The Power of Engagement

Power-of-Engagement-Blog-ImageBy the Derby PA —  Do you see volunteering as a chore, or a pleasure? Do you see it as time well spent, or a drag on your time? Or perhaps you don’t think twice, as you know volunteering your time and talents to be a wonderful way to get engaged in the world around you, a simple way to enrich your life and your character. We certainly hope our school-age children don’t hesitate to help when asked. They are an active troupe of volunteers learning the power of their own engagement every day—when they pick up a friend’s dropped pencil, assist a friend with a math problem, offer a kind word to a friend who is hurt, or escort a friend to the nurse. These are all examples of children sharing their time, their talents and their compassion with others.

Engagement offers us insight and understanding. In her blog last year, Debbie Callahan cited an old Chinese proverb: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” For the volunteers penning this blog, it is the act of doing at Derby that has enriched our experience as parents and allowed us to appreciate the important role that Derby plays in the lives of our children. There is great reward in knowing that we will never regret spending this time here on campus. We have all heard from friends whose children have graduated that we will look back at our Derby years as the “sweet spot” in our lives. Not only do we get to witness, up close, the magic of our children’s growth, we are also rewarded by the gift of friendship that this type of engagement provides. Even simple planning meetings combine a sprinkle of work with lots of laughs and camaraderie.

Giving your time to Derby can take on many forms—a great idea, an act of support, an hour in the library, hosting a new family or helping Admissions at an event. If your instinct is to think “That is not for me,” consider, if you will, what we tell our Derby students each day. We ask them to step outside their comfort zone, to take a risk, to try something new. We can never underestimate how important it is for us to model this behavior for our children. This weekend, let’s reflect on how we contribute to our Derby community as parents and let’s celebrate our efforts and our contributions. Thank you for all you do. And…let’s keep up the good work!

This blog was collaboratively written by Parents Association Presidents of the past and present (Kathy Sherbrooke, Kristen Maxwell, Lori Cashman and Deb Hayes).

Read more from the Parents Association at Derby Academy’s PA Blog >>

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The Derby Metamorphosis

By Joe Perry — Over the past two weeks I have become completely immersed in our Derby community. I have been interviewed by our second grade students who asked me all about the ways I learn best, I have greeted our primary school students at morning drop-off, and have witnessed the eighth grade speeches for student council. I’ve stood on the sidelines to cheer on our Field Hockey team (who had a 3-1 victory!), watched Middle School students climb through a high ropes course and engineer an egg drop, and handed out cookies at snack (yum!). I attended the Secondary School Fair this week with more than 100 high schools in attendance… and was shown caterpillars in first grade that are waiting to become butterflies. And these are just the highlights!
Student Council Speech 001
What I am so pleased about is that whatever the grade level, whatever the venue, I see happy and engaged students developing, growing and learning.

To steal from the first grade curriculum a bit, and to bring in some of my science teacher background, our Pre-K to Grade 8 program promotes a metamorphosis in all of our children. Education is a process of development that takes time, goes through stages, promotes change, allows for nature and environment to influence outcomes and if done right produces a well-equipped specimen ready to fly off and take on the challenges of the world around them.Ropes CourseOur program feeds our “hungry caterpillars” by providing a variety of age-appropriate experiences. Our classroom curriculum develops the minds and habits important for the future. Our intentional interpersonal interactions (say that three times fast!) and stress on social/emotional development help create confidence in building relationships and approaching new situations. As our students grow, we wrap each student in the expectations, the philosophy, the adult relationships and the culture that we all believe in here at Derby—we create a kind of Derby Chrysalis. We keep them safe, allow them to try new things, encourage exploration, and giving them the time to build their foundation and become independent and confident young adults.Day One Boys 001As I watched our eighth grade students navigate the Secondary School Fair this week, I could sense their cocoons beginning to separate, their wings beginning to emerge. It will take this eighth grade year of leadership, this year’s experiences, to fully break out of their comfortable home, but I assure you that when you arrive on Derby Day next June you will see a parade of butterflies, with uniquely colorful wings ready to take flight and take on a new environment.Secondary School Fair

Read more from Joe Perry at Derby Academy’s Head of School Blog >>

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Into the Woods

By John Houghton — Taking advantage of perfect fall weather, the five grades in our Middle and Upper Schools, along with their advisors, went off campus this week and last to their outdoor education or leadership trips. Our eighth graders, as the emerging school leaders for the upcoming year, spent three days and two nights in New Hampshire at Boston University’s Sargent Center. Yesterday, Grade 7 was at the Hale Reservation in Westwood for the day, Grades 5 and 6 at Camp Wing in Duxbury, and Grade 4 just a few miles from campus at World’s End in Hingham. There were a variety of age-appropriate, carefully planned activities for each grade at their particular location–from group games and low ropes initiatives for the younger students, to more rigorous high ropes challenges for our Upper Schoolers. Although the activities were varied, the experiences for students at each grade level shared similar overarching goals.

By taking students off campus early in the school year and offering them opportunities to stretch themselves outside of the classroom, we attempt to achieve two things. First, we hope to foster healthy social growth for individual students and for the entire grade as a peer group. In addition, a major goal of our Outdoor Education program is to help new students make a smooth social transition to Derby, as they develop friendships and find their place in a new peer group.

We believe there are other important, tangible benefits from our program. For students, we expect them to return to campus with the following: a greater sense of respect for others; more self-confidence; improved problem solving, teamwork and leadership skills; and a clearer sense of their role in their class (e.g., social responsibility).

For the 37 Middle and Upper School advisors attending the trips, they return with a wealth of information and valuable insights for the upcoming school year. Teachers garner a better knowledge of individual students in the grade level they advise, as well as a greater understanding of the “group dynamic” on both the girls’ and boys’ side. We also gather ideas on how to solve social problems should they arise in the future—both as classroom instructors and as advisors for that particular grade.

I often field the question as to why we schedule these trips so early in the school year – when we are also working diligently to help students establish their daily academic routines. The answer lies in the fact that middle school age children, by nature, are very social beings, and that the best learning takes place when they feel connected and confident within their peer group. The activities each student participates in when he or she attends their outdoor education trip help them develop important collaboration skills that translate well to our classrooms. If a Middle or Upper Schooler can hone their teamwork and leadership skills in these settings, generally they are quite successful when asked to work with peers on an IPC or history project, a science lab or a design thinking project in the Healey Innovation Center.In summary, these outdoor experiences provide an excellent springboard for success in both the academic and social arenas for our Grade 4–8 students.

Read more from John Houghton at Derby Academy’s Middle & Upper School Blog >>

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Mighty Words

By Polly Rizzotto — As we begin the school year, it is important to focus our attention on the Derby Academy motto, Improve Both Mind and Heart. Our statements of Mission and Core Values, which are succinctly summarized in these five simple words, drive all we do at Derby. These mighty words guide us in the classrooms, on the playgrounds and athletic fields, on stage, in the dining hall, in our offices, during our meetings, and certainly in our more casual conversations and encounters with one another.
This motto dates back to April 6, 1791 when Derby Academy first opened its doors to students. On that same day the Board of Trustees appointed a committee to provide a seal. That seal showed a profile of a head with a heart and the inscription Improve Both, which was further articulated in the school’s motto Improve Both Mind and Soul. * This seal and the recently updated motto, Improve Both Mind and Heart, have carried our statement of purpose as well as Sarah Derby’s guiding vision through more than 230 years of Derby Academy history.

We follow in the steps of a farsighted woman, Madam Sarah Langley Hersey Derby, and we are each charged with carrying out this motto in all we do. It is not enough for the adults in our community to reflect upon this essential directive. It is important for our students – your children – to understand, appreciate and apply these words. Last year, the third grade students were asked to interpret the school motto in honor of Madam Derby’s April 18th birthday. Here are some samples – I wish I could have included every word these students wrote!

The motto “stands for learning and kindness. We improve both mind and heart by saying kind things and learning new cool, amazing things.” “Improve heart means to think about how other people feel. I think Sarah Derby wanted this school to include everyone.” “We learn skills and think about things to improve our mind.” “I love the symbol because it helps people to be kind and think.” “Derby’s motto is awesome.” “I love this school because there are people you can depend on.” “People care here.” Some years ago, a former student offered this fine explanation of the relationship between mind and heart. “When you open your heart to me, I open my mind to you.” I am certain that this boy has been guided by the Derby motto as he has grown and stepped out into a larger, more challenging, more complicated world.

When we truly strive to embody and practice the Derby motto, we grow in purpose, creativity and intellect. We also fortify understanding, empathy and character. Great people have valued these qualities of mind and heart and have recognized their dual contribution to learning. This message is echoed in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of education.”

*Primary source: History of the Town of Hingham Volume I – Part II by Francis Lincoln, 1893

Read more from Polly Rizzotto at Derby Academy’s Primary & Lower School Blog >>

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First Chapel 2015

By Joe Perry — I am so happy and excited to have the students back on campus. The past two days have run extremely smoothly and I give all of that credit to John Houghton, Polly Rizzotto and the entire faculty and staff. Your children are so cared for here.

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of starting off the school year at our traditional First Chapel. If you are not aware, First Chapel is the time where our 8th graders are first officially acknowledged as school leaders, and the time for the Head of School to set the tone for the year.

I took this time to pick up where Debbie Callahan left off last year, by continuing to expect our students to Do Special. I attempted to inspire each student with a metaphor: Derby is their tree. Derby provides each child with such a solid foundation — the Derby Experience provides roots to grow and a trunk to support each student as he/she flourishes. As I concluded, “I expect each and every one of you to stand tall, branch out, spread your leaves and blossom while at Derby.” My hope is that by branching out, taking risks and supporting each other, our entire community will continue to Do Special in so many ways.

Because many of you were not able to experience our First Chapel firsthand, a video of yesterday’s assembly, including my entire address, is available online — we hope you enjoy.

Read more from Joe Perry at Derby Academy’s Head of School Blog >>

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