In the Classroom is a monthly newsletter to highlight all that takes place in our classrooms. Each month’s edition will share the story of a faculty member in our “Faculty Spotlight.” In addition, an in-depth look at a professional development experience will shed light on the work that happens outside the classroom in order to enrich what happens inside. Photos and narratives will give you a real sense of classroom experiences and trips that enrich our growing and varied curriculum.

October 2019

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT - Caty Bishop

Tucked in at the end of the third-floor hallway is a classroom that is anything but quiet. Our “Music Room” is much more than a space where girls sing and play music. Under the guidance of Ms. Caty Bishop, Director of Vocal Music, the girls are developing into choral scholars. In addition to their love for the arts and music, the girls’ intellect is stimulated in their careful, in-depth reading of music. Nothing about Ms. Bishop’s classroom experience resembles the “General Music” classes of the past. Her students are singers, scholars and they are known. 

Ms. Bishop was a student of music from a young age. While working at a used bookstore in high school, she regularly brought home all sorts of music theory and music history textbooks – for fun! Later, her Bachelor of Music (Voice) from Vanderbilt University and her Master of Music in Choral Conducting from San Diego State University became the foundation for her professional life in music. Her continued commitment to academic rigor is illustrated in her high expectations for her students and in her active professional life outside of school. Ms. Bishop has conducted semi-professional choirs in New York City and has sung at Carnegie Hall. In addition, she has spent the last two summers in the South of France conducting and singing professionally.

The professional growth she has experienced learning alongside her choral colleagues has had a deep impact on her inclusive, inspirational, and scholarly teaching. Walking by her classroom door, you may hear the girls sing notes of a folk song or spiritual. Her Madrigals class is currently preparing a taped version of Ukuthula, a Zulu peace song arranged by Andre van der Merwe for the International Peace Project. This week, in her Cappella Nova class, she asked the girls to respond to the following journal prompt, "Why is it important to sing/learn music from other cultures/styles/peoples in other languages? If we do this, how must we be careful that our performance is not appropriation?" Ms. Bishop’s students are clearly developing much more than their singing ability. They are being pushed to engage with the class material critically and empathically each day. 

While much of her class time is spent conducting and directing, Ms. Bishop knows that “nothing is more powerful than the ability to truly listen.” Her intentional care for developing relationships and her value of inclusivity prompted her to apply for and be named our Interim Director of IDEA Initiatives. IDEA is an acronym for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Advocacy. Similar to her approach in her classroom or when co-planning our liturgies, Ms. Bishop has jumped into this role with two feet!   She says, “I see my stepping into this new role as an increased opportunity to continue to listen to and learn from others' experiences in the world and in our community…As a multi-racial woman, I bring my own life experience, bias, and education to the table, but I am just one person. As a Japanese proverb says, ‘None of us is as smart as all of us.’ ”

In just the first month of school, Ms. Bishop has created a new structure for the faculty and staff members of the IDEA Committee to consistently meet with students who are also dedicated to its mission. In addition, she has plans to weave more regular conversations about diversity and inclusion into the fabric of everyday life at Holy Child. The school community will soon get very used to hearing her at the microphone at Morning Meeting inviting all to a lunch conversation about a current event. Other opportunities for conversation will include several affinity groups to chat with others in the community with similar backgrounds or experiences.

Whether she is teaching her Madrigals class, working with her advisees, or promoting IDEA Initiatives, Ms. Bishop enriches the Holy Child community. She clearly gives her time and talents with a generosity of spirit. She took a risk when she decided to leave her family in California and relocate to New York to pursue her career. Her personal and professional decisions to keep learning and growing are a model for the community at large. As she states, “risk-taking is the most important skill needed to make any sort of meaningful progress, especially in the arts.” Holy Child is blessed that her journey has brought her here.

IN THE CLASSROOM - The New York Historical Society

At the start of September, Dr. Brian Hoffman's American Research Seminar class that includes a small group of Juniors and Seniors, met by the clock at Grand Central on their way to the New York Historical Society (NYHS). The goal of the trip was to start a process of rigorous academic research and scholarly writing and reflection. 

After checking their bags and coats and receiving a briefing about the special rules of the NYHS, the class entered the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library where they were introduced to the archival research process by Erin Weinman, the Manuscript Reference Librarian. Surrounded by beautiful tall columns, portraits of George Washington, rare books, stained glass windows, and wide oak tables, the class gathered around a table displaying documents that were centuries old and told first-hand stories about the American experience. Students leafed through original letters from an early 19th-century physician responding to a Yellow Fever epidemic in New York City, they looked at the 1863 records of the Blackwell Island Mental Asylum, and they attempted to decipher the hand-written script of several 18th century Bills of Sale for slaves sold in New York. Each student had the opportunity to look at documents that they plan to use to develop their own original historical research paper. 

In the coming months, students in the class will return to the NYHS to continue their research and to experience—firsthand—the challenges and joys of academic inquiry, discovery, and writing. It will be an exciting and productive year for the students of the American Research Seminar!

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT - Scholastic Reading Summit

The event is hosted by Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild, and John Schumacher also known as “Mr. Schu,” Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic and the ultimate book advocate. Highlights of the event were keynote speeches by Sayantani DasGupta and Jarrett Krosoczka, both New York Times bestselling authors of books for young people. 

Hosts, presenters and keynote speakers all shared their enthusiasm for middle grade and YA books and offered strategies to engage students in independent choice reading. They emphasized access to books through school libraries and classroom collections, and modeled best practices in celebrating reading through making connections with authors. Presentations encouraged participants to imagine or reimagine what school can be when students experience autonomy in their reading lives. 

Holy Child faculty left inspired to elevate and celebrate the reading culture in our middle school. Enthusiasm from this event is evident; our librarian, Kat Sanford, has already led a read-aloud event featuring Raina Telgemeier’s new book Guts for the fifth and sixth grades. Each girl left with her own copy of the coveted new book! Throughout the summer, Ms. Sanford re-envisioned our beautiful library space and stocked the shelves with new and inspiring books. This dedicated faculty team is working to develop book clubs as well as a range of book celebrations throughout the year, including but not limited to a Newbery Celebration in January. This collaborative professional development experience is just the beginning of so much to come!