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

 

Podcast
 

Explore More Episodes

decorative podcast cover art


Join upper school students Molly and Ella and Ms. Merrell, science teacher and Global Online Academy site director at Latin, to learn more about the GOA offerings and the benefits of taking a GOA class.

TRANSCRIPT

Amy Merrell  0:15  
Besides being exposed to a topic that isn't offered at Latin, so just exposure to different things, taking courses from teachers from different schools and with students from different schools, I think opens your eyes to different viewpoints, increases your collaboration, because you have to collaborate with people in different time zones and different schedules. And I think that's a skill that will help students even after Latin.

Molly 0:41  
The favorite part of my class was, you know, of course, the different community of GOA. I got to meet so many different people. But I also really enjoyed getting to take more control over my learning. And I think it helped me build more skills.

Ella  0:57  
So my class, because it was about specifically medical problem solving, we did a lot of kind of patient presentations where you would do some research into the symptoms and then present a possible diagnosis. And then also some group projects that we do a similar concept, but with people from around the country.

Amy Merrell  1:16  
Hi, my name is Amy Merrell. I am a science teacher and the site director for Global Online Academy here at Latin.

Ella 1:20  
I'm Ella Reese-Clauson. I'm a senior.

Molly 1:22  
And I'm Molly McKee, and I'm a junior.

Amy Merrell  1:23  
So Global Online Academy or GOA is a consortium of about 120 schools from around the world that offer a variety of online classes to students. And so the classes are taught by teachers from those 120 schools. So Latin students have the opportunity to take these courses, and learn from teachers from all over the world. And with students from schools all over the world. These courses are counted just like Latin courses are so they go for a grade and are on transcripts. GOA is started in 2012. And when it started, we had less than 15 students enroll. And we have just it has gotten progressively bigger interest has grown as GOA has gotten bigger. And so we are now at total for this year we have 62 students enrolled for both semesters. And so I think it's grown quite a lot. They've also opened summer opportunities as well. So that is another place that GOA has grown. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors can take classes. And there is a wide variety of classes. So I'm not going to go over all of them. But they're some of the most popular ones are the psych classes. So Neuro Psych, Abnormal Psych and Positive Psychology. Prisons and criminal law is another really popular one, as well as there's a variety of computer science classes that students decide to take. And some new ones that students are in there's been growing interest in are Intro to Investments, and also Entrepreneurship, which are two kind of newer additions that students have taken.

Molly  3:14  
So I considered taking a GOA class just because well, first of all, I liked all the options, and after sophomore year, I wanted to pursue a similar topic, because I took Nazi Mind the first semester. And I was really interested in like everything that we learned about in that class. But I think the main thing that pushed me to taking a GOA was a COVID and the pandemic because it opened up so much free time in my schedule, and I thought GOA would be a great way to fill it.

Ella  3:44  
Adding on to that, I think that also like Ms. Merrell mentioned, the specificity of the courses was really appealing to me because I think that at Latin we have some really great general courses whereas GOA helps you to go kind of into more niche subject areas. I took Medical Problem Solving one which ended up coincidentally having Ms. Merrell as a teacher.

Molly 4:06  
I took Introduction to Legal Thinking, and I'm signed up for a criminal law one next semester because I liked the first one so much. GOA classes can fit into my schedule a lot and really nicely just because it's not as rigid of a structure like normal classes. It has a lot more independent learning and a self-regulated working pace, I guess. So it was like really easy to fit it into whenever I had free time.

Ella 4:33  
So my class, because it was about specifically medical problem solving, we did a lot of kind of patient presentations where you would do some research into the symptoms and then present a possible diagnosis. And then also some group projects that we do a similar concept, but with people from around the country.

Molly 4:53  
I think with GOA you get a much wider variety of project types than you would in normal classes. I had debates with other students or wrote example legal documents. And I feel like I never actually wrote an actual essay, which is something you would expect to do in a typical class. So it's nice to get a different variety. The favorite part of my class was, of course, the different community of GOA. I got to meet so many different people. And, I think it was also, at least in my class, it was everyone's first time taking a GOA. So, everyone was kind of like in the same boat and we were all experiencing the thing, this class for the first time. But I also really enjoyed getting to take more control over my learning. And I think it helped me build more skills.

Ella 5:44  
I really enjoyed the class I took. And I, like, Molly, really enjoyed the aspect of collaboration, especially with people from other time zones, which was very difficult to navigate, because we all had very different schedules. But it was really cool to meet people who had different kinds of work styles and schedules and being able to learn to collaborate. And then also, I was really interested in the course material. So I loved all these kinds of diagnostic presentations. I think that if you have a specific interest in one kind of genre, or subject, then I would absolutely recommend taking a GOA because it helps you to go much more in-depth into that one topic. And, it's just an all-around really great way to have a much more flexible class. And to learn that kind of whole new skill set.

Unknown Speaker  6:38  
The only challenging part of GOA I found was the time differences. I think everything else was really great. Especially with the material that I was learning about, I got to hear a lot of different perspectives and I feel learning with other people from different countries, you get a lot more out of it than you would with just taking the class with people from the US. Definitely agree with what Ella said, I think it's a great way to explore your interests further.

 

Podcast
 

  • Around School
  • Our Voices
  • Podcast
  • upper school
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
  • Features
  • 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