Head of School’s Blog

Auction Time – “Take Me Out To The Game”

In the fall of 1995, after what has been described as “several years of debate,” the TDS Board of Trustees decided to hold an auction. Patty McClendon and Sharon Myers chaired the first event, titled “Champions at the Speedway,” which took place at Croasdaile Country Club. Generating a profit of $12,000 (which far surpassed the $5,000 goal), the first auction was hailed as a smashing success.

Now celebrating its 23rd anniversary, the TDS Auction remains both a wonderful community event and, along with the Annual Fund, the primary fundraising mechanism for the school. This year, Tammy Fox, Kelley Keats, Kristen Pavlicek, Sabrina Schneider and their team of volunteers invite you to join us at the Rickhouse in Durham on Saturday, March 3rd at 6:30 for the “Battle of the Blues: Take Me Out To The Game.”

Interested in watching your Heels or Devils take to the hardwood in the fiercest rivalry of the year? Don’t have a ticket to Cameron (currently $1,700 and up on StubHub)? No problem! Come watch with your friends while bidding on fabulous items and priceless teacher experiences. Click here to purchase your tickets now! As an extra incentive, the class with the highest percentage of tickets purchased by February 15th will earn an ice cream party, and their teacher will win a spa gift card!

Funds raised at the auction directly support the school’s operations this year. Specifically, auction proceeds allow us to attract and retain an outstanding faculty and staff, support athletics, technology and the arts, continue to upgrade our facilities, provide professional development for our teachers, and much, much more.

In recent years, the Fund-A-Cause has become an integral component of the auction, with donors raising their paddles in support of a specific initiative. This year, I am thrilled to announce that Fund-A-Cause dollars will go toward the construction of an outdoor eating area and classroom. With most TDS grades eating lunch outside each day, this new structure will improve the lunch experience and also provide a flexible space for classes to meet outside.

The TDS Auction has generated many wonderful memories over the years. I sincerely thank all of you who have donated time and items thus far, and I encourage you to join us on March 3rd. Come dressed in your favored blue, enjoy a delicious meal with friends, bid on a fabulous experience with your child’s teacher, and raise your paddle to support the creation of an outdoor multi-use space at TDS. Click here to learn more about the auction. Sponsoring a teacherto attend the Auction is also a wonderful way to support the faculty and the school. I hope to see you at the Rickhouse!

Those who consider themselves true fans of the greatest rivalry in all of sports should take the quiz below. Submit answers to Doug Norry. A winner will be announced on March 3rd.

  1. UNC has played in how many NCAA Final Fours?
  2. Coach K notched his 1000th career victory against what opponent?
  3. Before leading UNC to 879 wins, Dean Smith played basketball at Kansas. Who was his college coach?
  4. Who passed the ball to Christian Laettner in the final seconds of the Elite Eight game v. Kentucky in 1992?
  5. Who holds the UNC record for most games scoring in double figures?
  6. Duke avenged a loss from a year earlier by defeating UNLV in the 1991 National Semi-Final. What was UNLV’s record heading into that game?
  7. What current UNC assistant coach averaged a double-double over his career at UNC?
  8. Who earned the honor of Arizona High School Player of the Year in 1982 before matriculating to Duke the following fall?
  9. UNC and Duke first played on January 24th, 1920. How many combined points were scored in that game?


Douglas E. Norry
Head of School

What are you doing for others?

“What are you doing for others?”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1994, eight years after the day was first observed as a federal holiday, Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the (observed) birthday of Dr. King as a national day of service. TDS will be closed on the federal holiday next Monday, but our community will join the service effort later in the week.

Next Friday, TDS will partner once again with Rise Against Hunger, “an international relief organization that distributes food and life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable.” Based in Raleigh, Rise Against Hunger has worked with thousands of community volunteers to package meals – more than 372 million since its founding in 1998 – and ship them to 74 countries spanning the globe.

Yesterday, Jeff Gonder from RAH spoke to 2nd – 8th grade students. He began with a simple question: “How do you feel when you’re really hungry?” Four Lower Schoolers offered these responses:

“I feel tired, and I don’t want to do anything.”

“All I can think about is eating.”

“My stomach really rumbles.”

“My head hurts.”

Mr. Gonder then shared that more than 800 million people don’t receive enough daily nutrition to lead healthy, active lives. He then explained RAH’s four strategic goals:

  • Emergency Relief – providing food to areas torn apart by war, poverty, or natural disasters.
  • Nourishing Lives – linking meal distribution to school programs to bolster attendance in school.
  • Community Empowerment – beyond meals, offering financial literacy and business skills classes, to women in particular, to break the cycle of poverty.
  • Growing the Movement – relying on volunteers to recruit others and spread the word. What began as a grassroots effort in one warehouse has spread internationally, engaging 370,000 volunteers last year alone.

Next Friday from 1:00 to 3:00 in the TDS Gym, students in all grades will work alongside teachers and parents to package and box 10,000 meals consisting of rice, soy protein, dehydrated vegetables, and a vitamin packet. Representatives from RAH will bring the supplies and lead the initiative, and they will inform us as to where the meals are headed.

As part of our partnership with RAH, TDS is responsible for raising funds to cover the cost of these meals. Earlier this year, our Middle Schoolers organized and led two initiatives – Quarter Games for our Lower Schoolers and Candy Cane Sales before Winter Break – which raised $1,150. If you would like to contribute financially to this effort, please do so at the front office. In particular, students are asked to consider forgoing a week’s allowance or a trip to McDonald’s; a $5 donation will pay for more than 17 packaged meals.

We are all looking forward to rolling up our sleeves, donning our hair nets, and doing our part to combat hunger on January 19th. I know that some of you have packaged meals with RAH through other organizations. We would love your help next Friday. Please consider volunteering alongside your son or daughter. Click here to sign up.

When should my child be allowed to have a smartphone?

While some families have already crossed this threshold, the majority of parents will face an important decision in the years ahead: when should my child be allowed to have a smartphone? Plenty has been written about this topic, but I recommend that you read one piece in particular before making this purchase.

In “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?, an article appearing earlier this fall in The Atlantic, Jean Twenge synthesizes current data with her own research on the “iGen” (those born between 1995 and 2012), noting an abrupt shift in teen behaviors and emotional states since 2012. At first glance, teens appear to have made progress. They are physically safer than they were a few years ago. They drink less, and they get into fewer car accidents. They also seem less concerned with proclaiming their independence – less likely to date, even less interested in getting a license – which certainly might appeal to many parents hoping to hold on to the innocence and safety of childhood.

Accompanying this physical safety, however, is a meteoric rise in psychological vulnerability that Twenge labels a mental health crisis. Today’s tweens and teens have grown up with the iPhone – Apple’s creation was first introduced in 2007 – and the device’s ubiquity is impacting a generation in ways that go much deeper than simple concerns over screen time. Teens might be staying home more often, but they aren’t doing more homework or hanging out with their families. Instead, they are “on their phone, in their room, alone and often distressed.” In fact, for teens today, time on these devices strongly correlates with unhappiness, depressive symptoms, sleep deprivation, and even suicidal ideations. Why? Twenge posits that social media “exacerbates the age-old teen concern about being left out.” Studies suggest that, for girls in particular, these feelings have spiked in the past 5-7 years.

As engrossed as I was with Twenge’s article, statistics are only so persuasive. Many of us likely feel that our kids and families are different. We impose rules – no devices at the dinner table, social media is monitored, phones must be charging in parents’ bedrooms by a certain hour – and we trust our children to make good decisions. This last point might fly in the face of research on adolescent brain development, or even what we did as kids, but to me, this isn’t really about trust. Having spent the past 23 years working with Middle Schoolers, I can tell you, without hesitation, that they are actively developing social skills. Adolescence is awkward and messy. They need practice speaking to each other, navigating issues, working out conflicts, learning from mistakes, and developing empathy. More broadly, they need to find their voice, advocate for themselves, and develop their communication skills. All of this requires face-to-face interactions. Smartphones don’t just take time away from this, they interfere with it.

Exasperated by the trend toward putting phones in kids’ hands at younger and younger ages, a group of parents banded together, and the Wait Until 8th movement was born. The mission of this grassroots organization? “Let kids be kids a little longer” by “empower[ing] parents to say yes to waiting for a smartphone.” If your children have begun to beat the ‘everyone else has one’ drum, or if you’re interested in reading more about the effects of these devices, I encourage you to take a look.


Douglas E. Norry
Head of School

Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World by Dr. Mitch Prinstein

Last night, Mitch Prinstein spoke to parents and teachers about his book, Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World. Dr. Prinstein shared his lifelong interest in the causes and effects of popularity, which has led him to extensive research as Director of Clinical Psychology at UNC – Chapel Hill.

Rooted in the development of language several thousand years ago, humans are a social species, and popularity has long been recognized as a trait possessed in large quantities by some, but not others. More recently, scientists have come to understand the importance of popularity (or lack thereof) in determining quality of life, health, and even life expectancy. Popularity matters, perhaps more than it should, or more than we’d like to believe, when it comes to predicting success in life.

Dr. Prinstein explained that there are two types of popularity – each associated with starkly different outcomes – and we are increasingly preoccupied with the wrong type. Likability is a trait which shows stability across different social situations. What makes people likable? Not surprisingly, making others feel as though they are valued members of the group. Those regarded as more likable are included more, have more learning experiences, and thus cultivate these social skills even further. Research suggests that likability is positively correlated with good grades, healthy relationships, happier marriages, and longer lives. To be sure, it’s good to be likable.

In introducing the second type of popularity, Dr. Prinstein highlighted changes associated with puberty. The activation of our limbic system spurs an interest in rewards which, alongside a heightened importance of peers and a lack of impulse control, causes a fixation on status: the domain of power, prestige, and influence. The aggressive behavior exhibited by many teens increases status while simultaneously making them less likable. [Insert flashback to awkward high school experience here!] While status might confer short-term rewards, studies suggest that the narrative of ‘cool kids peaking in high school’ is not a myth. The ‘high status / not so likable’ cohort is more prone to addiction, relationship trouble, and a host of other negative outcomes in life.

But the best thing about high school is that it ends, right? All of us eventually figured it out. Or did we? Prinstein posited that social media has cemented our focus on status well into adulthood, causing a “perpetual adolescence” where the goal is to take the best selfie in order to collect as many “likes” as possible.

Facebook is here to stay, so what can we do to help our children navigate this status-obsessed world? Dr. Prinstein offered parents four tangible pieces of advice:

  1. Recognize that how we were treated years ago affects our parenting style today. Parents need to come to terms with their own biases and seek to understand what has caused them.
  2. Pay close attention to what messages we reinforce at home. Do your children witness you posting on Facebook and/or checking to see if your posts have been “liked?”
  3. Help kids decode social media. Let’s make sure our children are aware that many posts are curated, manicured, and far from reality.
  4. Teach listening and empathy. Truly understanding how others feel is not just the antidote to aggression and bullying, it makes us more likable.

Particularly with this last point, we at TDS seek to partner with you in pursuit of this long-term goal. Along those lines, please consider reading Popular. To purchase a copy, contact Deb Newlin.


Douglas E. Norry
Head of School

End of first grading period

With last Thursday marking the conclusion of the first quarter, teachers offer feedback on their students’ progress in the form of report cards. Please look for an e-mail tomorrow with instructions on how to access these.

In Lower School, while specific categories vary by grade level, students receive feedback in several major subjects or areas:

  • Approaches to Learning
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Social / Emotional Development
  • Social Studies
  • Science / Science Lab
  • Spelling / Vocabulary
  • Writing
  • Spanish
  • Art
  • Music
  • Physical Education

Each of these areas is divided into a group of skills (for example: “works neatly;” “uses a variety of strategies to solve problems”). For each of these skills, teachers assign a mark according to the following scale:

  • 4 – Exceeds expectations consistently and independently
  • 3 – Meets expectations consistently and independently
  • 2 – Meets expectations with support
  • 1 – Currently does not meet expectations. Additional support and practice needed.

In most cases, you will see a comment about overall performance in each subject. In addition, students in grades three through five receive letter grades in some of the subjects according to the following scale:

  • A – Excellent work
  • B – Good work
  • C – Average work
  • D – Below average work. Remediation needed.
  • F – Failing

In Middle School, students receive two grades in each of six subjects: Social Studies, Language Arts, Spanish, Math, Science, and Physical Education. One grade assesses performance and is expressed as a percentage (0 – 100). The second grade reflects class conduct and uses the following scale:

  • 5 – Exceeds expectations in demonstrating core values
  • 4 – Consistently demonstrates core values
  • 3 – Inconsistently demonstrates core values
  • 2 – Needs support to demonstrate core values
  • 1 – Infrequently demonstrates core values

Teachers will write narrative comments for all Middle School students at the conclusion of the second quarter.

These reports (along with the conferences next week) offer you a good sense of where your child is right now in each subject. These marks represent a starting point in a long process that continues until June. Please keep that perspective in mind as you engage your children in conversations about what they are most proud of, and how they think they can improve.

Along these lines, please pay close attention to the descriptions listed above. Whether it’s a seventh grader with an 83%, a fourth grader with a B, or a second grader who earns a “3,” these are all defined as “good” marks, which students have earned within a challenging program. Even amidst our zeal to pinpoint how our children can achieve more and score higher, let’s be sure to celebrate all that they have accomplished and ‘gotten right.’