Faculty/Parent Book Club Read: The Gift of Failure

Whether or not you had a chance to read The Gift of FailureHow the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey (the faculty/parent read for 2015-16), or to participate in the bookclub-style talk with the author on April 7, Canterbury Parents’ Page wants to share a few highlights from the book. It’s great that our school offers opportunities for the parent community to ponder topics and share and discuss ideas, especially in collaboration with teachers. In the interest of encouraging ongoing conversation about parenting approaches and our journey as parents and educators, we’re happy to give you a bulleted overview of some of the book’s most important points and topics.

For starters, you might want to check out what Middle School Director David Skeen says about the book on his blog. Look for three posts from last fall, which serve as reflections on his early reading of the book.

  • While it may seem counterintuitive, the theme of the book is that it is often the failures during students’ middle school years that prepare them best for the rigors and higher stakes of high school and beyond.
  • The book is the author’s own parenting approach, which she offers to help us better understand the journey to raising self-sufficient children. The book also includes a history of parenting in America from colonization through the present day in a manageable and entertaining 14-page first chapter.
  • In our campus discussion, Lahey began by sharing several relevant anecdotal stories mined from her experience as a teacher and a mother. 
  • Lahey outlines the progression from parenting as a matter of survival to the helicopter/interventionist approach of today, summarizes an argument against overparenting — a topic that is of interest to many parents today. 
  • Lahey also speaks and writes about intrinsic motivation, which she refers as “the holy grail of parenting”). She believes that we can get our children intrinsically motivated by fostering the following:
    •  Autonomy. The children of autonomy supporting parents know that their parents are there and will support them, but are empowered to do things for themselves. By contrast, directive parents (we often refer to them as helicopter parents) raise children who are paralyzed from making choices for their own lives.
    •  Competence. This is different from confidence. Competence is confidence based on experience. Essentially, our children don’t need our empty praise, Lahey argues. She references Carol Dweck, who writes about the “growth mindset.” In Lahey’s opinion, all labels (i.e- special needs, gifted, talented) create a fixed mindset. We need to praise our children for their work and effort, not the end result.
    • Connection. This primarily refers to the connection between students and their parents and teachers, and secondarily the connection between students and the content. Here are some tips from Lahey with regard to connection:
      1. Don’t put “A” papers on the fridge! Doing this emphasizes the product over the process.
      2. Learning needs to be made relevant for kids. The stuff we learn best is the stuff we care about.
      3. Parenting is like the stock market: lots of ups and downs. As parents we need to let our kids find their answers. Lahey cites author Julie Lythcott-Haims: “Our job as parents is to put ourselves out of a job.”

While these are just a few brief notes, we hope you find them useful either as a review of what you read or heard at the book club discussion or as some insight into the book in general if you didn’t have a chance to check it out. As Lahey told the parents and faculty on April 7, if you take only one thing away from The Gift of Failure, it is to teach your children to advocate for themselves.


A Closer Look Inside Phillips Chapel

This school year I started a new habit: going to chapel on Thursdays. I know, a mistake, right? Our chapel services are Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Well, honestly, it did start out that way. I stumbled in on a Thursday morning thinking, “Where is everyone, it’s Friday?!” Once I realized my mistake, I sat alone in the vast silence and stillness of our beautiful Phillips Chapel.

Have you ever sat alone in this 600-seat, 9,500 square-foot place of worship? It is nothing short of awe-inspiring and majestic. The vast space overflows with sacredness that seems to soak into you. After that first day when I sat alone by mistake, I couldn’t help but return for more precious minutes alone in Phillips to start my day: to pray, be silent, or simply sit in awe of the view.

gpFkeewUQy8EFdXi1EbC0ZZJldazWWkI125YM47ofQYWhen filled with Canterbury’s 380 students (plus faculty, staff and parents) during a chapel service in which The Rev. Nathan Finnin’s sermons may or may not be referring to fart noises or getting slimed, “sacred space” may not always be the first words that pop into your head. Also,if we are being truthful, sometimes students file in and out of the chapel without a glance towards the beautiful stained glass windows that tell stories from the Bible and hold pieces of Canterbury’s history. Such is the reality of a busy school day.

Still, we all recognize what a special gift Phillips Chapel is to our community. Dedicated and consecrated on April 25, 2003, the chapel was designed to be the school’s keystone building and is the largest Episcopal place of worship in our region. I want to take you on an inside tour of this special place, so that everyone in Canterbury’s community might have the experience that I have had and come to more intimately know this beautiful chapel of ours.

A grand gift from the Phillips family

On June 1, 2001, The Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry, Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina at the time, led a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate Canterbury’s new chapel — a gift from grandparents Kermit and Monica Phillips, who pledged a seven-figure gift to initiate the project. 

Gothic style, designed to be flexible

What the Phillips began, designers and builders brought to life. Phillips Chapel’s Gothic-style includes a cruciform design: the floor plan is in the shape of a cross. As you enter the nave, the ceiling reaches 60 feet high, the tower 90 feet. While its immense size would lead one to call the building a “cathedral,” an Episcopal place of worship is called a cathedral only if a bishop presides there. Following in the cathedral tradition, the building was always designed to be flexible in its use. This is one reason our seating features cathedral chairs rather than fixed pews. While the primary use of the chapel is worship, other uses include school special events, community concerts, lecture series, or religious celebrations such as weddings — and the upcoming Canterbury School auction, the Bayou Bash. 

Unique beauty in the details

After taking in the Gothic pointed arches and high towers, notice the vivid colors and beauty of the stained glass windows designed and crafted by renowned French artisans, De Pirey International. Several aspects of these windows are unique to Phillips Chapel. All of the windows depict stories and figures from the Old Testament (west side of the chapel) and the New Testament (east side). Over the altar is an image of Jesus surrounded by children, which is unique, as most churches depict the Last Supper or the Crucifixion above the altar. Also above the altar are pictures of three chapels: Phillips Chapel, the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., and Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, England — to show Canterbury’s connection to the larger Christian and Anglican community. 

A major decision when planning the themes for each window was to reconcile the large top window with the smaller bottom window. The Windows Committee, which consisted of Head of School Chip Bristol, The Reverend Fred Warnecke, Jr. and The Reverend Wendy Billingsley, determined the big windows would be the “macro,” the theme of the bible, and the little window would represent the “micro,” or the illustrations of the larger theme above. The concept of windows above and below echoing each other is a special aspect of Phillips Chapel.

Also unique to Phillips’ windows is the that one of our Canterbury art teachers, Molly Stouten, had a hand in their fabrication. Molly was able to travel to France and apprentice under the De Pirey artisans. In fact, she worked alongside artists in the French studio in July 2004 to help create the tower windows donated by the Berry family.  Her days included painting, etching, cutting glass, glazing and assembling, and each step was done on a window that would be installed in Phillips Chapel.

Peering into Canterbury stories

A closer look into each window tells us a bit about Canterbury’s donors. Once the theme for each window was chosen and designed, donors were invited to personalize each window. Examples drawn into the designs include family dogs, favorite flowers, the Canterbury Cougar mascot, symbols of favorite hobbies, or drawings of family members.  In one window, a mother and father chose to add seven apples to represent their son’s seven consecutive years of perfect attendance at Canterbury. Another personalization is in the Last Supper window, where you will see a small child depicted on the left. This child is Rebecca Zopatti. Her mother, Kathy Zopatti, was Canterbury’s first lower school director.  Rebecca died before she was a year old, but her spirit lives on in this window, in her memorial garden in front of Fry Hall, and in heaven.

The best view

Perhaps the best view of Phillips Chapel is from the perspective of standing outside looking in, as you gaze up above the main entrance double doors at the well known Rose Window. You see this symbol around campus, on Canterbury sweatshirts and when logging onto our website. Perhaps you think of of it when you hum the Byrds’ famous song: To Everything (Turn! Turn!Turn!) There is a Season.(Turn! Turn!Turn!)  Most importantly, the theme of the Rose window comes from Ecclesiastes, chapter three, and represents the circle of life

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Pausing to acknowledge the reverence and glory of the stained glass windows in Phillips Chapel is a form of worship itself.

The keystone building

Phillips Chapel was designed to be the keystone building of the Canterbury campus and is, indeed, the first building to capture attention when driving up to the campus. Often, I wonder about people’s first impressions of the chapel, so I asked our own Fr. Finnin. His reply:

“I was driving up N. Church Street to meet Burns Jones for the first time, and when I crossed Pisgah Church, I remember seeing the top of the chapel and thinking, ‘Surely that’s not it!’  It’s not what comes to mind when you think of a K-8 day school chapel. I was blown away not only by its beauty, but by what it represented: faith was literally and figuratively at the heart/center of the school.”

The 2016 Canterbury School Bayou Bash auction will be partly held in Phillips Chapel this year on Feb. 26th. While the announcement that the silent auction is to be held in the chapel may have surprised some at first, Father Finnin addressed concerns in a letter you may access here. We hope our Canterbury community will enthusiastically show support for the school by attending this year’s auction, and at the same time take advantage of the opportunity to experience the awe-inspiring glory of Phillips Chapel in a new way.

By Katie Huhu

Katie Hu is the parent of Brady (5th-Vogel), Maggie (3nd-McCollum) and Mason (PreK-Copeland). Her favorite part of Canterbury is the chapel and the teachers. She loves a quiet walk in the woods, yoga, and a tall glass of kale afterwards. 

Meet Aaron Shows: Composer and Canterbury Chapel Organist

“The point of the song is not to get to the last chord. The point of the song is to enjoy the music itself as it is happening.” This is Aaron Shows’ — Canterbury’s new chapel organist — advice about music and life. Aaron believes that music can offer numerous metaphors and meaning for life. This message of presence is an important lesson for all of us, young and old.  


Aaron Shows, Chapel Organist

Born in Montgomery, AL, Aaron started piano lessons at age 5 and was fortunate enough to have a teacher who fostered his love for music. He credits this teacher for his music career. 

Aaron began organ lessons as a high school student and went on to study organ at Duquesne University and Shenandoah University. He graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in church music from Shenandoah University in 2011 and in 2013 earned master of fine arts degree in film music composition from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He has vast experience playing a variety of instruments, but his favorite to play — and compose on — are the piano and organ.

What is the difference between church music and the music in your favorite movie?

They are more similar than you might think, if you ask Aaron. “Both are intended to bring the listener into the moment and guide them in ways that words can’t always do alone. Both clergy and film directors collaborate with musicians to provide appropriate music for the church service or movie.”

That is just what he does. Aaron says he enjoys working with Father Finnin because he is good humored, a good leader, and good with children. Together, they create chapel services that are a core component of our children’s Canterbury experience.

Aaron notes that he doesn’t often get to play for 400 children — as an organist he has played mostly for adults. The experience of playing and the sound itself is completely different with children’s voices.

Another new experience for Aaron is playing on the Canterbury organ. “It is very different from any that I’ve played locally, acoustically it’s much like the organs I’ve played in Germany or France.”

Aaron also works as an accompanist at Greensboro Day School and as the organist at West Market Street United Methodist Church in Greensboro. Currently, he is pursuing publishing opportunities for some of his music compositions. He is thrilled to join the Canterbury community and is looking forward to the remainder of the liturgical year.

by Emily Wilson Brenner

Version 2Emily Wilson Brenner is parent to Benjamin (PreK-Copeland/Kaplan) and Fritz, wife to Kevin, a dance artist, and an instructor in Canterbury’s PreK Afternoon Adventures. Her favorite thing about Canterbury is the beautifully inspiring outdoor space. She likes yoga, dark chocolate, and a good cup of green tea. 

Meet the Woods Family!

Rarely does Canterbury have the opportunity to welcome a new family from overseas. This school year, however, one family has joined the Canterbury community directly from England.

Kay and Anthony Woods relocated with their daughters, Olwen (4th, Stagner) and Beatrice (2nd, McIlwain) as well as their cat, Polly, to Greensboro from their home in England. Anthony, a chemist by training, was born and raised in England and works in the wood coatings industry, which has a strong presence in the Triad due to its connection with the furniture industry. Kay spent some of her childhood, as well as her college years, in the United States. She is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in Astrophysics. She has been self-employed for the last 10 years, writing books and articles for the childcare industry in the UK.

The Woods Family

The Woods Family

Upon discovering that their family would be relocating to the Triad for Anthony’s job, the Woods traveled to Greensboro to find a home and a school for Olwen and Beatrice. The Woods toured four schools.

“We all fell in love with Canterbury,” Kay says.

The Woods are thrilled with the small class sizes and the individualized attention the school is able to provide. The girls are settling in well. They enjoy school and are finding that their experience at Canterbury is rather similar to school in England.

Olwen participates in the Crazy Running club and enjoys swimming at the Greensboro Aquatic Center. She is enthusiastic about the Genius Hour Projects in which she has participated. She also was one of the winners of the Book Fair reading contest!

Beatrice has enjoyed the CBG (Caught Being Good) points, which Ms. McIlwain issues in class. Beatrice loves gymnastics and spends her extra time practicing at Tumblebees. The highlight of Beatrice’s year so far, however, has been in music class. She was allowed to teach her class an English song, along with the associated motions, titled I Am a Lighthouse. Once the class mastered the song, they performed for the entire school in chapel service.

As a family, the Woods love to go cycling and have explored the Greenway trails. They also have enjoyed the Greensboro Science Center, Country Park and the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park — as well as the lovely weather. They do miss some of the food from England, but Kay said that they are making up for that by learning to love some of the wonderful American foods to which they are not accustomed. In fact, they recently celebrated their very first Thanksgiving — complete with turkey and all the trimmings — in Ohio with Kay’s best friend from high school.

We welcome this wonderful family to Greensboro and to the Canterbury community!

by Martha Newton

martha portraitMartha Newton is a full-time mother of two and volunteer. She is new to the Canterbury community with a daughter in Pre-K. When she is not chauffeuring children or volunteering somewhere, Martha enjoys baking, sewing, and spending time with her family.

Meet Justin Stagner: 4th Grade Teacher and Bucket Man

The first time I encountered Justin Stagner was in Fry Hall on a rain-drenched morning at the beginning of the school year. He was carrying a couple of five-gallon buckets and pulling off a reasonably good rendition of Elton John singing, “Bucket Man…I think it’s gonna be a long, long time…” I still don’t know what was up with the buckets, but he struck me that day as someone who was likely a fun teacher.

Justin Stagner, 4th Grade Teacher

Justin Stagner, 4th Grade Teacher

Justin and his wife have lived in Greensboro for several years. Eight months ago, they welcomed their son, Henry, to the family. Justin grew up near Raleigh, attended Fuquay-Varina High School, then Appalachian State University. For the past seven years, he taught at Oak Ridge Elementary where he and Academic Dean Kevin Brenner were colleagues.

How does Justin describe his teaching? “I’m a pretty active guy and I like to have fun. We move around a lot (including the occasional dance break) and we definitely enjoy ourselves.

“Academically, I’m trying to work on the questions I ask, focusing on higher level thinking. I try to focus on skills that will last throughout their lives. For that reason, we do a lot of collaborating and exploring. I like to give kids a lot of responsibility; it helps them learn about the consequences of not keeping up with their jobs but also the satisfaction of a job well done.”

What have Justin’s students been doing lately? “One student redesigned our city flag and sent a letter to the mayor to explain why it should be changed. Another raised donations for a local animal charity. We even had a student filling backpacks with essentials for low income kiddos in our area. Although I think it is important for kids to be kids, I also think it’s great to give them the opportunity to make a difference in our world and watch them rise to the occasion.”

As the father of a boy, I appreciate that our kids in the lower school have the chance to learn from both men and women. I asked Justin for his take on that. One of the Episcopal values that resonates with me most is not just tolerating differences but embracing differences. I think it is important for students to see diversity in their teachers. This would include different perspectives and teaching styles but also should extend to gender, ethnicity and religious background. You may never know which student really needs a male role model in his/her life or which student needs to feel like they have something in common with their teacher. It can be a very powerful for student to see a teacher as a learner, too, and that teachers were kids at some point, just like them!”

What does he like about teaching at Canterbury? “The freedom to venture out into new territory: a new lesson, a new app, or a new project.” As Ms. Frizzle (from the Magic School Bus) says, ‘Take chances, get messy and make mistakes!’

by David Whitehead

DavidDavid Whitehead is the Distance Education Coordinator at Davidson County Community College and father to a kindergartner. The latter gives him an excuse to play baseball and ride bikes a lot.

Meet the Witherspoon Family!

From time to time, we like to introduce new families to the Canterbury community. I recently had the pleasure of getting to know one of Canterbury’s newest families —the Witherspoons. Take a moment to read about the Witherspoon family, and next time you see them on campus, say hello!
You have three lovely daughters. Please tell us about your family.
My husband, David and I have been married for almost 17 years. We have three daughters: Rachel (13), Megan (10), and Emily (8). Our oldest attends Brown Summit Magnet Middle School for Advanced Learners. Megan and Emily are both new students at Canterbury this year. David grew up in Gibsonville and I grew up in Lenoir, NC, near Hickory. While I was attending UNCG, David was also attending graduate school there.
What attracted you to Canterbury School? How are you liking the school so far?
We have many friends and fellow church members who have children attending Canterbury and we had always heard great things about it. Last winter, when we knew our girls needed something different, we visited Canterbury. Libba LaFave spent a couple hours on a very cold morning showing us around the campus and telling us all about what the students were learning. As we looked in classrooms we saw students who were engaged and excited as well as teachers who were happy and enthusiastic. From the moment we stepped on campus we felt welcomed. So far this year, we have not been disappointed. Our girls are happy and they are learning. We have all been embraced by Canterbury students, staff, and families.
Lisa and David have been married for almost 17 years. They have three daughters: Rachel (13), Megan (10), and Emily (8). Rachel attends Brown Summit Magnet Middle School for Advanced Learners. Megan and Emily are both new students at Canterbury this year.

Lisa and David have been married for almost 17 years. They have three daughters: Rachel (13), Megan (10), and Emily (8). Rachel attends Brown Summit Magnet Middle School for Advanced Learners. Megan and Emily are both new students at Canterbury this year.

 What does your family like to do for fun? Like most families, we are always on the go!!  We are very involved in our church and we love to spend time with family. We like to travel whenever we have the opportunity.

What has been your family or child’s favorite Canterbury moment or tradition thus far? 
Since we have only been at Canterbury for a little over two months, we haven’t yet had the opportunity to experience many of the traditions, but we loved the family picnic. It was a beautiful day and lots of fun. Megan has enjoyed having the opportunity to read scripture in chapel and Emily loves using the iPad. My personal favorite and a memory that really sums up our experience so far happened on the second day of school. I asked Megan who she sat with at lunch. She answered, “My group.” I thought that perhaps she meant an assigned group of students, but she answered, “No, mom. My group. You know, my friends,” and then proceeded to name them. Second day of 5th grade at a new school and she already had “a group!”
What are your daughters’ favorite things? What kinds of activities do they like? How would you describe them? 
Rachel, our 8th grader who attends Brown Summit Middle, is creative, but pragmatic. She has been taking horseback riding lessons for several years and has just started playing soccer. Like all 8th grade families, we are in the throes of making decisions about high school. Megan, our 5th grader, is a bundle of energy! She is very friendly and loves to be silly. She plays soccer and takes horseback rising lessons. She would much rather do math or put together a jigsaw puzzle than read a book! Emily, our 3rd grader, is a sweet and caring girl. She loves to spend time with her friends and, at home, enjoys playing with her dollhouse and Barbie dolls. She takes piano lessons and loves shopping.
Could you tell us about your place(s) of employment, church affiliation, etc.? David works for Honeywell as the VP of Commercial Corporate Accounts. His job involves a lot of traveling and he is often in a different city each week! After being a stay at home mom for 11 years, our church, First Presbyterian, asked me to fill in as the part time Interim Director for Children’s Ministries for a couple months. That was in February of 2014 and I’m still there!
What is your hope for your children while they are at Canterbury?
Of course we want our children to learn and have academic success throughout their school years. However, we also want them to do their learning in an environment where they feel safe, loved, and valued. We also want them to gain life skills beyond academics that will carry them through life and help them become successful adults.

by Andrea Crossley Spencer

Spencer_2014_073Andrea Crossley Spencer is a Canterbury parent to McKenna (5th-Vogel) and Kellen (PreK-Copeland/Kaplan), an author represented by Maria Carvainis agency, and cofounder of Tigermoth Creative.  She also serves as a Writopia creative writing instructor in Canterbury’s After School Fine Arts program. Her favorite Canterbury tradition is Chapel Buddies. 

Meet Lacy Castellano

PreK Teacher Lacy Castellano

“I knew Canterbury was a place I would love to be!”

Lacy Castellano graduated from UNCG in 2008 with a bachelor of science degree in human development and family studies and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in education at UNCG.

What appeals to her about teaching PreK? “The children are so enthusiastic, passionate, and motivated! I teach for the “ah-ha”moments, the times when it just clicks. They love to explore, collaborate, and create. Every day is different and exciting. I love PreK!”

Lacy is an outdoor enthusiast; she enjoys camping and hiking with her husband and their two dogs, and she loves sharing her affinity for the outdoors with her students. She looks forward to exploring Canterbury’s campus with them (so parents, be prepared for pockets full of acorns, stones, and other treasures!)

So what’s it like being a kid in her class?

“We incorporate math, science, and English language arts into each day. We take turns sharing something: something about our family, what we ate for breakfast, our favorite sport, etc., and we have an interactive learning activity. Children are given ample time for free choice in centers and outside, but we also have regular large and small group activities.  

My teaching style focuses heavily on social emotional development. Research shows that children who are better able to regulate their emotions and respond appropriately to the emotions of others are more likely to complete high school and go on to college.  Ashleah Lester and I work really hard to promote an atmosphere of mutual respect.”

As this dad knows, PreK is a new experience both for parents and kids, so I asked what advice she might have for PreK parents.

“It will be ok! I want to see your child succeed and have an easy transition into the program.  No one ‘technique’ works for all children.  Be positive, proactive, and encouraging.  Keep an upbeat, positive attitude about your child starting school, even though we know it’s hard! Be proactive in communicating with your child’s teacher. If something is going on in your family, let us know! Do anything you can to encourage your child.  That may mean sending your child with a memento from you, setting aside special time with your child outside of school, or reading books that portray school in a positive light.”

Her thoughts on Canterbury after a few months on the job?  

“Canterbury is an amazing place. I have freedom in my classroom: I can restructure my schedule or change my lesson at a moment’s notice.  At the same time, if I need support, I know I have a host of people ready and willing to help!”

by David Whitehead

DavidDavid Whitehead is the Distance Education Coordinator at Davidson County Community College and father to a kindergartner. The latter gives him an excuse to play baseball and ride bikes a lot.