Friday, December 11, 2015

Guest Blogger: Bryce Lew

Bryce Lew (left) and Grady Willard (right)

This month, our guest blogger is Bryce Lew, class of 2015. Bryce is an advocate for
 -becoming involved wherever you are
-discovering your passions and strengths
-finding a way to create community in every setting
You can catch The Aloha Radio Variety Hour, a Radio show he co-produces on Friday evenings (7:00 pm Central Time)   - follow the link to listen live here:
Here is Bryce's post:

When Mrs. Eldridge asked me to write about "what I learned from the library," I really had to figure out the most important lessons that I gained from the library.  Throughout six years, I learned a lot from the many classes and lectures I attended in the library.  However, I was able to distill everything I learned into three major life lessons that I will always hold deeply to my heart as it shaped who I am as a person.

  1. Always, always get involved.  Ever since I was in middle school, Mrs. Ursettie has encouraged me to try everything on campus.  She managed to get me involved by working backstage at Mr. Flintridge Prep to getting me to help out with the many JPDs.  Every experience I had working with her, I saw how involved and passionate she was to make sure that the show was great.  I was always so impressed by how she managed to involve so many students, and get everyone to work together to accomplish something big.  She showed me that you should always get involved, because when a lot of people work together for a common goal, you can accomplish a ton.
  2. If there is ever anything you do not agree with, it is your responsibility to change it.  When I first got to Prep in middle school, there were no Macs available for student use.  Despite a large portion of the students being Mac people, the school only offered PC.  A group of friends and I complained profusely about this to our seventh grade composition teacher, Mrs. Eldridge.  She motivated us to create the club the “Library Advisory Council,” and we petitioned for the school to make Macs available for student usage.  The school listened and we got the MacBook Pros that are now available in the library.  Mrs. Eldridge motivated us all year long, and despite many road bumps, she always told us to keep trying.  She taught us that being passive and to only complain is something that will never benefit anyone.  By being proactive and fighting for what we believe in, LAC was able to accomplish so much and we owe everything to her.
  3. Always trust the library.  Flintridge Prep’s library is special.  It acts as not only one of the largest resources on campus, but acts as the center of life on campus.  Mrs. Hodge can easily be the guide to anyone’s Prep experience.  She can give you advice on clubs to get involved in, she can help you start a club, she can connect you with students and faculty that she believes you work well with, and she can provide you with the motivation to accomplish anything.  Throughout my years at the library, Mrs. Hodge was always so supportive of all of my endeavors.  She provided me with advice with a voice of reason and made sure I never doubted myself.  She is the biggest resource at Prep and I am so glad that I was able to get to know her.

These three life lessons I will follow forever.  It goes without saying that the core to these three goals are Mrs. Ursettie, Mrs. Eldridge, and Mrs. Hodge.  They are so important to Flintridge Prep and we owe them so much.  So thank you for shaping my Prep experience, and I encourage anyone who has not gotten to know them to do so.  By getting to know them, I learned so much and could not imagine my Prep experience without them.

-Bryce Lew
class of 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Problem Solved

Dean, with his book, and friends.

Math has always been mysterious - at least in my world. Solutions and logic play hide and seek with me. So, when I heard that one of our students wrote a book about math, my ears went on full alert. Wow, right?
Here's Dean's story:

When I was younger, and just beginning to be enthralled by mathematics, I read a quotation attributed to Einstein which has fascinated me ever since, “Things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” With this maxim, Einstein described perfectly the power of mathematical problem-solving – the ability to distill very complex scientific questions into simple problems with even simpler solutions, and to balance beautiful mathematical problems between recalcitrance and resolution, depending on the ingenuity of the problem solver.               

          I began reading math books in 4th or 5th grade, and became instantly enamored of the subject for both its elegance and harmony, as well as the rigor of problem-solving. My driving force was the distinctive “Aha!” feeling when I could see the critical insight that could make a complex problem comprehensible and solvable. Even more motivating than the glory of solving a problem, however, was the failure to do so. I found myself enjoying the words “How could I miss that!?” more than the word “Aha!”

          So thrilling were these feelings to me that I started to collect and even develop problems where clever intuition was key. Whenever a friend asked me why I enjoyed math as much as I do, I would use one of these problems to demonstrate the grace that I found in turning something that seems so complicated into something simple through just one or two critical insights. I could even sometimes see that I was able to excite a friend by the concept or an example, where they had previously claimed to lack either proficiency in, or appreciation for, mathematics. For all the thrill that came from working problems myself, even more exciting was being able to spread that enthusiasm for mathematics to my friends, and early in high school, I wrote a book titled Wearing Gauss’s Jersey to that exact end – to introduce those who claimed to be non-mathematicians to the ideas of problem-solving through mathematical insights, the sorts of insights for which “rockstars” such as Carl Friedrich Gauss was so famous.  Although there were many wonderful problem-solving books, I had yet to encounter a book devoted to just this topic.  

          Needless to say, the adage that a writer learns more than he teaches turned out to be true for me.  The journey of writing a book – of taking an idea from origin to fruition, of convincing a leading publisher that the idea had enough merit to justify taking a chance on a high school kid, and of then actually vindicating that publisher’s trust with a coherent work – has certainly been the most amazing of my young life.  I came to realize that such a project required not only paying attention to coherence of content, but to aesthetics of style – having something worthwhile to say, and then writing it in such a way that it is worth someone else’s while to read.  The whole of this process was not just different in degree, but essentially different in kind, from any challenge I had yet undertaken.  Moreover, I came to appreciate just how much tenacity was needed to see that challenge through.  Several times, I had to resist the urge to quit in the middle of the demanding process of writing, revising, and then writing again. Each of those times, however, those feelings were overwhelmed by reminders as to why I was writing the book in the first place. For example, in the process of developing and solving some problems for the book, I found a hidden relationship between two problems in discrete mathematics that seemed entirely separate.  That discovery led to an entirely new approach to another old problem, that of summing the squares. It was moments like these – moments in which I realized that writing served only to deepen my appreciation for what I was writing about – that allowed me to see the challenge through, and to refute the justification that I had already passed the point of diminishing returns on the expended effort.  In short, I came to understand Hemingway’s blithe wisdom when he expressed how much of a person goes into their writing, “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter, and bleed.”   That, perhaps, is the most profound insight of all.

-Dean Hathout; class of 2016.

Readers: Dean's book, Wearing Gauss’s Jersey  is on display in the author's section, downstairs in the Chandramohan Library.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

At last - time to enter Slade House.

Slade House, the latest novel from David Mitchell is now available.

David Mitchell’s works have been featured on this blog before. His writing has sparked  conversations among students and colleagues -because to discuss Mitchell’s work is to discuss the flawed nature of his characters, and in doing so, to reveal our innate desire to empathize with a well-written character, despite eccentricities, foibles and failures.

Slade House begins with a series of tweets,
 released one at a time – over a month or so. The tweets set the stage for the tone of the book – a bit creepy, a bit dark. The tweets draw you magnetically to the action and the motivation of the character, Bombadil.  Mitchell structured the prose of the tweets as a re-imagining of language -  absolutely contemporary text-speak interspersed with Youtube videos, hyperlinks and mysterious pictures to heighten the experience.  Who would think Twitter could be used as a compelling literary format?

The novel itself (confession: I read this as a galley edition, electronically, courtesy of NetGalley) scurries along a psychological tightrope. Mitchell knows his audience. He plays us. We play along – to almost our breaking point. Anguished. But fully immersed in the story and the humanness of the characters. It is a good read. Fans: you will not be disappointed. Newcomers: get ready to be drawn in. Beware the iron gate. Trust no one.

-Mrs. Eldridge

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Check out time

The return to school -
     Enthusiastic readers, a scramble for a new book or the next in a series.

A few of the members of the class of 2021 pose for a promotional spot: Check it Out!

Titles that have flown off the shelves recently:

Mortal Instruments (City of Ashes, City of Bones)
Frederick the Great
1984: A novel.

-Mrs. Eldridge

Thursday, April 23, 2015

That. Couch.

That. Couch.

It’s been called the coolest new place to hang out, the best place to study; and the place everybody wants to be.

It’s the slightly slouchy, mildly funky drama prop: That Couch.

It was pressed into service in the library, on the second floor landing, as a place to rest between jaunts to the food trucks during our Film and Music Festival.

That Couch was supposed to move back to the drama department the next school day.

But it lingered. Once word got out, its popularity gave it some leverage – so it stayed on.

A week of conversations, laughter, and music happened on That Couch, along with some studying. The space is empty now, and quiet. Who could guess That Couch could turn an empty space into a lively spot to gather? It’s funny what draws people to a place….

Mrs. Eldridge

Monday, February 23, 2015

Crowning glory

Who will be crowned Mr. Flintridge Prep, 2015? The question hovers in the air as preparations for the pageant begin to accelerate. (the pageant is a mock event: a fundraiser whose proceeds will benefit a local charity.)

A king needs a crown. But what type of crown befits a mock-pageant? Prep's Sewing Club is wrestling with the question as you are reading this.

Henry VIII rocked a cool crown – jeweled and pearled with a royal velvet lining.

As we researched and sketched, we found the intersection of antiquity and technology: Henry’s crown has been 3-D printed. And the code is available.

Watch the process here:

Intrigued? You can download the code and make a crown for yourself (if you have the SLS printer). Click on the blue "download this thing" box.

The result: A precious item reserved for the few becomes accessible to many. In lots of ways, I am grateful for the Internet's ability to make art, images, archival films, writings and letters available to us for enjoyment and enrichment.

-Mrs. Eldridge

Mr. Flintridge Prep, 2015, will take place on March 20, 2015 @ 6:30 pm in Norris Auditorium at Flintridge Preparatory School. Tickets will be available the week before the event. Please see the Prep website for further information.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It Starts.

photo by Simon Burchell from collection of British Museum
Alabaster statue of an Ocelot from Teotihuacan, 5th-6th century

Welcome to the ancient world. The birth of democracy and philosophy. The advent of assassination as a political tool. The rise and fall of civilizations and empires. Many lessons, many topics.

The ninth grade research paper writing process is officially on. Students are primed and ready; some are already deciding on topics. Wars, strategies, squabbles over land and sea, justice and injustice. We are about to dive in - to learn as much as we can in just a few weeks and to exit this process as changed individuals. Wiser. More accomplished as researchers and writers. Definitely more humble (speaking for myself here).

Grady Willard will join forces with Mr. Roffina's classes in March, guiding students through their final edits with his compassion and honesty, making suggestions in the Google Docs sidebar, meeting one-on-one with students. When Grady offers criticism, he brings you to a new way of thinking about your subject and method of organizing thoughts. He says the word "yes" a lot, and affirms your process and subtly guides you to a new understanding. You leave realizing that you've been critiqued, but not criticized.

It is time to dust off my memory of ancient things, to replay the Battle of Marathon, recall all things feudal, revisit the philosophers and thinkers. And to re-discover where I found that really great information last year. Game on.

-Mrs. Eldridge

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Happy, happy meal.

Guess what was in my Happy Meal yesterday?
If you guessed a tiny copy of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, you would be correct.
Books in Happy Meals: it is a thrilling thought. Now a whole new set of folks will have a shorthand phrase, “…if you give a mouse a cookie…” to describe a series of events drawn into play by one simple action.
As I was appreciating all of the young (and not-so-young) readers and the pairs of child-adult readers, I plunged into a chasm of doubt: what if reading doesn’t matter? (I blame the french fries here)
What if print reading, or reading in any format doesn’t make you a better person, or a person more equipped to make their own choices? An unthinkable thought for a librarian….yet….

One of our seniors responded to my query, “What if we don’t need to read at all?”

BL: There are things that books can do that movies and other visual media cannot, like empathy. Also, I think it is important for our brains to be activated by words.

Posing the same question to one of our juniors, I got this reply:

JP: Reading relaxes me, I take 10-20 minutes each evening to read – more if I have time – but I make sure that I read every day. For me, it is all about the stories. I find stories often give you hope and faith, like the book I just read, I’ll Give You the Sun. I like stories because they help you figure out how to live your life. I read every night before I go to bed because it's a nice way to separate yourself from all of the stuff going on in your own life, and get lost in someone else's story for a little while.

This web article supports JP and BL’s thoughts nicely, and points to some recent research:

Back to the essential question of reading; Tim Parks, in his blog post for the New York Review of Books, writes,  "there are many ways to live a full, responsible, and even wise life that do not pass through reading literary fiction.” Perhaps, as a librarian, I am biased toward the benefits of reading, yet I am not finished thinking about the value of reading. Guess that is as it should be.

-Mrs. Eldridge