Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

December 2013

Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter December 2013

Find Your Strength! (Then Work on the Weakness) by John Gifford, Head of Middle School

My eldest daughter, Adelaide, loves The Beatles. She loves them with a passion that is visceral, emotional and at times almost overwhelming. She describes Paul's voice as smooth and round while John’s voice is like a tin can. While I don’t exactly understand the tin can reference, I still think that she is onto something.

When she wears her red shirt emblazoned simply with “John, Paul, George & Ringo,” she’s lucky if the teachers (many born long after the break up in 1970) know what it means much less her 11-year-old classmates. She wouldn’t have it any other way. She thinks of them as “her thing” and takes some pride in having them all to herself. Just the other day, she said as a side note, “I get jealous when I hear that other people like them.” There is a need to be different inherent in her wish, a desire to be unique.

Number two, aka Olive, is burning through the Harry Potter books. She’s on the last one now and is planning to start from the beginning again as soon as she’s done. Olive, unlike her big sister, is desperate to share. She prattles on about the books nonstop and actively works to get her classmates hooked. Her relationship with Harry and his friends seems to improve when it is shared with others who are similarly smitten.

I see these opposing tendencies, and the spectrum that lay between them, in most middle school students. Neither perspective is inherently right nor wrong; they are just two ways of interacting with the world. Students who desire to be unique might have a better ability to make independent decisions. They might find more creative solutions to problems. On the flip side, they might struggle to be a team player and forge easy peer relationships.  

Students who desire peer affirmation learn different ways to approach problems from being open to those interactions. They are likely to be more sophisticated in their social interactions. However, they also run the risk of being overly dependent on the approval of their peers and perhaps allowing other 12 year olds to help them make decisions. This is mostly fine but not always the best method.

So where does your child fall on this spectrum and what of it? My first advice for parents is to embrace their child’s particular tendencies!

There are benefits and challenges to each and every personality type.  I'm reminded of the popular saying when Adelaide was in pre-Kindergarten, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

As educators and parents, our role is to help young people take advantage of what is beneficial in their natural approach while pushing them to experiment with the strategies that live outside of their comfort zone.

The “individualist” should be asked to collaborate and be open to different ways to solve problems. They can still revert to their own idea, but they should do so after testing it against other approaches. They should work to read others and their reactions while they work to collaborate. They need to maintain their confidence in their own ideas while not allowing it to turn into hubris.

The “collaborator” should be asked to work independently. They should have confidence that they understand the challenge at hand and don’t need to sneak peeks at what others are doing to confirm their approach to solve it. They should be pushed to take pride in their own unique approach. They should allow the time to take pleasure in their solution rather than immediately compare it to the decisions of others.

Vital work for young adolescence is to practice what works well while taking risks to try strategies that are uncomfortable and different. Young people rarely will do the latter unless we explain the value in doing so and then give them a shove in that direction.

Nobles Night 2013

Nobles Theatre Collective

We would like to thank the parents of the cast and crew for their support in the weeks leading up to the production of The Memorandum. We would also like to thank everyone who attended the performances and supported the intermission food drive. We were able to raise $200 for the Dedham Food Pantry.

Parenting as a “First Responder” by Kate Ramsdell, Interim Dean of Students

Recently I, along with almost a dozen other members of our faculty, attended a talk by Catherine Steiner-Adair based on her new book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. While her thrust was our collective, increasing dependence on technology and the resulting effects on family life, I was most captivated by her discussion of adolescent decision-making and the concept of “parent as first responder.”

Steiner-Adair discussed “first responder” behavior in the context of how and when teens use technology – and how little of it their parents can really track. Recent studies have shown an enormous gulf between what kids do online and how much their parents really know. Moreover, kids lie about their tech use, and that poses a real challenge to parenting.

Her advice regarding this dilemma focused not on ways to block adolescent technology use, but instead on how to respond when you discover that your child has violated your family’s agreed upon technology ground rules (see Ben Snyder’s newsletter piece for examples). During discussions of technology and the ways in which it deeply affects them, many of the teenagers with whom Steiner-Adair works in her clinical practice say things like:

“I got in a fight with one of my friends, and she got revenge by texting another friend telling her that she shouldn’t invite me to her sweet 16. I am really, really sad about it. But if I told my mom, she would go crazy and call my friend’s mom right away! Last time this happened, she called my advisor, too. I can’t tell her anything anymore.”

“My dad would be so scary if he found that picture on Facebook of my girlfriend drinking at the concert we went to last weekend. I decided not to drink, because I needed to take care of her, but he’d never believe me. He’d never let me see her again. I’d be grounded for months.”

“My parents are so incredibly clueless, there’s no way they know what I do on my phone at night. I can’t tell them I met a guy I’m seeing on Tinder. He goes to BU, and we meet up on weekends when I tell her I’m going to Lucy’s house.”

She went on to explain in detail what “crazy, scary and clueless” parents do – they don’t respond in ways that will shape their child’s tech use in any meaningful way going forward.

Crazy parents, as Steiner-Adair defined them, amplify drama and take on their child’s emotions, escalating situations that often demand de-escalation. Scary parents react in a way that is rigid, judgmental and too intense. Instead of talking through a friend’s risky behavior, they’ll shut down a relationship immediately, often to the detriment of their own child’s sense of self and to their own relationship with their child. Clueless parents often try to convey that they “get” what their child is doing, but their kids know they don’t, and sometimes find themselves in dangerous situations as a result. All three responses result in an adolescent’s pulling away from his or her parents, even when they could ostensibly protect their child from harm.

Steiner-Adair’s advice to parents was to adopt a “first responder” style response to stressful tech-related moments with teenagers. As she put it, in an emergency, we all want our caretakers – whether they are EMTs, firefighters, or parents – to be approachable, calm, informed and available. She also emphasized that setting limits, and upholding them, was critical to the success of such an approach. Seems easy enough, but I bet we can all think of a relatively recent moment when our kids might have called something we did or said crazy, scary, or clueless.

While these guidelines certainly apply to technology use, what I liked most is that her advice could be used in any potentially stressful parent/child interaction, three of which are imminent for Nobles students: end of semester grades and comments, social decision-making during school breaks and, for seniors, college news. Just remember, even in the heat of the moment, if you can think and react like a first responder, your child will likely return again for advice and comfort in those very real moments of crisis where we all hope we can be most helpful. And, if we can be helpful here at Nobles, please let us know!

Text Less, Live More by Ben Snyder, Head of Upper School

In a mid-November assembly, two students shared the story of a recently graduated Milton Academy friend who was tragically killed as she was biking across the United States. Merritt Levitan was killed by someone who was texting while driving. To honor Merritt, the “Text Less, Live More” campaign has begun at Nobles and Milton with many signing a pledge not to text and drive and to wear a “Text Less, Live More” bracelet as a reminder. 
At the end of November, along with half a dozen Nobles colleagues, I attended a presentation by Catherine Steiner-Adair at Beacon Academy in Boston where she shared reflections on her new book The Big Disconnect. Her thesis is that the ubiquity of technology has disconnected us from the most important relationships in our lives and that we have to become more intentional at cultivating those relationships by disconnecting from our growing device addiction. 
As I drove home from the event, I couldn’t help thinking about the “Text Less, Live 
More” campaign. Yes, there was the transparently obvious message about safety and 
saving lives. If you want to learn more about the frightening dangers of texting and 
driving visit the website
However, I kept coming back to thinking that if we all texted (and “teched”) less, we would all live more (and better) which was, I think, the core message of Dr. Steiner-Adair’s presentation. 
A quick skim of the book and my notes revealed what many might find as a surprising 
dichotomy; as the adults complain more and more about the “screen addiction” of their 
children, the children are just as distressed about their parents’ distraction because of 
the parents’ devices. In story after story (she interviewed over 1,000 kids and adults for 
her book) young people expressed frustration about the ways in which parents were not 
paying full attention to them – and often when these children needed their parents most. 
While as working adults we have come to view technology as a way for us to strike a 
better “work/life balance," our kids interpretation is that the latest email, text, or call 
is simply more important than a simultaneous interaction with a child (and this cuts 
across all age groups). While I don’t believe this is intentional (and I can be as guilty as anyone), the message is implicit in our behavior. 
Steiner-Adair writes, “…the take home message I am hearing from children of all ages is this: They feel the disconnect. They can tell when their parents’ attention is on screens or calls and increasingly they are feeling that all the time. It feels 'bad and sad' to be ignored. And they are tired of being the 'call waiting' in their parents lives…The message we communicate with our preoccupation and responsiveness to calls and emails is: Everybody else matters more than you. Everything else matters more than you. Whatever the caller may say is more important than what you are telling me now.”
In the same breath, Steiner-Adair also reminds parents that we need to be more clear and consistent in our rules and guidelines around the use of technology (despite our children’s protestations). She summarizes her thoughts on how we should approach our children about their technology use in very simple and clear language: 
 “This is not your computer — I know it has your name on it, but this is my computer (or your school’s computer). I’m your parent, and I reserve the right to see everything that’s going on there. You need to be on the computer in an open place. I have the right to know what your homework assignment is. You can’t be in your room with the door closed. You can’t take it to bed with you. You can’t collapse a screen when I walk by. We have a code of conduct and we expect you to stick with it: Don’t be mean, don’t lie, don’t embarrass other people, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, don’t go places you’re not allowed to go. Don’t post pictures that Grandma wouldn’t love. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t approve of.”
This is an incredibly complex and emotional topic on many levels. As we head into the 
holidays, I hope we can all consider the impact of technology on our lives and take heed 
of the message from some very caring and thoughtful Nobles and Milton kids that we 
should all “text less” and “live more.”

The Studies Show: A Podcast Review of Top Dog






Nobles Learning Specialists Gia Batty and Sara Masucci review the book Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.

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Stress Management at Nobles by Jennifer Hamilton, School Psychologist/ Licensed Educational Psychologist

Here's the thing about Nobles that prospective parents won't learn from reading Boston Magazine or US News rankings:  While Nobles is a "10" out of "10" for academic rigor, it's an "11" for emotional support. Nobles' true commitment to the welfare of the "whole child" comes from the top down. This is evidenced by the fact that we have three school counselors, a consulting psychologist, and two nurses who are intimately aware that often physical ailments are caused by stress and anxiety. Our advising system acts as a safety net so that kids who might be struggling academically, socially, or otherwise, will not go unnoticed. Advisors often act as the frontline of counseling services at Nobles, and they do not hesitate to suggest setting up a quick or casual meeting.

Our main goal in the counseling offices is to help put supports in place during stressful or difficult times. To facilitate that goal it is important to reduce any stigma that may surround the idea of talking to a counselor or psychologist. This is true not only for students but also for parents. We try to achieve this by keeping our doors opened whenever possible and encouraging students to drop in when things are going fine, so that later if a problem arises they will have already made a connection.  We run many lunch groups with discussion topics including coping with stress, family issues, recovering from concussions and having siblings away at college.

If your child comes home and says he or she has met with a school counselor or attended a counseling lunch group, please don't be alarmed. It doesn't necessarily mean something is "wrong."  Nobles has trained professionals on staff both for serious issues and for more casual meetings; frequently, kids come by just to chat and get to know us so that if they do become anxious or stressed in the future, they will know who to turn to.

If you would like to talk more about the counseling services offered at Nobles or have ideas on how we as a community can further support students, please don't hesitate to reach out to me at, Mark Spence at or Mary Batty at

From the PA Co-Chairs

At this time of both giving thanks and celebrating the season, we would like to recognize 
all of the hard work done by parents this fall to bring our community together! We hope 
you have found our events fun and informative and a way to be involved and engaged in 
the Nobles community.
We will have a PA forum on Concussions on Thurs. Dec. 12 at 8:30 a.m. in the Castle 
Library, presented by Bob Moore, Assistant Dean of Students, Kate Ramsdell, Interim 
Dean of Students, and the School Nurses. We will have coffee from 8-8:30 a.m.
We invite you to attend the choral concert on Thurs., Dec. 12, from 7 to 9 p.m., in 
Lawrence Auditorium.
Join the PA for Holiday Coffee/Shopping at Nest, 622 High Street, Dedham Center. After 
you drop your child off at exams on Tues., Dec. 17th, come visit with us, and pick up 
some holiday gifts from Nest’s eclectic mix of items (including jewelry, bags, candles, 
artwork, housewares) from 8:30-10:30 a.m. 
In January there are several activities you can mark on your calendar:
Thurs. Jan. 9 is the Jazz/Blues concert from 7-9:00 p.m. in Lawrence Auditorium. And 
Thurs. Jan. 16 is the Wind/String/Orchestra concert from 7-9:00 in Lawrence as well.
Please mark your calendar for the annual basketball game with the Cotting School on Fri., 
Jan. 10, from 7 to 9 p.m., in the MAC. There will be food, fun and a lot of action on the 
court. Come and cheer on all of the players.
Our monthly PA meetings will resume on Tues., Jan. 14. Michael Denning, Director of 
College Counseling, will speak and answer your questions regarding the college process. 
Please join us in the Castle library at 8 a.m., for what promises to be an interesting and 
informative morning.
Our next book group meeting with be on Thurs. Jan. 23 at 7:00 p.m. in the Castle 
main dining room. We will be reading “Top Dog” by Po Bronson. Dinner is offered for 
anyone between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. The kitchen closes at 7:00 p.m. and the book 
discussion will be from 7:00-8:30pm. If you would like to join us for dinner, please RSVP 
by Monday, January 20. To RSVP. contact Rikki Conley at or 
Dana DeAngelis at You will be chitted $5 for dinner. Hope to 
see you there.
Also, coming in January we will have a PA ceramics class with Nora Creahan. Look for 
details in the weekly emails!
We wish you all a safe and happy holiday season with family and friends!
Rikki Conley and Dana DeAngelis
Parents’ Association Co-Chairs

Class IV Dean's Report

Transitions and Thanksgiving

Fall is in the air. So, too, is winter. I awoke yesterday to the first snowfall piling gently atop a carpet of resplendent yellow leaves. The change of seasons is a refreshing mix of things past (splashes of colorful leaves furiously dropping) and things  to come (the brisk winter chill now in the air).

Transitions color the Class IV year. Many students began in September with a transition to the Upper School, to a new culture, to new classes, and to new groups of friends.
Orientations, retreats, and social events helped to further the bonds that students forge organically through time spent in the classroom, the alcoves, the Castle, and extracurricular activities. Our hope is that Class IV students now feel comfortable in their new environment, and that they have a handle on how (and with whom) to navigate the academic and social aspects of daily life here at Nobles.

We have come to a point to reflect on the challenges and triumphs of the first quarter. Students have had discussions with advisers about first quarter indicator grades, and many have set goals for the coming semester. As the fall season wraps up, students are able to step back a bit and see the progress made on the fields, on the stage, or in the community.

We also find ourselves in need of renewed energy. The sunlight may be fading, but a host of new opportunities awaits on the horizon. I encourage all Class IV students to approach new activities of the winter season with vigor, in order to explore new interests and push themselves to greater levels of achievement and reward. Audition for the play, give a new sport a try, go lend a helping hand.

Finally, we are entering a time to reflect on that for which we are thankful. I am thankful for a nearly flawless fall season. I am thankful for another great group of Class IV students. I am thankful for the sparks of inspiration and leadership that I see everyday in the classrooms and hallways. I am thankful, too, for the days of rest that allow time to spend with family and to reflect on the many new experiences that fall and winter bring.

Please accept my best wishes for the holiday season!

Dave Ulrich
Class IV Dean

Class II Parent Reps: Nicole Zungoli Stimpson and Karen Conway

Dear Class II Parents and Friends,
What a wonderful gathering we had in the Castle on Nov. 16. The Castle dining room glowed with the amber lights and warm fire; we had a cheerful crowd with delicious appetizers and drinks. Thanks to all for coming - it certainly helps us connect as parents when we are able to share a few stories as our children navigate high school.
There are only a couple weeks until the holiday break and the students will be busy finishing up the semester and getting ready for assements. 
Assements begin on Dec. 16 and winter school vacation starts on December 20.
Please plan ahead for our next parent coffee on January 23.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. We hope to see you at 
some of the school events. 
Wishing you all a restful and happy holidays.
Karen S Conway -
Nicole Zungoli Stimpson -

Middle School Parents Reps (from left to right): Lori Giandomenico, Cindy Lawry, Julie Callaghan, and Toni Gordon

Hard to believe it is the last month of 2013!

As we enter December, we’d like to acknowledge some amazing community building events on campus from the past month:

The Nobles-Milton weekend was a good weekend and great demonstration of our athletes’ ability and sportsmanship and what a great community our school is.

On November 16, Nobles Night in the Castle was a greatly attended community evening – looked like everyone really enjoyed them selves.  Thanks to all those who made it such a successful evening.

The Middle School Pie Drive was once again a fun and successful event—students assembled hundreds of pies in an afternoon with 100 pies donated to the Single Parent Outreach Center in Boston and 200 were sold to the Nobles community; with the proceeds going to the Noble and Greenough Afternoon Program Food Initiative, supporting local food pantries in our area.  Many thanks to Nathalie Ducrest and Anne London for co-chairing this event, and thanks to all of the volunteers and everyone who participated, donated items and purchased pies.

December will be a short and busy month with assessments, new winter afternoon program starting, the Class VI “Who Am I” Presentation, annual Holiday Assembly, and the winter break!

On December 2, the middle school winter afternoon program begins.

On December 12, at 5:30 pm, the Middle School Visual Arts Presentation will take place in Morrison Forum. We will be sharing the Class VI  "Who am I?" videos. This cross-disciplinary project asks our 7th graders to explore their identity through narrative writing, poetry, imagery and audio. This project has been a mainstay of the middle school curriculum for the past ten years. The Visual Arts opening will feature work made by ALL middle school students who took visual arts this fall.  Drawing, sculptures, animations, prints and more! Families and friends are welcome to celebrate the artists. Light refreshments will be served. Following this event, the Winter Choral Concert will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Lawrence Auditorium.

Please take special note of assessments on December 16, 17, and 18.  There will be no classes on December 19. Students will return to school on December 20 for the last day of the semester. Beyond getting their grades and assessments back, it is on this day that students in Class 6 recite their holiday passage in front of the entire school community during morning assembly.

School reopens on January 6.

Happy Holidays to all!

Class V Reps

Lori Giandomenico

Cindy Lawry

Class VI Reps

Julie Callaghan

Toni Gordon


Important December Dates in the Middle School:


December 2—Winter Afternoon Program begins for middle school students


December 12 — Middle School Visual Arts Show - Class VI "Who Am I" Projects in Morrison Forum starting at 5:30pm.  Followed by the Winter Choral Concert starting at 7pm in Lawrence Auditorium


December 16 — Geography/Civics Assessments (am) and Math Assessments (pm)


December 17 — English & English via Latin Assessments (am) and Classics  (pm)


December 18 — Science Assessments (am) and Modern Language Assessments (pm)


December 19 — Comment Writing Day — no school


December 20 — Last day of first semester. Faculty meeting will take place @ 3:15pm in Morrison Forum


December 23 — Winter break begins! School will reopen on Monday, January 6, 2014


Class III Parent Reps - Elizabeth Orgel and Betsy Edie

Dear Class III Parents and Guardians,
We hope your December has gotten off to a great start! We have one class specific date to add to your calendar, as well as some important school events that we want to highlight.
First, we hope to see you on Friday, Dec. 6 from 8:00 - 9:30 am for our Class III parent coffee in the new Castle dining hall.  
We also hope you will come to all or any of the following concerts to hear our hard working and talented Nobles students (all are from 7:00 - 9:00 pm in Lawrence Auditorium):
  • December 12 - Choral concert
  • January 9 - Jazz & Blues band performance
  • January 16 - Orchestral concert
December is a quick & busy month for our students, and we’ve highlighted some important dates:
  • Dec. 16-18—Assessments 
  • Dec. 19—Comment Writing Day, no classes
  • Dec. 20—Last day of classes for fall semester
  • Dec. 21 - Jan. 5—Winter Break
As always, please contact us if you have any questions or suggestions.  We wish all of the Class III families and the entire Nobles community a wonderful winter break. See you in 2014!

Elizabeth Orgel,
Betsy Edie,

Class IV Parent Reps - Polly Maroni and Heidi Raffone

Dear Class IV Parents and Guardians,
‘Tis the season and we hope your December has gotten off to a great start! We have 
a few dates to add to your calendar, as well as some important events that want to highlight.
Thursday, December 12, 7 pm, Lawrence Auditorium – Middle and Upper School Choral Concert.
Monday, December 16, Tuesday, December 17 and Wednesday, December 18 – 
December Assessments. Please note that the exam schedule(s) and location(s) will 
vary depending on your child’s classes. 
Thursday, December 19 – No classes for Comment Writing Day
Friday, December 20 – Final day of the semester.
Monday, January 6 – School resume for the first day of second semester.
Friday, February 7, is the date of the Class IV Surprise Lunch. Every year, each class 
has a special treat lunch, usually with a fun theme, which is hosted by the parents/
guardians in the Castle Library. This lunch is always appreciated by the students, 
who enjoy a break in the middle of the semester to do something a little different 
and fun. We would like to have our first planning meeting in early January so keep 
a lookout in the Friday email for the date of this meeting. We encourage you to 
volunteer, either in the planning stages or the day of, or both! We would love to 
have your help. 
Finally, we want to wish all of the Class IV families and the entire Nobles community 
a wonderful winter break! See you all in 2014!
Polly Maroni
Heidi Raffone

Class I Parent Reps (from left to right): Hillary Von Schroeter, Addie Swartz, and Beth Schlager

Dear Class I Families,


Welcome back from what was hopefully an enjoyable and restful Thanksgiving holiday.  November was an eventful month for Class I as our seniors enjoyed the conclusion of a successful fall sports season, a fantastic Mainstage theatre production, and other exceptional arts and dance events.


December marks the countdown to the end of the first semester, and for our Class I students this means the final push for first semester assessments and the final touches on any remaining colleges applications.  We recognize that this can be a stressful time for our students (and us) and we encourage everyone to stay focused and upbeat!!


Coming up on the Class I calendar:


Monday December 16thClass I Exam snacks.  We will be setting up a special table of treats for our seniors in the lower lobby of the MAC.  If you are interested in participating, sign up via or contact Addie Swartz at


Friday, January 17th:  Save the date for our Class I Parent Morning Coffee, location TBD. 


This has been a wonderful year to date for our Class.  We thank you all for your generosity and support and look forward to an equally fun and rewarding New Year.   We wish all of you a wonderful holiday season.



Beth Schlager,

Addie Swartz,

Hillary Von Schroeter,










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