Head of School’s Blog
According to the Center for Disease Control, as of 2011, 11% of children between the ages of 4 and 17 were diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This represents a 41% increase from eight years earlier and makes ADHD the most prevalent psychiatric illness for young people.
Given this staggering statistic, I’d like to share the insights of a pair of authors whose works have helped shape my thinking about this disorder. At the outset, let me state the obvious: a diagnosis of ADHD often presents a family with a difficult and uncertain choice. As a teacher, I have observed stimulant medications exert profound, positive influences on students with ADHD. I certainly respect parents who have made the decision to medicate and appreciate why they do so. Still, the 11% figure sticks in my brain. What could account for this?
While serving as Head of Middle School at an all-boys school in Maryland, I read Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax. Much of Dr. Sax’s work concerns documenting biological differences between the genders that affect how boys and girls learn, and he is one of our nation’s leading proponents of single gender schools. In Chapter 4 of his book, Dr. Sax suggests a familiar pattern. Teachers of a boy (particularly a young boy, given that the kindergarten of today resembles the first grade of 30-40 years ago) note that he cannot sit still and he seems easily distracted. The boy’s parents then take these observations to their pediatrician who, in many cases, is not an expert in the field. The doctor prescribes medication, and it works. The child’s focus and behavior at school both improve.
So what’s the problem? Dr. Sax refers to the work of John Gabrieli, a researcher at MIT who administered medication to children with and without ADHD. According to Dr. Gabrieli, the meds improved the school performance of both groups by the same degree. Furthermore, Dr. Sax reminds us that we don’t have solid data on long-term effects of stimulant medication. That said, he advances the notion that ADHD meds can lead to personality changes, including a reduced “drive” or motivation. Ultimately, Dr. Sax suggests that unrealistic demands by our educational institutions bear much of the responsibility. In his words, “perhaps the pathology lies not in the boy but in the school.”
In this past Sunday’s New York Times, Richard Friedman takes a slightly different tack. Reviewing the latest neuroscience research, Friedman refers to studies highlighting the fact that the brains of those with ADHD have fewer reward receptors. Translation: ADHD brains are hard-wired for novelty seeking. Thousands of years ago, when hunting the mastodon and leading a nomadic life, this profile (favoring a constantly changing environment) served as a positive adaptation. By contrast, Friedman posits that these same brains regard everyday life in the modern world as boring, and those with ADHD “get famously impatient and restless with the regiment structure.”
Friedman points out that the trend toward the digital does not help the situation. Video games offer both over-stimulation and immediate gratification. School can feel even duller by comparison, and this might accentuate inattentive behavior. While acknowledging the efficacy of pharmacological treatments for ADHD, Friedman suggests other options as well, including careful selection of school for kids and profession for adults, and he cautions, “let’s not rush to medicalize curiosity, energy, and novelty-seeking.”
Both Richard Friedman and Leonard Sax have helped me to crystallize what I’ve come to understand after 20+ years in schools. Particularly at younger ages, kids need to be active in both mind and body. Furthermore, they need to be engaged – through a connection to what they are studying, through humor, or simply through a close bond with a teacher. At TDS, our focus on each individual helps ensure that these connections are strong. We understand that there’s more to school – and to life – than sitting still.
I look forward to seeing you on campus next Tuesday for Parent-Teacher Conferences. Continuing with last year’s protocol, Middle School parents are encouraged to bring their children to the conferences. New this year, we are offering babysitting for Lower Schoolers.
An article that appeared last Wednesday in Education Week got me thinking about what to ask the teachers of my own three children. The article refers to a study conducted by the Brookings Institution and the Center on Children and Families which attempts to measure the impact of performance character traits on long-term success in life.
To begin, the authors distinguish between performance character (qualities that make us more likely to work hard, develop our talents, and achieve our goals) and moral character (qualities needed to be ethical). For this study, researchers focused on two performance character strengths:
- Drive – Defined as the ability to apply oneself to a task and stick with it, even when it becomes difficult or boring. This strength combines hard work and resilience.
- Prudence – Defined as “the ability to defer gratification and look to the future.” Those with prudence can plan for the future and exert self-control in the moment.
This study relied on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which first questioned a cohort of mothers about their children at age 5-6, then again at 10-11, and then tracked those children into adulthood. Analyzing this longitudinal data set, the authors concluded that children who scored high on drive and prudence go on to “attain more years of education, earn more, and likely outperform other individuals in other areas of life.” More specifically, when analyzing correlations with academic success, it seems that drive and prudence matter as much as math and reading scores.
Of course, these researchers are not the first to call attention to the importance of performance character. Last year, I wrote about How Children Succeed by Paul Tough, which pulls together the work of Angela Duckworth and other researchers who have investigated the power of traits such as grit. Based on this research, some schools have developed character report cards. Next Tuesday, I encourage you to ask teachers whether they observe these traits in your children, as well as how parents and teachers can work together to develop them.
My son Will has a new nighttime ritual: reading while listening to music from his i-pod. He’s not alone. Whether it’s doing homework while responding to tweets and texts, driving while talking on the phone, or even e-mailing while watching TV, multitasking seems to be the goal in 2014. To be busy is to be important, so with this skill comes a badge of honor. Even as doing two (or more) things at once is touted as demonstrating a superior work ethic, research suggests that dividing our attention between tasks significantly impairs productivity.
Classic psychology tells us that our brains can do one thing at a time. Perplexed by students who claimed to be proficient at multitasking, researchers at Stanford University designed several experiments to explore what gifts these multitaskers might possess. Subjects were split into two groups based on whether or not they reported multitasking on a regular basis, and each group then performed a series of tasks:
- Challenge #1, designed to test attention – Subjects were shown sets of red rectangles surrounded by blue rectangles. They looked at two pictures and had to determine whether the red rectangles had changed position.
- Challenge #2, designed to test memory – Students were shown a sequence of letters and then asked when certain letters made repeat appearances.
- Challenge #3, designed to test one’s ability to switch one’s focus between stimuli – Subjects were shown a series of letters and numbers and asked to focus on one of the groups. They had to quickly determine odd/even or consonant/vowel for this group.
On all three tests, multitaskers performed significantly worse than their non-multitasking peers. Perhaps they struggle to keep things distinct in their minds, or perhaps they are bogged down by extraneous information. In any cases, researchers concluded that, far from possessing a special gift, “multitaskers are lousy at multitasking.”
In a study published last month, scientists at the University of Sussex used functional MRIs to scan the brains of different people. They found that “people who frequently use several media devices at the same time have lower grey-matter density” in a region of the cortex linked to cognitive and emotional control functions. These authors caution that correlation does not prove causation, but other researchers have pointed out that multitasking seems to cause a “brownout” in the brain.
The rebuttal? Believe it or not, two high school students leapt to the defense of teenagers completing homework amidst a sea of electronic communication. Consulting with the Stanford research team, Alexandra Ulmer and Sarayu Caufield administered a variety of cognitive tasks, either with or without distractions, to 400 adolescents. While most teens did better when focusing on a single task, 15% of subjects excelled when working with distractions such as e-mail and music. This caused the authors to wonder whether the brains of digital natives respond differently to media bombardment.
Call me old school, but I’m casting my lot with the 85% (or the 99% of adults). My goal is to slow down enough to do one thing at a time. Not only does multitasking prove inefficient, but slowing down and simplifying allow for greater mindfulness, presence, and reflection.
In September, 2008, Lenore Skenazy wrote a blog entitled “Why I Let My 9-year Old Ride the Subway Alone”. The author describes arming her son with a subway map, a MetroCard, and some quarters (to use a pay phone if necessary), dropping him outside Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan with some instructions, and letting him figure the rest out for himself. She reported that he arrived home “ecstatic with independence.”
As blogs often do, Skenazy’s story prompted a variety of feedback, including a good deal of public outrage. Many parents were quick to recount a famous abduction, and they wondered how the author would feel if her carelessness resulted in something tragic. For her part, Skenazy opined that “the problem with this everything-is-dangerous outlook is that over-protectedness is a danger in and of itself. A child who thinks he can’t do anything on his own eventually can’t.”
Her original blog, and the reactions it elicited, set Skenazy on a path toward her first book: Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry). Her thesis hasn’t changed in six years. Parents need to overcome their exaggerated, media-induced fears and understand that the greater risk comes with raising a child who never encounters choice or independence.
There’s plenty of data to suggest that Skenazy makes a legitimate point. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 42% of kids “actively commuted to school” in 1970. By 2009, this number had dropped to 13%. While multiple factors have contributed to this decline, parental concerns over safety hover near the top of the list. Similarly, child development experts bemoan the fact that kids are no longer left alone to play outside. Whether over-scheduling or parental fear is to blame, a lack of unstructured play time can cause depression and anxiety. At a minimum, kids don’t get the chance to practice self-regulation, empathy, and group management skills.
In a more recent article, Skenazy encourages parents to ask their children to do something on their own, that they feel ready to do. This might entail biking to a friend’s house, making dinner, staying home alone, baking brownies, or walking a younger sibling to a nearby playground. Parents might have to step outside their comfort zones, but children take a giant leap down the path toward freedom, independence and courage.
Feeling the need to practice what I preach, I broached this subject Tuesday night at dinner. Will (7th) and Emily (6th) immediately professed their desire to bike to school. Gulp. Riding one mile on Sparger Road, with no shoulder and drivers exceeding 45mph while finishing their morning coffee, was a bit too far outside my comfort zone. Emily eventually settled on grocery shopping by herself. Will wants to spend the night with only his sisters in the house. Not wanting to make him resort to Plan C, Carrie and I tentatively agreed (and began searching for our tent to pitch in the backyard). As for Kate (3rd), it took her a while to understand the nuances of the question. At first, she was adamant that she wanted to drive by herself. After I explained that we had to remain within the general confines of the law, she settled on making eggs, completely by herself. I’ll let you know how that goes.
It was wonderful to see many of you this past Friday at the 2014 TDS Talent Show. Many stars shined in the gym, as the show featured 19 acts from students in eight different grades. Conlan Sharp (1st, one of our younger Tornados, began the afternoon by singing three original pieces, including “Krogering on Sunday.”
The show featured plenty of talented vocalists, including Avery Keats (2nd) performing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” from Frozen, Asha Mankad (3rd) singing “Dreaming My Dreams with You,” Lulu Burnside (3rd) with a rendition of “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins, and McCallum Keats (5th) singing “Quiet” from the musical Matilda. Interspersed among the singers were superb piano recitals from Ally Fox (5th, “Vivaci in A minor”), Oliver Guan (2nd, “Greensleeves” and “Jump Jazz Cat”), and Brandon Fox (3rd, “Drifting Petals”). Turning to string instruments, Akshay Mankad (7th) and Aadit Nerkar (8th) showcased their abilities on the guitar, and our youngest artist, Nina Buthe (TK, “Minuet 1”) turned in a dazzling performance on the violin.
Proving that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, 5th graders Lexi Cousins, Maya Dulli-Ray, Ally Fox, and Jaimie Legg-Bell collaborated on a gymnastics routine. Similarly, Natasha Waters (8th) and Fiona Clancy (6th) fused their talents to perform an Irish dance, and Morgan Rogers and Rory Smith worked together on a singing/dancing routine. Keeping it in the family, Bethany Allen (5th) and her mom danced to “He Wants it All,” and Aaron Landman (K) teamed with his mom to tell a selection of knock-knock jokes.
In a routine worthy of the streets of New York, Skyler Hoffman (6th) showed off his mad skills with the Devil Sticks. If you missed last Friday, there’s a rumor that he’ll be performing again after the Twister Trot next Saturday morning. Continuing with the unique acts, Elise Benware shared a video of her guiding her cats through a series of tricks at home.
“What did the farmer say when he lost his tractor?”
“Where’s my tractor?”
This was the tip of the corny joke iceberg, told by our 8th grade emcees. Emily Abramowitz, Caroline Ballard, Brianna Brackeen, Sean Cleary, Amanda Cousins, Jeff Dellaero, Alex Harry, Cole Hinson, Alex Middleton and Hall West kept the audience in stitches as we transitioned from one act to the next. A sincere thank-you to Kelley Keats, who leaned on her Broadway experience to organize and orchestrate such a professional show, and to Dave Keats for handling the sound and solving some key technical issues in the moment.
Not wanting to be outdone by our students, the TDS faculty starred in a video that is definitely worth five minutes of your time. Thanks to Rose DeLaTorre for organizing (and arm twisting), and to Alexander Egersdoerfer for editing. Catch it now before it goes viral!
One of the most anticipated times in the Middle School schedule comes on certain Friday afternoons when we break into Clubs. At an assembly earlier in the year, teachers explained a bit about the particular clubs they planned to sponsor. Students then identified their top choices and were assigned to a club. As you’ll read below, the variety of clubs is quite extraordinary.
Bicycle Maintenance Club (Mr. Butera) – A great example of learning by doing, students are fixing four bicycles to learn about maintenance and repair. Thus far, they have changed tires. Eventually, they will donate the ‘good as new’ bikes to a local charity.
Knitting Club (Ms. Morrison) – Now armed with a working knowledge of the basic knit stitch, students are venturing into the more advanced world of pearl stitching. Most are working toward knitting scarves. Hats will be next, so put your orders in now!
Line Dancing Club (Dr. Barkley) – The most popular club thanks to Dr. Barkley’s amazing demonstration, students are having fun learning different line dances. They are also choreographing their own line dance, and they have visions of teaching it to the entire school.
Odyssey of the Mind (Ms. Carnes) – Participating in a national program dedicated to fostering creativity and collaborative problem solving, students are preparing for a competition in March by building a “Runaway Train,” a vehicle that will travel continuously while avoiding obstacles. Students also meet regularly during lunch to tackle smaller challenges.
Puzzles Club (Ms. Aguilar) – True to form for an accomplished geometry teacher, Ms. Aguilar engages her charges with many different types of puzzles: 3000-piece jigsaw, geometric, and logic. Students are also challenged to put together a circuit. It’s all about spatial intelligence in this club.
Student Council (Ms. Logan) – Chosen by their peers, this group of elected officials meets periodically to give a voice to student concerns, organize school and service events, and advance ideas to make TDS a better place.
Survival Club (Mr. Butler) With an emphasis on cultivating skills to be used in the great outdoors, students are learning how to tie various knots, how to build a snare trap, and how to construct different water purification devices. Next up is using Mountain Dew to make a glow stick.
Trash Squad (Mr. Norry) – As the name implies, students pick up trash all over campus. We are also working on a marketing campaign to encourage everyone to clean up after themselves.
Tween/Teen Issues (Ms. Hopkins) – Students actively participate in a free-ranging discussion of topics relevant to Middle Schoolers. These include: starting time of the school day, media and body image, girls in sports, and the effects of lack of sleep. Students are also making a collage of positive images to display in the Middle School.
Yearbook (Ms. Gobble) – Far more than just snapping photos, students choose a theme, design the cover, write a dedication, promote sales, and take a crash course in layout. The buzz generated by the books’ arrival in May makes it worth the effort.
Having clubs in the Middle School serves many purposes. These activities provide an opportunity for teachers and students of different ages to get to know one another in a non-academic setting. They also capitalize on the energy and enthusiasm of our students, and they allow our teachers to share some of their hidden passions in unique and creative ways.
In recent years, researchers have attempted to document and quantify the extent to which various forms of media have monopolized our children’s lives. In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation took a giant leap toward answering these questions, publishing the findings of a comprehensive, national study on media usage by 8-18 year-olds. The central role of media in our lives makes it imperative that we understand what and how much our children are consuming, as well as the effects of this consumption.
The following statistic made headlines four years ago: On average, 8-18 year-olds spend 7 hours and 38 minutes each day using various media. Additionally:
- Heavy media use correlated with poor grades, and frequent users reported less personal contentedness.
- In a typical day, 46% of 8-18 year-olds reported sending text messages on a cell phone. From this group, respondents sent an average of 118 text messages per day, and they spent more than 90 minutes sending and receiving texts.
- In a typical day, 8-18 year-olds spent an average of 1 hour and 13 minutes playing video games. Boys spent twice as much time as girls, on average.
- 71% of 8-18 year-olds had a TV in their bedroom.
While I freely acknowledge that listening to music in the car is not the same as playing a video game, that figure – 7 hours and 38 minutes – has stuck with me since I first read these findings four years ago.
Two other studies, released this year, have investigated the effects of this media consumption, and screen time in particular. The Learning Habit (Donaldson, Pressman, and Jackson) refers to a study that surveyed more than 50,000 families. Significant screen time correlated with:
- A drop in academic performance, which is more dramatic in Middle School
- More trouble falling asleep
- Greater social-emotional volatility
Researchers also found an inverse relationship between grit (defined as the “ability to perform a strenuous or difficult task without giving up”) and amount of screen time. By contrast, performing chores correlated with greater self-worth and responsibility.
More recently, a team of psychologists at UCLA probed the link between screen time and interpersonal intelligence. In this study, 105 sixth graders were evaluated for their ability to recognize people’s emotions – happy, sad, angry, scared, confident, excited – in photos and videos. Then, kids were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Half spent five days at a camp and did not glance at a screen. The other half followed their normal routines, reporting an average of 4.5 hours per day texting, watching TV, and playing video games. When tested a second time, the “no screen” group showed significant improvement at reading human emotions. The authors concluded that, for adolescents, screen time can cause “decreased sensitivity to emotional cues.”
We seem to have crossed a great divide when it comes to the presence of media in our lives. Even as technology brings remarkable educational tools to our fingertips and provides access to an increasingly connected world, I worry about the cumulative effects of all those hours spent staring at a screen. We must recognize that technological change is not merely additive – it is ecological. Our media alter the environment in which we live, and in the process we can surrender the values, activities, and relationships essential to a meaningful life. So, please, don’t abandon tossing the baseball, playing dress-up, racing matchbox cars, working with a sibling to construct an elaborate fort using couch cushions, or family game night. Among their many benefits, these activities all necessitate direct interaction with others – and call upon us to share in the things that make us most fully and most happily human.
This week in Physical Education classes, our Middle Schoolers have completed a variety of activities and exercises related to fitness testing. Under the watchful eye of Coach Morrison, students have challenged themselves to do sit-ups, push-ups, and pull-ups. Yesterday, everyone ran the mile. There must be something in the name, because Rory Legg-Bell (5:54) and Rory Smith (7:00) set the pace for their respective genders, and several of their peers blazed through the course as well. Having run my first mile at age 34, I’m impressed with everyone who had the stamina to finish the race.
Looking ahead exactly one month, the entire TDS community will have the opportunity to gather for a morning of exercise and fun. Calling all runners and walkers: I hope to see you on campus on Saturday, October 18th at 9:00 AM for our 5K timed run, or 1-mile fun run, through American Village.
The TDS Twister Trot, formerly Marcy’s Run, is a race to honor the courage and strength of our community. Marcy Speer was a dedicated wife, mother, and world-renowned geneticist at Duke University. She lost her battle with cancer in 2006. At the time, Marcy’s Run was created as a way to honor her memory as well as her contributions to the TDS community, and to support science education. Sadly, in the years since the race began, the TDS community has had many other families affected by cancer. With the blessing of the Speer family, the race took on a new name last year. The Twister Trot honors all families who have been or currently are being affected by this terrible disease, and we invite all of our racers to honor a friend or family member impacted by cancer at our race.
Racers will have much to look forward to upon crossing the finish line, including performances by the TDS cheerleading squad and the Middle School Chorus, as well as a few mystery guests. Enjoy a bagel or chicken nugget, have your face painted, and plan to stay with us through the awards ceremony.
Early-bird registration ends on September 30th, so please do not delay. Follow this link: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/2014-tds-twister-trot-5k-and-family-fun-run-registration-12424424789?aff=efbevent to join the 100+ students and parents who have already registered for the race.
To ensure the success of this race, we need a team of volunteers. If running or walking isn’t your thing, please consider directing runners on the course, managing the water station, collecting timing chips at the finish line, or helping with race-day registration or parking. Follow this link http://www.signupgenius.com/go/30e0b48aba82aa31-volunteer to join a team of dedicated race-day volunteers.
Finally, your children will learn about multiple contests and incentives in the weeks ahead. The class with the highest level of student participation will win an ice cream party. In addition, any boy who crosses the 5K finish line ahead of me, or any girl who finishes ahead of Coach Morrison, will earn an all-you-can-eat lunch at Cookout. Last year, five students cashed in! Students only for this incentive; no free lunches for TDS alumni, but Ms. Katy and Mr. Sikes have been invited to cheer you on, and it will be a great time to check out the campus improvements. Please consider joining us for this fun-filled morning at TDS.
In an effort to stay healthy and hydrated, we drink a lot of water in the Norry household. Most of the time, we get this water from the dispenser on our refrigerator, which never seems to be in a hurry. In fact, it takes exactly 41 seconds to fill my glass to the brim. 41 seconds! That’s only two seconds less than Michael’s Johnson’s world-record time for running the quarter mile. Why wait this long? Why not simply use the kitchen sink? Standing by the refrigerator, I’m served with a daily reminder that, even in 2014, patience is still a necessary part of life.
One subtle yet pervasive effect of our ‘recent’ (over the past twenty-five years) technology boom is the negative impact that immediate gratification has had on our collective patience. When my daughter Kate was two years old, she demanded to hear Hakuna Matata over and over again. A generation ago, she at least would have had to wait for the cassette to rewind. Today, we simply press a button. When we use our digital camera or i-phone, all three of our children beg to see the image right away.
These changes extend far beyond the twelve-and-under set. With our DVR, I have become much more efficient at watching football. I started last week’s Washington Redskins game at 2:55 and finished right at 4:00, thereby reducing my pain and frustration by nearly two-thirds. The result is that I now have trouble watching sports in real time. Whereas the deliberate pace of baseball’s pennant races and playoffs in September and October used to help build tension and excitement, now I simply find it to be annoying. Likewise, I suspect that many of us have sent texts and e-mails fully expecting immediate replies, even more of us have become frustrated when we cannot reach a friend or family member by cell phone, and all of us nearly crawl out of our skin when something interferes with our internet connection.
While the deleterious effects of electronics on attention spans are well-documented, our relatively newfound obsession with the immediate is also of concern. In The Ascent of Man, Jacob Bronowski reflects that “the most crucial event in the evolution of the human species is the ability to wait.” I worry that our DVRs, DVDs, and DSLs are moving us in the wrong direction.
Even if we are growing more impatient, does this impact our learning? In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell refers to a study conducted by Alan Schoenfeld, a math professor at Berkeley. Schoenfeld asked adult subjects to solve a challenging algebra problem (a topic that most had not studied since Middle School). The researcher tells the story of Renee, a woman who spent 22 minutes and at last solved the problem. By contrast, most subjects quit in a fraction of this time. Based on the work of Schoenfeld and others, Gladwell suggests that “success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds.” Put another way, whether in the classroom, the art studio, on the athletic field, or in life, success requires that we have some patience.
It was wonderful to see so many of you at Back-to-School Night this week. I have included below some excerpts from my remarks:
Thank you for entrusting us with your most prized possessions, your children.
This is my favorite night of the year. Tonight is special because so many important people in our students’ lives are in this room. So much of what we do here hinges on a partnership with all of you. At TDS’s core is an emphasis on the development of our students as human beings. We want them to think, to question, to analyze, to collaborate, to learn to read critically and write creatively, to develop organizational and time-management skills and positive habits, but, we also want them to act honorably, to be good listeners and friends, to become good citizens, to develop empathy and compassion, and to respect all people.
These are lofty, long-term goals, and parents and teachers must work together to achieve them. In addition to hearing about your children’s classes, tonight is a night for parents and teachers to make a connection.
Along these lines, I want to pay tribute to the TDS faculty. Along with our students, this group is TDS’s greatest asset. They are smart, creative, full of energy, more often than not amused by the quirks of adolescents, and they care deeply about your children as well as the craft of teaching.
This past summer, we took on an ambitious number of facilities projects, and I’m eager for you to see the fruits of this labor tonight. Just to name a few:
- No doubt you’ve enjoyed our renovated foyer, a gift from the Class of 2014.
- Please stop by our larger, newly decorated Admissions Office to say hello to Ms. Gobble.
- Our Art Room has undergone a makeover, which I’m sure you’ll hear about from Mrs. Lucas or Mrs. Hughes when you go to Art class.
- I’m sure you noticed that the computer lab has moved, the library has been reconfigured, and we’ve created a Commons space which is great for meetings and classes to visit.
- Outside, please stroll on one of our two new concrete paths to the newly mulched back courtyard. You might even have time to enjoy a snack on one of our new picnic tables, or to play a game of speed chess on our outdoor set.
- Our Middle Schoolers are excited that we’ve doubled the number of four-square courts available during recess, and they’re equally excited to know that, in a matter of days, we’re installing a bell system in the Middle School, so that classes will start, and end, on time.
Upgrades extended into the realm of technology as well, as we purchased twenty new laptops for teachers, and projectors for some classrooms. In addition, eleven teachers received Summer Work Grants to further develop curriculum.
We were able to accomplish much of this because we’re in a stronger financial position today, and this has a good deal to do with the success of last year’s Annual Fund, so thank you for your participation, and I hope we can once again soar to new heights this year.
As has become my custom, I’d like to close by offering a few pieces of advice.
#1 begins with a story. This summer, we sent all three of our children to sleep-away camp for two weeks. Now, you might think that Kate Norry, age 8, is a bit young for this, particularly given her talent at breaking bones. In fact, last year, after we had signed her up, she climbed our steps, leaned too far over the railing, flipped over, fell nine feet, and landed on her back on the hard wood floor. Miraculously, she was fine, but I was not, and I kept imagining her leaning too far over the railing at the local waterfall at camp.
At least she would have her older siblings to look out for her. At 12 years old, her brother Will in particular has a high empathy quotient and helps to interpret the world for Kate. As we dropped them off, I was sure he’d keep an eye on her physical and emotional well-being. Five days into camp, something shook my confidence. Our first letter from Will began as follows: “Dear Mom, Dad, and Kate.”
Suddenly I realized that she was on her own.
As an aside, I later asked Will about this letter. I was prepared to be really impressed that he had held onto a letter from camp last year and reused it. His response: “No, I just forgot she was there.”
Despite our anxieties about Kate, we sent our kids to camp not simply to enjoy a second honeymoon, in Durham, but because we believe in the camp’s philosophy. They teach the FIVE Rs – respect, responsibility, resilience, taking reasonable risks, and reaching out to others.
One of the things I love about TDS is that, while we don’t specifically trumpet all of these traits or behaviors, we definitely strive for them. Respect is at the core of the Lower School Top Ten and ranked at the top of our Core Value Survey last spring. Furthermore, kids reach out to others constantly throughout the day and are recognized when they do so.
TDS is not sleep-away camp, however, and the other three will only happen if you let them.
As our students progress through the ten years of TDS, our goal is for them to develop responsibility by managing their own work, and by advocating for themselves with teachers. Within a comfortable environment, we want them to take reasonable risks. Perhaps most importantly, to build resilience, they will need to experience setbacks. Any teacher would tell you that it’s in these moments when real growth occurs. As my former boss, Maureen Walsh was fond of saying, “Parents want their children to be good problem solvers, they just don’t want them to have any problems.” Well, Practice makes perfect. As your children move through school, please give them the space that they need to make and then learn from their mistakes.
So, now that I’ve asked you to afford your kids enough freedom to make mistakes rather than bulldozing the road ahead of them to make sure it’s free from potholes, let me offer a second piece of perhaps contradictory advice, in the form of a warning. Based on years of experience, I can tell you that many Middle Schoolers are not mature enough to handle the devices that we give them. Their frontal lobes are far from fully developed. Yes, we did dumb things when we were their age, but we didn’t have the capacity to do such damage to ourselves and others with one click, one text, one post, or one forward. At TDS, we pledge to teach digital citizenship, but it’s time for parents to re-evaluate why a 7th grader needs an i-phone, or at the very least, it’s time to restrict and monitor the technology that our children use.
#3 – If restricting technology doesn’t upset your kids to the point where this is precluded from happening, enjoy this time in your child’s life. Last Thursday, and a sixth grader said to me: “Oh, Mr. Norry, great tie. I used to love Winnie the Pooh when I was a child.” I wanted to reply: “do you know you’re 11,” but it’s obvious that our children see themselves as leaving childhood far before we realize or would like to admit.
Finally, keep family time sacred. Life in 2014 moves at warp speed, and there seem to be lots of demands on our time. Do what it takes to resist this. Don’t answer the phone during dinner. Abide by our new sign and put away the cell phone during carpool, and better yet, don’t take calls when in the car with your kids. In other words, be fully present for your children, and enjoy your time with them. So many parents have seen me with my kids and told me to enjoy these years. I suggest that you do the same.
The beginning of the school year is a busy time for students and parents alike. I want to thank the following parents for their participation on our Parent Work Day: Ashley Bell, Jamie Baize-Smith and Josh Smith, Russell Hill, Carroll Stone, Maggie Thacker, Keith and Franzi Rokoske, Alexis and Kerry Sharp, Deborah Sorin, Sheryl Blackwell, Cherry Chevy, Sarah and Jonathan Hodges, Sabrina Schneider, Jennifer and Cameron Dye, Greg Taylor, Rachel Caspar, Kirsten Vollmer and David Idzi, Tim Deck, Dennis Middleton, Missy and Craig Makanui, Kelly Taylor, Jenny Madriaga, Ann and Bill Pettibone, Katherine Henderson, Rachel Royce, Tina Bryant-Allen, and Beth Reeves. We spread mulch, cleaned classrooms and lockers, assembled decodables and shelves, replaced light bulbs and ceiling tiles, painted, stained picnic tables, fixed chairs, laminated, and much more. Thanks to your hard work, TDS looked its best last Thursday.
It was wonderful to see so many of you at the Back-to-School Picnic last week. Thanks to the TDS Parents’ Association for hosting the event, Bobbi Stubbs for organizing, and Al Myers for providing the BBQ. For those who savored Al’s work for the first time, I’m sure it was quite an introduction to TDS.
Next on the horizon for parents is Back-to-School Night, perhaps the most important ‘early-in-the-season’ event. I hope to see Lower School parents next Wednesday (9/3) and Middle School parents next Thursday (9/4) evening. Both programs begin promptly at 6:00 PM in the gym. The evenings should conclude by 8:00 PM. You will have the opportunity to meet your children’s teachers and learn all about what lies ahead this year.
You will also have the chance to volunteer for many signature TDS events, most of which are sponsored by the Parents’ Association. Please read carefully the list below, consult your calendars, and come prepared to sign your name. We could not offer such a rich, extensive program without parent support; thanks in advance for your participation.
- Talent Show – Friday, October 3rd, 1:00 to 3:00 PM (Kelley Keats, Chair) – Come lend a hand with set-up and then grab a front row seat as students of all ages show off their abilities.
- Twister Trot – Saturday, October 18th, 8:00 AM; (Carrie Norry, Chair) – Don’t feel like running or walking? We need MANY volunteers on the 5K course and lots of help with registration.
- Fall Carnival – Friday, October 31st, 1:00 to 3:00 PM (Trudy Smith, Chair) – If you can paint faces, hand out sno cones, or manage the lollipop tree, we need you.
- School Pictures – October 21st, November 3rd, November 21st (Jamie Baize-Smith, Chair) – We need just a few parents to organize students, collect forms, and encourage smiles as we take these photos.
- Book Fair – November 24th to December 5th (Sabrina Schneider, Chair) – Get a jump start on your holiday shopping while taking a turn behind the cash register. LOTS of volunteers needed.
- Grandparents Day – Wednesday, November 25th in the morning – Join your own parents at TDS for the morning, helping to ensure that grandparents find their way around. Then, grab a good seat for the Lower School performance.
- Auction – February 21st, 6:00 PM (Kelley Keats and Deborah Sorin, Co-Chairs) – Plenty of help needed with acquisitions, organization, and set-up for this major fundraiser.
- International Night – Thursday, March 12th (Parent Chair needed) – Help plan an evening that celebrates TDS family histories and cultures around the world.
- Field Day – Thursday, June 4th (Philip Hansell, Chair) – Come lend a hand while watching your children compete for the purple or gold team.
None of these dates works for you? Then please consider offering your talents to support one or more of these ongoing initiatives:
- Teacher Appreciation – Monthly (Kimberly Bowers, Chair) – Help coordinate and organize monthly treats for our beloved faculty.
- Arts Guild (Parent Chair needed) – Come help Ms. Lucas and Ms. Hughes frame and hang works of art around the school. Assist with the Art Fair on April 29th.
- Library (Ann Pettibone, Chair) – Spend an hour re-shelving books. You might even get to read to a group of Kindergarteners.
- Effortless Fundraising / Dine-outs (Deborah Sorin and Hudson Fuller, Co-Chairs) – Did you know that you could earn money for TDS by collecting box tops, shopping at Target or on Amazon. Also, please mark your calendars for our first dine-out of the year: Tuesday, September 30th at Smashburger.
Volunteering at TDS is a fantastic way to support our community, meet other parents and teachers, and best of all, see our kids in action. See you on campus!
Welcome (back) to TDS. This morning, we gathered for an all-school assembly in the gym. Below are some excerpts from my remarks:
This assembly, at 8:30 on the first day of school, is a new tradition for TDS. Right now the year is brand new. We haven’t even attended a single class. And this gym is full of energy, emotions, and potential – the excitement of seeing old friends, the grogginess that goes with the first early wake-up call in months, and the anticipation about what lies ahead with new teachers, new courses, new classrooms, new activities, new responsibilities, new sports, and new friends. At this moment, everything is in front of us. Anything could happen this year.
So, do me a favor. When your summer tan fades, when serious homework comes (as it will for some of you in our older grades), when a big project looms on the horizon, when the weather turns gray and the days shorten, when February comes, I want you to think about how you’re feeling right now. I want you to feel this freshness and positive energy all through the year.
There’s really just one thing that I want to talk to you about this morning, or one request I want to make. Be kind. That’s it. Be kind. I ask of you for many reasons. First, I believe that kindness is a defining feature of Triangle Day School. From speaking with veteran teachers like Ms. Lucas and Ms. Tedeschi, it has been for 23 years. Now, that tradition of kindness rests in your hands. Will it continue? It’s up to you.
Second, many scientists have studied the effects of kindness. These researchers have documented what many of us have figured out for ourselves: that kindness makes us happier. Yes, as we perform random acts of kindness, as we fill the buckets of our classmates and teachers by being kind, and caring, and friendly, and positive, our own moods and feelings improve in the process.
Finally, and this might be most important, kindness is contagious. Let me say that again. Kindness is contagious. Most of you know that we ask you to stay home if you have a fever, because you’re probably carrying a virus that can easily spread to those around you. Well, kindness works the same way. It spreads quickly to all those around you, and pretty soon we have an incredible place to learn and work.
Let me offer one example from my family. Every summer, we travel to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware for a large family reunion. One of our favorite spots, aside from the ocean itself, is Funland, an old time, small scale amusement park with rides and games. If you’ve been to Frankie’s, you get the idea. With most of the games, like Skee Ball, you win tickets, and you can redeem those tickets for fabulous prizes like gumball machines, lava lamps, and pixie sticks.
Last summer, my children and I watched in awe as a woman played the “ball drop game” over and over, inserting a quarter, pressing a button, and watching a ball drop from a tube, bounce around, and then land in one of several holes. Whether she won two tickets or two hundred tickets, her expression didn’t seem to change. She just kept inserting quarters, pressing the button, and accumulating tickets. Finally, she got up to leave, smiled at my kids, and handed them more than 2000 tickets.
My children didn’t know what to do with themselves. Kate was busy calculating that we could trade these in for more than 2000 Tootsie Rolls. Finally, I suggested that we save some tickets for ourselves, but that we break the rest up into groups of 100 tickets and give them to random kids.
Initially, this was not met with much enthusiasm, but they begrudgingly agreed to give it a try. We found a young boy, probably six years old, playing a game. We approached him and handed him one hundred tickets without much explanation other than, “here you go.” The expression on his face was priceless, and my kids were hooked. We ended up giving away more of those tickets than we had originally planned, and we made a lot of kids happy that afternoon.
I tell you this story to reinforce one simple point. – Kindness is contagious, and it makes you feel good. Last year, one Middle School parent shared with me an observation about TDS. He said, “it’s cool to be smart here.” I agree, but I also think that “it’s cool to be kind here.” Thank you in advance for helping to make TDS such a wonderful, kind place to be.
An important component of the TDS Mission Statement involves fostering respect for the community. This is accomplished in myriad ways, including an active service program that partners different grades with local organizations. As students donate their time and expertise, they gain a better understanding of issues that exist in our community, as well as what is being done to make the world a better place. In the process, traits such as selflessness, generosity, and teamwork are reinforced.
Earlier this year, I highlighted a few efforts that pulled together our entire community: donating cans to a local food bank, and making more than 1200 bologna sandwiches for the Urban Ministries of Durham. Classes have undertaken their own outreach projects as well:
- TK and second grade sang holiday carols in December for residents at the Forest at Duke. Students from these grades also joined forces to orchestrate a supply drive for Saving Grace, a non-profit animal shelter focusing on the adoption of dogs.
- Kindergartners and fifth graders made cards for children receiving treatment for cancer at Duke Hospital. Fifth graders prepared gift bags as well. In addition, these students collected coins and sold lemonade at Southpoint Mall in early May to raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, an organization which empowers children to “get involved and make a difference for children with cancer.”
- First graders established relations with two local groups, collecting soda can pull tabs and other supplies for Ronald McDonald House, and writing cards throughout the year to folks at the Hillcrest Convalescent Center.
- Third graders made cards for Meals on Wheels clients and put together Easter baskets for the Durham Rescue Mission.
- Returning to the animal theme, fourth graders supported Paws 4 Ever, a guaranteed adoption center, by writing thank-you notes to donors, organizing a supply drive, and making treats for dogs and cats.
- Sixth graders spent one afternoon per month at the Duke Campus Farm, an organic, sustainable, volunteer-run farm. Students weeded, harvested mushrooms and strawberries, and learned a lot about sustainable agriculture.
- Seventh graders performed their service closer to home, leading the recycling effort each week at school.
- Finally, eighth graders partnered with the Red Cross to organize two blood drives, aggressively recruiting parents and teachers, and staffing the actual events. Each student also completed hours of service as part of his/her 8th grade project.
Catherine Sanderson, Professor of Psychology at Amherst College, has conducted research on the science of happiness. She concludes that two critical components of happiness are engagement and finding meaning in what we do. Furthermore, she suggests that volunteering is a great way to increase our level of happiness. With twelve partnering organizations and hundreds of hours spent in service, we hope to nurture in our students a desire to lead happy, engaged lives of consequence.
Last week, I accompanied fifty-four Middle Schoolers and five teachers on an action-packed trip to Washington, D.C. We walked through George Washington’s private home at Mount Vernon, witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, visited five memorials on the National Mall at night, sat in the actual courtroom where cases are argued at the Supreme Court, compared fifteenth century Bibles at the Library of Congress, and marveled at the rockets in the Air & Space Museum.
Ready for some good, clean fun after two days of non-stop learning, we spent our final day at Kings Dominion. While thirty years ago I would have sprinted from coaster to coaster, Father Time has left my nervous system utterly unable to handle loops, spins, twists, or turns of any kind. I actually approach dizziness on the merry-go-round. This makes me an ideal chaperone at amusement parks; I’m more than willing to hold bags, check kids in at lunch time, and perform any other sedentary task.
I was doing just that – and savoring the aroma of turkey legs roasting on an open flame – when Chris Board (7th grade) and Mrs. Logan suggested that I join them on Drop Tower. No loops or turns, but this ride boasted a four-second free fall from a height of 300+ feet, hurtling riders toward earth at a top speed of 72 miles per hour.
Before offering the automatic “no thank you,” I considered all that I’ve preached to Middle Schoolers over the past twenty years. “Try something new, expand your box, take a risk, step out of your comfort zone.” I found myself following them to the Drop Tower, figuring that I would humor them before inventing a creative excuse to ditch. Before I knew it, positive peer pressure had paved the way for a bout of temporary insanity, and I buckled myself in next to Chris.
My nerves were frayed as we waited for the stragglers to strap themselves in, but this soon gave way to pure, unadulterated fear as our ascent began. As adults, we remember moments in our lives, however brief or long ago, that paralyzed us with fear. My trip down memory lane took me first to Amherst College, freshmen year, as I sat in a Physics final exam and realized that I could solve exactly none of the three problems, and then to the Salt Lake City airport, where Emily (age 3 at the time) wandered off, and we were convinced that she had been abducted.
My fear only intensified as we sat at the top, awaiting our plunge. I’d love to report that fear transformed into exhilaration as gravity took over, but, no: it was raw fear all the way down.
As we get older, we tend to wall ourselves off from these experiences. Life throws us enough curveballs; we don’t need to lean into the strike zone, looking to get hit. That said, with each passing day, we forget more and more the fear and discomfort that have to be overcome as a teenager. Being called on randomly in class, asking a boy or girl to a dance, changing clothes after P.E., figuring out voice and body changes – these loom large in the moment. Even as we encourage our children to conquer these fears and put life’s hurdles in proper perspective, the occasional reminder of what it feels like isn’t so bad. I look forward to my next dose of empathy medication, which will come in May, 2016 when I next visit Kings Dominion.
As you read this, our sixth graders are returning home from Hendersonville, NC, having spent two nights at Camp Pinnacle with their teachers and staff from Adventure Treks. Meanwhile, fifth graders are enjoying their GFGA trip to Atlanta, and five Middle School teachers and I are touring Washington DC with 54 seventh and eighth graders.
Whether camping out and tackling low-ropes initiatives, exploring life under the sea at the Georgia Aquarium, or gazing past the Reflecting Pool to the newly re-opened Washington Monument from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at night, our older students have spent plenty of time away from TDS, and away from their parents, this week. Thus, it seems like an opportune time to recommend a book that I read last summer after dropping two of my children at sleep-away camp: Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow by Michael Thompson.
While Thompson dedicates the majority of the book to extolling the virtues of the summer camp experience, he begins by offering eight things that parents cannot do for their children. In his words (in bold):
- We cannot make our children happy. In fact, often children need to get away from their parents to discover what truly gives them pleasure.
- We cannot give our children high self-esteem. Instead, children feel good about themselves when they have conquered a challenge or mastered something difficult.
- We cannot make friends for our children or micro-manage their friendships. Parents can create space for these friendships, but children must experience all of this firsthand.
- We cannot successfully double as our child’s agent, manager, and coach. As one who has coached all three of my children’s teams, this one hits home for me. Consider reading Open by Andre Agassi for a harrowing account of the harm that an overbearing parent can inflict on a child’s development.
- We cannot give our child the second family they need. Don’t be alarmed if your son or daughter grows close to an extended family member, a friend’s family, or someone at school.
- We cannot compete with our child’s electronic world. Teenagers today spend an average of 50 hours per week in front of a screen. Regulating this requires us to examine our own habits regarding technology.
- We cannot keep our children perfectly safe, but we can drive them crazy trying. Even as safety is our #1 priority at TDS, we want your children to take reasonable risks, and we know that much can be learned from “a skinned knee.”
- We cannot make our children independent. In fact, the path to independence is not straight, and it requires some failures along the way.
Triangle Day School is not sleep-away camp, but it does function as a “second family” for many of our students. We seek to create a safe, nurturing environment in which children make choices that feel right to them, and we aim to provide challenges to overcome along the road to self-esteem and independence.
Yesterday during Middle School meeting, Ms. Aguilar reminded students of May’s character trait by asking 8th graders if they had any wisdom to share with their younger peers. While this elicited a variety of responses, one in particular caught my attention. “Get enough sleep,” suggested one student.
While 90% of parents believe that their children get enough sleep, 60% of teenagers report extreme daytime sleepiness, and half of this group admits to averaging less than seven hours sleep on school nights. By contrast, doctors recommend at least nine hours of sleep per night for children between the ages of 12 and 14, and 9-11 hours for the broader cohort of “school age children.” It appears that sleep deprivation was much less of a problem a generation ago; reports suggest that, 30 years ago, teenagers averaged one hour more sleep, in part because many did not set their own bedtimes.
Scientists have conducted many interesting experiments on sleep over the years. A few of these are documented in Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. For example, researchers at Tel Aviv University asked groups of 4th and 6th graders to go to bed either 30 minutes earlier or later for three consecutive nights. Students were given an intelligence test at the end of each day. After three days, sleep deprived 6th graders scored lower than 4th graders with extra rest. Apparently, sleeping a bit less can be equated with a rather significant dip in brain functioning. Scientists at the University of Minnesota surveyed 7000 high school students, inquiring about sleep habits and grades in school. They found that, on average, A students slept fifteen minutes more than B students, who slept fifteen minutes more than C students, and so on.
Beyond success in school, studies have documented many physiological and health-related benefits associated with a full night’s sleep. Perhaps most alarming is a recent longitudinal study conducted by scientists from University College London and summarized in Night School: Wake Up to the Power of Sleep by Richard Wiseman. Researchers spent twenty years examining the relationship between sleep patterns and life expectancy in more than 10,000 British civil servants. Results indicated that participants reporting two hours less sleep a night than required nearly doubled their risk of death.
So why don’t we sleep more? During that last hour of the day, sleep faces stiff competition from other priorities – finishing a lab report, checking Facebook, texting some friends. We have grown so accustomed to trading sleep for other perceived needs that we have created a culture in which giving in to fatigue has become a sign of weakness. After all, we can survive, and 15-30 minutes does not seem like a big deal.
While I have yet to find a study highlighting a correlation, I also believe that sleep is related to ethics or character. Ethical behavior requires us to be civil, aware, respectful, curious, thoughtful, and open-minded. Our ability to be these things relates directly to how well-rested we are. Put another way, we cannot be fully ethical without being fully awake.
The Norry household has experienced significant bedtime creep this year. Our kids go to bed an hour later now than they did in September. That ended, at least temporarily, last night. Seeking to avoid hypocrisy, I explained that I was writing an essay on the importance of sleep, and I ordered them to bed soon after dinner. While I doubt the long-term sustainability of this plan, all three kids woke up this morning without prompting from an alarm.
Friday is family movie night in the Norry household. Carrie and I typically opt for a ‘throwback,’ so our children are growing up on a steady diet of classics from the 1980s – Meatballs, ET, etc. Last week, we watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Had I read the Common Sense Media review ahead of time – “this movie has surprising amounts of bad language and thus isn’t for younger kids” – I would have thought twice before showing it to Kate, our second grader. Aside from the colorful language and core plot – kids skip school, enjoy a day in Chicago, and make their principal look like an incompetent buffoon – it’s fairly wholesome.
Midway through the film, Ferris and his two friends visit the Art Institute of Chicago. Seeing the paintings on the wall, Kate called out, “That’s a Picasso. His first name was Pablo.” Carrie and I exchanged glances. More than a bit impressed, we weren’t prepared for what came next.
“That was from his blue period.” This time, Kate’s words stopped us in our tracks. Apparently, she recognized the signature monochromatic quality and knew that Picasso had painted it between 1901 and 1904, a particularly somber time in his life. Wow. Art class at TDS is certainly making an impression.
A kindergarten parent told me a similar story earlier this week. In his case, the family was visiting the National Gallery of Art (rather than watching a PG-13 movie), and his son was excited to recognize the work of J.M.W. Turner.
As part of our effort to unlock the creative potential within every child, all students at TDS take Visual Art, a class which focuses on elements of art and principles of design. What makes this course truly unique is Ms. Lucas’ focus on specific artists and movements. This year, our children have learned about M.C. Escher, J.M.W. Turner, Marc Chagall, Joan Miro, Frederic Remington, Pablo Picasso, and Faith Ringgold. They have attempted tessellations, created seascapes and images from the Wild West, and explored cubism and surrealism. Next year, they will be exposed to a new set of artists.
It was great to see so many of you at the TDS Art Fair yesterday. More than 200 works of art, both 2-D and 3-D, were on display, including one or more pieces from each student. Individually, these art works are striking. Viewed collectively, they highlight a talented group of aspiring artists, a creative and dedicated teacher, and the progress that students make over time. The most beautiful example of this progress is the group of eighth grade paintings – absolutely stunning pieces – which will hang for the next month. Please come take a look.
Ethics Speeches by Middle School faculty members continue to be a highlight on Wednesdays. Recently, Nate Butler recounted his journey from childhood to deep sea diver to teacher, sharing his mother’s inspirational message – “You can do anything that you want in life” – and the profound impact that these words had on him. Last week, Jonathan Dowd shared what he has learned from his son and closed with a poem that he wrote for the 8th grade. Yesterday, Anne Dunkelberger shared her reflections on her own Middle School experience. Here are her remarks:
Anne Dunkelberger’s Ethics Speech
“The Sirius/XM radio station, Lithium, plays artists like The Offspring, Oasis, Nirvana, and Green Day (to name only a few). Whenever my radio dial is turned to this station, I am transported back to middle school.
I remember being in middle school and listening to these bands over and over again. I liked these bands for the following reasons: they’re angsty, whiny, at times very angry, and full of intensely complicated emotion. Luckily, I was in middle school during the “grunge era” so it was socially acceptable to be surly.
That was me in middle school – angsty and sometimes (often) filled with intensely complicated emotion. As Lisa Simpson says, “I was like a riddle wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a vest.” And I cared deeply about the approval of my peers. I acted like I was awesome, but inside just felt awkward. The years spent in middle school can be incredibly challenging. Everything appears to be changing at once, and no one asks you if you are ready. You may feel like no one understands you – that you are an island. I remember feeling this way. You’re full of worry and anxiety for the future because you realize that you’re not quite an adult but that you also don’t want to be treated like a child. You’re in limbo. The truth is that few people, if given the option, would choose to relive their middle school years.
So, bearing all of this in mind, why have your teachers chosen to remain in the middle school environment year after year?
There didn’t used to be such a thing as middle school. Schools were K-8, and there was virtually no distinction among the years. Later, there were things called junior high schools, but these were still not middle schools. By the mid 20th century, middle schools began to pop up. Their emergence is due to the fact that middle school students are a unique group of adolescents – for all the reasons you can probably assume. Because of this uniqueness, researchers and reformers thought, middle schools should address not only the academic needs of the students, but also their social and emotional needs. In short, the philosophy should be different for middle school than it is for elementary school and high school.
In my memory, elementary school was about following rules, doing what the teacher asked, and coloring inside the lines. Now that I teach middle school, I find all of you to be honest, curious and not afraid to take risks. You are this way because you’re passionate, yet complicated. But you’re also thoughtful, inquisitive and sometimes really funny. Although you might not know this about yourselves – I didn’t.
Recently, I ran into my 8th grade language arts teacher at a wedding. I spent the first hour or so avoiding her like the plague because I thought she hated me. I mean, she must. After all, I was a terror in her class; I was whiny, I talked back, and I was awkward and angry and uncomfortable with myself – or, at least this is how I remembered it.
Ultimately, despite my very best efforts to be as inconspicuous as possible, she found me during the wedding reception. She embraced me and seemed actually happy to see me. I was shocked. Genuinely interested in my life, she began to ask lots of questions. She told me I was one of her favorites. This interaction got me thinking. I always looked back on my middle school years and felt really loathsome about them; I knew that the image I projected to the rest of my community must have been of the same girl I saw myself as being. And this just wasn’t true. My perception of myself was off.
My 8th grade teacher saw in me someone with insight and potential. It made me wish I could time travel back to that period in my life to deliver a message to myself: ‘you’re not as intolerable as you think; actually, you’re pretty great, but you’re learning and growing and sometimes this makes you hypersensitive.’
For teachers, middle school has been referred to as the “best kept secret in education.” This is because you are all learning to become more abstract thinkers, and yet you still get wildly excited about advisory breakfasts, dances, recess, and homework passes. When it comes to most academic content, you’re sponges.
Even though inside you might feel like your emotions are untenable and you may have questions about your identity and your purpose, you’re going through a super-important process, and it’s the same one all your teachers went through. We understand that you’re going through a difficult and sometimes scary period of growth, and we accept the fact that you might be cheerful one day and grumpy the next. You will look back on these days and remember them fondly. And, if you don’t, come find me or any of your teachers; we’ll let you know how fantastic you are.”
At the National Association of Independent Schools Conference a few months ago, I attended a variety of workshops and heard many inspirational speakers. At the top of the list was Steve Pemberton, Chief Diversity Officer at Walgreens and author of “A Chance in the World.” The book chronicles his upbringing in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Removed from an alcoholic mother at age three, he bounced around among foster families, endured horrific physical abuse and neglect, and eventually searched for and located his biological family.
Along the way, Pemberton met a woman who recognized both his plight and his potential, took an interest in him, and became a fixture in his life. Acting as a maternal figure, she helped him discover an inner strength and build confidence in himself. Looking back, Pemberton reflected that “small acts of kindness can change the arc of a life.”
Those eleven words have been swirling in my head since late February. I thought of Pemberton’s message earlier this week when I read about the passing of Gerald Brophy, Professor of Mineralogy and Geology, who taught the first class I ever attended at Amherst College.
Geology 11 had 35-40 students, making it one of the larger classes at Amherst, yet Professor Brophy got to know each of us. One afternoon in the lab, I happened to mention that my car, a hand-me-down from my mother, was groaning in despair and belching up yellow smoke once it exceeded a few thousand RPMs. Professor Brophy insisted that I follow him to a local mechanic, a man he knew personally. At the shop, I waited as he negotiated on my behalf, demanding the “friends and family” price. Then he drove me back to campus. Two days later, my car was fixed, my credit card was intact, and I had a life-lesson in human kindness.
While that afternoon itself was not life-changing, it would be fair to say that my arc was never the same. Professor Brophy’s interest in me led to my taking another Geology course. Soon thereafter, I fell in love with the family feel of the department and declared it as my major. Along the way, I studied with outstanding professors, became a TA in multiple courses, and got hooked on teaching.
Have small acts of kindness changed the arc of your life? This question, I think, warrants consideration from all of us. And how do we acknowledge the kind acts that we have been fortunate enough to receive? Sometimes, we get to identify them directly; in Pemberton’s case, he was able to thank his surrogate mother, bringing her into his family and honoring her as he shares his story around the country. Oftentimes, however, we do not catch the significance of such acts in the moment, and it’s only in retrospect that we fully understand their meaning. In my case, the recognition comes after Professor Brophy’s passing. As beneficiaries of small but essential kindnesses, we can honor the gifts we have received by extending the same to others – as teachers, as parents, and as humans. One never knows when an arc will be changed.
Last night, a new TDS tradition was born in the library. Lauren Logan, 7th and 8th grade Language Arts teacher, hosted a Poetry Night. All students in 7th and 8th grade have composed different types of poems in their Language Arts classes, and, with Mrs. Logan’s help, many have submitted these poems for publication.
Last night was organized as open mic – an opportunity for students to read their works to a wider audience. Mrs. Logan began with a famous poem by Robert Frost, and she closed the evening by reading some Emily Dickinson. In between, twenty-five 7th and 8th graders took the stage. Participants included: Swati Sundar, Cristina Kovalik, Felix Braun, Carter Klein, Sean Cleary, Emily Abramowitz, Elias Zauscher, Natasha Waters, Ellie Nechyba, Caroline Ballard, Matt Eberst, Cole Hinson, Jacob Bowers, Rory Legg-Bell, Alex Middleton, Chris Egersdoerfer, McKenna Colgan, Jake Zilles, Gus Peters, Sarah Nelson, Brooke Davies, Lauren Pettibone, Elizabeth Eberst, Alex LeGrand, and Savannah Barnes
Students read haikus, sonnets, free verse and everything in between. Below are just a few examples.
I am Fog by Felix Braun
I am fog.
I hide things from people.
I cover objects you should see.
I do not make sounds,
But sounds come from around me.
I am like a cloud roaming the Earth’s surface.
Drip, drip, I collect on the leaves.
You can breathe me, but not see through me.
I have a crisp, clean, wet smell.
If you collect enough, you can drink me.
Sometimes I’m thin, sometimes I’m thick,
But I am always light in the air.
The wind blows me away.
I drift to a new place,
Maybe to the clouds in the sky.
Now, you feel free.
Power by Swati Sundar
I have power.
Not the type that you’d think,
With swords and with shields.
No, my power is better.
I carry it not within these untrained muscles,
But within this enhanced brain and mind.
I carry it with me, everywhere I go.
I trust it to protect me from the dangers of the world.
Not from beasts or from monsters,
But from insults and rumors.
I am like the queen looking out over her terrace,
Over her loyal subjects that protect her from harm.
I am the magician with wand in hand,
A wand with which to conjure up the untold.
I am the child with imagination as vast as the sky,
Imagination that spans the galaxy.
If you I look in a mirror, I am not made up of skin and bones,
But of words, of thoughts, of dreams.
I carry the power.
I carry it in words more powerful than sticks and stones.
I carry it within the pen that is mightier than the sword.
I am no witch or warrior.
I am like you.
I am a listener, a reader, and a writer.
Our Fallen Heroes by Alex LeGrand
Our fallen heroes we shall not forget.
Babies whimpered, people lost light.
They risked their lives, they did not sit.
They did not quit, they stood to fight.
Saving the helpless is what they did.
An emotional time for them had come.
They helped the world with no quid pro quo.
It’s time for them to beat the drum.
We listen, we praise, we ask for more.
They nod their heads and never back down.
They’re here forever, forever more.
They saved a country, they saved a town.
Remember them as one of you.
But remember what they did for us.
Kudos to all the 7th and 8th graders for sharing their thoughts and feelings in such a creative way, and thanks to Mrs. Logan for orchestrating this evening. It was a stunning success.
Having lived the majority of their young lives on a 75-acre, wooded campus in Maryland, our children learned to love climbing trees. It was always terrifying to watch Kate, our youngest, bravest, and most accident prone (six broken bones in her first five years), attempt to scale the highest branches to keep pace with her older siblings. On days when I tagged along to their favorite climbing tree, I bit my tongue until I was consumed with anxiety; then I yelled for her to come down. On days when they rode scooters by themselves, I assume she reached the top.
Both as an educator and as Kate’s father, I read “The Overprotected Kid”, Hanna Rosin’s article in the March issue of The Atlantic, with great interest. Rosin begins by describing The Land, an “adventure playground” in North Wales where kids swing themselves over a creek with a frayed rope, bounce on old mattresses, and even start fires in tin drums. She contrasts this expansive lot with the typical American playground, built according to a mountain of safety regulations, and as a result so boring that kids must dream up more entertaining (and dangerous) ways to use the equipment. Her thesis is that our obsession with safety “has stripped childhood of independence, risk-taking, and discovery.” What’s more, statistics indicate that this tendency to watch and manage our children hasn’t made childhood any safer.
Rosin introduces Ellen Sandester, a Norwegian professor who authored a paper entitled “Children’s Risky Play from an Evolutionary Perspective: The Anti-Phobic Effects of Thrilling Experiences.” Sandester posits that risky play – climbing tall trees, handling dangerous tools, rough-and-tumble play, riding too fast on a bike, exploring on one’s own – can bring important benefits. Most kids possess natural instincts toward risky play (perhaps these are stronger in Kate!), and this play becomes a form of exposure therapy, reducing one’s baseline fears over time. As one example, Sandester points to a negative correlation in children between the number of separation experiences (age 0 – 9) and level of separation anxiety at age 18.
Unfortunately, too often the parenting norm in 2014 involves 24/7 supervision. The result, according to psychologist Peter Gray, is a “continuous and ultimately dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play and explore in their chosen ways.” Even as we worry that our children are growing up too fast, perhaps we should be concerned that they don’t have the space to grow up at all. Real responsibility leads to taking pride in one’s independence and competence, which in turn builds confidence and self-reliance over time. Research also suggests that kids today are less imaginative; children’s scores on the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking have been declining for a decade.
As teachers and parents, we should strive for that balance between providing a completely safe space and allowing kids access to reasonable, age-appropriate risks which promote independence. When Kate announces that she’s going to ride on her ripstik (imagine a skateboard with fewer wheels), I remind her to wear a helmet and hold my breath. That said, Kate is living proof of Rosin’s point that most injuries are random and therefore hard to prevent. Since moving to North Carolina, Kate has only hurt herself once. She leaned too far over the railing on our steps, flipped over, fell nine feet, and landed flat on her back on our wood floor. I didn’t see that one coming, and, short of installing an elevator or padding the floors, I’m not sure how to ensure her safety as she comes down for breakfast each morning.
You might recall that, at a Middle School Meeting one month ago, I began a program of Ethics Speeches, and I encouraged faculty members to share a story of significance in their lives. A few weeks ago, Dockery Durham shared a high school story in which she did not follow her gut, went along with peer pressure, and ended up in the hospital. Yesterday, Kate Newman shared her thoughts about the importance of straying beyond one’s comfort zone. I am pleased to be able to share her remarks with you:
Kate Newman’s Ethics Speech
“Humans are definitely creatures of comfort and habit. It’s always easier to follow in others’ footsteps or do what everyone else is doing, rather than blazing your own trail. For me, this translated into following my older brother’s example.
My brother, Wes, is two years older, and I always admired and looked up to him. Wes and I went to the same elementary, middle and high schools and had nearly all the same teachers. I was forever being told how wonderful my brother was and how lucky I was to follow in his footsteps. I even remember studying poetry in 5th grade when my teacher showed my brother’s poem to the entire class as an “excellent example from a past student.” In an effort to please my teachers, my parents and myself, I began to allow my brother’s choices and decisions to become my own.
When I entered high school, I didn’t know the answer to any of those big questions like: “what are you interested in studying?”, “what do you want to do for your extracurriculars?”, and the ever present “where do you want to go to college?” I was overwhelmed by the seemingly limitless possibilities that came with high school. There were so many clubs, teams, and electives, and I didn’t know what appealed to me most. Instead of taking the time to figure out what really spoke to me, I looked to my brother. I joined the same extracurricular activities and took the same AP classes and electives. I even went so far as recruiting two friends to take the same Independent Study as my brother had taken.
When the time came to think about my next step, I visited all the colleges and universities on my brother’s list, knowing full well I would end up applying early to Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. There, I would join my brother and study Arabic and international politics, just like him. After all, those were my interests as well, right?
Before applications were due in the fall, I remember feeling quite anxious. I was having trouble sleeping and constantly felt unsettled. Something just wasn’t right; I felt it deep in my bones. I knew I didn’t want to attend Georgetown, and I knew I didn’t want to study international relations and yet, I was terrified of stepping outside my comfort zone and forming my own identity. After many restless nights, I told my parents that I wanted to apply early to Duke. I was so nervous to emerge from my brother’s shadow, but I knew deep down that I had to leave the comfort and security of my older brother in order to grow.
At Duke, I flourished and learned to explore my own interests and pursue my own passions. I discovered that I loved science and excelled at it, even though I never pursued many science electives or APs in high school. I explored leadership opportunities in sports and became a proud member of the teacher preparation program. My time at Duke taught me how much one can gain from leaving one’s comfort zone.
As a senior contemplating life after graduation, I was tempted to choose the comfortable option. I was offered the opportunity to continue teaching 2nd grade at Forest View ES. The current teacher I was working with was leaving to attend Harvard, and the principal offered me her job in the classroom. Everything would be smooth and effortless. Best of all, the decision would be made, and I wouldn’t have to spend time and effort determining what I really wanted. I could let someone else do that for me.
Despite the appeal of this safe option, I felt that I wanted to search outside my comfort zone. I began looking into teaching abroad and was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. I was offered a Fulbright scholarship to represent the US and teach English in South Korea. The only downside? I was terrified of all the unknowns. I didn’t know Korean. I didn’t know the host family I would live with for an entire year. I didn’t know what city I would live in. I didn’t know the specific school. And the worst part? I wouldn’t know any of these things until the plane had landed and I was fully committed to living and teaching in South Korea for 13+ months. Rejecting the comfort of teaching at Forest View in exchange for spending a year in South Korea was the scariest, but most rewarding decision of my entire life.
My realization that life isn’t meant to be lived within one’s comfort zone allowed me to experience a new culture, learn a new language, travel the world, make lifelong friends and a whole lot more. I appeared on Korean TV, taught students who escaped from North Korea, became best friends with people who didn’t speak any English, rode elephants in Thailand, climbed the Great Wall of China and most importantly learned invaluable lessons about the world and the deep desire we all have to connect with individuals who are different than we are. This all happened because I left my comfort zone.
My hope for all of you is that you learn to do the same. I’m not saying you have to live abroad or travel the country. The benefits of leaving your comfort zone can come from actions as small as joining a new sports team, talking to someone you don’t normally talk to, sitting with new people at lunch or even just taking different classes than your friends in high school. Once you begin to find satisfaction and joy in being uncomfortable, I know you will see the benefits of pushing yourself to new heights.”
As both a parent and a teacher, the title of a recent New York Times blog post by Jessica Lahey – “5 Things Teachers Wish Parents Knew” – caught my attention. The article is full of thoughtful reflections and sage advice about raising resilient, well-adjusted children in today’s world. In particular, #3 rang true. “We promise not to believe everything your child says happens at home if you promise not to believe everything your child says happens in our classrooms.” This reminded me of a (now famous) story from when my fifth grade daughter was in Pre-K. Informed by her mother that afternoon snack was contingent on finishing lunch at school, Emily shared that she had eaten four hotdogs before carpool. (It’s worth noting that, even to this day, Emily has never taken even one bite of a hotdog.)
In “Learning to Lie”, an article appearing in New York magazine, Po Bronson reviews the findings and conclusions of several researchers who have investigated why kids lie. If you doubt this issue’s relevance, consider the work of Dr. Nancy Darling, who interviewed scores of high school students. 98% of these students reported lying to their parents about a variety of topics. Interestingly, the same percentage agreed that lying is morally wrong.
According to Dr. Victoria Talwar, lying is a “developmental milestone”, in that it requires young kids to understand the truth and dream up an alternate reality. (Okay, of course I always suspected that Emily was “gifted”, but four hotdogs?) In some children, the behavior is “socialized out” by age 7 or 8, but in several others it becomes ingrained as a coping mechanism. The most interesting aspect of Talwar’s research involved an experiment in which 6-year olds were enticed to cheat during a game. Afterwards, 95% lied about it. Talwar then introduced a variable – reading to the children beforehand. While hearing The Boy Who Cried Wolf (boy gets eaten because of his lies) did not affect the lying, listening to a generic version of George Washington and the Cherry Tree (boy confesses and shares a nice moment with dad) reduced lying by 43%. Talwar concludes that parents should stress the intrinsic worth of honesty rather than simply the threat of punishment.
Bronson’s most provocative statement, which gave me pause in light of the hotdog incident and others like it, is that children learn to lie from their parents. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, 60% of adults lied at least once during a ten minute conversation; it was reported in Scientific American that 90% of on-line daters lie on their profiles. This goes well beyond telling the telemarketer that you’re not home. Kids are taught to tell “white lies” in social situations; we are proud when our children react positively to a gift they don’t like. Over time, kids become comfortable with lying, and they come to understand that honesty creates conflict. At home, we find ourselves discouraging our rule-driven 6-year old from tattling on his little sister, yet tattling often represents pure honesty.
In my experience, parents typically have two reactions to learning Dr. Darling’s statistics regarding children lying. First, we assume that our children are in the minority of total truth-tellers. Then, we wonder what we can do to facilitate a more open relationship with our children. Along these lines, after interviewing the high schoolers, Dr. Darling mailed comprehensive surveys to their parents. Her results suggest that permissive parents do not know more about their children’s lives. She concludes, “the type of parents who are actually most consistent in enforcing rules are the same parents who are most warm and have the most conversations with their kids….the kids of these parents lied the least.” When asked why they told the truth in certain situations, teenagers responded that they hoped their parents might change their mind and give in. That ‘give and take’ – even if it takes the form of an argument – can keep open lines of communication and even strengthen your relationship with your children.
Do you have summer planned for your children? This summer, under the leadership of Maria Vera, TDS is expanding its summer program. Building on last summer’s success, our summer day camp fosters growth through academic enrichment, athletic games, character development, and field trips.
New this summer is a series of weeklong enrichment courses, taught by TDS faculty members, and athletic camps. Please see below for descriptions, and please click here (https://triangledayschool.org/school-life/summer-program/) to learn more and enroll.
Real-World Mathematics – Ms. Newman
June 16 – 20, 9:00 AM – 12:00 noon, Ages 12 – 16 – $295
This course will allow students to strengthen their reasoning abilities while tackling challenging-real life mathematical problems. We will use mathematics to understand issues such as why airlines overbook flights, what the actual cost of toppings at a pizza restaurant are, and more.
|The American West – Ms. Dunkelberger
June 23 – 27, 9:00 AM – 12:00 noon, Ages 12 – 16 – $295
We will analyze the culture, history, and art of the American West. In an effort to determine fact from fiction, special attention will be given to Native American history, frontier life, and environmentalism/exploitation. Students will also learn to analyze primary and secondary source documents and write and think critically.
|Drama – Mr. Dowd
June 16 – 27, 9:00 AM – 12:00 noon, Ages 10 – 14 – $590
An intensive exploration of dramatic performance and study. Students will learn and practice improvisation games. They will learn about character development and will write and perform their own mini plays. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in a final performance of a one act short play.
|Revolution – Ms. Dunkelberger
July 14 – 18 – 9:00 AM – 12:00 noon, Ages 12 – 16 – $295
We will closely examine various revolutions that have influenced history, including political, scientific, and cultural revolutions. Though this course will be discussion-based, there will be special emphasis on research, reading and writing skills.
|Exploring Volcanoes – Ms. Newman
July 14 – 18 – 9:00 AM – 12:00 noon, Ages 12 – 16, $295
This course will explore the science behind volcanoes. Students will learn about the different types of volcanism, create scientific models and think critically about unresolved debates in the field of volcanology. We will conduct in-depth case studies and then extrapolate what we learn to foster a deeper understanding of how volcanoes shape the Earth.
|Movie Making – Mrs. Logan
July 28 – August 1 – 9:00 AM – 12:00 noon, Ages 12 – 16, $295[Description coming soon.]
Robotics – Dr. Nelson
July 28 – August 1 – 9:00 AM – 12:00 noon, Ages 10 – 14, $295
Explore the world of robotics using the LEGO® EV3® line. You’ll build robots with motors and sensors that perform tasks and react to their environment. You’ll learn how to program the robots using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3® software – an icon-based programming language. It’s easy to learn, and introduces the concepts of logic, programming with objects, and functions, such as loops and conditional statements.
|Expressing Nature – Ms. Newman
July 28 – August 1 – 9:00 AM – 12:00 noon, Ages 12 – 16, $295
Art, creative writing, and thoughtful analysis come together in this course focused on analyzing nature-inspired pieces of writing and artwork. In our studies of various art and literary movements, students will learn how to engage critically with works and produce thoughtful written analyses of the artwork, poetry or literary selections. We will also create our own pieces of fiction and artworks in styles similar to the artists and writers we study.
July 7 – 10 – 5:30 – 8:00 PM – Grades 2 – 6 – $125
July 28 – 31 – 5:30 – 8:00 PM – Grades 7 – 12 – Girls only – $125
BOUNCE School of Basketball Skills presents BOUNCE BASICS, Fundamental Basketball Skill Development for rising 2nd through 6th graders. As a former NCAA Division 1, high school and AAU basketball coach, BOUNCE Director Debbie Taylor has instructed and developed players at all levels. Campers will learn the fundamentals of ball handling, passing, shooting, rebounding, defense and game play in these 4 instructional and fun evening sessions.
BOUNCE School of Basketball Skills presents BOUNCE ELITE ACADEMY, advanced skill instruction for rising 7th-12th grade girls. For the serious player who is looking to improve her skills and basketball knowledge, this camp will feature advanced fundamental skill work, 1 on 1, 3 on 3 and competitive game concepts. In addition, each player will receive a skill evaluation and skill development plan at the conclusion of camp.
June 16 – 20 or July 21 – 25 – 5:00 – 8:00 PM – Ages 10 – 16 – $150
Spend a week learning the basics of badminton and the excitement of full court matches. Every participant will receive one-on-one instruction and experience a competitive game environment. Experienced instructors will include International Olympic Coach Dennis Christensen. Mr. Christensen will lead the Friday session of camp.
June 30 – July 3 – 5:00 – 7:00 PM – Ages 10 – 16 – $100
Coach Matthew Vera will lead a camp designed to improve the performance of any athlete. An emphasis will be placed on running technique, core strength, footwork, and other aspects of sports performance. Coach Vera was an all-state cross country runner in high school and ran cross county/track for High Point University.
June 9 – 13, June 23 – 27, or July 14 – 18 – 5:00 – 7:00 PM – Ages 10 – 16 – $125
Futsal is among the fastest growing forms of soccer in the world today thanks to success in Spain, Argentina and Brazil. Futsal was developed to be played indoors on smaller courts and allows players more touches and use of skill to outsmart their opponent. Futsal develops ball mastery as well as positional discipline, mental astuteness and also some very eye catching skills.
June 16 – 20, July 7 – 11, or July 21 – 25 – 5:00 – 7:00 PM – Ages 10 – 16 – $125
Skill Academy. Providing your child full skill development treatment, our coaches will develop your child’s skills to enable them to expand their game.
June 16 – 20 or July 21 – 25 – 9:00 – 11:00 AM – Ages 7 – 10 – $125
Soccelite Enhanced Development is designed to bring excitement and knowledge to your child’s growing love for soccer. Utilizing fun games as well as clever skill sessions, your child will learn not only the basics of soccer (passing, dribbling and playing as a team), they will also grow an understanding of the passion and rewards of the world’s game.
June 16 – 20, June 23 – 27, July 14 – 18, July 28 – August 1 – 1:30 – 3:00 PM – Ages 12 – 16 – $125
No matter the sport, our Speed, Agility and Quickness program will develop your performance, stamina, technique and endurance to enable you to perform at your very best. Along with core strength training and plyometric sessions, our experienced and qualified coaches will discuss nutritional planning to bring out the very best in your sports performance.
Triangle Day School students will receive $25 off the total cost of each sports camp. In addition, athletic campers and enrichment students may join the full day camp for the rest of the day at a reduced cost. Before/after care are also available.
Yesterday, in delivering an “Ethics Speech” to our Middle Schoolers, I began what I hope will become a tradition at TDS. We teach ethics, or character education, in a variety of developmentally appropriate ways. By offering faculty the opportunity to speak about a topic of personal interest to them, and by facilitating follow-up discussions during the advisory period and at home, the “Ethics Speech” program intends to forge a greater personal connection between teachers and students beyond the classroom, a connection which will in turn promote a more caring, trusting, and morally engaged community. Ethics is rooted in relationships, so any effort that allows faculty members to be known and appreciated in greater depth by more students allows is a step toward TDS becoming a more ethical school.
My remarks to our Middle Schoolers are below:
“I want to talk to you about money. You might be wondering what money has to do with ethics. Maybe you think I’m simply using this opener to get our attention.
Let me start by telling you where I am in my life today. This is my first year at TDS. I really enjoy my job – getting to teach some of you, coach some of you, see the growth and progress that all of you make over the course of the year. I also feel privileged to work with such a talented group of teachers, and I have a sense that what I do is meaningful and helpful. There’s no question that I love the summer, but I genuinely enjoy coming to work each day. More importantly, at least to me, I love my family. I have a wonderful wife and three kids whom I adore. I try hard to be a good husband and a good dad, and there are many, many moments when I remind myself how lucky I am.
I tell you all this because sometimes I think about the choices I have made along the way, and I wonder what would have happened had I made different choices. After all, there are more than six billion people on this planet. It’s eerie to think that I might be married to a different woman, have different kids, have a different job in a different city. I might not be as happy and fulfilled as I am today.
Let’s rewind approximately 25 years.
As a senior in English class in high school, our goal as students was to get our teacher off the topic as much as possible. We weren’t often successful, but one day I do remember discussing career options, and I remember, quite specifically, telling him that I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer.
Why? Maybe it was because there were doctors and lawyers in my family. Maybe it was because I had no idea about the world of business, so those were the professional careers that I knew a lot about. But mostly, it was because of money. It seemed to me that either profession had the potential to make me rich.
When I explained all this to my teacher, he responded with something along the lines of – “there’s more to life than money.” I was pretty sure that I didn’t believe him, but I filed his comment away in the back of my mind, as you guys sometimes do when teachers tell you things that you might not be fully ready to digest.
Fast forward four years. I am a senior at Amherst College. Now, Amherst is a liberal arts college, which means that you can pretty much take whatever courses you want. You have to declare a major, but it doesn’t have to be anything that is directly tied to getting a job. So, I am no closer to becoming a doctor or lawyer than I was four years earlier. I have taken some but not all of the courses required before you can apply to medical school, mostly because I am afraid of organic chemistry. I have an LSAT Prep book that I have never opened. I am finishing my time as a geology major and wondering if I should work for an oil company, or move to Alaska to study global warming, or something along those lines.
Then I started thinking – I’ve done a lot of teaching at Amherst. I was a teaching assistant in the Geology Department for seven semesters, beginning in the spring of my freshman year. I volunteered at a local public elementary school, working with little kids once a week after school. I even held a job as a tutor for the Introduction to Economics course. I hadn’t taken any other Economics classes besides this Intro, but the professor liked me, and I seemed to be good at explaining things to the students in his class, so he hired me. I enjoyed all of these experiences. It was engaging work, it felt fulfilling to help people learn, and it was a great way to make sure that I understood the material well myself.
During the spring of my senior year, teacher placement agencies came to campus to interview seniors interested in working in independent schools. I soon realized this was a fantastic opportunity, because these agencies did the work for you. They would send my resume to schools that had openings teaching science, and all I had to do was write a cover letter to follow up and express my interest. Soon thereafter, I was sending the same basic letter to independent schools all over the country, and soon after that, I began to collect rejection letters, which all had a consistent theme – ‘thank you for your interest, we have opted for a candidate with more experience…’
At the same time, I was editing resumes and cover letters for my roommates and friends, as they were all seeking interviews with the two other types of employers who came to campus – consulting firms and investment banks. On a whim, and because I thought I had nothing to lose, I sent a letter to Goldman Sachs, the #1 investment bank out there. A few weeks later, I had an on-campus interview with a recruiter from Goldman Sachs. I must have said something right, because the following week I flew to New York City for a full day of interviews. I still remember walking into the waiting room. There were 15 of us, who were about to embark on a tense, exhausting day of make-or-break interviews. As I looked around, I realized that I was the only one without an attaché case. Dressed in my one suit, which I only wore for weddings and funerals, I already felt like I was pretending. That observation did not help my nerves.
The day consisted of eight interviews. Predictably, the first few did not go very well. After a while, though, I began to understand what the Goldman Sachs people were looking for. I began to paint myself as someone who was good with numbers, and who did have a burning desire to take the corporate world by storm. Yes, I only took one Economics class at Amherst, but I was simply making full use of my time at a liberal arts school. Now it was time to get serious.
And then came the critical moment. One interview was going particularly well. Heck, I was actually starting to believe that I really wanted to be an investment banker. But the interviewers wanted to test my numerical skills. I was asked: what’s 11 x 12? In a nanosecond, I was reasonably sure that I knew the answer. I also knew that if I took ten seconds to work through the problem, that would be as bad as getting it wrong. One second later, I gathered all the confidence I could muster and said “132.”
You should always retain your math facts. You never know when they’ll come in handy.
A few days later, I was offered a job as an analyst at Goldman Sachs. The salary, with bonuses, was approximately $50,000 per year. This was 1994, and I was 22, it seemed like an awful lot of money.
Later in life, you’ll come to understand that the problem with jobs is that often they come along one at a time, and employers always want a quick response. So, I was faced with, by far, the biggest decision of my life to date – move to New York City or keep looking for a teaching job? Take the fifty grand, or potentially end up back in my room at my parents’ house after graduation?
It seemed like a no-brainer. Except that I kept asking the same question – where will this get me? What will this stint as an analyst prepare me to do? The answers were – New York City, investment banking, and (in two or three years) business school. I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to be in any of these places.
So, in what still seems like the gutsiest decision I have ever made, I turned down the job. A month later, I got lucky. A school that had previously rejected my candidacy had a second science teacher decide to leave. I had been the runner-up on the first go-round. Now the job was mine. I was off to St. Louis, MO to make $25,000 per year. And yes, those of you doing the math have realized that $25,000 is exactly half of $50,000.
That decision set me on a path – both professionally and personally – that I am still on today.
Fast forward four years.
It’s March, and I am now in New York City, only for a year, working on a graduate degree in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. The classes are fine, but the truly significant news is that I have met the woman that I want to marry. At least I’m pretty sure. She is in my graduate program, but we’ve only been dating for two months. Still, I have a sense that our relationship is going somewhere. There’s only one problem – I am graduating in June and need to find a teaching job. She wants a higher degree and has plans to stay in New York for at least another year.
Back to the teacher placement agencies. This time I am lucky enough to have two job offers at the same time. The first is a school in Los Angelos. It’s a nationally known school. I envision living blocks from the beach, playing volleyball, and learning to rollerblade. The second school is in Cincinnati. It seems like a nice place, but Ohio is not California. One more thing – the California school offers to pay me $10,000 more. At this point, using my vast array of negotiating skills, I ask the school in Cincinnati to sweeten the pot. They offer me another $1000, leaving me with a $9000 difference.
The only problem was in the form of a different number – 3000 – the number of miles between LA and New York. Weekend visits were out of the question. How would this new relationship survive, even for a year?
In the end, we both chose each other. I took the offer from the school in Cincinnati. Weeks later, she abandoned the PhD program and took a job in the same school. Our distance had shrunk from 3000 miles to 30 feet – the distance between our new classrooms.
Fast forward three more years.
Carrie and I are now married and expecting our first child. We both want to be back on the East Coast where our families reside. We hone in on Baltimore because its many independent schools offer us – two teachers – numerous opportunities.
Again, I am lucky enough to entertain two offers at the same time. The first is a job as Head of Middle School, the job I have wanted since Day One of my teaching career. The second is a teaching job at an all-girls school. As you might expect, the Middle School Head job comes with a higher salary – $8,000 higher, to be exact. Again, there’s a complicating issue. The school is 40 miles North of Baltimore. I am about to become a dad for the first time, and I’m not sure I want to be working so far away. In addition, I don’t have complete confidence in the school. By contrast, the all-girls school just feels right. They have a Little School, a daycare center, located 150 feet from my classroom.
This was a tough one, but in the end, I enjoyed four wonderful years at that all-girls school. Two of my children went to the Little School. I got to hang out with them during my free time. And my gut was right – the man who had hired me to be Head of MS was out of a job a year later.
Many of you are familiar with Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. The last three lines read as follows:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.
I’m not sure if I have in fact taken the road less traveled in my career. I do know that, in my first three big professional decisions, I opted for the less financially rewarding road. And not because I lack ambition or I don’t like money. Each decision had more to do with following a passion, or with making a choice that just felt right – for a career, for love, and for my family. And for me, these decisions have made all the difference.
Thanks for your time and attention.”
Fifteen years ago, I taught 8th grade Physical Science at a school in Cincinnati, Ohio. At the time, I had mixed emotions about the annual Science Fair. Students certainly learned about the scientific method, and many grew more independent as they tackled projects over the course of a marking period. On the flip side, preparation ate up a sizeable chunk of class time, and more importantly, judging the students was a stressful, imperfect process. I still remember a father formally challenging his son’s scores, probably because he had a bit too much ownership of the project.
I wish that, those many years ago, Dan Forringer had introduced me to the Science Expo. With more than fifty experiments, demonstrations, and research projects on display, and just as many budding scientists proudly displaying their hypotheses, results and conclusions, last night’s Science Expo was a stunning success. During the first hour, students took turns standing by their projects and visiting those created by their peers. At 6:30, Mr. Forringer, dressed as a mad scientist, ushered in the next activity, which included demonstrations by students from Duke and a teacher from the North Carolina School of Science and Math. After students had played with magnets and LEDs, learned about fighting germs, and used liquid nitrogen to make ice cream, it was time to go home.
Even with nine years of science teaching under my belt, there was still plenty for me to learn last night. I hope that my sharing a small sample of what I learned will afford you a glimpse into the breadth and depth of what our students investigated, tested, and created:
- Even when all words are badly misspelled, it’s still surprisingly easy to read and comprehend a sentence. [Chris, 7th grade]
- North Carolina is home to many different types of trees. [Wil, 1st grade]
- When it comes to pitching a baseball, taking a longer stride translates into a higher velocity. [Jacob, 7th grade]
- Dogs are partially color blind. [Elizabeth & Lauren, 8th grade]
- Some varieties of lipstick contain lead. [Gabby & Yasmin, 6th grade.]
- Geckos are fully capable of memorizing a maze, and they are quick learners. [Ellie, 7th grade]
- There is a range of frequencies of sounds, perfectly audible to people under 40, that I can no longer hear. [Austen & Rebecca, 8th grade] Austen and Rebecca assured me that this type of hearing loss is a normal part of the aging process.
It was wonderful to see so many of you supporting your children, and all of their peers, last night. Our students chose a topic of personal interest, performed research, designed and carried out experiments, and displayed and explained their results. February is Career Month at TDS, and many of our students are well on their way to prolific careers as scientists.
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 (see below for a complete list of themes and chairs). Generating a profit of $12,000 (which far surpassed the $5000 goal), the first auction was hailed as a smashing success.
Nineteen years later, the volunteers’ names, venue, and financial goals have all changed, but the TDS Auction remains both a wonderful community event and the primary fundraising mechanism for the school (along with the Annual Fund). This year, Bobbi Stubbs (mother of Wren in 4th grade) leads a group of more than thirty volunteers who have been working since August to organize a magical evening at the Carolina Inn on February 22nd. I hope you will join us for A Rendezvous in Paris.
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 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 science education at TDS. I have worked with our science faculty to identify materials that will enhance the hands-on science experience for children at every grade level:
- TK – Eggs Everywhere – This program highlights the diversity of animals that come from eggs.
- Kindergarten – Folkamanis Puppets – Realistic animals will captivate the imagination of our young scientists.
- Grade 1 – Junior Mineral Collection – Our budding geologists will enjoy investigating the physical properties of 30+ minerals.
- Grade 2 – Insect Lore – Models of the insect life cycle reinforce students’ understanding.
- Grade 3 – Human Bodyworks – Students will love looking at x-rays and much more.
- Grade 4 – All Things Electrical – Bulbs, batteries, resistors, and more, Students will use bulbs, batteries, resistors, etc. to build their own circuits.
- Grade 5 – Weather Forecasting – Students will use these materials to build their own weather stations.
- Grade 6 – All Types of Rocks – Middle School geologists will explore 20+ samples of rocks from around the world.
- Grade 7 – Microscopes – Life Science students will discover the world hidden to the naked eye.
- Grade 8 – Probes and Sensors – Physical Science students will measure force, acceleration, heart rate, temperature, and carbon dioxide, to name a few.
In addition to these and other supplies, TDS will use a portion of these funds to purchase Lego Robotics kits. At various grade levels next year, students will build robots and program them to perform different tasks. After gaining some valuable experience, we plan to enter the First Lego League competitions.
The TDS Auction has generated many wonderful memories over the years. Last year, attending the event as the future Head of TDS, it helped reaffirm my belief that I was joining a warm, generous community. I sincerely thank all of you who have donated time and items thus far, and I encourage you to join us on February 22nd. Come enjoy a delectable meal with friends, bid on a fabulous experience with your child’s teacher, and raise your paddle to support science education at TDS. See you in Paris!
The Auction Through the Years – Past Themes and Chairs
1996 – “Champions at the Speedway” – Sharon Myers, Patti McLendon
1997 – “New York, New York” – Patti McLendon, Jan Rollins & Charlene Clendaniel
1998 – “A Salute to NC” – Linda Bailey, David Oglesby
1999 – “Party Like It’s 1999” – Linda Bailey & Sharon Myers
2000 – “You Gotta Have Heart” – Bela Kussin & Marty Mitchell, Co-chairs
2001 – “What a Difference a Decade Makes” – Bela Kussin
2002 – “Setting Sail” – Kathy Strickland
2003 – “Building Our Future” – Marcy Speer & Trudy Smith
2004 – “Teach, Discover, Succeed” – Trudy Smith & Marcy Speer
2005 – “Mardi Gras” – Marcy Speer & Alice McKenzie
2006 – “A Magical Evening” – Alice McKenzie & Kris Selig
2007 – “007: Live and Let Buy” – Alice McKenzie & Joanne Dellaero
2008 – “Hollywood Nights” – Joanne Dellaero & Lauren Logan
2009 – “Kentucky Derby” – Lauren Logan
2010 – “A Night in Havana” – Grettel Cousins
2011 – “Mad Hatter Ball” – Alice McKenzie & Grettel Cousins
2012 – “Roaring Twenties” – Grettel Cousins
2013 –“TDS goes Broadway” – Daniela Egersdoerfer
2014 – “A Rendezvous in Paris” – Bobbi Stubbs
On Tuesday, a wave of excitement and anticipation rippled throughout our student body. Even with no flakes in sight, the ‘”are we going home early?” buzz grew to a crescendo by late morning. Surely, we would follow the lead of DPS and dismiss at noon! Morale dipped slightly as students remained at their desks during the afternoon hours, but at carpool spirits were buoyed once again by the latest forecast – 100% chance of snow in the evening.
Snow days help connect us to our younger years. I remember, as a young child, the night before the predicted snow being filled with so much anticipation, it felt like Christmas Eve. Too excited to sleep, I would stare out the window, waiting for it to come. The beauty of the snow day lies with its unpredictability. In our age of over-scheduling, kids wake up with nothing to do except to put on the hat, gloves, and jacket and join the neighbors outside.
What most students fail to grasp is that teachers root for snow days even more than they do. The anticipation in the faculty lounges is palpable, and most of the web traffic is directed toward weather-related sites. When we lived in Cincinnati, I remember my wife lobbing snow balls at a plow late one evening, so annoyed was she that anyone would have the audacity to clear the roads before the all-important early morning decision was made. Of course, back then snow days were pure hedonism: wake up late, go sledding, take a nap by the fire. Currently, all that remains is the sledding, and even that cannot happen without aspirin to ward off the inevitable aches and pains.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of my transition from teacher to administrator to Head of School has been my ascension to the zenith of the inclement weather decision-making hierarchy. In the past it was so simple: root like heck for my boss to forbid me from going to work. Now I’ve become the boss, with nearly two-hundred psyches, including three under my own roof, hanging in the balance.
Probably because, in this instance, it is lonely at the top, several local independent school heads spend a few hours conversing over e-mail before making a decision. It’s nice to share the burden collectively. As one who is still recalibrating to local inclement weather norms after our Southward migration*, I have been a follower rather than a leader in this group.
Yesterday’s decision seemed obvious, today’s perhaps less so. Ultimately, not having to worry about teenage drivers was a critical factor in our decision to open. Still, my heightened level of anxiety made me appreciate all the more the note that I received yesterday from a Lower School parent. She reported that her boys, all with Texas roots, discovered that even the dusting of snow was sufficient to create a snowman. To be sure, not all learning takes place in the classroom.
*As an aside, you might be interested in this article and map, featured in the Atlantic, which illustrates how much snow it typically takes to close school in different regions of the United States. For most of North Carolina, it’s “any snow.”
This week, I’d like to share Caroline McIntyre’s Lower School Report. Caroline’s descriptions of LS activities surrounding MLK Day highlight the best of TDS – students collaborating on projects that cause them to think and advance character development. In her words:
“As we celebrated the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., this week, I came across many quotes that were both inspiring and profound. One caused me to stop, reread, and ponder: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” I know that TDS not only strives but also succeeds in achieving this goal. Just this week, faculty members met in small groups to think about how our school implements or can improve upon various “21st century skills” including character and critical thinking.
In classrooms this week, Kindergarteners learned about MLK, Jr., and made hand print wreaths to show diversity in friendship. They also discussed the differences between MLK’s dream and nighttime dreams. TK and 2nd graders made a heart out their handprints on which they brainstormed various ways they can make a difference in the lives of others. This heart is hanging in the school entryway, so please take a look! 2nd and 5th grade buddies learned about the life of MLK, Jr., and made their own books in which they competed activities related to biographical information, leadership qualities, and dreams of equality. 3rd graders completed a special activity called “I have a dream…”, writing their dreams of how to improve the world today. 4th grade students watched and discussed the movie Our Friend, Martin, which focuses on how our world would be different if Martin Luther King, Jr. had never lived.
Needless to say, all of these activities challenged students to not just learn facts about a MLK, Jr., but to think intensively about our world and the incredible impact that just one person can have on the lives of others. In all of these instances character was a central focus of the activities in an effort to help TDS students become outstanding, life-long citizens from the moment they enter our doors. Our hope is they will carry these lessons with them into whatever walks of life they venture down after leaving our doors.
I must share one last story from this week. In the library, I read aloud to my class My Daddy, Martin Luther King, Jr., by his son, MLK III. The last page of the book begins, “One school at a time. One child at a time. One heart at a time. That is how the world is changed.” He then concludes with final sentiments about his father and the lessons he learned. From the moment I began reading this page, I fought back tears. By the end, they were in full form. When I finished reading, I looked up at my class, and my eyes met one of my students. What did I see? Her eyes were welled up with tears too, as well as several others. I was so touched that I could see the hearts of my students and how the story of MLK, Jr. had been so powerful to all of us in that moment. I am so grateful to be a part of a school that so purposely focuses on our children…not just their minds but also hearts, so that we all may be a part of making our world a better place for all.”
In May, our fifth graders will travel to Atlanta, GA. As part of the Great Fifth Grade Adventure, a capstone Lower School experience, students choose a city to research, create a detailed itinerary and budget for a two-night trip, and present their city to the entire class. From there, it’s democracy in action, as students listen to the presentations and vote on their favorite city. This year, the winning destination is Atlanta.
Fifth graders love every aspect of this project because the stakes are high. The curriculum matters. By contrast, in my twenty years of teaching, I’ve repeatedly been met with a common student complaint in the form of a question: “Why do I need to know this?” Or, less politely, “Who cares?” Not surprisingly, students do not consider the words of Thomas Jefferson – “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people” – to be a satisfactory response.
With these ideas swirling in my mind, I shared a ‘real world’ problem with my math students several weeks ago. [I teach a complements class twice a week to 7th and 8th graders which focuses on problem solving.] “Your parents drive too fast on campus,” I said. “Let’s use some math to solve this.”
Immediately, my students sat straighter at their desks. Attention and morale were at all-time highs, as they seemed relieved to be granted a respite from the dreaded worksheet. One boy offered that we could calculate how much extra time it would take parents if they were to slow down. Using 20 mph as the current rate and 10 mph as the target, students reasoned that we could calculate this in two ways. First, they measured the distance of the TDS driveway and then solved a D=R*T problem. Then, they asked me to get in my car and actually make the drive at the two speeds. Students clocked the time that each trip took. Our results were consistent; slowing down (from 20) to 10 mph adds approximately 15 seconds to your TDS driving experience. Next, students computed that, for a parent who comes to TDS twice a day, he or she will spend an additional 88.5 minutes each year.
I told the class that we could order a speed limit sign to publicize our new initiative. At this point, we had our Eureka moment. A student suggested that we express the speed limit as the square root of 100; that would surely get people’s attention. I was so excited that I immediately pulled out my i-phone to research customizable signs. Now only a few weeks later, I hope you have seen (and are abiding by) that sign.
As a faculty, we continue to discuss developing curricular programs and opportunities that take on meaning outside the walls of the classroom. Students invest more in these authentic experiences, and they grow more as a result.
For the past several years, January 1 has meant the removal of a less than healthy food from my diet in an attempt to improve how and what I eat. This resolution has yielded some positive results. It has been more than seven years since I’ve tasted a donut. French fries have crept back into my culinary repertoire, but my arteries did enjoy a twelve-month respite in 2010. This year, I am attempting to consume a banana each day, along with a kale-laced smoothie that resembles forest green sludge.
To be sure, I am not alone in making resolutions to start the year. According to www.aol.com, this year’s top ten most common New Year’s resolutions are as follows:
- Lose weight
- Stop smoking
- Learn something new
- Save money
- Spend more time with family
- Travel more
- Drink less
- Get organized
- Work on the to-do list
Of these ten, a small minority focus on people other than ourselves. Likewise, www.statisticbrain.com groups people’s resolutions into categories. For 2014, the top four are self-improvement, weight-related, money-related, and relationship-related. Only in this last category can one find (some) less self-concerned resolutions.
On Tuesday, Middle School advisors asked their advisees to write down their resolutions for the new year. Not surprisingly, the top vote-getters focused on personal improvement: make better grades (16), realize a particular athletic achievement (12), work harder (11), and stop procrastinating (8). Other responses, however, suggest that some students are looking beyond themselves. Rounding out the Top Five was ‘be nicer to my sibling’ (5), including one student who resolved to “not yell at my brother so much.” Similar responses included “be nicer to everyone” (3), “be more optimistic” (2), “do more community service” (2) and “listen to others before speaking.”
Resolutions are personal, and perhaps it is nonsensical or even paradoxical to associate personal growth with thinking of others. Still, the responses of several Middle Schoolers suggest that they are doing just that. Part of our job, both as parents and educators, is to raise socially responsible young men and women who possess a genuine concern for others, and who are committed to leading consequential lives. We want our kids to do well, but we also want them to do good, whether or not this is reflected in their thoughts surrounding the new year.
Yesterday, I shared these results with the entire Middle School, praising those resolutions which focused on others. I also encouraged students to share what they wrote. Studies have shown that having a friend, teacher or family member as an ‘accountability partner’ greatly increases the chance that people follow through with their resolutions.