No visitor to Burke can miss our centrally located and prominent library. An important part of our communal Atrium space, it is always full of students working at the tables or on the computers, taking advantage of the quiet atmosphere as well as the services of our experienced library director. Although many students today are reading with Kindles, Nooks and iPads, the library continues to play a central role. School libraries have always been about more than than finding books. Strong library programs help students discover how to find answers using multiple, reliable sources. Learning how to undertake comprehensive and accurate research remains an indispensable skill, particularly in this era of Google and Wikipedia. Now more than ever we need our students to know how to weave credible sources into a well-written thesis. Burke faculty work with our dynamic library director to teach effective research methods and everyone in the building makes use of our library databases and websites in addition to the print materials. And, of course, there is still no substitute for that serendipitous encounter with a book on display. No matter the technology, reading for pleasure is one of the best ways to improve academic achievement and bolster critical thinking skills. Keeping the library front and center here at Burke reinforces how much we value both literature and literacy! –– Andrew Slater
“I tell my daughter she has to behave like a guest” begins “Private Schools and Diversity,” a very compelling blog post that recently popped up in Burke’s Twitter feed. Written by Frank Ligtvoet, the adoptive father of two African-American children who attend independent schools in New York City, it reminds us that diversity is not just about numbers, it’s about experience. Burke’s mission explicitly states that we “bring together students who are different from one another in many ways.” We strive to meet this goal in the Admissions process with whom we invite to join our community, in the classroom with what history, literature and art we choose to teach, and in the school’s social life with our emphasis on inclusion. We are also ever mindful that all students must have an equal chance of being successful, regardless of background, circumstance or resources. Our advisory system, learning support and progressive teaching philosophy mean that we know students well enough to give them what they need to thrive. Anyone who spends time in our building can see that our students, faculty and staff reflect the population of DC. What is not readily visible is how a student of color, a gay student, or a student on financial aid experiences Burke. We are always working to prevent any child at Burke from feeling Ligtvoet’s “double consciousness of belonging and not belonging.” Based on my interactions with and observations of students, I truly believe that most of our kids feel like they belong at Burke. –– Andrew Slater, Head of School
Golden shoes have glittered throughout history. From the 2500 year old gold shoes that were discovered in the tomb of a Celtic Chieftain, to the golden racing cleats worn by US Sprinter Michael Johnson when he won gold at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.
Which bring us to the Talaria, or golden, winged sandals worn by the Greek deity, Hermes, messenger of the gods. Borne by his flying, gold shoes, Hermes was the god of transitions and boundaries. He moved between the worlds of the mortal and divine, living and dead, and among travelers, shepherds, orators, thieves, athletes, poets, inventors and traders.
So, gold shoes at a graduation make more than just sartorial sense. Graduation is really just a waypoint, a transition from one time and place to others, some as yet unknown. And as the graduates of 2013 set out to cross boundaries from one world to another (and then others), hopefully they remember to pack their own Talaria to help them in their travels — the love of learning, curiosity, creativity in the fields they pursue, and the ability, like Hermes, to be an emissary on behalf of others and for themselves.
And in the spirit of Hermes, here is one last message, on behalf of those who attended the Graduation – a golden thank you to all of the parent volunteers who created the lovely Olympian bacchanalia that followed the graduation, including Maria Alvarez, Mamie Bittner, Angela Campbell, Darlene Como, Jessie Degryse, Olympia DeRosa, Donna and Peter Donnellan, Addison Greenwood, Judith Krones, Nancy Markus, Susan Okun, Cathy Osman, Joe Palca, Greta Rosenzweig, Bruce Speigel, Diane Thompson, Roberta Ujakavich, Joe Vellioux, Ellen Wilson, (breath…) and, of course, Sherri Jones, who led the entire effort with her usual aplomb and all-purpose talaria!
The clamorous sounds and flurry of activity from lunch have dissipated as people have gone to class, leaving only those students who are on free periods. The largest group of these consists of seniors who have congregated around two of the rectangular tables, while only one person, Ian B, occupies the senior lounge. It’s fifth period, and the atrium is a very subdued place. While the table group is engaged in loud conversation, Ian seems rather bored, forced to occupy himself with games on his phone. The monotony is broken briefly by Phil, who skips mischievously over to the window separating the atrium from the quiet room, and peers sneakily but awkwardly in at its occupants. Jacob enters the scene and engages Ian in a brief conversation about their senior seminar classes. He then comes over to me and expresses that he is “extremely bored right now.” Perhaps this boredom is typical of students free at this time, as when Olay saw me taking notes for Journalism, he said: “I wish I was in that class,” suggesting that he too was bored. It seems that coming off the excitement of lunch, students are much more prone to boredom and sluggishness.
It’s the contrast of students sipping 2 litres of pink Brisk lemonade to the wrinkled women with grocery carts that gives the Van Ness area such a unique semblance. Sitting on the concrete steps in front of 7-11 and Sushi Para I observed the mix of people who walked by my post. Van Ness is not a destination Metro stop; a few stores within a few blocks of each other and the two schools are the only things to attract visitors, so why do they keep coming? At a quarter to two a blonde walked out of Sushi Para with a Louis Vuitton handbag, followed shortly by a rushed man with a steaming taquito box that cost him $1.00. A light Pekingese in a sweater meandered into the scene and in response a nearby student at Edmund Burke School commented that “There’s a lot of rich people [in Van Ness], and then there’s us and the people who go to UDC.” Perhaps the Mercedes parked next to the ever present “Road Work Ahead” sign embodies the bustling work of the area mixed with leisure, class, and Pekingese.
It is unsurprising that Starbucks would fall victim to nautical mishap: its name derives from a character in Moby Dick. From Monday, November 12th, at 8 AM, until Thursday the 15th, at 11:30 AM, the Starbucks Coffee in Van Ness, a regular haunt of Burke students and teachers alike, was closed for “plumbing issues.” A water pipe elsewhere in the building collapsed, leading to a failure of the various plumbing installations in the building. The fallout from this incident was rumored to be disastrous. The floor drains, supposedly, began to regurgitate dirty water, and Starbucks’ district manager, Lauren Esveld, would not speak in detail about the conditions in the restrooms. It will suffice to say that it was “gross.”
This calamitous event was not only gross, but inconvenient. The closure led to the loss of an estimated $10,000, and countless customers were left disgruntled and groggy. Lauren, the manager, said that they were mostly understanding, and happy to receive the free coffee that diligent employees gave out during the day. Although there was free coffee, it might have turned to ashes in some people’s mouths because it was not a Pumpkin Spice Latte, the most popular item on the menu.
Throughout the closure, customers would peer in the windows anxiously while shadowy figures moved around within, perhaps preparing to reopen, or perhaps doing something more nefarious; it was impossible to tell. The only part of Starbucks where you could see clearly what was going on was the pastry cabinet, where gloved and ungloved hands (disembodied) would reach in and adjust the pastries.
Chris Jones, a self-styled “Starbucks-aholic,” describes how difficult it is to be deprived of Starbucks. He once spent an entire year, as a New Year’s resolution, eschewing Starbucks. As soon as a year passed, Chris immediately slipped back into his Starbucks habit. Melanie Brill, a student, performed a small, joyous dance maneuver (Beyoncé inspired) when she saw that Starbucks had returned to business. Clearly, overpriced coffee deprivation is more challenging than you would expect. Any hot beverage enthusiast will assure you that coffee at 7-11 is simply not as good.
The closure is not without its benefits. One passerby admitted that they smoked fewer cigarettes because of the closure. By both addicts and dilettantes, the re-opening of Starbucks was heralded with delight.
Watching the people in line outside Burke, waiting to vote in the 32nd precinct, I noticed that almost everyone was on their Smartphone. I even witnessed one individual asking Siri who to vote for. What has this world come to when voters are making their decisions right before entering the voting booth??