Friday, May 17, 2019

How School Communities Could Be Better

by Brad Gioia, MBA Headmaster

Last weekend one of our graduates, Craig Franklin, Class of 1982, invited three of our English teachers who study Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird with their students, to see the Broadway production of the novel. Craig Franklin called me in September to see if it would be okay to fly these teachers up to New York, to house them in a hotel, and to treat them to this play. This invitation was a sensational gift. Our faculty relished the experience and loved talking about literature, the theater, and interpretations of a great novel. I reflected how much more teachers would be respected and appreciated if there were more alumni in this world who had the thoughtfulness and generosity of Craig Franklin in remembering these teachers. I thought you would enjoy some images from their time on Broadway and this article about how Jeff Daniels studied the role of Atticus Finch so that he could play his part more fully.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Mathletics on The Hill

By Matt Golenor, Chair of MBA’s Math Department

Every year, the Big Red Mathletes compete at the local, state, and national level with great success. Even though the squads completely turn over each year, our boys always perform at the top of the pack. Of course, there are very strong math students all around, and MBA does not have an exclusive hold on talent, so how is it possible that we achieve so much success? What makes an MBA Mathlete, anyway? I ask myself these questions every year as our boys consistently outperform a continually deep pool of talented students from all over. There are many reasons for our success, but three in particular come to mind

First of all, MBA students are competitive. Having a competitive spirit is not exclusive to athletics. All MBA students compete every day. When boys gain admission to MBA, they know they are entering a community that strives to be the best we can. Our boys love to work hard and are goal-oriented. Striving for excellence in academics, music, art, athletics, debate, fellowship, service, and many other elements is part of our school culture. Maybe there is not a huge crowd watching, but for our Mathletes, math contests are a way to compete for the school.

Secondly, MBA celebrates the passions of all students. At MBA, everything that students pursue is important and recognized. The general public may read about athletic teams or National Merit Scholars, but the school community goes much deeper. We value all pursuits. At MBA, being a player in the Ellington Band is just as cool as being a football player. The triumphs of the Microbe Debate Team are valued as much as the success of our Varsity Tennis Team. In that kind of community, math competitions are deemed as important as any other pursuit, so the students are empowered with the confidence to strive.

Lastly, MBA has an unbelievably talented and supportive faculty. Our teachers challenge our boys and drive them to be their best. This spirit of continual growth in all departments helps motivate our Mathletes to avoid complacency. Having such a well-rounded, demanding academic experience arms our students with the ability to think critically from multiple angles. This skill is crucial to performing in math competitions. In addition, our teachers and coaches realize that competitive academic pursuits are important to the boys and to the school. Often students will forgo afternoon athletic practice to attend contests.

Now that the die has been cast, I believe that we can safely say that MBA Mathletics has a strong and bright future. Thanks to the leadership of the teachers and administrators, MBA has a powerful culture of excellence embraced by the students. Our Mathletes are challenged, supported, and encouraged to engage in difficult situations and persevere. With such a large net of hard-working and talented students, clearly MBA Mathletics will continue to be a source of pride and honor.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

MBA Exchanges with China

by Ying Zhang

On July 17, 2017, at the Nashville International Airport, four students from Montgomery Bell Academy were welcomed by their excited parents and grandparents who had anxiously been waiting for them to come back from their trip to China. These students were Matthew Bulow (‘18), John Curry (‘19), Colin Snell (‘18), and Caleb Tolbert (‘19). Not unlike all of the previous trips, their trip to China was filled with curiosity, excitement, and unforgettable memories.


On July 3rd, after 24 hours of flight across the continents, the four students and I arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport where our new journey began. In the following three weeks, these students experienced countless interesting and unforgettable firsts, some of the most memorable ones being eating Beijing roast duck, drinking hot tea on an even hotter summer day, and eating soup dumplings with a straw.

In addition to these food-centered firsts, there were countless cultural immersions that most people only dream of experiencing. They walked on the Great Wall, listened to the stories of the emperors at the Forbidden City, and appreciated contemporary sculptures at 798 Art Zone. Each day brought so many interesting foods and intriguing places for their taste buds and curious eyes to devour. The most unforgettable experience, though, was the day the students volunteered at a local migrant school in suburban Shanghai.

A Day at Jiading

Jiading Juyuan Liuli Elementary School is a school for the children of migrant workers. The majority of these workers are farmers who had moved to Shanghai for job opportunities. Even though the parents may work at the center of one of the most developed cities in the world, their children do not have access to first-rate schools that many Shanghai children attend. Instead, they have to attend school at a small, suburban area outside the city. As an effort to bring the outside world closer to them, our MBA students partnered with World Leading School Association volunteers and spent a day with these migrant boys and girls.

In the un-air-conditioned classroom on a 101-degree day, the MBA students began to break the ice with the Shanghai children through a handicraft activity. They first learned how to weave a coaster with a special grass and then teamed up with the Chinese students to make more. Working with the thin, soft grass was quite challenging for the boys who were used less delicate endeavors such as football and tennis. However, after countless rounds of practice and sweating, they were divided into groups to teach the students how to work with the grass. The shy students’ quick glances and giggles slowly evolved into questions for the volunteers. Their now ever-flowing stream of questions covered topics from the size of the houses in Nashville, to pets, and even the hobbies of their new American big brothers. Taking out their cellphones, the MBA students began to share pictures of their families, their school, and life in Nashville and United States. After the activities in classroom began to die down, the MBA students brought the Chinese kids outside to teach them the elusive and exotic game of “Duck, Duck, Goose.” After an exhausting and rewarding day, we traveled back into the city, and Colin Snell told me that it was the most unforgettable day of his trip to China, and it strengthened his desire to come back to in the future.

Meeting with an MBA Alumnus

As the 2017 China trip came to a close, I got the opportunity to see some of the influence of the MBA Chinese program at work. The last night before we left China, we met with one of my former students, Miles Curry '14. At the time, Miles was a junior at Columbia University majoring in international economics. He had been to China five years ago, and that summer, he was doing an internship in Shanghai. Miles told the MBA students how his journey began in the MBA Chinese classroom before making its way through the Columbia lecture halls and landing him in Shanghai with one of the most incredible internships he could have imagined doing. Miles is certain that his journey is not even close to being over, and he assured his young MBA brothers they will continue their journey to China too.

Learn about our other exchange locations here.

The 2017 trip wasn't the first, and it won't be the last. Here are some pictures from other China trips:

Steve Wood '15, Jackson McCaskill '15, James Throckmorton '15, and Penn Murfee '13

John Mark Bellet '12

Penn Murfee '13

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