The Castle Project by Bob Henderson, Head of School
The Castle project will be underway this spring! In late January the Nobles Board of Trustees held their annual retreat. Perhaps the most critical item on the agenda was to evaluate plans for the Castle, and then to decide whether to go ahead with the work this year or to delay for a future date. After careful consideration of every implication of the undertaking, the Trustees enthusiastically chose to move ahead immediately. As discussed in some detail in the most recent issue of the Nobles Bulletin, the planning process in which we have engaged with our architects (Architerra) is now complete and we have successfully grappled with the myriad complex details in this remarkable building. Construction and short-term financing costs are likely at the lowest levels we will experience for the foreseeable future, and this is an environment for savings that the Trustees feel we need to exploit. Consequently, it is now official – the school is committed to the Castle project.
This begs some obvious general questions that I hope to address for you in this forum. Most essentially, when will it start and finish? The initial work will take place over this March Break. While students are away, a new delivery entrance will be constructed on the north side of the building facing the Schoolhouse, far to the right (as you face that side of the building) of where students enter and exit. This will involve building a new loading dock on that side of the building. This is necessary because most of the early phase of the project will take place to the west of the existing building where the site must be prepared for a major addition. That area is where the current loading dock and delivery space are located, so those functions must be moved. This preliminary work should not affect students at all, but it will impact the exterior aesthetic of the north side of the building. Deliveries thereafter, until the conclusion of the entire project, will use the road that travels from the Schoolhouse to the Castle, but they will occur in off hours when students are not traveling back and forth to meals.
April and May of this school year will not see a great deal of activity other than some relatively simple site and project preparations, including the installation of fencing. Very soon after the end of classes in June, however, the project will begin in earnest. Work will proceed at a very rapid pace through the summer of 2011 and right into the winter of 2012. Throughout these months we will continue to use the Castle as always, and while there will be construction barriers and lots of activity behind them, students will not be affected (other than by some noise while they are in the building). Almost all of the work in this period will be on the site to the west for the addition to the building, and in the basement and lower levels as the operating systems for the building are reconstructed. By the spring of 2012, work will begin in earnest on the existing kitchen area, and this will require the use of a temporary kitchen for much of the final months of that school year. The temporary kitchen will be located on the lawn area in front of the north side of the building. Students will continue, however, to dine in the building as always. Most of the faculty residents of the building will move out by this time (until the project is complete) as work begins on the thorough renovation of the upstairs apartments.
Between the end of classes in late spring of 2012 and the start of school in September of 2012, the project will be completed. Through that summer work will proceed at a furious pace. We have a long relationship with our general contractor for this project, Shawmut Construction - they have completed numerous complex projects for us over the last couple of decades, always on time and on budget. They have also worked exceptionally well in a school environment, managing their employees and subcontractors efficiently and with keen attention to safety and community needs. They are confident of the schedule for this project, and they have already established a strong working relationship with Architerra. You may also be interested to know that the school employs a highly skilled “owner’s representative” as our overseer of the project and as our primary liaison with Architerra and Shawmut. The Building and Facilities Committee of the Board of Trustees will also stay closely involved throughout the undertaking.
This will be a $20 million project, and the fundraising is already underway, with encouraging early success. The outcome will be transformative for the community, as articulated in detail in a variety of forums over the last couple of years. The academic program in particular will benefit from our ability to restructure the school schedule, and the most important icon of the school will be rejuvenated for the use of students and faculty in both the near and distant futures. While construction projects are inevitably accompanied by a minimal amount of disruption and inconvenience, we are convinced that this ambitious job can be accomplished smoothly and in a 16-month window of time. It will be exciting to witness, and the result will, I am confident, make everyone in our extended community proud.
Boston Sled Hockey Invitational
The Northeast Passage Wildcats are hosting the first ever Boston Sled Hockey Invitational Tournament at Nobles, March 11-12, to close out the winter season.
The Wildcats are led by defenseman Taylor Chace who was recently named USOC Paralympic SportsMan of the Year. Taylor’s achievements are long and include a recent Gold Medal from the Paralympic Games in Vancouver, BC. The team includes several current and past national and junior team members, as well as players from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Wildcats compete in the Northeast Sled Hockey League (www.neshl.org) and play in tournaments across the country. The team is nationally ranked, placing first or second in U.S.A Hockey’s Disabled Festival for the past three years.
Team members give back to the local community through motivational speaking engagements and by participating in Sled Hockey clinics for mobility-impaired children and recently injured veterans. Nobles has hosted six Sunday morning clinics from November 2010 through February 2011. Volunteers from the Nobles community are needed to help at this event. Please contact Linda Hurley (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 781-320-7261 for more information.
Admission is free and all are welcome to cheer on the Wildcats, or your favorite team, as they compete for the Tournament Championship! It’s a great opportunity to see this sport and meet some of the athletes.
Friday night, March 11
8–9:30 p.m., NEP vs. NY
Saturday, March 12
10-11:30 a.m., NY vs. Western MA?
11:30 a.m.–1 p.m., NEP vs. CT (Opening Ceremonies) ?
1– 2:30 p.m., NEP vs. Western MA?
2:30–4 p.m., NY vs. CT?
4–5:30 p.m., CT vs. Western MA?
5:30–7 p.m., Championship game
Sunday, March 13
10a.m.-12 p.m., NEP Jr Wildcats vs Springfield Jr Sliders
Thinking of Summer by Ben Snyder, Head of Upper School
Growing up in Michigan, I experienced a rite of passage for every high school kid: the opportunity to go to my first concert at Pine Knob (the equivalent of today’s Comcast/Tweeter Center). Sometime during the summer after my ninth-grade year, a few of my friends decided we were going to head to Pine Knob with someone’s older brother and get tickets to see Bachman Turner Overdrive (remember them?!). So, as most ninth graders do, I asked my parents for the money to buy the ticket – and they replied that I needed to earn the money to pay for the ticket myself.
Thus began my working life for the next eight years: house painter, lawn mower, dishwasher, camp counselor. These were the days before internships and fancy summer programs, and those long, hot working days of summer taught me some of the most important lessons of my formative years.
Perhaps the most important lesson was realizing I didn’t have to turn to my parents for spending money (how many of us as parents feel like human ATMs these days?). All adolescents crave greater independence, and having a summer job – no matter what the job is – gives them a substantive experience of it. My summer jobs taught me to make choices about what was important for me financially and reminded me that I had a responsibility to our family not to use up family resources for my own fun and frolic. Did I really need to go to that concert? Was I willing to save for my first car (which ended up being an $850 Datsun 210 wagon)? Having such responsibility certainly made me more confident that I could take care of myself in college and beyond.
Another benefit of my summer work was that I was accountable to people who did not care about my parents, my school and my friends – they only cared about whether or not I got the job done and done well. For much of my early adolescence, I had gotten by simply on being a good guy – personable and friendly. But my first tastes of work taught me that while being a nice guy was important, it didn’t matter if the job wasn’t completed competently and on time.
Some of my summer jobs were just flat out boring and physically hard. Those challenges gave me a renewed commitment to my academic work (Did I really want to make my living with my body or with my brain?) and tremendous empathy and respect for people who do that kind of hard work every day. While my parents could preach the importance of doing well in school and being respectful of those who did manual labor, there was no better way to teach me those things than by getting me to engage in that kind of work myself.
Often Nobles students and parents come to me looking for ideas about summer programs and opportunities – and more often than not, they revolve around education, travel or internship programs (which, if you know me, you know I support enthusiastically). In almost every case I will be supportive of such programs if they provide sufficient challenge and get our kids into unfamiliar places and situations – but those experiences should not rule out the opportunity for working a summer job.
As the conversations begin about the agenda for the summer of 2011, I encourage you to engage your children in a conversation about the importance of getting work this summer – they may learn the most important lessons of their adolescence during those long, hot days.
Check out this article in the New York Times – Teaching the Value of Work to Children.
*If some of this looks familiar, this is a theme I’ve written about (in similar forms) the last couple of years.
Faculty Voices: 'Far From Dead - The Relevency of Latin' by Classics Teacher Dan Matlack
“Why should anyone take Latin? No one speaks it anymore.” I have addressed these naively simplistic charges many times in my career. Allow me a moment or two to take them head on. Latin is much more than a language and the study of language builds much more than a mere ability to speak it or hear it.
Nobles is a college preparatory school, and despite all the modern improvements in media and information, students' success in the nation’s most selective colleges is, and for the foreseeable future will continue to be, intimately related to how they manage the English language. Students must read it, hear it, write it and speak it and college will require them to build their skills with it. Before college they need to acquire a deeper and richer vocabulary as well as be able to comprehend more complex language. Years ago my oral Nepali language fluency was assessed on a scale, the low end of which reflected an ability to understand simple speech and the upper end the ability to converse with a college professor. Latin increases students’ understanding of grammar and syntax and thus their reading and comprehension skills. Foreign language study in general improves this skill, but Latin study has been shown to increase performance further and faster. Nobles' commitment to Latin’s encompassing a separate set of skills is clear through our departmental separation from Modern Language.
Up until early in the last century many colleges required a knowledge of Latin and Greek for admission. Years have passed and requirements have changed in college admission and in Nobles’ curricula. Many of those changes have been reactive, fashionable or budgetary rather than thoughtful and foresighted. Now Latin, modern languages and visual and performing arts compete for students’ elective attention beginning in the Class V year. There are many good choices here for your child. However, parents should know that studying this non-spoken language improves SAT scores, ameliorates the study modern languages and develops the use of higher order cognitive skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Evidence even exists suggesting that studying Latin improves math scores.
For Middle School students, Latin provides a valuable discipline for the mind and builds a valuable foundation for all the other disciplines. You may hear or recall yourself that it’s difficult. Indeed, it can be, but academic rigor appears in the first line of Nobles’ mission statement and confronting challenges provides valuable discipline. Students benefit from learning that sometimes there are no short cuts. Again in a similar way to mathematics, one needs to build a foundation of study, to master Chapter 1 before mastering Chapter 2, etc. For Middle Schoolers, who are so much "on the go" and racing from one obligation to the next, learning this truth is a good thing. Difficulty must be overcome by practice, and the resulting achievement builds confidence.
Don’t be dissuaded by specious reasons to not to enroll your child in Latin. Its study has more far-reaching benefits than many recognize and provides a perfect course for young students. And I haven’t even mentioned its cultural and historical attributes.
Some of these points and others are addressed more broadly, but thoroughly and academically, in a paper, Efficacy of Latin Studies in the Information Ageby Alice DeVane found in Educational Psychology 1997.
The following data is provided by Classics teacher George Blake.
Number of Class V Latin sections this year - 3
Number of current Advanced Placement sections - 2
Number of years Latin has been taught at Nobles - 145
Total number of students who have taken Class V Latin
at Nobles - 6,176
Average number of years at Nobles for a Latin teacher - 21.5
Number of students who earned a perfect score on the National
Latin Exam in last year’s Class V class - 2
Number of graduates currently pursuing a higher degree in the Classics - 3
In the last five years, number of Middle School alums who have returned to teach Latin - 2
Percentage of English words derived from Latin words - 52.6%
Average number of new English words learned daily in Class V Latin - 3
Number of U.S. presidents proficient in Latin - 12
Number of students who say they regret having taken Latin at Nobles - 0
Our End of the Bargain by Bill Bussey, Provost
Two months ago Dwayne’s Photo, located in Parsons, Kans., (pop. 11,000), processed the last roll of Kodachrome, the 35 mm color film first produced by Eastman-Kodak in 1935 and justly celebrated by musician Paul Simon in 1973. It got me thinking as to what was going to fall by the wayside next. Surely CDs and analog TVs are ready to join the diminishing ranks of milkmen, drive-in theaters, and classified ads. During the holidays, I received a few more “cards” via email then I did last year. So I can’t help but also wonder how much longer we will be using the U.S. mail service or even bothering to write notes to each other.
Case in point: A number of years ago a young student who had gotten into a little trouble was told to write letters of apology to his teachers. A week later no letters had arrived despite the student’s insistence that they had been written and sent. I had the student walk me through the process and found that he had indeed placed the letters of apology in his mailbox for the mailman to pick up. So what had happened? Although each letter was correctly addressed to the Noble and Greenough School, there was no return address on the envelopes, and more importantly, there were no stamps attached. When asked why he didn’t use stamps, the student replied that since the letters were not going very far, in essence they were “local”, he didn’t believe any postage was necessary.
Before you laugh in disbelief, know that this student, like almost all of his peers, rarely uses the U.S. mail. In fact, it is those of us with limited computer skills that are out of it. When our kids watch us crawling the Internet, they can barely stand it. For them it is like watching paint dry. They are far too polite (and perhaps sympathetic) to laugh in our presence. Most wait until we are out of view.
As feeble as it sounds — and until the U.S. mail becomes a thing of the past — I would like to make a last-ditch pitch for the preservation of the thoughtful, handwritten note. In the age of Twitter, texting, and Facebook, the new normal in communication is speed, impulsivity and brevity. I guess many of us — busier than ever, environmentally conscious, and watching every penny - have come to the conclusion that there are too many steps and drawbacks involved to keep this once common courtesy afloat, especially now that the speed and convenience of the Internet trumps all. While most people now type faster than they write and are online all the time, being at everyone’s beck and call 24/7, I suspect, undermines our desire and willingness to take the time to craft heartfelt communication. Yet, if we, and especially our children, let opportunities slip away, opportunities in which our words may resonate and show appreciation toward the deserving people in our lives, we are not, in the grand scheme of things, living up to our end of the bargain.
Trust me, for most teachers nothing beats a thoughtful, handwritten letter — and I suspect that is true for all of us no matter how we earn our living. If your child is graduating and has not yet thanked their teachers for writing a college recommendation, now is as good as time as any. Five thank-you cards and a half hour of time can do a world of good. No matter what grade your child is in, there are a slew of folks, not all of them obvious, who have worked hard on your family’s behalf. Please take the time to write a thank you note or two over vacation and have your child do the same. Besides, if you drop them off at the front desk, you won’t have to use a stamp.
Visit the Parents' Calendar for Event Details & Information
The Power of Influence
Earlier this month, Provost Bill Bussey sent a note to the Nobles community letting everyone know he had purchased several copies of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, My Beautiful Struggle, in anticipation of the author’s visit to the school. Class II student Ben Kent picked up the last copy outside Bussey’s office, not knowing what to expect. It didn’t take him long to be blown away. “I was hooked from page one,” Ben said, as he introduced Coates to the Feb. 23 Long Assembly crowd.
Standing at the podium, Ben gleaned several lessons from the book that he deemed applicable to not only himself, but his Nobles peers. Throughout My Beautiful Struggle, Coates explores his relationship with his family, in particular his father and oldest brother, and how their influences and expectations helped guide him through life. “Even though Coates’ background and upbringing is so different from many of our own backgrounds,” said Ben, “I think everyone can understand facing the expectations of their parents.”
Coates, a senior editor for The Atlantic magazine, was born in Baltimore, Md., in 1975, the sixth of seven siblings. Despite that most of his siblings were half-brothers and half-sisters, he described his family as “very tight knit” and said it was a family rule to only refer to one another simply as “brothers and sisters.” Coates recognized the unconventionality of the family’s circumstances, but explained, “When you grow up only knowing one way, you don’t think of it as weird. It’s just life.”
After providing some personal background and family history, Coates read several passages from My Beautiful Struggle. His powerful use of language, although gritty at times, painted a true picture of his life. By baring so much of himself, he allows readers of all life experiences to find common ground in his journey to define himself and find success in adulthood. After a Q&A session that touched on everything from his career as a writer to his thoughts on modern rap music, Coates ended his Assembly talk by pointing out that what made the difference in his life was the influence of his parents. “There will always be a conflict between the culture of kids and the culture of adults,” he said. “But the lessons my parents provided have turned out to be true life lessons.”
Who Put the 'il' in Family?! by Erika Guy, Dean of Students
About two weeks ago, I challenged all advisee groups to come up with a succinct definition of "family." There were many entries - some poignant, some ridiculous, some angry, some earnest, some funny. The winning group (which received a $25 Dunkin' Donuts gift card!) decided to go with humor and an acronym:
A photo by Tanit Sakakini
The reasoning behind the contest was to begin to get students thinking about the complexity of family in advance of an upcoming show in the Foster Gallery. Rarely do we get the opportunity to display art that has relevance to EVERYONE'S life. This show has this awesome potential. We hope it will prove to be a compelling community event. I am writing to you today to encourage you to come out to see this very unique installation. I hope that you will find the time to view the show and use it as a catalyst to share your stories of family. Here are the details, so please mark your calendars:
Dates: March 28—April 22
Artist and Curator Panel Discussion: Friday, April 1, location TBD
Opening Reception: Friday, April 8, 6-8 p.m.
Guest curated by Boston-based artist Evelyn Rydz (most recently featured in the ICA's Foster Prize Exhibition), this show brings together five artists working in a variety of media (collage, painting, drawing, photo, video, and sculpture/installation), all of whom address ideas of family, relationships and identity - both real and constructed. Participating artists include Hannah Barrett, Christine Rogers, Megan & Murray Macmillan, Tanit Sakakini, Dustin Williams, and Cobi Moules.
For more information, visit www.fostergallery.org.
From the Parents' Association Co-Chairs
In February, it was our great fortune to have two opportunities to come together with other Nobles parents to learn more about Nobles and the wider community.
First, we would like to thank School Historian Joyce Eldridge, Archivist Isa Schaff and Assistant Head of School John Gifford, for their lesson in Nobles history and tour of the Castle. We look forward to seeing Isa’s latest exhibit of artifacts in the Schmidt lobby and reading Joyce’s sequel to Richard T. Flood’s The Story of Noble and Greenough School 1866-1966.
Second, we would like to express or appreciation to PA Events Coordinator, Jill Ellison, for arranging a fun and educational trip to the DeCordova Museum of Art in Lincoln. Whether they toured the sculpture park in snowshoes, or admired the indoor galleries, parents experienced one of the Boston area’s treasures.
Looking ahead, please join Upper School Head Ben Snyder and Head of College Counseling Michael Denning in the Morrison Forum on the evening of March 1, from 7-8:30 p.m., for Curriculum Planning night. Course selection and planning for the Upper School years will be discussed while looking forward to the college process. This meeting is designed to be most helpful to parents of Class III and Class IV students.
Due to break, there will not be a PA meeting in March. However, mark your calendars to attend the PA meeting on Wednesday, April 6, in the Castle Library from 8:15-9:30 a.m. This meeting will feature two legendary teachers, Dick Baker and Tim Carey. Come and see why year after year, students claim that classes taught by these two men comprise some of their fondest and most vivid memories of Nobles.
Enjoy Spring Break!
Melanie Mace (email@example.com) and Fiona Roman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Parents’ Association Co-Chairs
March 2011: Class I Notes
On February 11, the Class I students were treated to “Just Desserts” a Valentine-themed dessert buffet. It was a huge success and we send our thanks to Gail Radley for chairing the event and to all the parents and guardians who contributed the wonderful desserts, decorations and sentiments.
This month, on Friday, March 4, Class I students will be treated to their last “Surprise Lunch.” Shyla Shrinath and Sadhana Downs are chairing this event so please contact them if you would like to volunteer or contribute in any way. Some important upcoming dates are:
March 12- 28 – Spring Break
April 1 – Class I Parent Dinner (details coming shortly)
April 4 - Class I Dinner (students with faculty)
April 9 – Prom
April 26 – Transitions Night
We will be updating you on all the Class I events and activities surrounding graduation in the coming weeks.
Yvette Shakespeare - YVShake@aol.com
Amy McLaughlin-Hatch - email@example.com
Lori Giandomenico - LGiando@verizon.net
March 2011: Class II Notes
Hello, Class II Parents!
This is a busy time for everyone, as we begin the whole college process. The good news is that as of March 11, the kids have only one quarter left of their junior year and two weeks of vacation to look forward to! Spring break begins March 12, and school resumes on Monday, March 28. Please note there will be no after school programs on that Monday.
Some students may have signed up to take the SAT test on Saturday, March 12. Contact Michael Denning if you have any questions about the test location (it is not at Nobles).
For a little break from the norm, the Class II Surprise Lunch is planned for Wednesday, March 2. Planning has begun, and to make it a success we need volunteers! The theme is “March Madness” which probably everyone but us knows is the NCAA Division I basketball championship tournaments. Be on the lookout for opportunities to contribute to this fun event, which will be outlined in the weekly newsletters. We will need servers, bakers, decorators, etc. Lynda MacDonald and Jane Rigoli are co-chairing this event and you may contact them directly in the meantime.
Class II parents are looking forward to getting together on the evening of April 15. You will be receiving an email invitation soon!
Have a wonderful break!
Your Class II Parent Representatives,
Lynn Gilbert - firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Soule - email@example.com
March 2011: Middle School Notes
March is finally here. After this winter, we are glad to see the snow disappear. It is a short month for the kids since they have two weeks off for spring break. Listed below are some of the events for the month.
March 1-10 - There is no afternoon program, except on Friday, March 4. Please pick up your child at the end of each academic day.
Tuesday, March 1 and Wednesday, March 2 - Auditions for the spring musical, Urinetown, will take place. Those auditioning will be expected to prepare a short monologue and vocal piece.
Wednesday, March 2 - National Latin Exam, 8-9 a.m. All Latin and English via Latin students will take this exam. Exam locations will be posted.
Thursday, March 3 - Chamber Concert, Lawrence Auditorium, 7 p.m.
Friday, March 4 - Middle School Magic Bus, 2:30-6 p.m. Location is a surprise and will be fun event for all!
March 8-10 - Class V Washington, D.C. Trip. Class V students (only) will not attend school on Friday, March 11.
March 8-11 - Class VI Empathy Week activities, on and off campus.
Thursday, March 10 - Course Selection forms for next academic year (2011-'12) will be due for rising Class V students. Rising Class IV will be due after spring break.
March 14-27 - Spring Break!!
Monday, March 28 - School reopens/Faculty Meeting in Morrison Forum - no Middle School afternoon program. Varsity practice only.
Tuesday, March 29 - Individual advisor/advisee meetings to discuss third quarter grades/comments. No Middle School afternoon program. Upper School teams will practice.
Class V Reps
Anu Gulati (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Heather Zink (email@example.com)
Class VI Reps
Carol Taiclet (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Heather Woodworth (email@example.com)
March 2011: Class III Notes
The Head of School Dinner and Dance is Saturday, March 5, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m., in the Castle and is sure to be a fabulous evening! Thank you in advance to the many parents who generously helped with planning and decorating.
Please mark your calendars for April 26. There will be a College Counseling Orientation for Class III Parents/Guardians from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. in Towles Auditorium.
Save the Date - Saturday, April 30, for our Spring Parent/Guardian Dinner.
The Class III Surprise Lunch will also be held at the end of April, details to follow soon.
Other important upcoming dates:
- March 3 - Chamber Concert 7:00 Lawrence Auditorium
- March 11 - Spring Break begins at 3:05 p.m.
- March 12-27 - Spring Break
- March 28 - School resumes at 8:00 a.m.; no afternoon program (Varsity practices only)
As always please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
Kris Ganong - firstname.lastname@example.org
Valerie Kolligian Thayer - email@example.com
March 2011: Class IV Notes
To all Class IV parents and guardians,
Many thanks to the organizers, volunteers and the members of the Castle staff who made the surprise lunch such a fantastic and enjoyable event for all of our kids. We got phenomenal feedback from the kids.
We have two official Class IV upcoming events to remind everyone of:
Tuesday, March 8 – Class IV Coffee
Please join us at the Castle for our last coffee of the year on Tuesday, March 8, immediately following drop-off.
Friday, April 8 - Class IV Spring Social and Casual Dinner
Please save the date for our Spring Social which will be held on Friday, April 8, at the Newton home of Sunil and Kamal Gupta. We are extremely grateful and thankful to the Guptas for agreeing to host our class dinner. This is always a fun event, as it heralds the arrival of spring, and is before the pace picks up considerably for end-of-the-year activities and exams. RSVP information, as well as a volunteer sign-up request for desserts and drinks, will follow. The dinner will be catered and chitted to your child’s account.
We look forward to seeing everyone at these two events. Please keep an eye out for other activities. Have a wonderful and relaxing Spring Break (3/12 – 3/27) with your families!
Betsy M. Allen – mother of Jason - firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathy Fitzgerald – mother of Audra & Julia - email@example.com
Suzie Montgomery – mother of Max - firstname.lastname@example.org