Monday, January 27, 2014

The Poetry of a Boys School

Certain regular occurrences on this boys school campus might surprise you, but not in ways you would expect (you’d be surprised by your surprise, if you will). Here are just a few examples of what you might see and hear at any given moment (from least surprising to most surprising):
  1. a conversation about who will be the next Titans football coach
  2. a PIG tournament in an advisory meeting
  3. hearing bits and pieces of William Blake’s The Tyger emanating from every study area in Massey
  4. a sophomore spending his study hall outside reading Thoreau
  5. juniors addressing each other with, “Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote” and expecting some kind of response
  6. a student asking if he can read literary criticism about Kafka‘s The Metamorphosis when he finishes the novel--outside of class
  7. a freshman writing a Bell Ringer article questioning the wisdom of our donut fundraisers
  8. students discussing the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire–outside of class
  9. students having a heated debate about the fiscal cliff–outside of class
  10. a student asking if he can compose a “grammatically correct rap” about Bernard Malamud‘s The Natural to perform at the end of class

Boys just don’t do many of those things (certainly not #3-#10) in other schools. There’s a special brand of camaraderie that develops among the boys here. They’re not afraid to speak up in class; they appreciate the talents and interests of others; they can be themselves.

Friday, January 17, 2014

An English Gentleman in Big Red’s Quad

Each year MBA plays host to exchange students from around the globe. Boys from England, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, China, and Colombia climb The Hill to spend a few weeks here. After his time with us last year, a student from Eton College in England sent Headmaster Gioia a note including his overall impression of MBA. This note comes to mind now, because we've all been thinking about Mr. Tate after the Billy Tate Southern Bell Forum that was here on campus recently. See the last half of the note for a great example of Mr. Tate’s boundless influence and generosity:
Dear Mr. Gioia,
MBA is quite a school. When I first arrive it was impossible not to be impressed by such a substantial, well-equipped campus, the warm welcome and, of course, pizza every day. Having been lucky enough to stay with you for two weeks, I can say that these impressions were just the first indicators of a truly special school. The teachers within those walls showed what could be done when unfettered by the rules of national exams we enjoy in Britain: I enjoyed an interview with a Vietnam veteran and the construction of a ‘cool words list’. The boys behind that tried to make me feel right at home whilst I was on an unknown continent, and I made good friends in my two short weeks. At Eton, we rarely even know when we have exchange boys; they tend to become just another tailcoat. Yet, whenever I happened to be squinting at a campus map, perhaps held upside down, someone would always step in and show me the way. Beyond daily pizza, MBA had many great quirks: Who can beat non-stop Shakespeare and Krispy Kremes at break? Although, I can’t mention everyone here, I am truly grateful to MBA for giving me such a great experience. 
One man I must mention, however, is Mr. Billy Tate. I’ve never been the keenest sportsman, so I decided to join the debaters after school each day. The extemporaneous speaking program was great, and began to give me the confidence to speak commandingly on any topic that was thrown at me. The progress I made was only possible because Mr. Tate took so much time to help an eager British exchange student bearing only a range of bad habits picked up from excessive Parliamentary debating across the pond. Indeed, on the afternoon before he would pass away, he took over an hour and a half to talk me through how I could transfer my new skills back to British formats, and make the most of what I learnt in those two weeks. He was truly inspiring, and I am fortunate to have known him. Without his guidance it may be more challenging, but I hope the extemporaneous speaking program does manage to continue on as he would have wished, from strength to strength. 
Mr. Tate epitomized the Southern charm which would make my stay so enjoyable. When school finished, the Cole family continued to ensure that I got the most out of my time in Nashville; I was so lucky to get the chance to spend two weeks with them, and be welcomed into their family. Nashville is such a vibrant city, and I can’t think of a better place in which I could have experienced America. I truly am thankful to have had such a fantastic experience.
All the best,
Toby Tricks