The Sixth Core Value

Over the past couple of days, I’ve received a handful of messages from parents acknowledging the joy they’ve seen ignited in their children in these first weeks since our return. These messages have been a heartwarming and important reminder of the “why” behind all of our efforts to get this year running smoothly.

We’ve missed our students, and we want them to feel the joy that this place radiates on a daily basis, whether they do so in person or through a webcam. Joy is, after all, Mr. Norry’s “sixth core value.”

In the past week, I have found myself reflecting on the idea that our youngest students could really teach us a lesson on finding the joy and positivity in unusual situations. While we worry about recess spaces, the students have found creative new spots to play clever, new (distanced) games. While we sort through how we can possibly have “buddy time” this year, I see last year’s buddies waving to one another across their distanced walkways. While a video glitches during off-campus learning, I tuned in to find two students giggling with one another and chatting about the content anyways, all with huge smiles on their faces. While the adults fret about every little detail that’s going “wrong,” the students are here to remind us that there is so much joy in what’s going “right.”


This year has had – and will continue to have – its challenges, but we shouldn’t let those eclipse the victories. It’s undeniable that we’re in the thick of a year that has made silver linings hard to find, but these students are a constant reminder that they’re all around us. I am going to take a page from our Lower Schoolers’ book, and I invite you to join me. We could all use a bit more joy in this year, and I intend to pause and delight in the fact that we have a pretty special thing going here, in a pretty special place.

Natalie Ditmore
Lower School Director

Hello from the middle school!

I hope everyone has had a successful transition back to school, despite this year’s unprecedented circumstances.

TDS talks frequently about our core values of respect, responsibility, resilience, integrity, and compassion. However, we’ve also talked about how our sixth core value should really be joy, since we also try to instill a sense of happiness and wonder in our students. One of the things I was most concerned about coming into this school year was that sense of joy.

Luckily, while I may not be able to see their smiles currently, the students’ attitudes approaching this school year have nonetheless impressed me. While the world may be a more stressful place right now, the middle schoolers have been excited to come back to school and hang out with their friends and teachers again. At lunch today, the 7th graders shared with me what they’ve enjoyed so far during this very unusual school year. For example, they love lounging in their camp chairs during their breaks, being active in PE, and participating in electives again.


There were also smaller things, such as an inside joke with their math class, or sharing the advertisements they made in Language Arts. (Their ads were also a source of joy for me – especially this fantastic commercial from Oli.)

In the interest of cultivating joy, we also spent this morning in advisory listing as many things as we could think of that made us happy (with the goal of naming 50). Students shared everything from ice cream sandwiches to their family to their favorite video game. Personally, it was helpful for me to list as many things as I could think of (my vegetable garden, my favorite take out, and – a popular choice – ice cream sandwiches topping the list). It was also great to hear the kids find commonalities or ways in which they were unique, such as a preference for a very particular kind of hot dog.

Hopefully, as the year progresses, our middle schoolers will continue to find new things to bring them happiness.

Emily McAllister
Middle School Director