Freedom of Expression and Faculty Staffing Updates

This blog has a bit of a different tone in that it underlines the fact we are almost at the end of the year. Field Day last week – a wonderful and resounding success!! Great weather; great spirits; great camaraderie. It was delightful to see the Derbies and Toppers/ Darks and Lights enjoy their spirited day. Today we saw these same students exercising Freedom of Expression, each having designed a T-shirt with an expression of something meaningful to him or her. Freedom of expression is an important foundation of our country; I applaud this 8th grade project of the Global Nomads Group for bringing more focus to this freedom in such a positive manner.

During these past few months we have learned of members of our community who will be leaving us. On a sad note, I wanted to let you know that Barbie Zinkovich and her husband have decided that living in Walpole is not ideal when one person works in Hingham and the other in Worcester. They have decided to consolidate closer to Worcester and therefore Barbie will be leaving us at the end of the year. I know we will miss her – but give our sincere thanks for introducing us to the idea of May Madness!

At the same time as sending along Barbie’s news, I am delighted to tell you we have recently added three new faculty members to our school for next year! Martin Lynch will be joining us as technical theater manager and shop teacher. Marty brings a number of years of experience both as technical director and theater teacher. He has had significant experience in carpentry, theater electrics and production design. He has worked at Beaver Country Day School and Vermont Academy as well as American Repertory Theater. Marty holds a Master of Arts degree in Theater Education from Emerson College.

Also joining the arts department will be Emily Shepard. Emily will be our Lower School art teacher as well as work on set design and teach art electives for Grades 7&8. She is a graduate of Ithaca College with a BA in Visual Arts Education and a minor in Art History. Emily also has a MEd degree in Arts in Education from Harvard University. She has most recently been the lead K-1 teacher at the Conservatory Lab Charter School.

Our new second grade teacher will be Lani Wright. A graduate of St. Mark’s School, Lani has a BA from Middlebury College in Psychology/Sociology-Anthropology. She also has a MEd from Harvard University in Learning and Teaching. Lani’s experience includes a year of teaching English to students between 11 and 20 years of age at a small village in Tanzania. Closer to home she has worked at Greenwich Academy, Kent School and Wolfeboro: The Summer Boarding School.

 

Have a wonderful long weekend!

 

Warmly,

Debbie

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Thank you!

I have often heard the expression, “Gratitude unexpressed is not gratitude.” I am not certain of the origin of this saying but I become more and more conscious of it as we rush from place to place, from task to task. We sometimes overlook the “thank you” as we hustle on to our next adventure. It delights me to hear students leaving a class saying “thank you” to the teacher. Sometimes it is the younger students who are more vocal in this way as they are learning the ways of the world. They know that the magic words, “please” and “thank you,” are well worth using!

There is an old bumper sticker: “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” As you know, I believe the heart of a very good school rests in the faculty. We are a very good school; we have a very good faculty. To each and every one of our teachers, I say, “Thank you for all you do for Derby.” Last week was National Teacher Appreciation Week. The Parents Association, representing all the parents, celebrated their appreciation of our teachers with a wonderful luncheon and generous gifts. There were individual gifts as well as one major gift to be completed over the summer: refurbishing the faculty room in Sarah Derby Hall. For all of this, I say a loud and cheerful, “Thank you!!! You are incredibly generous and thoughtful.”

While the faculty is the heart of the school, without your children we might not have a school, or certainly not one as joyous and filled with such laughter and learning as the one we come to every day. I might thank the children for being here (and I try to!), but today I want to offer my personal and sincere thanks to each and every parent who helps make this school so remarkable. Your time and your most precious treasure, your children, are greatly appreciated! Thank you! Thank you!

Warmly,
Debbie

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Twenty-first Century Learners

“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.” This quote is from Rabindranath Tagore who in 1931 was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. He also was India’s first Nobel laureate. His friends included such men as William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound and Albert Einstein. These men all lived and worked at the end of the nineteenth century into the twentieth century. Tagore was giving his plea over one hundred years ago! But the same holds true today, now, in the twenty-first century.

Our children were born in a time that is different from the years in which their parents and grandparents were “learning.” While there are some fundamentals across our various academic disciplines that remain constant over generations, how these are presented and worked with are indeed remarkably different. Our students are learning about a world that is changing almost daily. As our students study in a discipline – math, English, science, history, foreign language, arts – they are also learning how to advocate for themselves when they need assistance. Self-advocacy becomes part and parcel of what they need in the 21st century.

We want our students to leave Derby able to ask good questions, as well as be comfortable engaging in meaningful discussion. In addition, we provide numerous opportunities for our students to work on teams – in the classroom, in the theater, on the playing fields, in other countries via technology. Tony Wagner, author of The Global Achievement Gap, lists seven skills that students need to acquire today in order to be prepared for the future: critical thinking and problem-solving (being able to ask the right questions); collaboration across networks (teams are not all in the same location now, thanks to technology); agility and adaptability; initiative and entrepreneurialism (think of projects in the Healey Center or The Invention Convention or the Global Nomad Program); effective written and oral communications; accessing and analyzing information; curiosity and imagination.

While Mr. Wagner is speaking at the high school and college level, we at Derby can translate his message to be age-appropriate to what we are doing here. Our students were born in another time – in fact, as I have said earlier this year, all our students were born in the twenty-first century. This is the century for which we need to prepare them. Many of the challenges presented by our teachers (projects, research assignments, outreach opportunities) lay the ground work for what is to come as they move on to higher levels of education. We should celebrate these opportunities and applaud their teachers for their commitment to forward thinking and preparation. Derby is a remarkable school that is building bridges to the future!

Warmly,

Debbie

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More Than Just a School

Do any of you recall the commercial, “Do you know where your children are?” It generally meant: “Are your children at the movies? Off at the park? Out with a friend?” Now the answer to that question may not be quite so simple. With the benefit of technology, your children may be anywhere in the world but physically in your house. It is something to consider as members of your household move from being youngsters learning to read to being middle schoolers and upper schoolers learning to navigate the world.

Grade 5 International Night took us all over the world in just two hours last night. The students had done extensive research, thanks to technology, about their individual countries, finding live pictures and up-to-date data on topics such as clean water, health, literacy rates, pollution, unemployment and political challenges. At ten and eleven years old, our students have become dramatically aware of some challenges and opportunities facing our small planet. I predict there are members of this class who will “do special” in several of these areas as they grow up.

Derby Academy, as we well know, is so much more than “just a school.” Students and faculty work closely together in the classrooms but students work with students across different grades as well. Parents are a vital element of what goes on here also. It is through the parents that we have the Talent Show. This is another time when parents have chosen to “do special” for the school. The talents of our students never cease to amaze me and the dedication of our parents is impressive! Thank you to all who were involved in making such a fun-filled event.

More than just a school, more than just a family, Derby is a community with all the best attributes of “community”: care, compassion and connectedness. With many adventures awaiting us in the month of May, I look forward to sharing in these with all of you.

Warmly,
Debbie

 

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The Meaning of Friendship

This has been a short week, in terms of days at school. Monday was a holiday, a day to celebrate Patriot’s Day. The weather was not especially pleasant but certainly not bad enough to stop the Boston Marathon. Interspersed in the live coverage of the Marathon were personal stories of triumph over many different obstacles. In hearing these personal stories, one common theme that resonated with me was how friends made such a difference in these stories of triumph. In fact, in many cases the stories were stories of the power of friends.

Perhaps why this is what I was hearing was because I knew that the next day, Tuesday, we would be spending the day hearing from Dr. Thompson as he talked with our Middle and Upper Schoolers about friends. As he asked students to volunteer definitions of “friend” regardless of age, common definitions were given: someone who is there for you; someone who laughs with you and not at you; someone who knows when you are down or when you are up; someone you can trust. These definitions are not coming from a textbook; these definitions are from life. After students had given a list of about ten definitions of “friend,” the question went to the teachers in the group: “Is your definition of friend different from what the students have just offered?” Not surprisingly, they said no. The meaning of “friend” is ageless.

Friendship v. popularity – are these the same? Which is more long lasting? W. Somerset Maugham has said, “When you choose your friends, don’t be short-changed by choosing personality over character.” Choosing personality over character suggests choosing popularity over depth of friendship. Developing good character is a major theme of what we strive to do at Derby. Thinking of how we can “do special” has been a consistent focus this year and one that speaks to character.

The Boston Marathon is wrapped in stories of friendship, support in difficult situations, displays of character and resilience. Many of these friendships have grown from people of good character reaching out to those who need the support of a friend, “someone who is there for you.” There is little that is more powerful.

 

Warmly,

 

Debbie

 

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Significance of April 18, Staffing Updates, Dr. Michael Thompson Visit

What is so significant about April 18? “On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five, Hardly a man is now alive who remembers that famous day and year.” And so Henry Wadsworth Longfellow begins this famous poem of “Paul Revere’s Ride.” The year mentioned was 1775. Strange as it may seem, on the same date, the eighteenth of April but some sixty-one years earlier (1714), Sarah Langley was born. In childhood she was known as “ragged Sarah Langley.” She obviously had quite an impact on the town of Hingham as the three islands in Hingham Harbor are named “Ragged,” “Sarah” and “Langley.” Did you know she also made a significant financial contribution to the founding of Harvard Medical School in 1772? By the time Derby Academy was founded a few years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Sarah had become Madam Sarah Derby, the woman who made education available for both boys and girls. A forward-thinking woman who had a conviction about the importance of education, she herself was not a product of formal schooling. Three hundred one years after Sarah’s birth, Derby Academy continues the tradition of education for boys and girls. Happy Birthday, Madam Sarah – and thank you for establishing this school!

As I did a few weeks ago, I want to tell you about some changes in staffing for next year. Mardie Orshak, our multi-talented assistant in the library will be leaving in June. She is looking forward to enjoying a new role as grandmother when her first grandchild is born this summer. On our staffing side, we will also be saying our thanks and farewells to Megan Fahey and Jenn Bub, as both women have made the difficult decision to step aside for a bit of time while their young families grow.

The spring season is ordinarily a very busy time at Derby, and this year is no different. Hopefully the snow will be totally gone at some point next week – on last observation there was still some that was visible on the lower field. Depending upon which grade your child is in, there are several events on the horizon. But one opportunity open to all parents is to come to Derby on Tuesday, April 21, to hear Dr. Michael Thompson. Drop-in time in the morning will include “Friendship, Popularity and the Social Lives of Children and other topics.” Come either in the morning or the evening or both! There are more details elsewhere in the DEN.

On this long weekend when we celebrate Patriot’s Day, let us remember that we are reaping the benefits of those who exemplified with their lives the adage: don’t be special; do special. There is much “special” left to be done!

Warmly,

Debbie

P.S. More history of our school is captured on our website under “About” on the homepage: “Who is Sarah Derby?”.

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Celebrating Grandfriends Day

An exciting day today: Grandfriends Day! Full of energy and perhaps a bit of confusion – our campus grows by roughly 60% on this one day. With the crazy winter we have had, finding space for all the cars was a challenge. But we have become quite adept at solving problems like that this year as we have moved from “Where to put the snow?” to “Where to put the cars?”

What makes Grandfriends Day so remarkable? Perhaps it is that special bond that occurs between children and adults who are a generation older than their parents. It has been said that genes skip generations, which may be why grandparents find their grandchildren so likeable! Grandparents can tell stories from a different time; they grew up in a different century; they may have grown up in a different country.

For grandparents, technology and computers entered into their lives just as automobiles entered into the lives of their grandparents. These inventions represented change and challenge because they were new. For our students, these creations are a natural part of their existence. They have not known a world without the automobile. They have not known a world without the computer. What will be the new inventions that will enter into (and potentially change) their lives in the future?

At Derby we strive to equip our students with the tools and experiences that will prepare them to be problem-solvers, to be agile and adaptable, and to be curious and imaginative, ready for the new inventions of the future. Talking with grandparents and grandfriends about “how it was in their day” provides some framework for how to manage change. In return, having grandparents and grandfriends here today gives them an inside view of what their grandchildren are engaged in. These shared experiences can only build a stronger bond between old and young.

Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, had it right when he said: “What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, and lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies.” Thank you, grandparents and grandfriends, for giving to each of our students so many of the essentials: love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, and lessons in life. And please, don’t forget the cookies!

Warmly,

Debbie

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Putting a “Ding” in the Universe

After two weeks of a well-deserved spring break, we are back into the routine of school. Well…almost! It is not quite routine to have measurable snow still on our playing fields on the second of April! Mount Derby has definitely diminished but as of yet it has not disappeared.

But it is good to be back, to hear of adventures from vacation, to listen to excitement for what lies ahead this spring. From Grandfriends Day next Friday to the fabulous Talent Show a few weeks later, the “extras” are in place. In the meantime, I had an opportunity this week to experience a three-tiered slice of what Derby is about.

Steve Jobs had said, “I want to put a ding in the universe.” I think I have seen some groundwork laid that may result in such an accomplishment some day.

Today, I was visited by the Pre-Kindergarten class who were out with Mrs. Loud taking pictures of various sites on campus. One of the sites was the Office of the Head of School, an awesome place if I do say so myself! These pictures will become part of a scavenger hunt the students do later, learning more and more about their world: Derby. Yesterday I was talking with some students in Grade 5 about their presentations for International Night, a long-time tradition of the Fifth Grade curriculum. Each student becomes a guru for his or her country. They learn about the world beyond Derby, about the culture, climate and economy of forty-eight countries. Earlier in the week, the third tier of my slice came as I listened to our oldest students give presentations on projects they are undertaking as part of the Global Nomads history curriculum. They are learning about specific issues that cut across borders and about being citizens of the world.

As I play back these conversations in my mind, I am struck by how richly these exemplify our mission statement: “Students are guided toward an awakening sense of personal responsibility in order to prepare them to make ethical and mindful contributions in an increasingly interdependent world.” These three tiers –the world of Derby, the world of many countries, the world of universal issues – provide scaffolding with which our students can frame their future. Who knows? Perhaps we will see one of our own students create a “ding in our universe” at some point down the road!

Warmly,

Debbie

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“Laughter is an Instant Vacation”

In anticipation of Spring Break about to begin, I looked back to see where we were when we first returned from Winter Vacation. These two long vacations act as book-ends to an important portion of the school year. Often I think of this time as being the most productive time of the year, academically. Teachers have their curriculum well under way; students have settled into the rhythm of their classes; expectations are clear and focus is generally quite good.

My first blog in 2015 included remarks about the enormous changes in temperature we had just had: from 52˚ on January 4 to -3˚ on January 8. Little did I realize that this might have been a foreshadowing of what the winter was going to be! We will not recount the numerous snow days, sub-zero temperatures and mountains of snow that came in the short month of February. Those missed days also meant missed rehearsals for the musical Bye-Bye Birdie. But in true theater- style, the show must go on – and indeed it did!

The Herculean efforts by the faculty and the students produced another Broadway-worthy show, highlighting the amazing talents of our 7th and 8th graders. As I had mentioned earlier this winter, Nancy Donovan will be departing from Derby at the end of this year. What had not yet been announced is that Adam Norcott will also be departing for the corporate theater world. Such a memorable final production they brought forth, working and teaching the students to produce the outstanding set and sound parts of the performance! (As a side note, both Nancy and Adam will be continuing in Derby Summer Arts.)

Milton Berle is one who said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.” Sometimes we find ourselves laughing at the simplest things and come away refreshed. For the next two weeks, however, we have a long period of vacation, to refresh, regroup and return ready for the final weeks of school. From a mathy-mathy perspective, I hope you have many moments of laughter during this time thereby increasing your vacation exponentially!

Warmly,

Debbie

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Dr. Michael Thompson’s Visit to Derby

Unbelievable! We actually have done it!!! We have managed to have school for five consecutive days! This is the first full week we have had since the second week in January. This must be some sort of a record – and clearly not one I would like see repeated in the near future!

But we have made it through. We are back on track and certainly have stories to tell. Who will ever believe that we had over one hundred inches of snow in such a short period of time? We have all this snow here – but there is not enough snow to run the Iditarod on its usual course in Alaska!

A few weeks ago I wrote that Dr. Michael Thompson will be with us on April 21. In order to whet your appetites for that day, I am including a link to a video from a presentation he gave at an independent school in the Chicago area. The topic of that presentation was Best Friends, Worst Enemies which will be the theme he addresses with our Middle and Upper Schoolers.   Click here to view the video of Dr. Thompson

As some advance notice, I want to let you know that we anticipate having a parent drop-in time in the morning, probably 10:30 – 11:30, a great opportunity for you to ask questions about Best Friends, Worst Enemies. In the evening, Dr. Thompson will be doing a presentation to all parents based on another of his books, The Pressured Child. In between, Dr. Thompson will be talking with our Middle Schoolers and our Upper Schoolers, in two separate groups, as well as spending some time with just the eighth grade to talk about transitions for next year. Faculty also will have opportunities to talk with Dr. Thompson during the afternoon.

To celebrate the end of this unique winter, I hope you will come to the Upper School performance of Bye, Bye Birdie. It should help send us off on a bright note for (a well-deserved) spring break.

Warmly,

Debbie

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