News You Can Use

Having written last time about grammar I thought to turn my eyes this week to literature, which makes up one other third of the triumvirate of that with which we English teachers concern ourselves: grammar, writing, and literature. But also interesting tit-bits of information about writers and books. As a teacher I figure my task in life is always to be spreading knowledge and understanding of the triumvirate, so today books and writers get the focus.

Some things you might not know, and probably won’t be any better off for having learned:

  • Alfred Jarry, French playwright, author of the Ubu plays, spent a year living in a cardboard box under a staircase. Harry Potter ain’t got nothing on Alfred J.
  • The shortest word in the English language that contains all five vowels is eunoia.
  • The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was terrified of bees.
  • Gadsby, a novel of 150+ pages, does not contain the letter “e.” Some people like it, but I wouldn’t call it great.
  • Going him four better, the Spanish playwright Lope de Vega wrote five plays, each omitting one of the vowels. Some people just have too much time on their hands. Manos.
  • Tolstoy dictated War and Peace to his wife, who wrote as he spoke. He (she) rewrote the thing seven times. Don’t tell me Tolstoy wasn’t a jerk.
  • Some people think Joyce’s Ulysses, or maybe Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is the greatest piece of literature ever written. Those people are wrong; it’s Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
  • Jeremy Bentham had his body stuffed, and wheeled out during meetings of Britain’s Royal Society so he could “attend.” His head is stored in a box somewhere. That’s made of wax, the thing on his shoulders. When not at the meeting, Bentham is stored in a closet.
  • Recent scholarship has established conclusively that Shakespeare did not in fact write the plays that have been attributed to him. He did, however, write the novels of Charles Dickens.
  • There may be in the world a more boring book than John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, but it has not yet been discovered.
  • Possibly the least used word in the English language is ucalegon; it means “a neighbor whose house is on fire.”
  • When the poet Percy Shelley drowned in Greece, his friends – Byron and Keats – decided to burn his body on a funeral pyre, as a famous hero should be treated. They did so. But according to another friend, Edward Trelawny, his heart would not burn. So Trelawny leaped upon the pyre, reached into Shelly’s chest and plucked out his – unburned – heart. He then sent the heart to Shelley’s young wife back in England. So it is that Shelley’s heart is buried in Poet’s Corner, in Westminster Abby, in London. But the rest of him is in Greece.

Upper School Highlights from January 2017

January was the culminating month of the first semester. Upper School students returned from Winter Break with good spirits. The month contained multiple four-day weeks, which provided students with ample time to prepare for midterms. Even though Upper School students were focused on midterms, they were still quite busy with various activities and events.

wrestlingWinter Varsity Sports
 January was filled with short weeks, but our Winter Varsity Sports teams were in full swing, and represented the school well. Men’s Varsity Basketball, captained by James Bankole (‘17), has earned many key wins this season both in and out of conference, perhaps most notably against geographic rival Good Council. The two top scorers thus far are Milos Apic (‘17) and Malakai “Mikey” Parker (‘18). Women’s Varsity Basketball, captained by Sammi Speight (‘17), Noa Brown (‘18), and Erica Fenton (‘18) has been improving a great deal, especially since the team has grown considerably in size this year. The Co-Ed Varsity Rock Climbing Team, captained by Seth Gorton (‘19) and Anna Goodman (‘18), has been competing very well. Their biggest achievement to date was when the boys’ team finished second and the girls’ team finished first in a bouldering competition prior to exam week. Wrestling, captained by Jonathan Crowley-Fye (‘17) and Luke Ferris (‘17), has had a season of growth since many of the team members are new to the sport. The whole team has been holding their own in interscholastic meets, and earned an important win over Covenant Life. Alan Burd (’19) and Quinn Bittenger-Esser (’19) form part of an Ice Hockey made up of five schools (SSFS, Northwest, Kennedy, Blake, and Poolesville). The team boasts wins over Churchill and Damascus. Good luck to all of the Winter Sports athletes with the rest of their respective seasons!

The Quizbowl team, captained by Lindsay Richwine (‘17), finished second in the Montgomery Academic Beltway League Regular Season for the first time in the program’s history. Congratulations to the team, and good luck to them in the playoffs!

MLK AssemblyMartin Luther King Jr. Day Assembly

A group of students and Associate Director of College Counseling Candice Ashton spearheaded an assembly to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and reflect on our nation’s history of racial division.  Lundon McClamb (‘17), one of the student leaders of this initiative says, “I believe the assembly definitely was an eye-opener for the community. Hearing the voice from our peers is what made it so powerful because they finally revealed tension that they bottled up in the past.”

The assembly, which was led by a number of student speakers and performers, was powerful and left Upper School students and faculty members wanting to learn and reflect more, which they were able to do a week later. Students were given the option of either attending a Meeting for Worship with a number of reflective queries or attending a Meeting for Learning that focused on various discussion topics regarding race. The Meeting for Learning was one of the first of its kind at SSFS, and was unique in that it allowed students to discuss their encounters with racism and how they could prevent it in the future. Both opportunities provided safe and informative environments to reflect, although the student body is eager to continue discussing the topic of race.

Upper School Music Assembly and Evening
The three Upper School music classes had the opportunity to perform in the Upper School Music Assembly on January 12th, as well as in the Upper School Music Evening on January 19th. Both performances provided students from Handbells, Chorus, and Instrumental Music with platforms to showcase what they had been working on throughout the first semester, which included pop, rock, classical, and jazz songs. Great job to all of the performers!

assembly music

Australian Exchange
January 23rd marked the arrival of two Australian Exchange students from the Friends’ School in Hobart, Tasmania, the largest Quaker school in the world. Nick Arnott and Chase Clark are staying with sophomores Thomas Perich and Thomas Fagiolo and their respective families. Both Thomases visited Tasmania this past summer for three and a half weeks, and stayed with Nick and Chase. The four boys are a part of the second round of the exchange. The applications for the third exchange (which was recently confirmed) are available to ninth graders at SSFS. Having formed part of the first exchange, I can say with certainty that the exchange is an unforgettable experience that exposes you to a new culture and matures you in ways you cannot imagine.

Exam Week took place from January 23-27. Students could be found anywhere and everywhere on campus, studying in between exams. The Beestro/Library was the most popular location. By the end of the week, students were excited for the four-day weekend, which was much deserved after putting so much effort into finishing off the first semester strong.
With the refreshing four-day weekend behind us, we Upper School students are excited for what this new semester has in store for us. We hope to embrace and learn from each opportunity and continue to grow as students and people in the coming months.

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Grammar Matters

Winter Has Begun

Despair, Hope, and Education in the Anthropocene

2016 Holiday Assembly Remarks

For the Holiday Season

Upper School Highlights from November 2016

Me and Aretha, We Know