If you visit Notre Dame during normal school hours you’ll find yourself in the thick of things wherever you go. Every corner of the school hums with activity and there’s an urgency to every task. After hours the school has an entirely different vibe. It’s quieter, which is not to say dull. Still, walking the halls of Notre Dame after 3PM allows you to notice things you rush right by during the course of a busy school day. It gives you a chance to see what the girls have been up to recently and what’s being planned for the days and weeks ahead. It also gives you a real sense of the dedication of the faculty and staff, on display even when no one is looking. I poked around NDP a couple of late afternoons recently and here are just some of the people I encountered and things I observed:
As I pulled up to the front of the school, I saw the track and field team at a distance, working out on the lower parking lot and fields just past the old convent. The coaches were running a few difficult drills. Some of the girls practiced pole vaults and hurdles: gangly but game at the beginning of a new season. Others jogged in a pack for a cross-country trek through the NDP woods. All of them good sports if you ask me, as it was only early March and still pretty cold out.
Inside, 2 little middle schoolers scampered through the lobby on their way back to the swimming pool from the dining room. I say “back to” because they were dressed in wet bathing suits and caps and wrapped in damp towels. Not a scene you’re likely to see during normal hours. I recognized one of them as 8th grader, Halle Regan, president of the middle school Spirit Club and captain of the recent ‘Dodgeball for Love’ event.
“Hello, Halle! What’s going on down there?” I asked, pointing in the direction of the pool from which the sound of music and splashing echoed down the hall. Halle and her friend stopped politely in their tracks and turned to address me.
“Synchronized swimming practice,” Halle explained, as she pulled the towel tightly around her shoulders.
“Every team in this year’s program will perform to a song with ‘love’ in the title,” she continued, as she pulled the corner of the towel to her mouth. “We’re performing to ‘Tainted Love,’ she shared confidentially and then sucked on the corner of the towel, waiting to be further engaged or dismissed. I took advantage of the opportunity and asked:
“How did ‘Dodgeball for Love‘ go?”
I thanked Halle for her detailed report, watched as the two of them padded down the hall towards the pool, and then headed in the opposite direction. As I wandered the now empty hallways, I passed:
The Director of Communications, Cami Colarossi, sitting in her office, calmly putting out a communications fire without drama or fanfare. She was just handling it with professionalism and aplomb, as she always does. She gave me a quick wave as I passed by, then went back to the crisis du jour. Thanks to Cami, crisis averted.
Just beyond Cami’s office I came upon:
Upper Level Vice Principal, Al Bianco – usually seen patrolling the halls during the day – now quietly sitting in his office, working on the course schedule for 2013-2014.
Math teacher, Chrissy Connelly, sat alone in an empty classroom in the West Wing preparing lessons for the coming weeks. She had to plan a little bit further ahead than usual because she will accompany a delegation of NDP girls on their annual Easter trip to El Salvador this year. After the lesson plans, Chrissy still had some work to do as the faculty moderator of the Student Council before heading home.
On the opposite side of the building, in the East Wing, engineering teacher Patrick Cusick, along with some volunteers from local architectural and engineering firms, worked with a handful of NDP students on an exciting, new project: a student designed Olympic Village, which they will enter in a statewide architecture and engineering contest later this spring.
In the old gym, the middle school lacrosse squad ran drills while outside the varsity squad practiced on the new turf field.
As I continued to wander, I passed bulletin boards advertising upcoming events for the Spanish Club and CCAP and one highlighting the recent middle school production of The Little Mermaid. I also passed a rather disturbing Forensic Science bulletin board, complete with crime scene tape, reporting the “murder” of science teacher, Molly Macek, and recruiting students to help solve the “crime.” I can only assume (hope) Ms. Macek is a willing participant in this project. Downstairs, and just outside the Director of Service,Steve Pomplon’s door there was a sign up sheet for Camp Umoja, as well as info on this year’s Habitat for Humanity service project in Mississippi. Throughout the school, flyers were posted advertising “Tug Me Knot” hair ties, a real product sold by the Economics class as part of a project to learn about the stock market. Not only can students buy the product, they can also buy shares in the company. The profits will then be distributed among the shareholders at the end of the project.
And, of course, artwork was on display everywhere:
Peking Opera Masks; t-shirts with personalized logo designs; customized Coats of Arms, paintings, drawings, photography, and more.
As I wrapped up my self-guided tour, I ran into three 6th graders who were just coming in off the tennis courts. After showing me how to set my I-Phone back to camera from video (something I could not figure out myself), they very kindly posed for me. Thank you, Jenna, Maya, and Kelsey.
By now it was about 5:30 and time to head home myself. Certainly, there could not be many people left in the building at this hour. Not so. As I rounded the corner to the front lobby, I ran into middle school Language Arts teacher, Sharon Moser. Besides teaching Spanish, French, and Latin, Ms. Moser is the moderator of the middle school Scrabble Club, a pet project of hers. Ms. Moser is a Scrabble fanatic.
“How’s that working out?” I asked her.
“Great! We’ve got a major competition in Washington, DC in a few weeks!” she responded in her signature, exuberant way. When further pressed however, she admitted having to compete with all sorts of other extracurricular activities for practice time. Not one to give up easily, she told me about a deal she struck with some of her Scrabble recruits.
“A lot of them play tennis now. So I told them, whenever tennis is rained out, instead of going home, come to my classroom and we’ll practice Scrabble during that time.” Where there’s a will…
Always thinking. Always planning. Making every minute count. I get the impression that no one at NDP ever just “calls it in.” And it shows. Even when no one is looking.