The Candy Conspiracy

By Dan Hales, STEM Teacher

I shared a casual observation with AP Statistics during the first week of school: Fun-Size packs of M&M’s feel like they have too many brown candies. This certainly felt true, but was it actually true? We decided to investigate.

The first step in getting a definitive answer was carefully phrasing our query, because definitive answers come from well-defined questions. A “maybe” would not be enough for me. We settled on: Is the percentage of brown candies higher in Fun-Size packs of M&M’s than in packages of other sizes?

In order to tell whether or not that percentage was unusually high, we recognized that we needed to find at least two pieces of data: the percentage for Fun-Size packages (the number that interests us), and the percentage for other packaging sizes (for comparison). Our class of fifteen split up into five groups of three: two groups counted Fun-Size packs, two groups counted Sharing-Size packs, and one group counted a Family-Size pack. 

All groups had roughly the same number of candies to count, but not exactly the same number. To account for these differences, we defined some terms and found the conditional distribution of color for each packaging size. This led to a discussion about the different ways we could have crunched these numbers: Why wouldn’t it answer our question to find the conditional distribution of package size for each color? What question would that have answered?

Ultimately, we found numbers that appeared to confirm my suspicion: For Family-Size packs, 13.7% of M&M’s were brown, and for Sharing-Size packs, 14.0%. For Fun-Size packs, a whopping 14.5% of M&M’s were brown.

Our analysis is far from over, however. Does this mean that 14.5% of all Fun-Size packs will be brown, or was that number unique to this group of M&M’s? Would that number change if we counted more packs of M&M’s? Does the time of year we purchase M&M’s matter? Is there actually an answer to my initial question at all?

As we continue investigating topics that interest us throughout the year, we will use these real-world questions to motivate exploring many topics, such as confidence intervals, random variables, study design, and significance testing. As we refine our methods for collecting, analyzing, and presenting data, students will be given opportunities to define, investigate, and ultimately answer their own interesting questions. I’m excited to see what they come up with!

Strengthening Our Values Through Service

By Beth O’Quinn, Experiential Learning and Service Learning Coordinator

Respect, integrity, kindness, and service. These are the core values we strive to help every Foxcroft girl develop and embrace. I have come to recognize that when our students engage in the last of these — service — they learn how to make the first three values enduring principles that guide them through life. 

Foxcroft girls have been involved in service from its earliest days. Miss Charlotte knew that it was an essential experience in helping the girls to develop an understanding heart. In the 1930’s she founded the Foxcroft Social Service to provide food, clothing, and medical services to local families in need. The organization operated until the 1960s. Much like our Banneker Buddies today, Foxcroft students in the 1930s were also going out to the local schools to help tutor in classrooms. As Foxcroft’s Experiential Learning Coordinator, I am always thinking about Miss Charlotte’s guiding mission as I look for ways to bring service opportunities to the girls that will have a lasting impact. I know these experiences will help our girls to build strong values and a great sense of self. 

In recent years we have come to use the term Service Learning, which acknowledges that through the experience of service there is much to be learned. By engaging in service the girls will gain new perspectives and learn the importance of teamwork and creative problem-solving. They will be exposed to dynamic community leaders who are guiding and inspiring their teams to solve real-world problems. This year the girls will have nearly 20 organizations to choose from as they look for ways to make a difference in our community and to learn from service. When they choose an organization or cause, they are taking the first steps in raising their awareness. I always encourage the girls to come to me with new ideas if there is a cause they want to support that has not been made available to them. I love talking to them about what they care about! 

Earlier in September, we held a weekend of service for the entire Foxcroft community. The Sophomore Class headed into Washington, D.C., along with six faculty chaperones, myself included, to work with Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP). Our first project was to cook and serve dinner to homeless Washingtonians who routinely come to the YSOP headquarters for a hot meal. The girls rolled up their sleeves, pulled on hairnets, and began to cook vast amounts of lasagna, garlic bread, stir-fried veggies, salad, and cupcakes. They then set the tables and we all prepared to serve and dine with the guests. I think everyone was a bit nervous about how the night might go. What would these people be like? What should we talk about with them? What should we share? The YSOP organizers helped us to think of topics that were easy icebreakers (sports and weather always seem to work) and advised us about a few things not to say. The next thing we knew we were eating, laughing, and playing games with a group of appreciative guests. We found that we all had some things in common that were amusing and fun to talk about. The kindness and respect that each girl showed to the guests was truly heartwarming to witness. 

After completing the work the next day, the girls were asked what they had learned from the experience. The chance to reflect and share their new insights was an important part of processing the experience. The students acknowledged that they had gained a new awareness of the vast numbers of homeless and food-insecure people in our country. They noted that to be part of the solution they needed not only to educate themselves but also to help others become more aware of the problem as well. They also realized that food and shelter insecurities are not just an urban problem but are also an issue in towns just a few miles from our beautiful campus. The girls are now many steps closer to being a part of the solution if they choose to be.

I love being a part of Service Learning with our girls. As teachers, when we serve alongside our students, we get to see them in a different light. It is a time when surprisingly good things happen. I am so proud to watch them when they work as a group of strong young women demonstrating respect, integrity, and kindness through service. 

Settling Your Glitter

By Courtney Ulmer, Assistant Head of School for Academics

This summer I found myself climbing the concrete steps to the top of a waterslide in Minneapolis with my two nephews ages 6 and 8. They had just moved there and the community pool was more waterpark than pool. My stress level was pretty high. It was slippery, and there were other children dashing past to go down the slide. I had not been on a waterslide, roller coaster, or ferris wheel in many years, and I was standing inside the back hole of a triple donut tube. As  one of us moved, we all moved. Yes, I was under some stress and feeling a little emotional but never any anxiety or feeling of fear, dread, or panic. Maybe my stress would have become elevated if I’d had more than two minutes to realize what I had gotten myself into or maybe I would have let myself become more anxious if I was not the adult in charge at the pool. Either way, after the climb up, the ride down the slide was the best part — but no, I did not go a second time!

During our opening of school, I had the opportunity to share a few words of wisdom from Lisa Damour’s new book Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, our faculty and staff summer reading which Head of School Cathy McGehee invited our families to read with us. In Under Pressure, Damour addresses stress and anxiety in teenage girls in open and honest ways. She gives advice based on her work with girls, their families, and girls school communities. I spoke about how “teenagers sometimes deal with painful feelings by handing their unwanted emotions off to their parents” (p. 52) and how often that mid-day text or phone call can leave a parent worrying all day while the student has moved on from the concern by the time the two have a chance to speak again. 

In the same chapter, Damour talks about “settling your glitter.” She explains how she employs small things — short walks, trips to the water fountain, a check in or phone call back in five minutes, or, quite literally, a shaken jar of glitter which needs to settle — before engaging an upset teenager in a discussion. For me, in the time it took me to apply my sunscreen before mounting the stairs to the waterslide, my “glitter had settled.” Damour advises first acknowledging that your daughter is upset, explaining the plan for the glitter to settle — “I will check back in five minutes and we can talk” or “let’s take a short walk” — before finally addressing what is going on. 

During the school-wide Leadership Day on September 6, students made their own glitter jars.

When building in time for glitter settling, Damour explains three things that are accomplished. Your daughter sees that you are not “frightened by her feelings,” her “rational cortex comes back on line,” and she has the opportunity to share her thoughts and feelings with her parent, teacher, advisor, or dorm parent. Last spring as I was first reading this book and taking an online class with Damour along with Assistant Head of School for Student Life Emily Johns and fellow educators from across the country, I found myself employing this technique with students in my dorm and office. By acknowledging that I was open and willing to listen and talk but was going to give them a few minutes to collect themselves first, we were able to have more productive conversations.

At Foxcroft, our girls are both at home and away from home at the same time and for teachers, advisors, dorm teams, and our health care team, the partnership we have with each family is key to each student’s success. We encourage you to employ some of Damour’s tactics in conversations with your daughter, and to keep the lines of communication open, no matter how shaken up her glitter may get.

At Trail’s End

By Alex Northrup, Director of the Innovation Lab; Department Chair, History

“Trail Blazers” — Foxcroft’s theme for the 2018-2019 school year — provides a useful metaphor for understanding the collective endeavors of our community. Faculty and students are indeed together on a journey, full of peaks and valleys (maybe with a little “trail magic” along the way), until on a beautiful Friday in May, we reach the end of the path.

To extend this metaphor, our role as faculty is to serve as guides, helping students navigate a path that can be hard, even treacherous at times. The terrain that we are crossing together is not only the academic disciplines we teach, but also the social and emotional skills necessary to emerge at the end of the trail as a healthy adult who will contribute to the world around them. As former Foxcroft Academic Dean Ann Leibrick noted, “Everything we do is curriculum;” this journey continues in the classroom, in the dorms, on the athletic fields.

One of my own guides as a teacher is John Dewey, an educational philosopher and reformer who worked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He wrote that the role of the teacher is to induce a “vital and personal experiencing” for their students. What he meant was teachers need to connect their subject matter in a direct and individual way to the experience of each of their students. To rephrase this in the language of our metaphor, each student should feel that they are blazing their own unique trail through a wilderness that, though traveled by generations previously, is new and urgent for her.

What Dewey was trying to convey was that handing your students a map and asking them to memorize it is not teaching; though this may be common practice in schools across the country, it is not truly educational. Authentic learning happens only when students find their way — blaze their trail — and create their own, personal maps of the peaks, the valleys, and the summits.

Institutionally, we can find Dewey’s influence in two of Foxcroft’s promises: “Unique learning experiences in and out of the classroom,” and “An uncommonly beautiful setting in which to learn, grow, and thrive.” As a school, our role is to create the environment for growth to take place, to help guide our students as they come to see themselves as trailblazers. As a teacher, bridging that gap between child and curriculum — finding ways to create Dewey’s ‘personal experiencing’ for the many different students that come through our doors — is a joyful challenge — one that makes my own journey vital and never-ending. Though we have reached the end of the path for the class of 2019, new territories are always on the horizon for future Foxcroft trailblazers — and for their guides.

Entering “The Reading Zone”

from Director of Audrey Bruce Currier Library Maria Sogegian

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
― Oscar Wilde

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R. R. Martin

Summer. A word evocative of feelings of joy and freedom, of rest and relaxation, of travel and adventure… until, for some, they think of summer reading. Summer reading, anticipated by some, dreaded by others. We recognize and value the importance of summer reading and this year, we intend to bring more of our students into the realm of anticipation and satisfaction with their summer reading by giving them choice in their selections.

As an institution, we recognize the role reading plays not only in the intellectual and academic development of our students, but also in their emotional growth. Our success is measured by students who continue to grow, learn, share, and contribute throughout their lives, and reading is vital for this growth. How can we positively impact the attitude of our students toward reading? By providing choice.

In Comprehensible and Compelling: The Causes and Effects of Voluntary Free Reading, researchers Stephen Krashen, Sy-Ying Lee, and Christy Lao describe how academic literacy, the highest level of literacy, is developed by:

  • hearing stories,
  • self-selected recreational reading, and
  • specialized reading in an area of deep personal interest.

Although choice reading is often light reading, their research indicates “extensive evidence shows, however, that self-selected reading results in substantial development of reading ability, writing ability, vocabulary, and grammar.” The research team also found ESL students experience a stronger effect on language and literacy skill development when permitted to choose reading selections instead of assigned reading.

Encouraging self-selected reading is in support of and in addition to the assigned reading which occurs in the classroom environment. Mark Edmundson, the NEH/Daniels Family Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Virginia and author of Why Read?, discusses the impact on multiculturalism through reading literature. He states, “Never have we had a chance to learn so much from the study of others. . . And some texts that initially seem embodiments of pure difference will turn out to be exactly the ones that future students respond to with a shock of recognition.” 

Edmundson acknowledges a student that we may expect to respond to the work of Virginia Woolf rather finds Chinua Achebe sees the world as it is. Encouraging choice provides the opportunity for students to see the world through a variety of lenses and, as Edmundson states, “Once we’ve opened up the possibility of direct literary connection—connection with great authors in search for truth—all sorts of marvelous and unexpected meetings of mind become possible.” Foxcroft School will continue to educate our students through the study of literature in the classroom to allow rich discussions of ethics and metaphysics (How should we behave? What are we doing here?) as examining these questions through stories brings clarity.

Choice reading is in support of our study of literature in the classroom. Especially during the summer, we encourage and promote choice reading as it provides our students the opportunity to enter “the reading zone,” defined by Donalyn Miller as “the complete absorption that occurs when reading is compelling” (The Book Whisperer, Reading in the Wild). Deep absorption and compelling reading aid students in their self-understanding so that they may discover their interests.

Numerous studies positively correlate reading during childhood and adolescence with later success as an adult. Choice reading improves attitudes toward reading and makes reading more compelling. By encouraging and supporting choice in our summer reading, we are providing our students the opportunity to know more and increase their practical knowledge through reading on topics of interest to them. We want them to enter the reading zone, become compelled to read, and read across a wide range of topics to enable them to realize their full potential, find their genuine interests, and develop the competence to develop their unique voice and pursue these interests. By combining choice reading and assigned readings in the study of literature, we develop the whole reader: a person who reads for personal enjoyment and satisfaction along with developing a better understanding of themselves and their world. Please join us in reading this summer and enter the reading zone!

Languages Coming Alive: The Power of Full Immersion

by Esther Sánchez, Chair of the World Languages Department

Last April 27, my colleague Vilma Riestra and I attended a wonderful conference at the University of Lynchburg, Enlazando Lengua y Cultura (Connecting Language and Culture). It was sponsored by the University of Virginia’s Center for Liberal Arts with funding from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

There were three different presenters talking in Spanish about music, documentaries, and poetry. The content of the presentations was very enriching and sparked many conversations on our way back to school. But a topic that Sra. Riestra and I talked about repeatedly during the three and half hour ride was the fact that we had spent the six hours of the program surrounded by Spanish, our native tongue, and how wonderful that felt. If we, native Spanish teachers, need to hear our own language and it makes a huge difference in how we value the information that is being presented to us, we can only imagine the impact that full immersion has for the students taking our courses.

We take pride that French and Spanish classes at Foxcroft use the full immersion method (using the target language in the classroom 90% or more of the time is considered full immersion). This method might be a bit intimidating at first, especially for beginners, but once they get used to it, it becomes second nature. I enjoy hearing both languages as I walk the hallway of the second floor of Schoolhouse, and even more when it is our girls doing the talking.

I asked a few of my students about their thoughts regarding full immersion. I know it is good for them. But, what do they think? These are a few of the common themes I heard as they shared their views: “It helps me better understand native speakers;” “It has helped me with my pronunciation, not just with the writing;” “It makes me feel more comfortable and confident talking to others;” “It makes Spanish come more naturally to me so that I am not translating in my head. And sometimes I speak in Spanish without realizing it;” “Before coming to Foxcroft I just read words. Now, I know how to sound them out and use them in a conversation, and if I can’t remember the word, I can explain it;” “I enjoy being involved in the culture.”

Of course, all of those comments were music to my ears because this is exactly what we try to accomplish. There is something, I daresay, magical, when language and culture come together as one. After all, separating them would be like trying to pull apart the two sides of a coin. The two parts make it whole.

Another aspect of the immersion method that I enjoy is that the target language is not used only in the classroom. We talk to our students in Spanish or French in the hallways, the Dining Hall, and the dorms — and they greet us back or hold conversations as well. About a week ago, a few students and I ate at a Mexican restaurant. All the way from the School to the restaurant and back they spoke in Spanish. They also used it to order and to talk throughout our meal. When the owner of the restaurant and I introduced ourselves and did the formal greeting or when they saw that the food they ordered matched what they had requested, they were able to see that this is not just something that we practice in class for the sake of it.

Having a natural, meaningful conversation in an authentic situation makes a huge difference in how a language is acquired. Of course, it is impossible to be in such real life situations that offer opportunities to use a different language all the time. This is why we become creative in the classroom and try to recreate a variety of scenarios.

Connecting language and culture makes any language come alive. And this is how Sra. Riestra and I felt during that conference. I am thrilled to see that our students also appreciate and value being surrounded by the sounds of French and/or Spanish.

¡Hasta la vista!

Oh, How Times — and Foxcroft Athletics — Have Changed

By Matthew Mohler, STEM teacher and multi-sport coach

I remember how a year ago we had grass fields behind the gym. We had an upper field for soccer and a lower field for lacrosse. Before that I remember when we had a flag pole between those two fields. And before that, I remember home plate for the softball field being in the far left corner of the upper field, with the right field foul line next to the woods.

Across from Stuart Hall, our newest dorm, we currently have a field often traversed by riders on their way to the stables. That field once had tennis courts on it. What I remember most about them are the lumps, valleys, cracks, and water. Turns out the courts were sitting over artesian wells.

And then there was the gym itself. It was pretty much a basketball court and an office. The “athletic center” was a bench, a bar, and some loose weights. And the “training room” was the AD’s office, some tape, and a bucket for fetching ice.

Back in those days rain forced softball to practice indoors not only on the day of rain but often, for many days thereafter. On top of that, every team would have to horse trade for limited time on the basketball court when it was too cold or wet outside. And tennis — forget about it. The courts were becoming virtually unplayable even in good weather.

How times have changed.

Just the other day, we had a huge cloud burst. The dirt field for softball turned into mud. What happened? Rainout? Nope. Postponement? Nope. We hosted a game on our new turf field.

If you haven’t seen these fields, they are truly amazing: Two full-size fields suitable for field hockey, soccer, and lacrosse, that include the softball diamond. Surrounding the huge expanse is a three-lane asphalt track.

This is just the latest in an impressive run of sports facility upgrades I’ve witnessed. Tennis? Moved and improved, the beautiful blue courts can handle four singles and three doubles matches simultaneously. Gone are the lumps, valley, cracks, and water.

And the gym. It’s now a state-of-the-art facility. The old basketball court was updated with a new floor, new baskets, and a sound system. The Mary Louise Leipheimer Gym, aka the “double box” allows for three simultaneous full-court basketball games, not to mention volleyball, and has an indoor track where 12 laps make a mile.

The fitness center is a thing of beauty with ellipticals, treadmills, free weights, and every machine imaginable. And the training room is as good as any I’ve seen.

I can honestly say these facilities have transformed the way we think about and conduct athletics at Foxcroft. Our new fields are always ready and playable. We don’t have lumpy terrain with the occasional rock. We have a surface that is level, smooth, easy on the legs, and downright beautiful. When we head out to practice or compete we head toward fields that are fun to play on. Like the tennis courts and gym before them, they instill pride. One could say they are a dream come true.

Try the Arts — and Find Your Whoa! Moment

By Eric Dombrowski, Fine Arts and World Languages faculty

As the Festival of Arts approaches, or really by the time this is published has past, I’ve been thinking about arts in schools, the importance of the arts, and how the arts have influenced my own life.

Honestly, I’m not interested in whether or not students go on and study the arts in college. I’ve had students at Foxcroft pursue higher degrees and that’s awesome, but not the end game. That’s kind of an odd statement coming from someone who holds multiple degrees in music performance.

I truly believe Fine Arts are so important to developing soft skills: discipline, nuance, communication, self awareness, confidence, and many other characteristics. One thing I love about the Festival of the Arts and the musical — this year the show was Legally Blonde —  is that students come out their shells and try something, anything new. That’s the point. Go ahead and try something. Go fail. Go be successful. Be proud. Be confused. It’s okay. Some of the greatest moments in my concert history were the “Whoa, HAHA, let’s not have have that happen again,” paired with, “Whoa, that was incredible!”

I was talking to a student performing in Legally Blonde and she shared with me her experiences of being in the musical and why she signed up. I was very curious about the why, as every individual, including myself, has our own story and journey.  

Interestingly enough, it wasn’t “I like to act,” “I wanted to learn to be actress,” or “I want a career in the arts.” The reason was, “I know down the road no matter my career, I will have to stand in front of people, present, and communicate clearly. I wanted to challenge myself and overcome the fear of being in front of people. Hopefully, in the end I will be more confident.” As we flushed out the conversation, it became clear that arts weren’t a professional goal. There wasn’t any interest in performing at Carnegie Hall or grandiose dreams of world tours, but through the arts and specifically the musical, she chose to better herself and the community.  

Why are the arts important in schools? How does one build confidence and discipline? How can we better ourselves and challenge ourselves and be successful outside of our comfort zone? As someone who has navigated the world of Fine Arts, first as a student and now as a teacher/performer, I have experienced the stress, discipline, peer review, public review, and being my own worst critic. I happen to make music. In the end, though, I continue to grow as a person and a professional. This is why we wake up in the morning, because by the evening we have hopefully bettered not only ourselves, but also the community we live in.

I want every student to give it a try. Go ahead and enjoy the arts. There really is only rule: Give it your best and enjoy the journey. Go find your own “Whoa . . .” moment.  

Student-Driven Initiatives: Who’s Really in the Driver’s Seat?

By Josie Ross, Assistant to the Office of Student Life

At Foxcroft I wear many hats: Lead Dorm Parent, Climbing Coach, weekend duty team manager; however, one of my most rewarding hats is advisor to the Student Activities Committee. This Committee is made up of eight students (two representatives from each grade) who are chosen as freshmen and then remain on the committee until they graduate. With support from the Office of Student Life, these students are charged with curating the weekend experience for students at Foxcroft.   

A few years ago, during one of our weekly Activities Committee meetings, much to my dismay, I discovered that I am, in fact, “old” and no longer on top of the latest teen trends. Shocking, I know, but it wasn’t something that I had actively considered. The effect, though, was that this realization, once made clear, opened the door for a candid conversation about what we could do to freshen up the weekends. In fact, this conversation became a pivot-point for Activities. No longer would we utilize a kind of copy-and-paste planning method. Instead, we would reboot to a truly student-driven approach to our weekend planning.  

The members of Activities decided they needed more student voices in the planning of their three biggest events: the Winter Mixer, Semi-Formal and Junior/Senior Prom. So, they decided to open up their membership and three additional committees were formed, chaired by members of the Activities Committee. These committees are open to any student who wants to join and who would like to contribute to student life at Foxcroft.

However, it quickly became clear to me that student-driven does not mean student-executed. In fact, in the beginning, a student-driven approach meant a lot more work for me. I spent time nurturing hard skills like creating meeting agendas, vetting email communications, and reviewing whether or not school-wide announcements were informative enough, energetic enough or even appropriate. I spent, and still spend, even more time on soft skills. We discuss how to effectively delegate, what a student should do when her friend on the committee isn’t following through on those delegated tasks, and how to do self check-ins to make sure that one leader isn’t picking up all of the extra work.

At times, this extra effort doesn’t seem worth my while. But then I see a pair of juniors, during dance breaks at our winter mixer, patrolling the hallway to make sure the decorations they spent weeks planning are still intact. I see the frustration and a new perspective gained when a student committee head is the person who gets let down when their committee member doesn’t follow through. I see the relief and satisfaction after an event is over and a student’s classmates are still raving about it on social media a week later. I see my initial time investment flourish in the growth these leaders experience when they are fully invested in the ups and downs of an event and its planning. And, even as my committee heads internalize these lessons and are ready to “drive the car,” I remain in the passenger seat as the instructor and advisor, with words of encouragement and my foot hovering over the brake. Just in case.

In My Students’ Shoes

By Rebecca Wise, Director of International Student Services

Last week, I did a grammar activity with my Advanced English as a Second Language students to review the past perfect tense. I put up photographs from my Spring Break and they called out sentences starting with “Before Spring Break, Ms. Wise had never….”

I started with a photo of an airplane screen showing our route over the Arctic Circle.

“Before Spring Break, Ms. Wise had never flown over the Arctic Circle.”

Next was a photograph of Cathy and Read McGehee smiling over a kimchi pancake in a Seoul street market.

“Before Spring Break, Ms. Wise had never eaten street food in Korea with Mrs. and Dr. McGehee.”

It went on: Ms. Wise had never ridden a gondola in a traditional Shanghai water village with Sabrina and her family; had never gone shopping in a narrow Beijing hutong with Florence, Maya, Finy, Catherine, and Claire; had never walked the Great Wall. She had never met her advisee Maya’s mischievous little brother and had never spoken with so many amazing Foxcroft alumnae who could tell touching, funny stories and about life as an international student at Foxcroft “back in the day.” 

It was fun, doing this grammar activity in my classroom with the very girls I had traveled to visit over break. Just a few days earlier, we had been eating rose cakes and drinking tea together, browsing Chinese folk art, walking past Joseon-era palaces in Seoul, and driving around Beijing to see the Forbidden City lit up at night.

I have been teaching international students for more than ten years. I am well-versed in the things students find confounding and frustrating about American culture. I have fielded countless questions and cases of homesickness. But this trip to Seoul, Shanghai, and Beijing was the first time I had the opportunity to really step into my students’ shoes and let them be the teachers.

There were moments of discomfort, and I leaned on the students for help. I was constantly asking the girls questions like “is there meat in this?” and “what does that sign say?” and “can you call me a taxi? Can you like, tell the driver exactly where to take me?”

The students rose to the challenge with grace. They, and their parents, were wonderful hosts. Thanks to their hospitality, we had unforgettable experiences and lots of incredible meals. Cathy and I felt connected to our alumnae and parents in China and Korea in a totally new way, and we cannot wait to return and see more of our Foxcroft family in Asia. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to represent Foxcroft on this trip, and I am grateful to have had such an exciting Spring Break.

More than anything, though, I am grateful for those moments of helplessness, when one of my students had to guide me through a menu, jump in a taxi with me so I wouldn’t get lost, or explain a plaque at a museum so I could learn something new.

I never want to forget how brave our girls are for leaving everything they know at age 14 and immersing themselves in a new language and culture. My travels over break took only a fraction of the courage our international girls demonstrate when they choose to make Foxcroft their home for four years. I am grateful for the reminder, because it helps me do my job better and strengthens our international student program.

When we got back to school last week, the girls gave me knowing nods in the hallways: they knew that, for once, I was as jet-lagged as they were — head pounding, desperate to curl up in bed. I was miserable, and I was so grateful.