Perks of Each Grade at Country Day

By: Rachel G ('19)

      We all wait for that iconic senior year where we throw our cap in the air and realize we are moving on to bigger and better things… but honestly every year at Country Day has its perks. Let’s be real, being a freshman sucks. But, not only do you have full reign of the library booths, you also have an excuse for any sort of mistake; you’re a freshman. Freshman year is about new beginnings. Whether you are a lifer or brand new student, you get a new campus and another opportunity to make new friends and try new things.

      Then, along comes sophomore year. The irrelevant, monotonous year where you aren’t an upperclassman, still don’t really have any privileges, probably don’t even get a parking spot, BUT, you aren’t a freshman. While everything is harder, you aren’t fresh out of middle school and you feel pretty wise walking around campus (even though you aren’t). Sophomores not only have one of the best outdoor areas on campus (picnic tables and the classic sophomore wall), but the newly inhabited sophomore lounge is one of the comfiest places to socialize and get some work done.  

      And next we have the stereotypical hell year. While I have not experienced it myself, I am honest in saying that I am quite scared. Lots of pressure and lots of AP’s and IB’s, but junior year also comes with a lot of fun. Not only do you have a much more likely chance at winning Sweek (sorry class ’17) but you also are taken a lot more seriously by the administration. You are now an upperclassman and you get the sacred gazebo, back of the library AND the student center (unless you are class of ’19 or ’20 in which case we get basically nothing because construction….). And you can struggle through the year knowing that if you at least scrape by, you have nothing but smooth sailing ahead.

      In comes senior year, starting off with not only the rafting trip, but also parties and celebrations every other flex (run by parents and boosters of course) and the classic convocation.  Not only do you run the school, but after you have completed your college apps and have maintained your grades, you are living the life. Whether your favorite part is the senior Christmas party, senior night for your favorite sport, or parking in the senior lot, you never get tired of constantly being celebrated. Oh, and what could beat senior lunch? Getting to leave campus every day and eat with your friends is probably the most exciting change going into senior year, even if you know you will be in debt before the year ends. Then before you know it, it’s April. You have open campus: your final piece of freedom. But, ever so slowly, you start to realize that you will be graduating in less than month and leaving the best friends that you’ve ever had, and maybe will ever have. While the life of a senior really does seem perfect (I have been vicariously living through my brother this entire year) goodbyes are hard and reality will set in. Therefore, whether you are an incoming freshman or rising senior, we all have so many things to look forward too.

Senior Vs. Freshman Interview: Hunter and Owen Engel

Interviewed By: Rachel G ('19) & Sammy F ('18)

1. What does school spirit mean to you?

Hunter: It means people coming together as a community to join in festivities and eating pancakes.

Owen: School spirit is being excited about Country Day.



2. How long do you spend on homework every night?

Hunter: About an hour, it depends what I’m feeling  and/or if my trophy count is low (on clash of clans).

Owen: Now? Zero. junior year: an hour and half and I would do a lot of work at school.



3. Who is your favorite teacher on campus and why?

Hunter: Mr. Stanton, because he is nice and he makes class fun.

Owen: Lyn Tillett because I really like/love her lectures.



4. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?

Hunter: like 5 mins, I  put my shoe in my door so I  don’t have to let my dog out. I pick the shirt that is on the top of the pile, and I pick my shorts based off of what color I dreamed about.

Owen: Oh, uh, I don’t know I probably wake up twenty minutes before I leave. I’ll eat and take a shower and stuff. I wear the same pair of pants everyday to really speed up the process because I don’t have to take my keys out the pockets



5. What time do you want to get to school everyday?

Hunter: 7:30

Owen: I like being there early like if I am going to work out, I like to be there at 7. If not 7:20.



6. What’s your idea of a perfect saturday night?

Hunter: Spending time with my family and walking the dogs.

Owen: Ditto what Hunter said.



7. What’s your go-to food spot?

Hunter: I bike to brixx (no license life).

Owen: Baoding.



8. Where would you take a girl on the first date?

Hunter: Moes.

Owen: Sundries.



9. Cousins or siblings?

Hunter: Cousins

Owen: Siblings




10. Scale of 1-10, how ready are you for college?

Hunter: 0.5

Owen: 7



11. Who do you think should have won sweek?

Hunter: juniors

Owen: seniors



12. If you could go on a school trip where would you want to go?

Hunter: A cool bakery in Italy

Owen: DC with Mrs. Tillett.



13. Blondes or Brunettes?

Hunter: Blondes

Owen: Brunettes



14. If you could have one person punch you in the face and not be mad about it, who would it be?

Hunter: Cole Kochan, Sam Cordell or the Rock

Owen: Brad Pitt



15. What surprised you most about this year?

Hunter: the amount of tests allowed in a single day

Owen: teachers aggressively teaching in April



16. If you were to get rid of one US state which one would you choose and why?

Hunter: Canada … oh wait that not a US state, so Alaska because it is basically Canada

Owen: Texas because it would sell for a lot of money



17. If you were to win a senior superlative which one would you be?

Hunter: best beard

Owen: most school spirit



18. If you were an emoji which emoji would you be?

Hunter: upside down smiley face

Owen: I would like to be the dude running



19. If you were given the chance would you go on the bachelor?

Hunter: Sure, just so that I can reject females.

Owen: Uhhhmmm ehh yeah probably, I don’t see why I wouldn’t.



20. If you had to be a character in spongebob who would you be?

Hunter: Patrick.

Owen: I don’t really watch that but I’d love to know what Plankton thinks about.

Comparing My Educational Experiences in China with Those in the United States

By: Hangling L ('19)

      Being an international student in a totally different country can  be really different, but also fun!

Here are some super cool things that really stood out to me when I first came here...


1. The Classroom

Obviously, when I first arrived in the U.S.,  the language gap was a huge culture shock.  However, the largest distinction is the style of the classroom. Back home in China, there are 56 tables, two tables a pair,  4 columns and 7 rows in total. You sit with the same desk-mate all day long for all of your classes. The teachers come to you, while you stay in the same classroom.

2. Breaks

Just like the flex times here, my school in China also has breaks between classes. However, instead of wandering around with friends, we have morning exercise. It is basically a collection of exercises including kung-fu with music. Although this might sounds weird, I absolutely loved it. To relieve stress, we had kung-fu shouting with the exercise. It’s very organized because everybody learns the exercise at the beginning of the year. So, every morning, if you pass by my school, you would see the students kicking legs, stretching arms, jumping, and doing kung-fu.

3. Scenery    

I bet my school would win the most beautiful campus prize in the world if there was one. Between classes, me and my friends always climbed up the mountain. During the break for study hall in my 7th grade year (we come to school from 7 to 9 at night to do homework), there was a "cave fever.” Right after the bell rang, we would rush out of the classroom and ran up to a cave high up in the mountains. We would run and scream in and out in the cave. Some heartless kids like me would hide behind the tree or stones to scare others when they come down from the mountains. Unfortunately, our teacher found out about it and he banned us from going up at night again.

4. Uniform

My old school requires all students to wear uniforms. My uniform was really quite pretty, with a crisp blue shirt and white pants.. Since my school is really prestigious, I was proud to wear it and walk around in it all day long.

5. Transportation

Most kids in China walk or ride bikes to school every day. It used to be my favorite part of the day: walking along side the mountains and rivers while reciting different poems or english words for school. .


      Although I am extremely lucky to have this wonderful chance to study in the U.S. I still miss my own dear country greatly: my family, my friends, my school and the lifestyle. I hope that my insight into another part of the world encourages you to explore outside of Charlotte and the United States!

Country Day Ready

By: Valentina J ('17)

      Country Day ready. What does it mean? We can all think of our own unique definitions for this familiar phrase that is applied generously to all students within our CCDS bubble. When I first walked through the doors of the main office, (late) I accepted the challenge of defining this phrase, which I had seen on pamphlets and strategic promotional videos, for myself. What would Country Day ready mean for me? We are Country Day ready, not simply because we study hard, but because we have stayed at school past 10:00 pm putting up themed decorations, and spent weeks planning a roughly ten minute dance. We are Country Day ready because we avoided the gazebo until junior year, and because we have all started at least one unnecessary club. We are Country Day ready because we have screamed that we are censored in at least one of the many forums designed to “continue the ever (elusive) conversation.” When I first walked onto campus I imbibed the culture and even then it took me a while to fully grasp why it all mattered: the costumes, the dancing, and the forums. I understand them now, but with unadjusted eyes I saw them very differently. 

      I started at Country Day my sophomore year. The year began with roughly twenty other students listening and taking frantic notes as Mrs. A lectured excitedly about Machiavelli and how “the ends justify the means.” An institution, at our institution, she practically spelled out the next years at CCDS and gave me my first defining CCDS moment. I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so nervous, so I just decided to be nervous too, and rightfully so, Mrs. A is no joke.                                                                                                                                        Monday Morning meetings were the next jewel in my experience. I was welcomed by the head of school, where anywhere else students would just call him the principle, and felt instantly extravagant; because I had a head of school and other people just had a principle. I didn’t know what to make of Christien Williams, mostly because I didn’t figure out he was the student body president until a week later. The meeting was meant to welcome and prepare but I felt like it was a pep talk before we were sent off to battle.                    

      So much of my time here has felt like a battle; a battle for the grade boost, or a battle against sleep deprivation; yet, only minimal blood has been shed, and at the end of the day we always have the Big Cookies.             

BIG News on the Buccaneer Investment Group

By: Jack G ('18)

What is BIG?

      The Buccaneer Investment Group, founded by Owen Engel and John Whitley, began at the beginning of school last year. The club, advised by Mr. Stanton, allows students at our school to have the opportunity to understand the stock market and monitor a portfolio. The club’s goal is to teach each member the process of researching a stock, and to make an educated evaluation on the market. Furthermore, the club also wants each student to understand as much as possible about the difficulties of the trading world and maintaining a profitable stock portfolio.


Who leads the club?

     BIG is a student led club. We are advised by Country Day’s Chief Financial Officer David Mancos and the Country Day Investment Committee. There are multiple leadership positions inside the club too. Currently, Owen Engel and John Whitley are the Co-Founders and Co-Presidents, Ted Lathrop is the Senior Vice President, I am the Junior Vice President, and Stuart Windell is our Secretary. We also have 7 sector leaders across 6 different sectors. Our leaders are Ryan Middlemiss, Peter Smith, Alex Tabor, Luca Katz, Nicholas Radford, Florian Wernthaler, and Mac Smith. We are looking forward to the ample opportunity for new leadership next year!


Is the money real? How much is invested?

     Yes, the money is real. Our club began with $26,000 and now holds about $31,000 due to a solid net gain of 19.5% since inception. The money falls under the Endowment umbrella, but was donated for the sole usage by the club.


Is BIG successful? What types of companies does BIG invest in?

     Yes, our portfolio is currently up 12.15% with a gain of $3,150. The portfolio currently manages 13 stocks covering 6 different stock market sectors. The club only invests in blue chip stocks (over $1 billon market capitalization), and allocates its funds equally across the sectors.


Is this a common club across the country?

     Absolutely not. To our knowledge, there is only one other high school in the country that has a fully student run club managing real money. Our club is unique not only to Charlotte, but the country as well. The club is fully operated by students with minor oversight except for processing trades. The only other school, Greenhill School in Texas, established their club in 2013. They manage around $100,000. We guided our club’s policies off of their policy.


Who can join the club?

     We accept students from all grades. We look for all different types of students to join our club so we can capture as many perspectives as possible. We truly value everyone’s opinion when presenting and are excited to have students from different backgrounds. Even though they are limited so far, we have enjoyed having girls in our club that are interested in business because they also provide a different view on the workplace and general market. We hope more join and become interested! Also, students will see a presentation at morning meeting prior to club fair next year, and will be able to come and speak to the executive members during club fair. An application is required if you are interested in joining the club. More information will be provided next year!




We are looking forward to the growth of the club and increase in interest! Also, huge shout out to Owen and John for dedicating so much time and hard work to get this unique club started! As the future President, I hope to continue their tremendous leadership. If you have any questions or just want to show your interest, e-mail me @

Life lessons from the Microsoft Surface

By: Jacob B ('19)
  1. Don’t sweat the small things. To me, this is the most obvious. We have all used the “automatic” graphing tool in the “draw” tab of OneNote - if you have taken Algebra II, you have - and when we go to draw the hash marks on the “x” or “y” axis, we draw it incorrectly or in the wrong spot. So, being the Country Day students that we are, we attempt to erase just the hash mark, but the whole graph erases. Then the process repeats. By the time you are semi-satisfied with how your graph looks, the teacher has moved on to the next slide. The real question is: is it worth it to miss important information to make sure my graph doesn’t have any extra marks? The answer is NO. Thanks, OneNote.

  2. Double check everything, always. Typical Country Day Student: plug in surface, see white light on charger (therefore assume it is charging), go to bed, wake up, put surface in backpack, open surface at 7:50 am to find the “surface dead” icon waiting to be screamed at, since there is an assignment that needs to be printed and is due at 8:00 am. Everything is done for a reason. The creators of our devices decided that users should have to make sure that their device is charging, and make it so the white light does NOT mean that it is charging. They did this because they wanted to teach us to always double check.

  3. Money is valuable. If you are an Upper School Student who has had the same Surface pen for more than 6 months, please contact me so I can inform the Guinness Book of World Records. I have spent $180 on Surface Pens in the past year and a half, and I consider myself an organized, responsible individual. Each pen is $60 - do the math. Moral of the story: keep track of your things or you will be spending a fortune on something you will lose soon after.

  4. Organization is key. Everyone organizes their notebooks differently. Some students have one tab for all their work for the whole year, and others prefer to make section groups for each day, and sections for each page of notes. Whatever floats your boat, but just make sure your teacher can find your homework or else your grade may suffer a little.

  5. Be proactive, not inactive. I can’t imagine school without email - unlimited contact with any student or teacher. However, the invention of Outlook 2016 has made it harder for us, as students, to explain to our teacher why we do not have an assignment, or why we were late. Teachers expect to know that you will not be turning in an assignment before class even starts, and know why you are late before you even show them your pass. Therefore, thanks to the Microsoft Surface, Country Day students learn first-hand how to communicate and be proactive.

This Year’s DAFs

By: Peyton O ('19) and Ramona S ('18)

As this year's most frequent attendees of the Diversity Awareness Forums, we wanted to share with you our experiences from these forums throughout the school, and highlight some of the benefits of participating in them.

~Peyton and Ramona

Ramona: It takes a lot of courage to speak up in the forums. Why is it important to you to overcome this fear of speaking up and how did you do it?

Peyton: My anxiety about public speaking was one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome when becoming more involved in DAF. In the beginning of the year, I rarely spoke during forums, although I had opinions on the topics of discussion. But during second semester, I made it my mission to contribute at least one thing to each forum I attended. It was hard, but the more I did it the easier it became, especially as I grew closer to some of the other DAF regulars. It was important to me to overcome this fear of speaking up because I believe that if you want change to happen and productive conversations to occur, you need to be willing to speak up. I’m still nervous every time I talk during a forum, but attending them this year has been a great way for me to step out of my comfort zone.

Peyton: You attended even more forums this year than I did. What experience from this large amount of forums do you feel most impacted you?

Ramona: Goodness, that’s a big question. Well I want to start off by saying, that you don’t need to attend as many forums as I did to get the most out of the DAF experience. Sometimes the most impactful things come in small doses. Probably the most impactful moment in my DAF experience was anytime I heard a new voice speak up. We all know there are the typical outspoken individuals, that fearlessly state their opinion in front of others and have a tendency to command any group conversations. Those people, we can expect to speak up at the forums, but when a more reserved person steps up and speaks their's a beautiful thing. Those moments impact me, because it reminds me that everyone is entitled to their own individual opinion and even though someone may not voice their opinion, you must respect that they do indeed have one. I think we get caught up in what we believe is true and sometimes forget to acknowledge what others hold true. These forums have taught me how to be passionate in my truth but to also respect the truths of others.

Ramona: I think we both share an insane amount of respect for the club leaders who orchestrate all of these forums. Was there any particular student leader that inspired you with their involvement in the forums?

Peyton: Absolutely. This years club leaders did an amazing job running the forums, and all their hard work definitely paid off. In particular, Leah Porter inspired me with her contributions to the forums. I attended several of the Interfaith forums that she helped run, and the obvious effort that she put into planning them was admirable. I always left those forums having learned a lot.

Peyton: I feel like one of the most common complaints about the forums were that they were boring or irrelevant. What are your thoughts on that argument?

Ramona: Well, I will be the first to admit, that not every forum is mind-blowingly fun, but not everything is consistently entertaining. We have all watched an uneventful sporting event or sat through a droning lecture, having those moments of boredom is just part of life. But for me, the fun forums definitely have outweighed the less interesting ones. As for relevancy, in order to become a more diverse and accepting community, we need to open our realm of relevancy. Just because an issue or topic doesn’t relate directly to us, doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect someone in our Country Day community. Aren’t we supposed to look out for our peers and fellow community members? A way of doing this is by going to these forum and learning about the issues or topics that are affecting an individual in your life. I believe only learning about things that are only relevant to you, can lead to a more overall close minded attitude towards life.

Ramona: Going off of your question, I also heard some other common complaints about the forums. A lot of people felt as though the conversations were one sided and not all views were represented. Is there some truth to this and why might people think this?

Peyton: I do have to admit that there definitely is some truth to those statements. The conversations that occur during the forums are certainly dominated by more liberal views, but it doesn’t have to be that way. To those who feel apprehensive about attending the forums because they feel that there aren’t any people there to advocate from their perspective, I want to let them know that they have to power to change that. If you want your opinions to be represented, take initiative and come to the forums. We’d be happy to have you.

Peyton: Which club’s forums did you find were most successful? Which one did you most enjoy attending?

Ramona: I want to give a big shoutout to all of the DAF clubs and club leaders. Every DAF club had a successful forum at some point in the year and I want to recognize the effort that these student put into the forums. Some of my personal favorite clubs though are the International Club, the Black Student Union, and Interfaith. Although I think my personal favorite was the International Club. I was consistently impressed by the immense amount of preparation and care that went into their forums. Each international club forum made participants step out of their shells and take part in interactive games and exercises. Whenever I was in one of their forums, I felt as though I was able to form connections with other students in the room and have a deeper understanding of others views. Also with all the serious stuff aside, they just had FUN forums! I can’t wait to see what each club has planned for next year!!!

17 ways you aren’t the only Country Day student who:

In honor of the Class of 2017

Says they need to work during flex, but doesn’t.

Complains about going to practice after school.

Has feelings for another Country Day student, who doesn’t know!

Says they need to “charge their surface” only to go on-line for a game.

Feels the stress of getting good grades.

Checks the messages on their phone during class.

Parked in somebody else’s student parking spot.

Dislikes the dress-code.

Breaks the dress-code.

Wears Vineyard Vines.

Wants a better selection of cafeteria food.

Eats food in the library.

Wishes some teachers understood when you are having a bad day.

Failed a test.

Fights with your parents.

Gets less than 6 hours of sleep a night.

Wants the class “bells” to go back to normal.

Same Olympics, Different Days

By: Lilli S ('19)

      The Special Olympics are very different days from Wednesday to Thursday. The buddy is very influential in how the day goes because the athletes need certain things from their buddies. My first day, I had an athlete named Shaylee. Shaylee was a happy-go-lucky 10 year old. With Shaylee, I had to be ready for anything and always had to have the energy to engage with her. My second day I was assigned to Ricardo. He was quiet and froze up at times, but was an excellent painter and softball player. Ricardo only needed me to stand with him and hold his hand. Both days I had to be a buddy to an athlete, but those athletes required me to be two very types of buddies.

      In picking up Shaylee from her Torrance Creek bus, I knew that it was going to be a good day. Her teacher handed me, and the other sophomores I was standing in line with, laminated cards. These laminated cards meant this school was organized and ready to go. Which was a relief compared to the school my buddy was from last year who had no idea what to do other than to hand their athletes out to Country Day buddies. I met Shaylee at the bus, and she stood out. She jumped off the last stair of the bus and pumped her fist. She was excited and nothing is better than a buddy who is excited to be there.

      Our group of sophomores and their group of athletes and teachers reconvened at their Torrance Creek School tent. There, the teacher the introduced me to Shaylee. Shaylee jumped up from her blanket to meet me and a fifth grader walked up with her. Avenue was the fifth grader that was paired with Shaylee. Avenue was only ten but a huge help to me that day because she knew Shaylee’s personality very well. Torrance Creek has a program where they send fifth graders who know the athletes to come with them and make them more comfortable in the new environment of Country Day.

But Shaylee wasn’t new to the Special Olympics, “I did throw the ball last year,” Shaylee says talking about the softball throw that takes place in the center of the field.

      I memorized Shaylee’s events and heats, necessary because she kept peeling off her sticker to show other people what events she was doing. Then we went to go paint, an activity Shaylee was very excited about. I could tell the amount of people at the painting station freaked Shaylee out a little bit because she reached for Avenue’s and my hand, and stayed between us as I led them to the table. Shaylee only had a little bit of time to paint because her first event was in group two.

“Softball throw, heats 404 to 412 to the center of the field!” Ryan Benson’s voice rang out from the loud speakers. Shaylee readily ditched her paintbrushes and half completed painting, she was ready to throw.

      I explained to Shaylee that we had to wait to throw until the group 410 was throwing. We wandered around the area near the tent asking everyone around us if they were 410. Shaylee grabbed hold of her heat number and started to tell anyone who would listen that she was in group 410. Once in the right spot, we have to wait a little while longer. Shaylee, Avenue, and I do some arm stretches, toe touches, and high knees so Shaylee can get warmed up.

      Right before Shaylee’s turn, a coach from her and Avenue’s school shows up to watch. Her name is Mrs. Wood. Shaylee’s getting handed softballs by junior girls that are working that station. Shaylee gets her three chances to throw and does great. All the people around her are cheering and she walks back to Avenue, me, and now Mrs. Wood with a big smile on her face.

While she was throwing, Mrs. Wood exclaims “Oh look at them go!” talking about a 100m dash that had begun during Shaylee’s event. She explains to me, while holding back tears that this day always makes her emotional, when Avenue chimes in to comfort her she says “Even the kids know.” Special Olympics is a special day for all, kids and teachers, at Torrance Creek School.

      Shaylee ended up winning a silver medal in softball throw, gold medal in a close race in the 25m dash, and a green ribbon Mr. Loiseau gave her because she liked the color. My day with Shaylee was hands on and required lots of energy, from doing some warm up stretches, practicing running in one lane, and going, going back, and going one last final time to the camera and interview station.

      While my Wednesday was rambunctious and full of movement with Shaylee, my Thursday with Ricardo had a very different tone. I became Ricardo’s buddy halfway through the day. When I met him, I also met his parents who came with him to watch him compete. Ricardo only had one event, the softball skills, and didn’t talk much. This was very different for me from Shaylee who told me all about her love of running, ranch dressing, and balloons. Ricardo, though quiet, loved to hold hands, so he let me lead him around all the different stations. We tried painting for a little while; Ricardo painted a yellow bus. We tried balloon animals, Ricardo got a red dog which he held onto for the rest of the day. Then nothing else seemed to interest him, so we walked back to the Ardrey Kell tent to show his parents what he had done.

      His heat was soon so we walked over the softball field hand in hand. Then we watched for a while. I pointed and talked through the different events that he would be doing. I knew that Ricardo knew these events because he had been practicing for them, but the teacher asked me to stay in this area and I didn’t know what else to do. So I talked about the different stations and Ricardo supposedly listened and watched.

      Ricardo finished and did great in all his events and was it was our heat’s turn for receiving medals. Ricardo’s parents, teachers, and even principal were all there to see Ricardo and two of his classmates win a medal or ribbon. Ricardo’s name was called, he won second place, but he froze. I tried to urge Ricardo forward but he wouldn’t budge. His parents tried more fervently than I did, saying “Don’t freeze now, Ricardo c’mon.” I knew that Ricardo would get his medal either way and if he didn’t want to get on the podium that was okay, but his parents and teachers continued to try and get him onto the podium. Our heat finished and other athletes jumped off the podium and Ricardo was still frozen in place. A second Later Ricardo decides he is ready, and he walks up and stands on the second tier of the podium by himself with his medal, waiting for the pictures.

      As I was leaving and saying goodbye to Ricardo, his mother comes to me thanking me saying “God bless you.” I was touched by her gratitude and it reminded me of the message that the Special Olympics is special for all people involved.

      This year is the 34th Special Olympics Country Day has hosted. There were 1,100 athletes and 500 Country Day student volunteers and many more from other schools and organizations like Torrance Creek and Bank of America. The Special Olympics is a time that touches everyone there no matter if your day is full of running around and talking about things you don’t normally talk about or if it’s holding hands with a new person and just watching other people. Both days, though wildly different, are equally gratifying.

An Open Letter to Improvisation, or more specifically, Improv C Block:

By: Rachel G ('19) and Lucy E ('19)

Dear Improv,

         Oh how I hate you. You make me frustrated. I am most likely arguing with my fellow student (breaking Improv rule #1: no fighting with your counterpart) or accidentally letting the word “no” slip out of my mouth, acting as our Pro-Blocker Sam Davis, only seconds before Jenny yells across the black box discouragingly, “no saying no!” (breaking Improv rule #2: always accept what you are given). Let’s face it; I am constantly messing up in this class. While there is significant value in messing up, it feels as though I never do anything right. I was also, almost exclusively, harassed by every other member of Improv C block. Not only was I verbally attacked, but I was the ONLY one being attacked. Onlookers may say this is because of my gender, a shocking minority in this class, but I know that it is a combo of both my skill and my gender. While I am aware of the fact that I do not excel in improv whatsoever, that does not mean I enjoy being mocked. My partner in crime, Lucy, and I felt as though our femininity was not fully represented in this class. We took advantage of this by interjecting as many “girl power”-esk comments as we could, to reinforce the 2:14 ratio (3:14 counting the one and only, Jenny Goodfellow). Also, why did I have more papers in Improv than I did in history? We had an observation paper, actor research paper, performance critique, comedy group powerpoint, and weekly journals. Isn’t this supposed to be  my easy A class…..? No it is not, as many of my classmates with slipping B’s would attest to. This being said, my trash talking will now conclude. Improv is easily my favorite class that I take. Actually, I believe as though it is my favorite class I have ever taken. Although I signed up for it by accident, it was one of the best mistakes I have ever made. I came in this year knowing nothing, and now I have stepped out of my comfort zone and realized the depth and difficulty to improv. There is so much to be mindful of, yet there is so much to ignore when performing (improv rule #3: never plan ahead). You have to learn to let go and let the scene move along as it does. You can’t control improv, that’s almost like saying you can stop the world from spinning. I love being able to have no filter and get to know all the other (immature) boys from various grades. I had so much fun playing games and letting my creative juices flow for those 65 minute periods, 5/7 days. Taking improv should be a required class for all students, to let themselves not only push their limits, but also to just have a fun break during the long enduring days of being a Country Day student. While I have never been more uncomfortable than I was my first few weeks, I have grown quite a bit from Improv C Block’s day 1 “Yes.. and..” game (improv rule #4: always add to the plot, SAY “AND”)  I am not sure what I am going to do next year without Oscar's “interesting” jokes, Ryan’s extensive array of “comments”, Sam’s defensive reputation or Lucy’s gratifying high five when we actually produce anything moderately funny. Whether we are performing in the Improv show or complaining about our freakishly low grades in a theater elective, I love having my improv family. Lets all pray we finally got those 98’s.


Peace out to Improv C block, you were good (and bad) to me.

Until next year.


- “Rashell”  


Dear Improv,


Oh how I love you. You make me laugh harder than any other time at school. You make me step out of my comfort zone and try things I never thought I’d be comfortable with. I’m no shy person, but I never imagined myself getting involved in an improv class where I was one of two girls surrounded by 14 rowdy (to say the least) boys. Each day is a new game or skill that fills the blackbox with endless laughter.  I’m now conditioned to immediately make connections between the most obscure things imaginable. Improv has made me a better conversationalist, and a better listener. I’ve learned the difference between listening to listen and listening to respond (Improv Rule #5). In here, you can never half listen because half the things that go on in here you wouldn’t believe unless you actually heard them yourself. There is not one single topic that can’t be made into a hilarious scene in this class. But it isn’t always smiles and giggles. Half the class (and yes, the “better” half) have low Bs. In improv. They’ll tell you it’s because they’re being discriminated against because they’re boys. The simple truth is that they don’t turn in the journals. Journals will make or break you. They were due maybe 8 times this semester and it’s literally one page of talking about whatever improv related thing you want. Of course they’ll never admit this and continue to scream about how Rachel and I are the least funny people they’ve ever met and the only reason we have A’s are because we’re girls. But, at the end of the day, they’ll still have low B’s. In improv. I can’t claim to take the heat of the verbal attacks in this class because that’s Rachel’s job. To the boys, she’ll never do anything right (even though she really isn’t that bad). But she takes it like a champion. Its much easier for the guys to go after her when a scene fails then to admit that maybe repeating the same questionable joke will eventually get old. And were all patiently waiting until second semester senior year when Mrs. Goodfellow become Jenny. In all seriousness, take this class. Most people probably skim through this on the course catalogue without stopping for a second glance. If you think that improv or theater isn’t your thing, you’re wrong. Rachel and I had no plans to ever take a theater class when we both ended up in improv as a result of changing schedules. Now were both thinking about doing the musical. You will be challenged and frustrated and confused but every single second of it is worth it. Mrs. Goodfellow’s couch will always be the homiest place on campus and I’ll always have my quirky improv family.


You’ll be missed C block improv, you were always the weirdest 65 minutes of my day.

- Lucy


By: Ms. Zen

      The world is in bloom. We have survived winter; summer is ahead. Once again, we find ourselves waiting for what's next, only peripherally noticing the earth's ritual, its movement through the simplicity and beauty of growth towards new life. Living, in itself, is a ritual, and we're all a part of it. Galway Kinnell writes: "Trust the hours. Haven't they carried you everywhere, up to now?"

      We allow rituals to fall into our lives, often taking them for granted until they're gone, or sometimes revering them, depending on them as an anchor: drinking coffee before school, going to the farmer's market on Saturday mornings, family dinners, reading our children a bedtime story. But then you give up caffeine, the farmer’s market closes for the winter, your kids grow up and family dinners turn into text messages—someone is "going out" or "meeting friends" or "still at work." Suddenly your seven-year-old doesn't need you in her bed every night because she can find her own way into the life of a book. And so we change. We adapt. We always have. Briefly, we miss our rituals, but then a new one falls to us, and we embrace it. What other options do we have?

      I think about that in relation to my classroom all of the time. Sometimes I introduce rituals. Sometimes my students do. Something I love to do—for myself, too—is to write myself "into the day." First period, no computers. Just the soft scrub of pencils in writing notebooks. Lights off, music on, and only one rule: for fifteen minutes, you can't put down your pencil. You have to write. And so we enter the day forgetting, momentarily, our own rituals—fulfilled or unfulfilled—and focus instead on the rituals of our characters. We give them voices, we give them lives. And in return, they feed us, too.

      Most of us don't see ourselves as writers; but sometimes, when we look back at our work, underlining phrases, sentences, words, and lines we're proud of, we realize that maybe we are writers, after all. Even if just for a second, we realize that words matter—we suddenly realize that there is a “nugget”—a moment of beauty—in all of our work.

      And so the publication of “nuggets” on our classroom’s walls becomes a reward—an acknowledgement by peers of something well done. Writing is voice. Writing is expression. It needs to happen, and it should happen. It should be organic and honest with the possibility of being limitless. I like to think that even now, as adults, we find confidence when our husbands, wives, friends, and colleagues acknowledge our work, our dedication, our love, our willingness to speak out. We want to be known. We want our voices to be heard. It's part of the ritual—part of the cycle. It's why we keep moving with the hours that have carried us everywhere.

      But even though the beauty of scrawled "nuggets" makes our classroom walls bright and inspiring, I still look around the room and worry about the voices that aren't being heard--the voices that ask for change. The voices that want to take action because they have passions and beliefs. What happens to the authenticity of voice when students feel limited by what they can say? What happens when a template of "right" and "wrong" replaces the freedom of creativity? When restrictions begin to stifle thought and voice, our ritual is broken. The pact we make with one another--the trust we build by sharing our voices--is undermined.

      I've never loved beginnings and endings. I've never been fond of change—the sorrow of parting with something I’ve grown to expect and the trepidation of finding something new. I feel this palpably when a school year ends. I live in—and with— the rituals of my students, and when they leave, I grieve, momentarily, for that class of 11 kids, for the easiness the 9th graders felt with one another, for the way IB students can make school feel like home. But then students move on, and I stay. The rituals we have spent a year creating feel broken. But I remind myself: maybe next year there will be that class of 15, a conversation about Things Fall Apart—about Mrs. Dalloway—that will change the way I think about the texts I've read so many times before. Coming back to something familiar and seeing it in a new light is a type of ritual, too. And I know that the scratch of pencils on white composition books will return at 8:00 am in August, in December, in March. And maybe it's right to hope that those rituals—while always present—change, adapt, and renew themselves. We will create a new voice. We will be heard. The cycle begins again.

© 2017 The Hook                                                                                                                                 Foster Harris

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