CCDS: A PLACE OF INTELLECTUAL GROWTH
Over the nearly eight years that I’ve been teaching at CCDS, I’ve come to see this school as a very special place, and in many different ways. In this piece I want to emphasize one of these ways, one that has particularly applied to me: CCDS as an institution conducive to serious intellectual development, where ideas are valued and perspectives changed as people interact in and out of the classroom. Of course as a thriving school this intellectual growth occurs in students, but it may be less obvious that teachers also can and do grow in their viewpoints because of this environment.
Before coming to CCDS, I spent most of my days in NYC studying bird brains and how they control a bird’s ability to learn and produce its complex song. A typical day would find me performing brain surgery on birds weighing only 12 grams (we used very small instruments and all the work was done under a microscope), following these birds through their anesthetic recovery, and then charting their singing behavior as they courted females I would present to them. (Among the females birds I would present in an adjoining cage was one who could get any bird to sing to her on demand, which earned her the moniker “sexy female!") These surgeries were not done for the reason human neurosurgeons do their operations—to help a patient live a better life—but rather for scientific reasons, to understand how brains work. I injected fluorescently-labeled toxins into these birds’ brains, and these toxins (which had their toxic portion removed but their transport function intact) were picked up by specific brain cells and shuttled along neural circuits required for the bird to sing. With the help of several collaborators, I would dissect individual neurons labeled in this way and analyze the molecules contained in those neurons, always looking for clues to how these neurons function. Our particular focus in this research was a comparison between neurons that regenerate within these birds’ brains, and those that do not. Songbirds have a remarkable capacity to kill particular types of cells in their brains, only to have new ones take their place, and this had for some time been a model in which to study neuroregeneration. We isolated several interesting RNAs that specifically distinguished replaceable from non-replaceable neurons, and we discovered a link between one of these molecules and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.1 Described in this way, it becomes obvious how far removed this research was from teaching psychology. Both have to do with brain function, but there’s not a lot of overlap beyond that.
As soon as I was hired to teach psychology here (and a serious thank you to Mr. Less for taking the chance on hiring someone with my background to teach high school students—I was his first hire back in July of 2011), I knew I would need to expand my horizons. The AP and IB curricula focus on human behavior in its many manifestations, and breadth of knowledge in the field—particularly for AP—is a hallmark of what students are expected to learn. I’ve been fortunate to be able to bring a “neuro” spin to all of my classes, but at most I spend an hour each year talking about birdsong neurobiology in particular. From the wide-ranging questions students pose in class, to their curiosity about related issues or experiences they’re having, to practical matters of educational psychology such as the influence of technology on brain development or learning, I have tried to use my interactions with students, fellow faculty members, and administrators to further my understanding of how our minds work, and how this impacts every aspect of our lives. I quickly became aware of the limits of my knowledge in human psychology (and the limits of the field more generally), as well as how subtle the variables can be that affect our behavior.
As part of my learning curve, and in an effort to make my curricula as relevant as possible to CCDS students, I came upon a paper about the effects of stress on the human brain, and specifically how meditation could blunt or reverse these effects. This revived an interest I had in meditation from my own high school days, and in the summer of 2014 I took a course in “mindfulness-based stress reduction” (MBSR) at CMC-Mercy in Charlotte, funded by CCDS. The MBSR course and my ensuing pursuit of meditation has changed both my intellectual and emotional life. I have now become what someone once called a “retreat junkie,” going on regular silent meditation retreats where participants disconnect from all worldly affairs (technological or otherwise), practice sitting mediation for 45 minute stretches up to 5 hours per day, and have no distracting outlets for their thoughts save introspection. The “goal” of these retreats is to experience moment-to-moment awareness of where one’s mind is focused, wherever that may be, and to come to accept those thoughts and feelings as part of the ever-changing flow of consciousness. I’ve gone on more than a dozen of these retreats since my MBSR course, including a week-long retreat over the New Year for each of the last five years. This October, in retirement, I’ll be heading to Barre MA for a 6-week silent retreat of this kind, which I look forward to with great anticipation and some trepidation, since these can be very psychologically demanding environments, becoming more so with time. I owe the opportunity to pursue meditation both as a practice and as an intellectual study to CCDS, as it has become a point of focus for my teaching of emotion processing. As I shift to a new career path in writing, I will continue to read the burgeoning research on how meditation affects the brain, and I intend to synthesize some of this literature with my background in neuroscience, perhaps to help advance the field with new ideas and perspectives. The benefits of meditation for psychological and physical well-being are legion, and Western science is only beginning to understand some of the myriad ways meditation exerts its effects on our psychology and neurobiology.
To those students of mine who suspected that I was actually “undercover” at CCDS, carrying out experiments in adolescent psychology with them as subjects, I have to admit: it was never the case! I do owe a tremendous thanks though to all the students I’ve had the pleasure to teach and interact with, as without their questions, enthusiasm, insights, and (as importantly) forward-looking, upbeat outlook towards life, I wouldn’t have had such a stimulating and enjoyable time teaching here.
I know CCDS will continue to be a school where intellectual activity is highly valued, nurtured, and can flourish, and I encourage all members of this special community to take a moment to appreciate the opportunity they have here, and to use this wonderful institution and the special people that are its lifeblood to grow their own intellect, and in so doing to find a fulfilling path (or paths) in life.
1. Lombardino, AJ, Li, XC, Hertel, M, and Nottebohm, F. (2005) Replaceable neurons and neurodegenerative disease share depressed UCHL1 levels. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 22:8036-8041. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0503239102
CHARLOTTE V ('20)
To what extent are the normal apple headphones better than AirPods?
Every year there is a post-Christmas flex, but I have never seen a flex as big as the AirPod trend. You may be asking yourself, what is this AirPod trend? Well, I am here to tell you. As you walk around the Charlotte Country Day campus, you may come to notice the little white, wireless tic tac looking headphones sticking out of people’s ears. Those are AirPods.
These AirPods cost a whopping one hundred and fifty-nine dollars from Apple vs. their wire ear phones that cost thirty dollars. Both headphones play music, but the AirPods are simply wireless for 139 dollars more. You may be asking yourself now, “who would invest in such a scam,” well, that is half of the Country Day upper school. The obnoxious white ear plugs have caused a divide in these Country Day students. The “AirPoders” are an annoying bunch who like to point out (when you don’t even ask) that “No, they don’t fall out,” and the popular phrase “It smells like broke in here.” I apologize to all my AirPod wearers out there, but I simply do not want to drop that much money on something that functions the same as the headphones I have now. In fact, my headphones are even better than AirPods. Attached to my strings, I can pause the music and adjust the volume without even touching my phone due to the button on the strings.
AirPods are also such an inconvenience because unlike your original Apple headphones, they have to be charged. Forget to charge them? What a terrible day without music, if only you had stuck with the normal headphones that don’t even have a battery. Music all day, every day without charge. Another advantage is the lifesaving benefits of the wire headphones. For many teens today, their phones are their lives. If you drop your phone while listening to music, the strings can come to the rescue and catch your phone from shattering onto the floor. Can AirPods do that? Didn’t think so.
I do understand the appeal of wireless headphones, but let’s be honest with ourselves, the sound quality of the wire headphones is superior, and it’s hard to connect with your AirPods with no strings attached (this coming from a person who has tested the AirPods herself). The lack of strings makes the AirPods very easy to lose an expensive product. With the strings, you can always find them mixed up with your stuff, unlike AirPods, which get lost among stuff easily. AirPods are an expensive waste of money which serve no function. For those of who still have a home button with AirPods, it’s like you’re putting rims on a 1997 Honda. Without investing in AirPods, I could buy 39 Chick-fil-A sandwiches. The original Apple headphones are superior.
The meme world has taken a hold of these AirPod flexers and flames them daily, but “they aren’t listening”.
EVIE H ('19) HANGLING L ('19)
I am not a morning person, but somehow I woke up at 4:50 a.m. for morning practice. I am not an athlete, but somehow I looked forward to practice and swim meets. I joined the swim team my junior year, and they team welcomed me as part of the family.
I think every teammate can agree that our coach, Bob, is truly one-of-a-kind. I was getting ready to swim my very last race of my high school career, 100 meter breast-stroke. My stomach turned as I knew that I would never swim for the Country Day Buccaneers ever again. I fixed my cap over my ears and adjusted my goggles over my eyes when I felt a tap on my shoulder. “It was an honor to coach you,” Bob said. “Thank you for being a part of the team. Swim fast. Swim like you’re on summer club.” I fought back tears. I got on the diving block and gave Hangling, my fellow breast-stoker, a thumbs up. I looked down at the light blue water as I imagined I was 10 years old again, when nothing else mattered other than making it back to the other side of the pool. Breast-stroke had always been my favorite stroke and now it was the stroke I would leave BUCSwim with.
As I dove into the water, Bob’s words reflected in my head. I was back in Cleveland, Ohio, swimming under the setting summer sun for the Bainbrook Laurel Springs Stingrays neighborhood pool. My teammates cheered as I swam with my hot pink goggles and black and red swimsuit, our team colors. I was tied with another girl as we both reached for the wall. I looked up to Sophie Francis and Ella Vacchi cheering as I took off my goggles, my eyes full of tears. I never cry at sports, but swimming is a sport that I’ve been a part of since I was 5 years old. I looked down at my black and green swimsuit. Whether swimming for the Country Day Buccaneers, or the Bainbrook Laurel Springs Stingrays, this sport has always shown me the true meaning of a team: family.
"Why I do swim?” I've been asked this question many times over the years, especially since I always end up as the last person in my lane, fervently kicking my legs so the fattest swimmer can't catch up to me and tag my foot.
It all started when my mom made me do a swimming camp the summer before first grade. She made me do it solely for the comfort of knowing that I would not one day drown in the river (my hometown is known for its unique steep mountain and beautiful river). Although the start of my swimming career was not voluntary, I keep swimming for the unique inspiration and supportive spirit that is BUCSwim. Diving into the azure body of light after a stressful day is the best feeling in the world; the water awakens you, invites you to imagine, dream, and escape the world. Even better than the feeling of swimming is the loving group of individuals I get to swim with! They encourage me to swim faster and achieve my goals, while also pushing me and teaching me their skills. A lot of the improvements I have made actually stem from conversations with my teammates: Stephanie for freestyle, Ella and Will for breaststroke, and many more.
Sometimes, I truly wish I could be a faster swimmer. I imagine what would have happened if I had not quit swimming during the winter of my fifth-grade year because the swimming pool was closed for repair. The what-ifs aren't important though, because I now realize that you don’t have to be the best, fastest, winning swimmer to enjoy this sport. What I appreciate the most about swimming is having a break from school day, diving in the water, talking to teammates, and spending time with myself.
But what makes BUCSwim unique is Coach Bob- the inspiration. From him, I have learned so many philosophies I value in life, beyond swimming from him such as, "Be the best version of yourself, given your current situation and what you have." I truly value this experience and cherish this family.
BEST IB MOMENTS FROM THE IB CLASS OF 2019
SARAH J ('19)
It’s game day, what’re you up for?? If you have been in TOK (or AP English 11, I know you guys exist), you have been smacked with this question 8 am on a Tuesday morning from the man himself, Waples. Well, when you’re in the IB program, chances are you’re up for a lot that morning, and these special moments are what make the program so worth it.
Yeah, most of the hype is real. We’re a tight-knit group of mostly high-achievers who spend our nights Facetiming each other about tomorrow’s English essay or cranking out an HI/EE/II/IA/IOP/IOCD. We do a lot of work and spend a lot of time together, but some of the funniest moments have come from this.
This is now a general term that refers to a question asked during a presentation that throws you for a loop. It was first coined by Emily C, when she received a particularly vexing inquiry regarding the style of her PowerPoint background. Ever since, when you receive a stumper, you’ll catch the eye of someone else in your class mouthing “feather." Do your best not to crack under the pressure.
The Infamous Rip
Let’s set the scene: IB World History exam, December 2017. The IB juniors are crowded in Mr. Gawle’s old room in Cannon (RIP). As our hands get grimy with lead and sweat drips on our pages of essay, there is a deafening scent. You might be thinking you can’t hear a smell, but oh you didn’t smell this. It was worse than the stench of mediocrity Mr. Daniel claimed he smelled before. We all look around for the culprit, and Campbell B grins to himself. Ask Campbell and he will show no regret. A true American hero. Another word about Campbell, as Waples once said: “I don’t know if he’s more in love with Mimi or Will M.”
Yes, she’s a moment herself. Her greatest hits include dressing up as teachers for Halloween, writing a song and belting it out for her English class, being an overall rockstar. We love her to death and you’re going places, KFelds.
The Changing Tides of Gaming Interests
Talk to an ’19 IBer any given week and chances are we’re hooked on a new game. 2048 had a good long stride, then a twist with 2048 cupcakes, and now we’ve intellectually upgraded to crosswords (but we’re googling answers every thirty seconds). Poptropica and Club Penguin also had their moments. Talk to Lilli S for the hot tips on 2048 or Ashley C on crosswords, (and Emily C and Ella V on the other two) but if you need to learn Japanese or teach yourself Photoshop, Will M is your man.
Campbell B = Bing Bing
Bennett G = Benito
Ashley C = Cashley, most used by Katie Feldstein = KFelds
Jacob B = Jacóbo, Cobo
Will M = Wartin
Reid S = Raúl
Me = I’ve got a lot. SMJ, Smeej, Smerj, and lots of S adjectives in front of SMJ. Safe driving SMJ, steady reading SMJ, scooting SMJ…
For plebeians, the TOK/AP English 11 classroom used to be in the fishbowl, which now houses the history teachers’ offices. After TOK class every day, IB juniors would pack the elevator on the way down. It beeped sometimes, but it only stalled once you guys!
IB Biology 17-18: Mr. McNish sprayed Blake B with Lysol when she walked into class sick. Legendary.
We learned that the Peerys’ son, Cinco, loves yoga. What a kid.
Inside IB, there’s some options too. IB Latin gets to read some crazy myths (when is Zeus not fathering some child), ITGS is fixing the world with tech, and IB Psych is making kids guess how many skittles are in a jar. JK they’re probably learning about how cool birds are from Dr. L.
So, yes, IB is a lot of homework, and probably some tears along the way. But you know what, that means you care, and if you choose to be in the IB program, you will be surrounded by funny, smart, caring people who want to see you succeed. So, as the Class of 2019 starts our swan song, so does the IB Class of 24 of our 19s.
HOW THE ONE ACT BECAME SO MUCH MORE THAN 'JUST A PLAY'
EMMA T ('22)
I must admit: I was hesitant to continue theater in high school. I had enjoyed my middle school “career” but I strongly believed that doing theater in high school would be a two-month ordeal that counted for a sports credit. Little did I realize that, come March, the cast of “The Crane Wife” would be at the South Eastern Theater Conference (SETC). As a freshman, I got to not only watch the upperclassmen shine and become some of my biggest role models, but I got to become my own role model: something that did not come naturally to me. I have always been known as a vibrant, energetic, and very much extroverted person, but the cast and crew allowed me to show a more vulnerable side of myself that had not seen the light of day in what felt like forever. This show taught me a new level of responsibility that I had never dreamed of encountering at fourteen (now fifteen) years old. You walked into the Black Box and started to live and breathe the show; the Black Box had become my safe space on campus. The cast immediately started to form bonds. I had reconnected with people I knew in middle school and created new friendships as well. I started experiencing the benefits that the One Act was providing me. I always had something to look forward to after the final bell rang. No matter if I’d had the most amazing day or the worst day of the school year I knew I could let that all go and become my character. For those of you who saw the show, you know how beautiful it was and still is. This show became each and every one of us. No matter how long we were away from the show, the second we got back into rehearsal we embodied our characters again. To the entire cast and crew of this year’s One Act, I truly thank you. We would not have made it to nationals and won Runner Up show without all of us. A quick side note to Mrs. G, Mrs. Booth, and Mr. Hoffman: I know I speak for everyone when I say that your valiant effort and drive gave us the ability to do the same and, for that, we thank you.
MARY THOMPSON C ('19)
A school trip on the other side of the world with Mr. Lynn: what could be better? When signing up for the India service trip I didn’t know what to expect besides a visit to the Taj Mahal. I’ll admit that was my main reason for signing up… But, it turned out to be so much more. I’ve always learned about India in school. My studies had always focused on population growth and poverty, but I could never imagine the scale from just reading a text book. However, from the moment we stepped out of the Delhi airport the textbook became real. We could hardly see walking to our bus labeled “Tourist” (I know, really blending in) from the dense smog and groups of people going completely different directions. Not to mention I refused to look outside of the driver’s window since driving lanes are completely nonexistent, and motorcyclists are nowhere close to being afraid of cars and buses. In my ten days in India, I experienced new food, met new people, learned a new culture. Most of all, however, for the first time in my life I realized how grateful I am for my life and opportunities.
In our last night in Calcutta, our group spent the night in the “Rotary Hooghly Eye Hospital,” all in one room, sharing one bathroom. We even had to shower with a bucket. Now, I will willingly admit I was not the happiest about our living situation and I most definitely made that apparently clear to the rest of the group. The following morning, we drove a short five minutes from the hospital to an isolated all boys orphanage, bordering train tracks. The group of thirty boys, ranged from ages five to eighteen, showed us around their class room, bathroom and bedrooms. And that’s where it hit me: kids, mostly my age, were sleeping on wooden benches, showering with a faucet under the stairs.
I know it’s extremely cliché for people to travel to a developing country and come back saying how their life has changed forever, but I honestly don’t know how else to explain my experience in India. The orphans' wooden beds and hole on the ground for a bathroom, did not affect their persona and they continued to run around smiling and laughing. The whole day put my life into perspective. I like to now think that I have become more appreciative of my life at home, even small things such as my bed, and the people that surround me.
I recommend this trip to all underclassmen. It is an experience that is difficult to find anywhere else that I am very grateful for and hope all can experience!