In these months so characterized by societal upheaval, hardship, and strife, who knew that inspiration for navigating this time would come my way from a comic Twitter creation, the 81-year-old cultural icon, trophy ex-wife, and friend to all humanity named Duchess Goldblatt. Duchess is a fictional character developed one Tweet at a time. The memoir, Becoming Duchess Goldblatt, tells the story of her evolution on Twitter, along with the healing power of the creation of Duchess on the real-life author.
Head of School Allison Webster recently asked parents to join their children in some summer learning and reading, sharing with them two options that are on DCD's faculty reading list which are sure to be engaging and thought-provoking in light of recent events. Below is an excerpt from her letter to the community.
I’ve always enjoyed spotting irony in the world. For example, I was delighted when my niece reported that my peace-loving and mild-mannered brother-in-law got into a shouting match with a person in the Life is Good store (the Life is Good store!). It brought a smile to my face when a friend of my parents was not able to go with us to the beach because he was going to listen to his “Live in the Now” tape series. As I watch coronavirus unfold across the globe, and people are in various states of isolation, it is not lost on me that I started the year speaking with faculty about The Art of Gathering, by Pria Parker.
As parents and educators, we often hold two different goals side by side that can create some dynamic tension. On one hand, we try to shape our children and guide them towards values, behaviors, and attitudes that we believe and respect; we have conscious or unconscious ideas about who we hope our children will be. At the same time, we work to embrace our children for who they are, allowing them to become the fullest version of themselves. At times, these two goals can become inconsistent, since our children – in being fully themselves – may exhibit values, behaviors, and attitudes that do not align with our own or our hopes for our children. So what to do then? The way parents shape children, and in turn, the way children shape parents, is one of the most nuanced, challenging and beautiful aspects of parenting.
Reflections from reading Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan and Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
How do we develop the ability to manage the loss and uncertainty that is inevitably part of life? As both a parent and an educator, I’ve found it challenging at times to simultaneously help children acknowledge and accept loss and uncertainty while fostering the feelings of security and predictability I know children need. I’ve talked before about our VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous – and know that helping children gain comfort in VUCA times, rather than trying to rid life of its uncertainty, can prepare them to thrive in the full lives they will lead. Two of my favorite recent reads offered insights into how to navigate this terrain of acknowledging and tolerating life’s uncertainty.
Wednesday was designated a National Day of Mourning to reflect upon the life and contributions of former President George H. W. Bush. Democrats and Republicans joined together in praising President Bush’s commitment to both public service and family, providing us with a less partisan moment than what we’ve experienced over the past months.
Tara Westover’s memoir Educated considers the role formal education plays in our lives, as well as the many ways we learn about the world through our experiences outside of school. Westover was not enrolled in formal schooling during her elementary years. Much of Educated focuses on what Westover learns outside of the classroom, whether exploring the Idaho mountainside where she was raised, or the lessons she is required to learn because of the challenging – sometimes traumatic – circumstances of her upbringing.
Even though I’ve been a New Englander my whole life, I’ve never developed a true love of winter. I’m filled with delight as soon as the signs of winter’s end come into sight, and no harbinger of seasonal change makes me happier than the rise of the daffodils. Just the other day I was walking around Stoney Lea and saw a full hillside of daffodils. It filled me with a moment of delight and awe.
I wrote in my last blog post about peak moments and all they do for a child’s memories and well-being; last week we had a peak moment for both children and adults at DCD. Mr. Clifford, wearing a top hat and tails, led a parade of students and penguins through the Lowell Center, which was packed with students and families.
December is often a time when we reflect, take stock of the year that has passed, and think about hopes for the year ahead. When you think about the past year, what events are most memorable? What events do you think your children would identify as memorable? Take a moment and think of a few.
Here’s wishing everyone in the DCD Community a wonderful Thanksgiving. In the spirit of gratitude, I’m sharing this poem about noticing each of our days.
I am thankful each day for the privilege of leading our wonderful school, and for my partnerships with DCD’s kind, skilled, and thoughtful adults and children. We are a hard-working community, and I hope you all enjoy a well-deserved break in the days ahead – and some days filled with “just the right amounts of sunlight and shade.” I’ll look forward to seeing all of you when we return.
Innovation is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the introduction of something new, or a new idea, method or device.” By this definition, there is nothing especially innovative about innovation, since people and societies have been adapting and finding new approaches to problems and opportunities throughout time.
Last spring, two of our faculty members, Duane Claussen and Gerry Clifford, read the book Grit by Dr. Angela Duckworth, sparking conversations about teaching and learning that led a group of DCD faculty, administrators, and staff to decide to read it together over the summer. During our opening faculty and staff meetings in late August, the group had a conversation about the book with Dr. Duckworth (who joined us by phone).
DCD’s 5th grade is presently captivated by melodic sirens, menacing cyclopes, and the wrath of Poseidon as they prepare for their story-telling performance of the Odyssey coming up shortly. What better reading for the end of the year than Homer’s Odyssey, an epic story of challenges, relationships, and growth?
How do children shape a coherent narrative about the world from the many disparate bits of news and stories they gather? In Paulette Jiles wonderful new book, News of the World, Captain Jefferson Jiles Kidd, a seventy-two-year-old veteran of two wars, travels from town to town reading aloud the news of the world. He reads in assembly halls, churches and feed stores across Texas, and prepares by collecting newspapers from near and far. The Captain circles the stories he thinks people most need to hear, and he makes his selections with great care. He knows people always like gathering practical information, so he starts all his readings with a report about which roads are clear and which are impassable. But he also understands that people need to be transported by stories in order to learn about the wonderful, curious, and mysterious occurrences in our world. These stories of beauty and wonder, over time, become the core of his readings.
A recent lower school assembly began with two second grade helpers enthusiastically coming to the stage. Their task was straightforward: one child was charged with bouncing a beanbag, and the other one was charged with bouncing a bouncy ball. We then asked the kindergarten to solve a mystery. A bouncy ball and a bean bag bounce differently when thrown to the ground, but what did this fact have to do with the story we were reading at assembly?
I just came from recess where children were laughing, running with friends, inventing games, and simply engaged in a joy-filled moment outside. Their harmonious play stands in contrast to the current dialogue in our country and the level of tension that exists as groups struggle to define the direction for our country.
The news - and its many implications - comes through our doors each day, as children tell stories of participating in protests, have the opportunity to witness first-hand the peaceful transfer of presidential power, or ask questions about the experience of immigrants. Children are absorbing the many stories that are in the media, and they are forming ideas based on the pieces they hear and see.
Robertson Thacher, DCD Middle School Teacher and Advisor
We ask your children to build masks – to try them out, adjust the fit, the expression, and to examine exactly what they’re showing and to whom. In heroic tradition, masks are often a noble defense that guards the anonymity of chivalrous deeds or selfless, altruistic risks. But masks are not just barriers. More than shields parrying unwanted attention, they are also curatorial reckonings of value and need that render visible what we want known, as opposed to obscuring our secrets.
As the teammate ran the route and cut right for the sideline, she used a forehand throw of the Frisbee to score the first points of the game. Meanwhile a group of students were inside contemplating an alliance in the game of Atlaza, a teacher-student designed board game. Down the hall a few students were putting the finishing touches on their cookie recipe in hopes of creating a delectable snack for the next day. Welcome to middle school activities!
Rob Thacher, Middle School History and English Teacher
By Rob Thacher, Middle School Teacher
I teach grade 7 history, according to our school’s staffing documentation, but I prefer to consider myself a teacher of social studies to your middle school “tweeners” – caught in the difficult interstitial moment of growth between 6th grade freshness and 8th grade responsibilities. To me, “social studies” aptly conveys the multiple threads that the subject demands in its teaching. It is my job not only to provide historical data – events, outcomes, causes, dates – but also to add layers to students’ geographic understanding of the world; to cultivate their familiarity with our civic institutions and fundamental economic principles; and to empower thoughtful reflection on the nature and reliability of information itself.
Here at DCD and around the country, students and teachers celebrated Digital Citizenship Week on October 16th to 20th! In honor of Digital Citizenship Week, we spent the month of October discussing and considering how we can be better digital citizens and build positive digital footprints.
When audiobooks are suggested to students, the first thing that is often asked is: But isn’t that cheating? Audiobooks are not cheating. They are a wonderful, multi-sensory avenue for children to access reading material, particularly when the audio is paired with the written word.
A teacher-student collaboration brings the history of the Aztec Empire to life in the classroom reaching all types of learners.
An expanded version of this article with the title, Game Creation and Differentiated Learning, appeared in the 2015 Winter Issue of Independent School Magazine, an NAIS publication.
I can recall my mother, a third grade teacher, sorting and counting some kind of play currency at home in the evenings as she launched into a homespun classroom game that (if I remember correctly) was structured around a social studies unit tied to the 1492 expedition of Columbus. It seems that almost everyone has memories – however hazy and blurred by time – of a teacher or a class where game play punctuated a semester’s rhythm or lightened the classroom mood for a spell.
Emilie Liebhoff, Director of Admissions and Assistant Head of School
“The Confidence Gap,” “9 Qualities of Confident Women,” and “5 Ways Women can Exude Confidence at Work” represent just a small sampling of recent articles that explore how women perceive themselves relative to their actual competence. While self-confidence has often been an issue for women, the subject has become increasingly topical of late. Much of the recent rhetoric in this vein has focused on professional-age females, almost ignoring that confidence (or lack thereof) is something learned when we’re children. And so we’re compelled as educators and parents to wonder, what strategies can we implement at home and at school to ensure that our girls are growing up both competent and confident?
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. This 1992 best seller by John Gray described the fundamental differences between men and women. Perhaps Mr. Gray was extrapolating on some differences between the sexes that were expressed in the early 19th-century nursery rhyme “What Are Little Boys Made Of?” “Snips and snails and puppy dog tails” is the answer, whereas little girls are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice.” Society today recognizes the sexism in those words, yet the stereotypes of how boys and girls should dress and behave persist even amidst the growing awareness that we do not live in a gender-binary world.
Art Teacher Lisa Houck Discusses the Role of Art in Learning
For Lisa Houck, art class is not a luxury, a place for down time, or a perk of an enriched curriculum; for Lisa Houck, art class is a vital part of the educational experience. “What I’ve come to understand in teaching art to all ages, from children to folks in elder hostel programs, is that art is essential. It is an essential part of our education. It is essential to our development, unique in the confidence it brings from building up skills with results you can see".