Good to Go Blog
At St. John's, good knows no bounds. It's greater than great academics. Here are snapshots of what it means at the Prep. Something amazing happens when you're open to good!
Throughout the application and decision-making process, prospective students and their families often ask what it’s like to be a student at St. John’s Prep. We welcome each and every inquiry. Here are answers (with a little help from current students) to three questions that parents and their sons consistently ask. Curious to learn more? Visit our admissions page for more information!
Q: How has the academic workload at the Prep compared to your previous school, and have you felt like supports were in place for you to handle any uptick in workload?
A: “The workload was one of the immediate challenges I faced at St. John’s,” says senior Griffin Atkinson. “Coming in as a freshman, it was certainly more work than I had dealt with at my middle school. However, freshman year teachers do a great job easing you into the high school mindset and I was able to come up with a good system of time management early on. The workload increases throughout the year and throughout each grade, but it happens quite gradually. Only in looking back after junior year did I realize that my workload had actually increased that much since freshman year. All in all, I would say it’s certainly an adjustment from middle school to high school, but St. John’s makes the process very manageable for new students and everyone seems able to figure out a system that works best for them.”
Q: What were you worried about entering the Prep that turned out not to be a thing, and how is it different from how you thought it would be?
A: “What I was most worried about coming into the Prep was that the culture of the school would be too focused on athletics,” says senior Mike Low. “I knew that the Prep had a great reputation in sports, but as someone very interested in math and science, I was worried that my passions would not be treated as seriously. Instead, I was met by a huge community of others with like interests. During freshman year, I was able to join the science league team, robotics team, math team, and chess team, all of which were viewed and treated just as seriously as any sport. The Prep has a massive number of activities students can take part in, and does a great job at making sure all interests are equally valued.”
Q: How do the religious and spiritual aspects of attending a Catholic, Xaverian Brothers Sponsored School manifest themselves on a day-to-day basis, especially for people of all faiths?A: “The Prep has a strong sense of faith, and it has a great way of intertwining faith with how you live,” says junior Arthur Thu. “For example, Campus Ministry is one of the strongest manifestations of faith at St. John’s, and it’s really all about working to serve the greater good.” “The Prep works very hard to instill important values necessary in any young person, such as compassion and humility,” adds Low. “The spiritual side of the Prep is one that can appeal to people of all faiths equally, and is immensely valuable in the development of the character of its students.”
Everybody benefits from hitting the reset button, and the holiday break is one of those times in the school calendar to do just that. So, does that mean walking away from all the hard-earned lessons of first semester by taking up residence on the family room couch, or playing Fruit Ninja for two weeks? That would probably be suboptimal.
We’ve tracked down some simple suggestions on how to keep what we learned as individuals and as a community these past few months at the front of our minds while still having fun over break. Four experts right here on the Prep campus were happy to offer their advice on how to stay sharp throughout a festive school vacation but still be ready to hit the ground running when you return.
- “Take advantage of the break to recharge your body, your brain, and your energy for school,” says Stacy Banos, the Prep’s assistant principal for academics for grades 9 and 10. “This is a great time to assess what has worked for you so far (study methods, organizational habits, etc.) and set goals for when you return to school. Maybe you haven’t joined a club or activity yet—it’s not too late! In addition, while there’s lots of fun to be had over break, try your best to still get a good night’s sleep and stick to some semblance of a routine. This will make returning to early mornings and long days less shocking.”
- “Commit yourself to finding a balance between working out and working in,” says Steve Brown, director of wellness at the Prep. “We all know the benefits of exercise and movement to our physical and emotional health, but equally as important is our ability to purposefully recharge by shifting our focus to recovery. Taking the time to journal, practice mindfulness, or explore activities within the overall domain of wellness—spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional, physical and aesthetic—can provide opportunities for enhancing connections to our inner world.”
- “Read something for fun,” says St. John’s Writing Center coordinator Meghan Perry. “Select a book or article that interests you and that you’d never read for class. It will keep your mind active, but it will not feel taxing. Sort through your binders or backpack and organize your materials, too. Ditch the paperwork you don’t need. The mere process of looking at old material will serve as a mini-review, and you can get yourself re-organized. Lastly, set some goals for the end of the quarter. Look at where you stand now and where you want to be by January 19th. This way, you will come back more focused in the New Year.”
- “My advice for staying sharp over Christmas break is to read and to meditate,” says Dr. Mark McManmon, the Prep’s assistant principal for grades 11 and 12. “Finding 45 to 60 minutes a day to read a book for pleasure, and then finding another 15 to 20 minutes to meditate, are great ways to stay energized. I would encourage students to pick a fun book that they will enjoy and then build that reading time into the structure of their day. Maybe it’s the first 45 minutes of the day after waking up, or perhaps it is the last hour before going to bed. A little bit of time each day leads to big results. I’m also a fan of meditation, even if it’s for a short period of time each day. I find it helps me be more thoughtful and reflective. It may sound like a big commitment to do both of these activities each day, but doing this for two weeks will definitely help students stay sharp and well prepared for the return to school in January.”
The emphasis on learning by doing is at the core of the educational experience at St. John’s. Students’ understanding of a topic deepens when they have the opportunity to explore across disciplines with a hands-on approach to learning.
Here are three terrific examples: Two from the Middle School that demonstrate sustained student engagement beyond a bell-to-bell classroom period, and another from the high school that emphasizes active, experiential and firsthand execution of a lesson plan.
The Middle School Art Department has implemented cross-disciplinary units with the Social Studies Department as well as both the Spanish language and Computer Science departments.
Grade 8 students have created a boldly colorful, mixed media portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. using techniques they learned in art class: tinting, shading and shellacking. As the portrait began to take shape, their peers in social studies classes, in the midst of a module exploring the Civil Rights Movement, chose specific song lyrics, quotes, and words representing the values and ideals of MLK. Working in close collaboration with their peers in the art class to achieve an overall aesthetic, social studies students then augmented the art installation by applying the prose as a border for the mural.
Meanwhile, Spanish language students in Grade 8 are using iPad technology to reinterpret works of art by six Latin American and Spanish painters. As part of their study of Spanish culture, students explore the artists’ styles, motivations and backgrounds, while in art class, they filter, crop and manipulate their chosen artist’s painting or drawing using two different apps (PS Express and Photoshop Mix) to produce their own reinterpretation of the work of art, documenting the goals and trajectory of their project within their digital art portfolio. Students sustain and reinforce the project across a third discipline by creating a digital presentation about their composition in computer science class using an app from the Adobe Spark suite. In the near future, students’ digitally transformed artwork will be reproduced as ceiling tiles to adorn the school’s classrooms and hallways.
In the high school English Department, freshmen read “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the author who created Sherlock Holmes). To reinforce classroom discussion of dialogue, setting narrative arc, and first-person narration, students are challenged to create their own “missing manuscript pages,” imagining that a two-page, single-spaced scene has gone missing from the novel. Attempting to capture Doyle's writing style, voice and imaginative habits, students are asked to craft a scene that could be seamlessly inserted into the pages of the original work.
For his part, English teacher Jay Pawlyk ’91 is a big believer in this experiential approach. “Some of these student pieces submitted this fall read as if Doyle himself had written them,” he reports.
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