Guitarist and singer Chic Streetman spent several days on the Rutgers Prep campus recently as an artist-in-residence, working primarily with our Middle School students. Streetman expressed his message of positivity and connection through both word and song, and noted that in his experience, the Rutgers Prep community is graced with an unusual degree of diversity and openness.
“A lot of my work,” he explained, “ is about trying to look at who you are, working towards learning about who you are, and then feeling good about who you are. Nobody can be ‘you’ as good as you can be you! As we get older, we become more concerned about what other people think. I love working with students, because they’re open to connecting and participating; part of what I try to do is help students re-focus on who they are.”
He was fun. — Gabriel F. ‘21
I liked his unusual ways of getting us involved. He really pulled us in. — Krithvi K. ‘22
It’s cool how a lot of kids sometimes think stuff that is supposed to be inspirational is boring, but he was really fun… and he remembered kid’s names! — Harrison S. ‘22
I liked how he wouldn’t explain things ahead of time, we would just jump in and start doing things… and then later he would go back tell us what we had done. He took things we already knew and then changed it up and made it new. — Siddhi P. ‘22
His speaking voice doesn’t sound all that strong, but when he sings and plays the guitar, it is beautiful. You can tell that he loves music. And he really understands how we learn, and the connections between music and rhythm and learning! — Jamie S. ’22
On his final day on campus, Streetman performed at the Upper School’s morning meeting; much to the delight of the assembled students and faculty, he welcomed Student Council President Gita Ganti ‘17 to join him for one song. Before heading back to the west coast – Streetman makes his home in Seattle – he shared one more thought about his work. “I understand that there are always going to be positive and negative forces at work. That’s just the way life is; there has to be a balance. It’s a little bit like a seesaw. And given that… I’ve taken it as my work to try to come down as heavily on the side of positivity as possible.”
Rutgers Prep is well-known for its culture of appreciative inclusion; as a learning community, we understand that everyone learns best when they feel able to bring their complete and unique selves to the challenges ahead. Visits from artists like Chic Streetman help reinforce and reinvigorate our core values; we hope that the students and staff with whom he connected during this recent visit will continue to resonate with the powerful perspective he so eloquently shared.
Sepehr Gharavi ‘16 wasn’t expecting to be asked to help with a Middle School art class. But when the call came, he was ready.
RPS Middle School Art Teacher Susan McCloskey took in an exhibit at the Met a few years ago that included some incredibly beautiful bowls from ancient Persia, dating all the way back to the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries.
The bowls were primarily white, and in many cases the decorative element on each was created through a calligraphic inscription. After seeing the exhibit, Ms. McCloskey wanted to find a way to invite her students into that spirit of inspiration. And she remembered having a conversation with one of her students whose family origins were Persian.
When she reached out to Setareh Gharavi ‘22, the RPS sixth grader in turn recommended that the teacher reach out to her older brother, Sepehr (“Seps”) Gharavi ‘16. When Seps learned of the possible project he was immediately interested in helping. “I know how to write in Farsi, so I thought I could maybe help students develop their own designs.” Seps went to the eighth grade class and essentially took over, teaching them about Farsi, serving as a scribe, transcribing students’ names for them, and helping to translate quotes into Persian. The students then studied examples from history and created their own pieces of pottery, which were carefully kiln-fired here on campus.
“This was a cool opportunity to express part of my culture to other people, and it also gave me a chance to realize how long its been since I really used my “Persian” muscle,” Seps reflected. “In some ways it was a warning for me that I need to look for more ways to keep my Persian up to date! And then of course it was great to see the finished products and feel like I was a part of making them possible.”
Art gives us a window into lives long since past, and transports us to parts of the world that we may never visit in person. Throughout our own history, art has been a vital part of the Rutgers Prep curriculum, and sometimes, art becomes a bridge within our own community… in this case, between a classroom full of eighth-graders on the cusp of becoming Upper Schoolers, and an Upper Schooler who is himself about to move on to the next stage of his journey as a life-long learner.
Rutgers Prep is in a state of constant innovation. One example of our commitment to continual improvement can be found in our plan to roll out a new daily schedule in our Middle and Upper Schools in the coming academic year.
After reviewing the current schedule and talking about what we would ideally want from a new schedule, we drafted three different possible models and established a goal of having a new schedule in place for the 2016-17 school year. The schedule that was ultimately chosen was approved by a committee of faculty members from both the Middle School and Upper School faculty. Schedule Committee Chair Mark Nastus reports going into the process with a sense of confidence, “I thought that the faculty would do a good job of working through the pros and cons of each model, and I trusted that they would pick the model that would best serve our community. And I think it will be great to have the Middle and Upper schools more closely connected!”
Because this will be the first time that Rutgers Prep’s Middle and Upper School schedules have been completely aligned, some of the most obvious benefits of the new schedule will be greater opportunities for cross-divisional collaboration on the part of our faculty. There will also be more opportunities for student-to-student connection and mentoring across the divisions, which we are very much looking forward to taking advantage of. And we expect that as a result of their immersion in the shared schedule, Middle School students will have an increased level of comfort when making the transition of becoming Upper School students.
The Middle School will in turn be able to offer some supplemental opportunities beyond their traditional academic program, including STEAM-focused programming and opportunities for community service. The new schedule maintains the Middle School PE and sports block at the end of the day. Robert Marotto, Middle School Principal, shared, “The new schedule gives us time to try new activities while preserving academic classes that the students already value and enjoy. We’re excited to plan our school days in the new schedule.”
Band, Madrigals, and Orchestra will not conflict with the Upper School academic program, which means that students who were unable to continue with music due to scheduling constraints will now no longer be faced with having to choose between music and another desired subject.
Upper School Principal Joe Chodl says, “The new schedule is a rotating schedule with some longer class bands, which we hope will help moderate the pace of the school day and give students and faculty an opportunity to engage subjects in greater depth and breadth. In some ways, the time management skills that students will be encouraged to develop as a result of the new schedule are similar to the time management skills they’ll need to be successful in college.”
In the Upper School, we’re going from seven periods to eight, but every student will have at least one study hall period… again as a way to protect against stress. Students in the Upper School will have daily unscheduled community time which we are confident they’ll make good use of in true Argonaut fashion.
“Our schedule design is driven largely by student choice, so while we cannot anticipate fully how this will play out until our students have made their course selections, I am confident that this schedule will help us reduce conflicts in students’ course rosters, which of course would be a great thing. Because we offer such a rich diversity of classes, there will likely always be some conflicts, but even if we’re just looking at the dedicated time for music it’s clear that students will be able to access more of the wonderful classes our faculty offer,” said Mr. Domanski, the Academic Dean in charge of Upper School scheduling and registration.
We are looking forward to what we think will be a positive change for the Rutgers Prep community.