buy a field guide and explore the birding world.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled to see a bird?

The farthest I've traveled to see a bird is a tough question because I've both driven sometimes over 10 hours, one-way to see a bird, but I actually flew down to Tucson to go see, including a quetzal and a rare bird called a crescent chested warbler, and was able to see both, which was amazing. 

What are some highlights from your career in birding?

Over the last 12 years, I've worked on a variety of different projects through the avenues of birding. One was in college. I ran down to New York City to see a rare bird in Central Park and it was there. I looked at it. It was great. Unfortunately, though, it's a very difficult species to identify and often requires genetic material. And though the bird was cooperating, there was no way that we would have actually been able to catch it, sequence its DNA, et cetera, but I opportunistically, I collected a sample from it. It deposited a fecal sample for us. For those that aren't aware of what fecal samples are, the bird pooped. And I collected the bird’s poop, put it in a bag, took it to a freezer. Long story short, ran the poop through a DNA sequencing project and actually was able to figure out what species it was and got published and helped contribute to the record of New York bird knowledge. It was the first record confirmed of what is known as a Pacific-slope flycatcher. And that was really cool. 

Additionally, outside of that sort of scientific project, I did do what's called a “big year.” I set out in 2020 to see the most species of birds possible in a given year in the state of Illinois, which required 52 weeks of focus and intense driving and stamina, et cetera. But I was fortunate enough to be able to break the record and set an all-time high record for the state. And that was really, really fun. 
 

What’s the craziest place you’ve gone to see a bird?

Craziest place I've gone to see a bird is a tough one. I've been to a lot. Uh, the classic birder answer here would probably be that we'd gone to sewage ponds, sewage lagoons and garbage dumps. Those smells attract birds and they push away humans. Birds are often there. So that's always fun. 

Ash-throated-Flycatcher by Nathan Goldberg '14

Ash-throated-Flycatcher. Photo by Nathan Goldberg

Tell us about your life list.

What a life list is, is the total species of birds that you have seen in your life over your entire lifespan. We do have life lists as birders for smaller regions and larger regions. So my life list would be the world. Then there's my United States list, my lower 48 list. I have an Illinois list. I have a Cook County list. Some people I know have a zip code list. My life list is 1,230 species total, which is only what I would argue a fraction of the world's birds. There are over 10,500 species, and that list is ever-growing. 

Tell us your best bird story.

I'd say my best bird story happened very recently in May. I was out birdwatching on the Northwest side of Chicago at what's called LaBagh Woods. It's a forest preserve in Cook County. And I was with a client looking and photographing various birds. And out of nowhere, spotted this hummingbird; and a hummingbird in May is expected. We have what's called the ruby-throated hummingbirds in Chicago, but the moment I got my binoculars on the bird, I immediately lost my mind... I could not control myself. I freaked out. The bird that I saw in my binoculars had a bright red bill, blue green body, and was like this deep sort of almost purple-y color, which none of these characteristics fit a ruby-throated hummingbird, but they do fit what's called a broad-billed hummingbird, a species found in Southeast Arizona into the mountains of Mexico, 1500 plus miles away from here. So very, very unexpected, off our radar. And what was even more fascinating was the bird wasn't coming to a hummingbird feeder. It wasn't coming to flowers. It was just flying around this forest preserve. And unfortunately, when I first saw it, I identified it and then I failed to get a photo and the bird flew away and, you know, talking about being prepared, I was not, and really started freaking out and I didn't know what to do. I I called some friends and said, “You're not going to believe what just happened, but I saw a broad-billed hummingbird and the answer almost always was, ‘What, what are you sure? Are you really sure that's what you saw?’ I was like, yes, but it's gone. I don't know what to do.”
Nathan Goldberg '14
called some friends and said, “You're not going to believe what just happened, but I saw a broad-billed hummingbird and the answer almost always was, ‘What, what are you sure? Are you really sure that's what you saw?’ I was like, yes, but it's gone. I don't know what to do.” Long story short, the bird ended up coming back, got some photos, got the word out. Everyone shows up. I left, but I heard that over 400 people showed up within three hours. By when I actually put the message out that we had, we found it and it turns out we found the flowers, the bird was feeding on and it stuck around for eight days. And I had friends that came up from St. Louis from Southern Illinois. People came in from all over the state to see this bird. And it's actually only the second time one's been available for us to look at in the state as birdwatchers, it's the third ever record. But the only one that anyone ever could go see was in 1996 in November. And mind you, I was born in May that year. So like, I don't think six months old Nathan was going to look at a broad-billed hummingbird. But aside from that, there was one that showed up at a feeder and a yard and the homeowner didn't let people go. And so this sort of reopened that opportunity, and it was amazing to share that sighting with so many people. And it was so cool. 

Broad-billed Hummingbird on branch. Photo by Nathan Goldberg '14

Broad-billed Hummingbird on branch. Photo by Nathan Goldberg '14

Can you share some tips for bird watching?

I would say to always be prepared for birding. And I guess what I mean by that is have your camera ready to go, charged batteries ready. Camera cards, in case you take too many photos, have your binoculars ready, your telescope ready. Your car should have gas in it. I always have hiking boots in my trunk. I have rain boots in my trunk. I have a shovel, I've got jumper cables. You know, anything that you could imagine you may need. I've legitimately gotten news about a bird while I've been asleep in bed and out the door in 10 minutes. 

What is a skill that you’ve learned at Latin that you use today?

One skill that I really learned through my time at Latin was the skill of communication and perceptively understanding that other people may be coming at something from a different angle.
Nathan Goldberg '14
One skill that I really learned through my time at Latin was the skill of communication and perceptively understanding that other people may be coming at something from a different angle. Everyone has their own approaches to how they do things, but if we're all in the field together, or let's say I'm guiding a tour and people are feeling some type of way about something that we're doing, making sure that they feel comfortable communicating that to me and ensuring that they feel like they're being listened to and that I'm responding appropriately to them. Well-mannered but also with direction, if you will, is something that I've definitely found really useful. And that I've honed skill-wise for a long time. 

What’s one thing you would say to your high school self?

I guess one thing I would say to my high school self would be when you think that you need to have an answer for what you want to be when you grow up or what you want to do in your future, whether it's college or afterwards recognize that that pressure is often not self-created that it's coming from external factors, whether it's, you know, family and friends or just societal pressures. And that's not to say that you shouldn't think about them, but that the time that you spend reflecting about what makes you happy will always be more important and gets you further than just following this endless chain of instruction that you think may be helpful, but may actually just be there as a stepping stone but not actually forming a path.

Magnificent Frigatebird Clinton County by Nathan Goldberg '14

Magnificent Frigatebird Clinton County. Photo by Nathan Goldberg '14

 

Podcast
 

  • Alumni
  • Our Voices
  • Podcast
Record-breaking Bird Watcher on Life After Latin
 
 
TRANSCRIPT

Nathan Goldberg '14 is a professional bird-watching tour guide for Red Hill Birding, a local bird-watching tour company based in Chicago. His "life list," which is the total number of birds seen in a lifetime, spans about 1,230 species. Listen to his adventures of traveling the country to spot some of the rarest species of birds. 

Nathan Goldberg '14

What is your favorite memory at Latin?

My favorite Latin memory was probably going to Iceland or south Florida for Project Weeks. And we went snorkeling and played with dolphins and it was an amazing experience. 

How did you get involved in birding?

When I was about 13 years old, I actually saw this bird called a wood duck at North Pond, which is right near Latin actually. And it blew my mind and I realized that there were way more birds than I had ever recognized and started sort of honing in on that and was really fascinated by that and decided to dive in, buy a field guide and explore the birding world.
Nathan Goldberg '14
I got involved in the birding world through a variety of different avenues. I began when I was really young having an interest in collections. So Pokemon, cards, coins, you know, mini vinyl art figures, and all of that sort of compartmentalized on one side and then a passion for the outdoors was on the other. But I never really had a bridge between the two that made sense to me. And when I was about 13 years old, I actually saw this bird called a wood duck at North Pond, which is right near Latin, actually. And it blew my mind and I realized that there were way more birds than I had ever recognized and started sort of honing in on that and was really fascinated by that and decided to dive in, buy a field guide and explore the birding world.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled to see a bird?

The farthest I've traveled to see a bird is a tough question because I've both driven sometimes over 10 hours, one-way to see a bird, but I actually flew down to Tucson to go see, including a quetzal and a rare bird called a crescent chested warbler, and was able to see both, which was amazing. 

What are some highlights from your career in birding?

Over the last 12 years, I've worked on a variety of different projects through the avenues of birding. One was in college. I ran down to New York City to see a rare bird in Central Park and it was there. I looked at it. It was great. Unfortunately, though, it's a very difficult species to identify and often requires genetic material. And though the bird was cooperating, there was no way that we would have actually been able to catch it, sequence its DNA, et cetera, but I opportunistically, I collected a sample from it. It deposited a fecal sample for us. For those that aren't aware of what fecal samples are, the bird pooped. And I collected the bird’s poop, put it in a bag, took it to a freezer. Long story short, ran the poop through a DNA sequencing project and actually was able to figure out what species it was and got published and helped contribute to the record of New York bird knowledge. It was the first record confirmed of what is known as a Pacific-slope flycatcher. And that was really cool. 

Additionally, outside of that sort of scientific project, I did do what's called a “big year.” I set out in 2020 to see the most species of birds possible in a given year in the state of Illinois, which required 52 weeks of focus and intense driving and stamina, et cetera. But I was fortunate enough to be able to break the record and set an all-time high record for the state. And that was really, really fun. 
 

What’s the craziest place you’ve gone to see a bird?

Craziest place I've gone to see a bird is a tough one. I've been to a lot. Uh, the classic birder answer here would probably be that we'd gone to sewage ponds, sewage lagoons and garbage dumps. Those smells attract birds and they push away humans. Birds are often there. So that's always fun. 

Ash-throated-Flycatcher by Nathan Goldberg '14

Ash-throated-Flycatcher. Photo by Nathan Goldberg

Tell us about your life list.

What a life list is, is the total species of birds that you have seen in your life over your entire lifespan. We do have life lists as birders for smaller regions and larger regions. So my life list would be the world. Then there's my United States list, my lower 48 list. I have an Illinois list. I have a Cook County list. Some people I know have a zip code list. My life list is 1,230 species total, which is only what I would argue a fraction of the world's birds. There are over 10,500 species, and that list is ever-growing. 

Tell us your best bird story.

I'd say my best bird story happened very recently in May. I was out birdwatching on the Northwest side of Chicago at what's called LaBagh Woods. It's a forest preserve in Cook County. And I was with a client looking and photographing various birds. And out of nowhere, spotted this hummingbird; and a hummingbird in May is expected. We have what's called the ruby-throated hummingbirds in Chicago, but the moment I got my binoculars on the bird, I immediately lost my mind... I could not control myself. I freaked out. The bird that I saw in my binoculars had a bright red bill, blue green body, and was like this deep sort of almost purple-y color, which none of these characteristics fit a ruby-throated hummingbird, but they do fit what's called a broad-billed hummingbird, a species found in Southeast Arizona into the mountains of Mexico, 1500 plus miles away from here. So very, very unexpected, off our radar. And what was even more fascinating was the bird wasn't coming to a hummingbird feeder. It wasn't coming to flowers. It was just flying around this forest preserve. And unfortunately, when I first saw it, I identified it and then I failed to get a photo and the bird flew away and, you know, talking about being prepared, I was not, and really started freaking out and I didn't know what to do. I I called some friends and said, “You're not going to believe what just happened, but I saw a broad-billed hummingbird and the answer almost always was, ‘What, what are you sure? Are you really sure that's what you saw?’ I was like, yes, but it's gone. I don't know what to do.”
Nathan Goldberg '14
called some friends and said, “You're not going to believe what just happened, but I saw a broad-billed hummingbird and the answer almost always was, ‘What, what are you sure? Are you really sure that's what you saw?’ I was like, yes, but it's gone. I don't know what to do.” Long story short, the bird ended up coming back, got some photos, got the word out. Everyone shows up. I left, but I heard that over 400 people showed up within three hours. By when I actually put the message out that we had, we found it and it turns out we found the flowers, the bird was feeding on and it stuck around for eight days. And I had friends that came up from St. Louis from Southern Illinois. People came in from all over the state to see this bird. And it's actually only the second time one's been available for us to look at in the state as birdwatchers, it's the third ever record. But the only one that anyone ever could go see was in 1996 in November. And mind you, I was born in May that year. So like, I don't think six months old Nathan was going to look at a broad-billed hummingbird. But aside from that, there was one that showed up at a feeder and a yard and the homeowner didn't let people go. And so this sort of reopened that opportunity, and it was amazing to share that sighting with so many people. And it was so cool. 

Broad-billed Hummingbird on branch. Photo by Nathan Goldberg '14

Broad-billed Hummingbird on branch. Photo by Nathan Goldberg '14

Can you share some tips for bird watching?

I would say to always be prepared for birding. And I guess what I mean by that is have your camera ready to go, charged batteries ready. Camera cards, in case you take too many photos, have your binoculars ready, your telescope ready. Your car should have gas in it. I always have hiking boots in my trunk. I have rain boots in my trunk. I have a shovel, I've got jumper cables. You know, anything that you could imagine you may need. I've legitimately gotten news about a bird while I've been asleep in bed and out the door in 10 minutes. 

What is a skill that you’ve learned at Latin that you use today?

One skill that I really learned through my time at Latin was the skill of communication and perceptively understanding that other people may be coming at something from a different angle.
Nathan Goldberg '14
One skill that I really learned through my time at Latin was the skill of communication and perceptively understanding that other people may be coming at something from a different angle. Everyone has their own approaches to how they do things, but if we're all in the field together, or let's say I'm guiding a tour and people are feeling some type of way about something that we're doing, making sure that they feel comfortable communicating that to me and ensuring that they feel like they're being listened to and that I'm responding appropriately to them. Well-mannered but also with direction, if you will, is something that I've definitely found really useful. And that I've honed skill-wise for a long time. 

What’s one thing you would say to your high school self?

I guess one thing I would say to my high school self would be when you think that you need to have an answer for what you want to be when you grow up or what you want to do in your future, whether it's college or afterwards recognize that that pressure is often not self-created that it's coming from external factors, whether it's, you know, family and friends or just societal pressures. And that's not to say that you shouldn't think about them, but that the time that you spend reflecting about what makes you happy will always be more important and gets you further than just following this endless chain of instruction that you think may be helpful, but may actually just be there as a stepping stone but not actually forming a path.

Magnificent Frigatebird Clinton County by Nathan Goldberg '14

Magnificent Frigatebird Clinton County. Photo by Nathan Goldberg '14

 

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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
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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
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 the Learning for Justice standards at Latin.

TRANSCRIPT

Brandon Woods (00:14): Making sure we all have a common set of standards. I would also just like to say, in terms of new families and new students in the school, having a common language and a common set of standards eases that introduction into the community.

Kasey Taylor (00:30): Well, I think the, the great thing about the framework the social justice standards are actually the same for all age groups and divisions. However, it's the manner in which students engage with the content that looks and sounds different.

Jennifer Nabers (00:48): The way the outcomes are written in the social justice standards, you know, it says things like "I relate to people as individuals and not representatives of a group." And so it's very empowering to students themselves if you know, and it, it also, as a teacher helps remind me like that this, this is for children, right? This is what I want kids to be able to do. And the way that these are written feels really revolutionary and visionary in that way, because you know, start as you mean to go on.

Kasey Taylor (01:23): 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 (01:37): 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.

Kasey Taylor (01:56): What are the social justice standards? They're based on the work of Louise Derman-Sparks who gave us the four goals of anti-bias education and they're centered around four domains: identity, diversity, justice and action. And these became the domains that the social justice framework was based around. And then they're broken down into a set of anchor standards, which includes five per domain.

Jennifer Nabers (02:27): One thing that's worth mentioning is that the name of the organization who hosts these standards has changed. It used to be called Teaching Tolerance, and now it's called Learning for Justice. And one of the things that I, I think a lot of us are excited about is, is we've talked a lot about how tolerance is a pretty low bar. And so when they kind of rebranded the standards as Learning for Justice, it felt like more, I don't know, like a really cool way to say, like, this is what we really care about and what we're working for, which should be more than just tolerance, tolerating each other.

Brandon Woods (03:05): The standards are an offshoot of a project started by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1991. And that was Teaching for Tolerance. And they had a goal of helping teachers in schools really teach students how to interact and be a part of a democracy - and a democracy that is anti-bias and anti-racist. So the standards came out of that initial project from the Southern Poverty Law Center. When did Latin adopt this framework and has it changed over time? So the first time Latin adapted the standards was in 2017, and initially, they were adapted in the lower school. And then the following year, they were adopted by the middle and upper school. And the standards themselves have not changed over time. What has changed over time is our implementation and the expectations of that implementation across all three divisions.

Jennifer Nabers (04:02): Why is it important for the standards to be incorporated into the curriculum? This is a great question. I think it actually goes to why are there standards anywhere in education, right? Because it's, you know, there's millions of teachers in the country at, you know, hundreds of thousands of schools doing this work. And so standards are just a really key way of communicating baseline assumptions about what we think is important for our, for kids at every grade level, right. So you can't really build a curriculum without standards. You can't have a scope and sequence of what you're trying to cover without those. So they're kind of, they kind all go together and create - one of the ways to think about it is like - a safety net almost, right? Like if we can name what it is, we are trying to teach kids in the classroom, if we can sort of, and then, so then we have a more like a higher likelihood of achieving it. And then I would also say if we can point to standards, this is what we're trying to achieve. And these are how these things are, you know, supported by best practices. It's sometimes easier to onboard new faculty to explain why these are important to like librarians or other kinds of support staff and to get parents and other parts of the school community on board.

Brandon Woods (05:21): In terms of new families and new students in the school, having a common language and a common set of standards, eases that introduction into the community and which they can see online - these are the goals we have, these are our aspirations. And sometimes new families, new students can get lost in the lingo. But this is a kind of, not necessarily universal lingo, but certainly a language that a lot of schools are adapting. So I'm always for making those transitions smoother.

Kasey Taylor (05:57): Thinking about the pluralistic world that we live in today, that students need to really know how to, to thrive in this world. They need to know how to connect with their place in the world, how they move through the world, and how their identity shapes the way they move through the world and how other people's identities are also impacting the way that they move through the world. So Jen had mentioned along the lines of, you know, one of the goals is prejudice reduction, but then also the standards help us move into taking that knowledge and moving into action. And which is a really important part of the social justice piece - that we're moving towards collective action and knowing what it sounds like, and looks like to be supportive of underrepresented and marginalized communities and, and moving to solution-oriented practices.

Brandon Woods (06:50): What do students take away from this framework of teaching? Well, there are a number of things they take away, but I would say one of the things that's most important is a sense of agency. It is hard to tackle a problem unless you can identify it. And one of the difficult things about this work is how do you identify the problem? And then how do you break it down in an age-appropriate way in a developmentally appropriate way where you can imagine these kind of targets that students can reach. And as we were talking about with the last question, really making sure they understand our expectations and how they should be acting towards themselves, cause this is about being kind to oneself, but also to one another. And so, in that way, I just wanted to echo what Kasey was saying in the last question about what does bias or prejudice reduction, and anti-bias actually look like on an institutional level. And I think that's one of the things that the students gain over the scope and sequence of the standards.

Kasey Taylor (07:56): How does the framework differ in each division? The great thing about the framework: the social justice standards are actually the same for all age groups and divisions. However, it's the manner in which students engage with the content that looks and sounds different. So this is due to, you know, cognitive and social-emotional development. The different ages that are represented at our schools, especially a K-12 school. There's quite a span there. Basically, the framework offers standards that are being achieved in all three divisions. The fundamental concepts are exactly the same as a matter of fact, but the scaffolding that's helping the kids learn how to interact with these standards - that's what looks and sounds different. So one of the great things about the social justice standards from Learning for Justice is that they also have included student outcomes and school-based scenarios that help teachers implement practices around this, that give them an idea of what this is going to look like and sound like at every age group. And there are four bands of age groups. The first band is K-2. The second band is 3 through 5, grades, three through five, and then we have the middle school years and then the high school years. So it really does sort of break it down and scaffold it in a way that helps teachers know how to implement the standards appropriately and in age-developmentally appropriate ways.

Jennifer Nabers (09:27): This is maybe like some inside baseball: one of the things I think is really cool about the way the standards are written is they're written from the student point of view. So if you look at, for example, like the Common Core Standards for English, right, they're sort of this, like they're very teacher-driven, you know, like you want kids to be able to do this. You want kids to be able to cite this and like, yes, it's like student outcomes, but the way the outcomes are written in, in the social justice standards, you know, it says things like, "I relate to people as individuals and not representatives of a group." And so it's very empowering to students themselves, if you know, and it, it also, as a teacher helps remind me like that this, this is for children, right? This is what I want kids to be able to do. And the way that these are written feels really revolutionary and visionary in that way, because, you know, start as you mean to go on.

Brandon Woods (10:22): One of the ways it can potentially look different in each division is the part that Kasey was talking about early in terms of action and what that action component looks like from lower school to middle school, to upper school. Right? So with upper school, the expectation is they're starting to internalize these standards and not only pushing back against us as an institution in the ways in which we may fall short of those standards, but their immediate communities, and if I may be so bold, the world. Right? So the idea is once they freely internalize these standards to look at the world in which they live in and see how they can apply them outside of our brick and mortar buildings.

Next Up (11:02): Next time on the Latin Learner Podcast...

Jennifer Nabers (11:06): How 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 (11:26): 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 (11:44): 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.

Podcast
 

 

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