Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

December 2015

Nobles Parents' Newsletter December 2015

"What We Preach (and Practicing It)" by Assistant Head of School and Head of Middle School John Gifford

I feel like people have been asking me since the first week of school: “So, you countin’ down the days?” 

I have a sabbatical coming up starting in January. It is an almost embarrassingly generous gift that Nobles is able to offer faculty who have been plugging away for a long time. I should, on a daily basis, light incense and praise the members of the Board of Trustees who decided to start the program in the early 1980s. They were the ones who started the endowed fund which makes this opportunity available for a small group of Nobles faculty members each year.

While there are very few restrictions on how faculty are to use the time, the faculty work hard to treat the time with the respect it deserves. We know full well that there are very few professions that allow for this extraordinary gift of time. For years I have had some ideas of how I’d take advantage of the time. Over the Thanksgiving break I took some time to think about my goals more deeply and completely.

I decided to write down a list of all the tasks I’d like to complete and experiences I wanted to have.  But I wanted to push myself to make sure that I was living up to the same goals and values that we preach to students in the Middle School.  The ideas that we focus on in the Middle School don’t have an expiration stamp. In fact, I know there are times when I and my colleagues do more preaching than practicing.

The only reason I’m sharing bits and pieces of my long list below, is to reaffirm with members of the community what it is that we most value at Nobles and in the Middle School. Oh, and I figure it might also hold me accountable. If you know some of what I hope to do, you might ask me whether I got it done!

Community principle: “Be good to each other.”
Sabbatical item #1: Return, with my family, to South Africa.

We talk to students about not just tolerating each other, but being good to each other. It can hard. Middle school students are still developing empathy skills and there are impulsive and annoying behaviors that can be hard to endure. But the Middle School works better (and is better) when people are being charitable to each other.  And while some come to magnanimous behavior more easily than others, it is always a conscious decision to be good.

My wife, Laurie, got me, and therefore Nobles involved in South Africa. She taught there, in a simple school in the Limpopo Province, for two years just as Apartheid was collapsing. She returned to the States, saw some service travel that I was doing with Nobles students in Santiago, Chile and insisted that we start something in South Africa. Twenty years later more than 200 students have gone and we have forged lasting relationships with two worthy South Africa organizations. I want to continue helping the St. Brendan’s School and the Kliptown Youth Program.  They have been so good to me, I want to show my children their generosity and try to return the favor.

There are so many other ways that I hope to “be good”.  For example, #23. Write notes to old friends. You can’t imagine the good friends that I have lost touch with. I want to reconnect with friends from college and high school and remind them how much I appreciate them.

Oh, and I need to be really good to my family. My wife and children for sure, but also my siblings and my mother. At times, I have a way of investing myself in my Nobles work and it seems like family is more likely to take the brunt of my neglect when things are at a fevered pitch on campus.

Community principle: “Middle School is a wonderful time to fail.”
Sabbatical item #13: Work on that book idea.

Are we just cruel?  We ask middle school students to take risks when they are at their most risk-averse stage in life.  At a time when they just want to blend in, we want them to throw all care to the wind and expose themselves as vulnerable and different. But we do this not to have them experience the failure alone. As a parent once told me, “I’m only interested in my child’s failures if they are followed up by success.” Of course. That is the point. We learn much more through failure than through success. We only sort of understand what we did right when we are successful, but we have a clear idea of what needs to change when we fail. In turn, that understanding should allow the young person to handle similar situations better the next time they (inevitably) arise.

But there is also an equally important lesson derived from failure; the understanding that life goes on.  I believe that the often mentioned “grit” that some people have are the direct result of the failures, small and large, that be move beyond.  Life is an ongoing process of figuring out what you are good at and what you want to get better at. There is nothing more important than understanding that it will take resilience and effort, after the inevitable potholes, to move on. There is no more important lesson than understanding that with perseverance and faith, no failure will be a dead end.

It isn’t just the Middle School years when we can learn from failure. I have no business writing a book. But I have a couple ideas for one. I’m sure it won’t end well, but I’m also sure that I’ll learn something from the process and I’ll survive after I have failed.

Community principle: “Be Honest.”
Sabbatical item #38: Write a parent’s newsletter piece about MS values and my sabbatical.

OK. True: I only came up with 37 items on my list and I just now added #38 above. But putting these ideas out in the public is an act of (attempting) to keep me honest.  It is like sharing New Year’s resolutions. I have great faith that no one will remember what I have set out to do, but I do have the nagging concern that one of you will…and you’ll ask me about it later. I might be held accountable, so this piece is a way of being honest with myself.

When we talk about honesty in the Middle School, honesty with one’s self is often less considered. It is easy and obvious to focus on academic honesty or not lying to others, but lying to one’s self is a more hidden and subtle deception. It is, however, no less pernicious.  Self-deception makes us fabricate comfort with our own failings or slothfulness.  It allows us to procrastinate when there is an important task to be done. It allows us to justify a poor performance after the fact. I should know: I have a great deal of experience.

But now I have my list. I have my goals and I have my determination to try to live by the values that we press Nobles students to live by.

Oh, and, I have not been counting down the days.  I’m starting to get excited about the ability to choose how I spend my time, but I love my work. I’ll miss my colleagues and the Nobles students a great deal. I’m looking forward greeting everyone, with renewed energy, in the fall of 2016.

Concert Calendar: Save the Date

Choral Concert
Thursday, December 10
Pre-Concert Parents Social 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Choral Concert 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Jazz/Blues/Guitar/Drum Concert
Thursday, January 7
7:00-9:30 p.m.

"Safe Places" by Dean of Faculty Maura Sullivan

Thanksgiving is always a time for families to gather and my family is no exception to this rule.  We typically spend the holiday at the home of my oldest brother. In any given year, there are between 20-25 people around the table. My sister, who is not typically one of the faces at the table, joined us this year. This was an unusual occurrence, as she lives in Bethel, Alaska. She almost never comes to the east coast for less than a full week, as it takes nearly a full day of travel to get here. This year, she decided to take a relatively quick trip and visit for five days.

Bethel is on the west coast of Alaska, roughly 400 miles west of Anchorage, with a population of about 6300. It is significantly smaller than most of the towns that Nobles students come from, but it is the largest community in western Alaska.  Bethel is essentially a village. My sister has lived there for nearly 20 years. It is where her husband was born, where she calls home, and where they are raising their three children. While it is often hard to comprehend why she lives where she does, hearing her talk about small town life makes me see the similarities to working at a school like Nobles.

This fall, I have once again realized how thankful I am to work in a village. The analogy of Nobles as a village is not one for which I can take credit. A wide variety of people have recognized the similarities. In fact, when you stop to think about it, the resemblance is clear: in a village, everyone knows each other, the adults all pitch in and wear many hats in order to keep the village running smoothly, the villagers look out for each other, you often hear the opinions of others whether you asked for them or not, and there is always someone willing to lend a hand in time of crisis. Given that the term “provost” means “a local official, including the equivalent of a mayor,” having Bill Bussey as our provost only adds to the analogy!

There are pros and cons to “living” in a village. For me, the pros have always outweighed the cons. For students, I imagine that having many people keeping tabs on you and knowing your business isn’t always a positive thing. I know that they can recognize the benefits, but by the time they graduate, most students are ready for life in a bigger city.  However, seeing how many alumni stop by Nobles while home on break from college leads me to believe that they certainly begin to appreciate the village more after they have left.  They return to touch base with their Nobles family and to reconnect with what is familiar.

On a daily basis, Nobles is a great place to work. However, the benefits of the village are never more evident as when the chips are down. In less than twelve months, we’ve experienced two tragedies at Nobles. We’ve dealt with the death of a colleague (who was also a graduate) and, most recently, the death of a current student. It is in times like these when it is good to be in a village. In hard times, it is comforting to be with people who know you, care for you, and are willing to do whatever they can to support you.  

Hard times allow us to gain a perspective that we too often lose sight of otherwise. We’ve all learned this year how fragile life can be. In the blink of an eye, your world can be turned upside down. What remains constant is the love and support of family and friends. For my sister, Bethel, Alaska, provides her with a supportive community a world away from the life she left behind here long ago. She is back there now, back to what is safe and familiar to her. At Nobles, where faculty, students, and employees often spend far more time on campus in a given week than we often do in our own homes, we find the same type of safety and familiarity within these walls. We don’t need to turn the clocks back to when people lived in villages and took care of each other. We do it here every day.

Honoring Casey Dunne '17 with a Gift to Achieve

Achieve is a tuition-free educational program serving Boston middle school children from low-income families. Achieve provides academic and personal enrichment through a rigorous and engaging six-week summer program and ongoing tutoring throughout the school year.

Casey, the epitome of compassion and dedication, made these sessions at Achieve a priority in her life. In remembrance of her joyous spirit, the partnership with Nobles student tutors has been named The Casey Dunne Achieve Tutoring Program.

Contributions from hundreds of generous donors have already seeded an endowment fund in Casey's name to ensure the future of the Achieve program in perpetuity.

To join in honoring Casey's memory by donating to Achieve and finding out more about the program at Nobles, please visit

Grandparents Day 2015 Portrait Information

Grandparents Day portraits are available to view and purchase online through February 3, 2016. Go to and enter username/password as follows:

Username: noblesgp15        
Password: 22507-92515
Enter your email address, then under GUESTS, click: VIEW PHOTOS

Please contact Allie Trainor in the Nobles Development Office with any questions at 781.320.7005 or

"Timing Alone Is Not Everything" by Provost Bill Bussey

We all hold dear those moments when someone who mattered shared something that mattered. Those moments for each and every one of us made all the difference. Yet, memory is a tricky thing. More likely, those steppingstones of epiphanies were connected by a silo of similar moments that simply didn’t take hold. Maybe the first time around, we didn’t want to hear it. Maybe we just needed to grow up. Or hit bottom. More often than not, we just needed the time to believe in ourselves. Yet, to be able to act upon a shared truth takes a great deal more than just good timing and desire. 

When Nobles (’97) and Harvard (’01) graduate Mike Roiff left college, he became a management consultant for a prominent Boston firm. A dream job for many, but not one that built upon Michael’s true interests. At Nobles, he played the director Zach in A Chorus Line and co-starred in a production of Same Time, Next Year with Sara Bouchard (N’97) that competed in the finals of the state high school drama competition. He also served as the Nobles SLC president during his senior year. At Harvard, outside of the classroom, Mike spent three years as a member of the Hasty Pudding Club, helping craft productions, not to mention roasting actress Drew Barrymore in his final year. 

When Mike returned to Nobles for his sister Tracey’s graduation, he recalls two faculty members, Chris Pasterczyk and Bill Kehlenbeck, being somewhat thrown about his career path as a management consultant. Mike boiled down their concern to something that echoed his own feelings at the time: “I thought you’d do something interesting.” Neither felt that Mike could possibly be passionate about being a management consultant. And truth be told, Mike didn’t share his news with unbridled glee.

When I asked Bill Kehlenbeck about his nearly twenty-year old conversation with Mike, he replied, “That conversation rings a bell. That’s very much the thing that I would have said to him. I thought that he was incredibly creative with diverse interests and talents, particularly in the performing arts. It seemed that he was making money for no other reason than to just make money. That wasn’t the Mike Roiff that I knew.”

And that was not the Mike Roiff that Mike Roiff knew. Looking back, Mike lays it out: “In a weird way, I felt like I let people down. It was the right job for someone but not me. I realized that I should do things that I believed in. Something that I loved.”

Months later he left his job, worked with a comedy improv group and moved to Los Angeles. Soon thereafter he re-ignited his love for producing all things theatrical only to quickly realize that Los Angeles was not a theater hub like New York City.  What followed was grueling, but eventually in the years that followed Michael got his hands on a terrific script, found funding, and produced his first movie in 2007, the critically acclaimed and financially successful Waitress. Since then, Mike has produced more than ten films. Yet, the exciting news is that Waitress the film has evolved into Waitress the musical, which will open on Broadway this April. 

Mike credits much of his success to his Noble and Greenough experience:

“At Nobles, students are encouraged to try anything that they may wish to do. And sometimes that means being lousy. I’d do things onstage that would fall flat. And then I’d get back up there and do something better the next time….

Nobles is a warm, safe place but it is not false. You aren’t awarded a trophy for just showing up. That’s one of the best things about Nobles: you can lose. And that is a valuable thing to learn.”

The sooner we allow our kids the value of falling short, of the importance of getting back up and giving things another shot, to accept that hard work often does not yield immediate dividends, the better chance that we will raise confident children who are more likely to follow their hearts. More likely than not that won’t take hold until years after they leave Nobles. That’s just the way it often goes. If we love and support them unconditionally at even the most frustrating moments, but especially when they fail, they will be in a much better position to accept the guidance from someone who has earned their respect and trust, someone who does not fear to hold a mirror up to their face at the perfect moment and say, “This is who you are. Now be it.” And that may indeed make all the difference.

"Taking Stock of What's Good" by Director of College Placement Kate Ramsdell

In last weekend’s New York Times there was an Op Ed on “choosing to be grateful” by Arthur C. Brooks. In it, he quoted Epictetus, “He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has.” As I imagine he hoped it would, Brooks’ ideas got me thinking over the Thanksgiving holiday.

A few years ago, as I sat with my extended family over dry turkey and awkward political conversation, I was struck by how quickly my youngest cousins had grown up – at that point, a few of them were in Middle School. Their parents who are, by most measures, people who tend to keep it all in perspective, were already asking me questions about how tough the college process had become. What I said to them, and I’ll write again here, is that there are so many good schools out there, and that their kids could be happy at any number of them. Fortunately, the apple pie came out of the kitchen soon thereafter, and I was off the hook.

Fast forward three years, and almost all of them are in college. Those who are in college have chosen divergent paths: one is at the Naval Academy, another studies English at a mid-sized liberal arts university, and yet a third has enrolled a pre-professional broadcast and sports journalism program at a much larger university. Based on what I knew of them when they were just starting high school, I’d have had a very hard time predicting any of those landing pads, and I think their parents might agree. Yet, all three are wildly content with their college experiences, and only one of them was admitted early decision to her “first choice.”

As colleges roll out decisions (for early applicants) over the course of the coming weeks, it’s so easy to feel like the world has come to a stunning halt when things don’t work out as hoped. We talked to the seniors in the last Class Meeting about treating one another well regardless of their own outcome – that many of their classmates won’t remember where they went to college, but they will remember how they acted when the news arrived. What we do ask is that they take care of one another as news arrives and the winter break begins. We ask you, as their parents and guardians, to help them remember that, too.

From my perspective, one of the aspects of December that is most difficult is that it is a “feast or famine” out there in Gleason Hall. Seniors who garner acceptances are thrilled and, in many cases, finished with the process. Others must launch themselves into yet another round of applications. Of course we are urging all students, even those who have filed early applications, to continue working on their various regular decision apps and to be cognizant of impending deadlines.

And while it’s hard to remember to be grateful for all that we do have, sometimes it helps to take stock of what is and what’s good before falling off into the deep abyss of what we cannot ever have or what might not be. Now, I’m no philosopher, but I have watched hundreds of Nobles students travel the roads of the college process. By no means do I know everything (though my husband may tell you I think I do) but I can tell you this: the world doesn’t end with a denial letter from a college (even a “first choice” at that). Is it hard? Certainly. Will it make mid-December feel unbearably unpleasant? Most likely, at least for a little while, and particularly for parents who become the target of often displaced ire and frustration. Might it send a senior into a bit of a tailspin of self-doubt? Perhaps.

But we will do this together, as a community. We care about your kids and want for them all the good things life can offer. We are beyond excited when they are happy with the news they receive, and we feel their – and your –  disappointment and pain when things do not work out. But we also know that these feelings are necessary and often short-lived. Sometimes just hours after stomping into a bedroom, slamming a door, and weeping, kids end up in our offices laughing, bright-eyed, and ready to forge ahead. It just takes time.

As always, we’re here for support if you need it. To use the words of my wise mentor and Nobles dean of students for almost three decades, please do not “worry alone” in December. Right now, I am grateful to be a part of a community that won’t let you.

"5 Good Reasons to Laugh Right Now" by Director of Academic Support Gia Batty

It may seem unconventional, but one of my best study tips these days is for students to remember to laugh, even if they have to fake it. I spend a lot of time with kids who are having trouble managing their work, who are feeling stressed and overloaded, and while laughing isn’t going to solve the problem of how best to prepare for an HHC test or when the Chemistry lab report will get written, recent studies have shown what we’ve known all along--that laughing (even fake laughing) is good for you!

Let’s face it, we all could use a few real reasons why we should be laughing more.

1. “We don’t laugh because we’re happy.  We’re happy because we laugh.” 
Dick Baker shared this wonderful quote with me when I first started thinking about this topic. It’s William James, considered the father of American psychology, and he definitely had it right. Over one hundred years later, the current research tells us that laughing doesn’t just signal happiness, it produces it. Laughter increases endorphin production which not only boosts your mood, but can relieve stress, increase energy, and reduce your perception of pain. Whether it’s that Amy Schumer clip, a joke your daughter told you, or someone tickling your ribs, it’s all good! Keep laughing. Your happiness depends on it!

2. You’ll live longer
As it turns out laughing is actually good for your health, especially your heart.  One study found that heart patients who were made to laugh daily had a significantly decreased risk of a second heart attack. Another found that people who consider themselves optimists are 50% less likely to experience cardiovascular disease. Do we need a better reason not to be so pessimistic?

3. Faking it works just as well.
Guess what? Studies show that our bodies can’t tell the difference between fake and real laughter. We get the same physiological and emotional benefits even if we’re faking it! Just forcing yourself to smile or letting out a loud “Ha!” can encourage the release of endorphins. Did you know that “laughter yoga” was a thing? Well, it is. You can also hire a “laughter leader” to do some formal therapeutic laughter exercises with your team or office to boost morale. A laughter economy! Who knew?

4. It’s good for your career.
According to Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind, one of the six characteristics of tomorrow’s leaders is the “sense of play.” He sees humor as an “accurate marker for managerial effectiveness and emotional intelligence” and points to the research that shows that the most effective leaders use humor twice as often than their less effective peers. The ability to laugh and to make people laugh is good for you and good for your career. Laughter disarms people, it reduces stress and it can boost creativity and productivity.

5. It’s in our mission statement!
Did you know that one of our guiding community principles actually includes humor?  Humor has been a part of the mission statement since its revision in 1977.  Our current mission statement affirms that the Nobles community “espouses humility, humor, collaboration, honesty, and respect for others as the foundations of a vibrant learning community.” In classes, in the alcoves, on stage in Lawrence, we definitely appreciate a good joke, a funny story, and a sense of humor. After all, #bigdawgsgottaespousehumor, right?

To get you started, here are three jokes my ten-year-old son told me:

Where does a sheep go for a haircut? To the baaaaa-baaaaa shop!
What did the ghost have in his nose?  Boooo-gers!
What does a nosey pepper do? Gets jalapeño business!

Are you smiling? Good. Keep it up. It’s good for you!



"What Nobles and Harvard Business School Have in Common" by Director of the Anderson/Cabot Center for EXCEL Ben Snyder

There is a small bumper sticker that has been on my office bulletin board for many years that reads “Do Your Country a Favor – Leave.” Oftentimes visitors see it and are taken aback, yet once we engage in a conversation about it’s simple encouragement to disengage from one’s “comfort zone” to explore, learn, and grow, the message makes perfect sense.

As someone who has been given the gift of international immersion and study abroad (both personally and with Nobles students), I’m continually amazed by how humbling and inspiring those experiences have been. I worry sometimes, however, that some without those opportunities might see what we do at Nobles as dilettantish or, worse, simply a way to burnish a student resume. In light of those concerns and to give parents a more transparent window into what we try to accomplish with these programs, I thought a “primer” of sorts would be in order.

Safety First:
Simply put, the emphasis on health and safety is Nobles’ highest priority. From risk management training for faculty to utilization of the highest levels of international medical assistance, emergency services, healthcare, and evacuation services to vetting providers to utilizing daily briefings from International SOS and the State Department to monitor conditions abroad, we make sure our students and faculty will be challenged yet return home safely.

Partnerships with Purpose:
Nobles is not in the “tour” business (“if it’s Tuesday we must be in Paris”). Our primary goal is to find like minded partners with whom we can develop long term relationships that will be mutually beneficial and meaningful. Whether study away programs like High Mountain Institute or the Island School or school partners in China, France, Japan and Spain or nonprofit partners like Kliptown Youth Program or Romanian Children’s Relief, we aim to identify people and places we trust and that we can return to over time. We have learned that these relationships create experiences for students with significant depth and meaning.  All Nobles off campus EXCEL programs also must involve some combination of service, language and cultural immersion, physical challenge or direct connection to academic or afternoon program. By adhering to these principles the experiences become more focused and substantive with longer lasting impact (as witnessed by recent alumni survey data showing over 75% of recent Nobles grads engaging in like programs in college).

Getting smarter, more creative, and better prepared for what life has in store.
There is an increasing amount of research demonstrating the tangible benefits of experiences that we encourage Nobles students to have. In Age of Opportunity, noted adolescent psychiatrist, Laurence Steinberg, emphasizes adolescence as period of maximum brain plasticity – giving travel, immersion and study away programs exponential impact on high school students. The Atlantic has heralded the importance of being immersed in new environments as cultivating one’s creativity as well as teaching lessons that can never be learned in school. Even Harvard Business School has embraced these lessons as they articulate what being global really means and engaging all students in their first year Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development  program (which, curiously enough, mimics many of the partnership and immersive principles we embrace at Nobles).

Broadened worldview & “failure” without “fatal” consequence:
While I could wax on about the benefits of these experiences, if pushed I would come down to two. First, adolescents are (and this has been true since Plato’s time) at the most self-centered time of their lives. By taking them out of their most comfortable environment and putting them (safely) in a foreign place with people they would not normally encounter, they rapidly develop a dramatically different view of themselves, their place in the world, and the potential impact they could make upon that world. In thirty years of working with this age group, I see students at their most open in these situations; I am lucky to witness dramatic shifts in perspective. This is especially true for students who have become highly specialized in some area during their high school years. Second, with so many talented and motivated students, there is not a great deal of failure experienced at Nobles and often when it is encountered (a relatively low grade on a test or in a course), it is seen as “fatal” in the college process (rarely is it, but that is the perception). Our travel, immersion, and study away programs create opportunities for young people to take some risks and to experience some failure from which they can learn and grow. Adults know that life’s best lessons are often taught in times of failure, but too often we shield our kids from experiencing those important transformative moments.

Faculty led, community built:
Finally, the teacher-student relationship that is the bedrock of Nobles creates the foundation upon which these programs are built. By bringing disparate groups of students from all corners of school to collaborate with faculty in these contexts, the positive impact on our community reverberates daily. Without our faculty’s tireless (and vastly undercompensated) commitment, these programs simply would not happen.

These programs are among the many assets of our community that differentiate Nobles from its peer group of the nation’s best independent schools. They serve our mission of developing leaders for the public good who are people of distinguished character and intellect, and all of us involved in these programs are simply grateful for the opportunity.

Middle School Parent Reps

November has been a busy month!  The Middle School Pie Drive was once again a huge success!  Students assembled hundreds of pies in one afternoon with pies donated to The Single Parent Family Outreach Center in Boston and The Dedham Food Pantry. Proceeds will benefit: The Kliptown Youth Program (KYP) located in Kliptown, South Africa.  Many thanks to Emily Denning, Carla Higgins, Isabelle Roy, and Dave Camacho for co-chairing this event.  Thank you as well to all of the volunteers and everyone who participated, donated items and purchased pies.

November also brought us the athletic adventures of Nobles-Milton weekend and Nobles Night which was an elegant and festive gathering of the Nobles community.

December will bring more activity with the Middle School Visual Arts Presentation in the Morrison Forum where Class VI will present their “Who Am I?” videos on December 10 at 5:30 p.m. This cross-disciplinary project asks our seventh graders to explore their identity through narrative writing, poetry, imagery and audio. The Visual Arts opening will feature work made by ALL middle school students who took visual arts this fall. 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 join us for our rescheduled Middle School Parent Social on Friday, December 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Castle.  Catch up with old friends, and make some new friends!  We look forward to seeing you there! 

We are still looking for a few volunteers to help out as “Gap Chaperones”.  Periodically during the year parent volunteers are needed to chaperone Middle School students in the library loft while faculty meeting are taking place in the Forum. We are in need of a volunteer for December 18th (as well as future dates). If you are interested please sign up via this link:  Thank you!

Also in December are assessments, preparation by Class VI for the annual holiday assembly and the start of winter break.

Middle School December 2015 Events

Tuesday, December 8: Admissions Open House 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 10: Middle School Visual Arts Show-Showcasing Class VI "Who Am I?" Presentations - Middle School 5:30 p.m.

Winter Choral Concert 7:00 p.m. in Lawrence Auditorium

Friday, December 11: Please join us for the Middle School Parent Fall Social at 6:30 p.m. in the Castle Dining Room

Monday, December 14 - Wednesday, December 16: Assessments.
The assessment schedule is as follows:

Monday, Dec. 14
9-10am - English via Latin
1-2pm - Classics

Tuesday, Dec. 15
9-10am Geography & Civics
1-2pm Math

Wednesday, Dec. 16
9-10am Class V English
9-11am Mandatory play practice for all Class VI students
1-2pm Science

Thursday, Dec. 17: Comment-writing day, school closed

Friday, Dec. 18:
8:00 a.m. - Holiday Assembly  
9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon - Mini classes 
Noon - 3:00 p.m. - Individual advisor/advisee meetings (students are dismissed after their individual advisor meeting)
3:15 p.m. - Faculty Meeting in Morrison Forum.

Winter Break will commence until school reopens on Monday, Jan. 4.

We wish you all happy holidays and a wonderful 2016!

Class IV Parent Reps

Season’s Greetings, Class IV Parents and Guardians!

We hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving celebrations and that 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 we want to highlight:

Thursday, December 10, 7 p.m., Lawrence Auditorium – Middle and Upper School Choral Concert.  This is always a wonderful evening with the talented Nobles singers.

Monday, December 14, Tuesday December 15 and Wednesday, December 16 –
December Assessments.  Please note that the exam schedule(s) and location(s) will
vary depending on your child’s classes.  Most exams will take place in the MAC, but your child should check with his/her teachers.

Thursday, December 17 – Comment writing day – no classes.

Friday, December 18 – Final day of the semester.  The morning starts with a special holiday Assembly at 8 a.m., followed by mini-classes from 9 a.m. - noon. The afternoon concludes after individual meetings with advisors. Winter break begins at the end of these meetings.

Monday, January 4 – School resumes for the first day of second semester.

Shhh...Thurs., Feb. 11, 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 parents/guardians in the old Castle dining room.  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 will be holding our first planning meeting in January, so please check the January Friday emails for more information. This is a great way to get to know and connect with parents in the class, so we encourage you to volunteer, either in the planning stages or the day of the lunch itself, or both! We would love to have your help. We would like to thank those who have already volunteered.

We want to wish all of the Class IV families and the entire Nobles community a wonderful winter break! See you all in 2016!

Lauren Kinghorn (
Cindy Trull (

Class I Parent Reps

Class I Parents,

Welcome back from what was hopefully an enjoyable and restful Thanksgiving holiday. We appreciate all of you coming out Friday for our Class I Parent Fall Social. The turnout was great and it made for a really fun evening. 

December marks the countdown to the end of the first semester, and for our Class I students this means both the final push for first semester assessments and the final touches on any remaining college applications. We have no parent events planned for December.

Please mark your calendar for Friday, January 22 for our Class I Winter Parent Coffee.

We wish all of you a wonderful holiday season.

Sylvia Crawford
Anne London
Pam Notman

Class II Parent Reps

Dear Class II Parents,

We had such a nice gathering of parents at the coffee this past month. Thanks to all who were able to attend. It was lovely to connect and we look forward to doing it again in the spring. A special thanks to our class deans, Brian Day and Julia Russell, for joining us.

There are only a few weeks until the fall semester comes to a close. Here are some of the important dates to remember for December:

Saturday, December 5 - SAT and SAT Subject Test Date
Saturday, December 12 - ACT Test Date
Monday- Wednesday, December 14, 15 and 16 - Assessments
Thursday, December 17 - Comment Writing Day, no classes
Friday, December 18 - Last Day of Fall Semester
Saturday, December 19 - Winter Break Begins
Monday, December 28 - Registration Deadline for January 23 SAT and SAT Subject Tests
Monday, January 4 - School Reopens

Finally, please plan on joining us on Thursday, January 7 at 10 a.m. in the Castle to help plan the Class II surprise lunch (February 9).  If you cannot attend and would like to be involved, just drop one of us an e-mail. 

Wishing all of you and your families a safe and happy holiday break.

Your Class II Parent Reps,

Anna Abate

Nicola DiFelice

Class IV Deans' Report

I hope that everyone enjoyed safe travels and time with family and friends during the Thanksgiving Break! 

The first few months of this year have come fast and furious, though Class IV has done a remarkable job adapting to the academic, athletic, artistic and social rigors of the fall.

Class IV students are beginning to read Homer’s classic epic, The Odyssey.  As a classicist, this is one of my favorite -- among many great -- reads of the years.  Beyond offering a phenomenal introduction to Greek mythology and mythic history, a serious reading of The Odyssey brings together discussions across various disciplines, and encourages students to tie together threads from numerous classes into a deeper and more enriching understanding of Homer’s work in our time.

At its core, The Odyssey is about a journey.  At the fore of the narrative thrust we follow the physical journey of a weary, though resourceful Greek warrior as he battles geographic and psychological obstacles on his way back to Ithaca from the Trojan War. His motivation?  Nostalgia, the painful longing for the familiar comfort of home (derived from the Greek nostos “a return home”, and algos “pain or suffering”).

Less apparent, but no less important, are the parallel narratives of Odysseus’ son Telemachus, and of Odysseus’ wife Penelope. Telemachus must find his voice and his courage in order to confront the imposing pressure of a houseful of suitors, while Penelope uses craft to weave her own destiny and language to direct the narrative. We also encounter recurrent themes of hospitality and loyalty, societal elements that allow family and community to function successfully.

I can think of no work more pertinent to the experiences of our Class IV students as they endeavor to forge their identity, form their voice, and navigate the challenges of a new environment.

Allow me to plot the next few stops on Class IV’s odyssey:

First, an introduction of those at the helm. Class IV has elected a very enthusiastic and motivated group of representatives to the SLC: Cici Henderson, Skye Henderson, Patrick Moynihan, and Priscilla Singleton. These four have brought a number of innovative games and presentations to our Class Meetings and have suggested a number of ways to bring the class even closer in the coming months.

Assessment Period: We have an assessment period at the close of the semester (December 14: Modern Language and Classics; December 15: History and Math; December 16: English and Science). It is important to keep these assessments in perspective.  They are NOT exams; rather, an opportunity for a more comprehensive assessment of knowledge and application than is possible within one 50-minute class period. The assessments are spread out over the week, with no more than two subject assessments per day. That said, now is a great time to communicate with teachers and study groups, and to begin to review material and shore up a strong finish for the semester. The last day of the semester, Friday, December 18th, brings the Holiday Long Assembly and advisor meetings to reflect on the semester.

Come January, students will begin with a clean slate regarding grades. They will have the ability to shake off any difficulties they may have experienced during the first quarter of academic adjustment. This will be a great time to implement the suggestions from comments in Q1 and Q2, bolstered by a better sense of course expectations and school norms.

I know that there is a great deal of excitement and a hearty dose of anticipation in the coming months. New material and fresh faces of the current winter afternoon program will help to expand the horizons of Class IV. I firmly believe, however, that our faculty, the upperclassmen, SLC representatives, and familiarity with the rhythm of the school will guide them through the challenges and draw them closer to our ultimate goal: feeling confident and at home here at Nobles.


Dave Ulrich
Class IV Dean

Class III Parent Reps

Greetings Class III Families -

Welcome back from what we hope was an enjoyable and restful Thanksgiving holiday!

As the calendar turns to December and the days are much too short, we’d like to pause for a moment and reflect on a Nobles’ autumn that included so much to inspire us about our community. In the face of unimaginable heartbreak and tragedy, our children have come together to embrace their sorrow in a manner that honors their schoolmate Casey and all that she embodied while continuing to work through their emotions at a pace that feels right for them. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Dunne family.

December is another busy month at Nobles. Below are some important dates for your calendar:

Dec. 14-16: Assessments
Dec. 17:  Comment Writing Day – No Classes
Dec. 18:  Final day of Semester
Dec. 19-Jan 3: Winter Break
Jan. 4:   School re-opens

With a quick look towards 2016, we’d like to remind you of a few important Class III-only dates in the second semester.

Saturday, March 5 is the Head of School Dinner Dance, an annual tradition for Class III students only, and a spotlight event for our class given Mr. Henderson’s recent retirement announcement.

Keep this quiet! Thursday, February 4 is our Class III Surprise Luncheon at Nobles for the kids.

We need many volunteers to help plan these events and also to assist with setup and clean up on the day of the festivities. We’ll hold our first planning meetings shortly after winter break in the New Year. Stay tuned for those details.

As always, please contact us if you have any questions or suggestions. We wish all Class III families and the entire Nobles community a wonderful holiday season!

Your Class III Reps,

Isabelle Loring
Allison Horne

From the Co-Chairs: Barbara Ito & Polly Maroni

A lot goes on within the greater Nobles community every day, not only for our children, but for parents as well. We hope that everyone has managed to spend some time at school and experience a part of this community. At this time of both giving thanks and celebrating the holiday season, we would like to recognize all of the hard work done by parents this fall to bring our community together.

In the past few months, parents have raised money for Achieve, hosted parent coffees, socials, a book group, a community service trip to Cradles to Crayons, volunteered in the admissions department, organized student surprise lunches, and a thank you for the faculty and staff. If you haven’t become as involved as you may have wanted, please don’t hesitate to volunteer, host, organize or attend any of the various events that happen every week. There is no better way to gain a fresh perspective and new understanding about the place where your children spend so much time.

On another note, there is no PA meeting in December. However, on December 10, we invite you to attend the Middle School Arts Night from 5:30-6:45 p.m. and then the Choral Concert from 7-9 p.m. in Lawrence Auditorium. Below are the major PA get-togethers in January. Keep an eye out for more in the coming weeks!

Wednesday, January 13: Our next PA meeting. Michael Denning, Colette Finley, Gia Batty and Sara Masucci will speak about creating a curriculum for the range of students at Nobles. The meeting will be in the Castle Library at 8 am. 

Thursday, January 14: Lunch at the castle! We invite you all to come and sample the food that your children are always talking about.  The cost will be $5 and we promise a fun and delicious experience.  Look for a sign-up link in the weekly emails. 

Lastly, we would like to mention The Green Team. This committee is composed of faculty, students and parents who address potential environmental sustainability and stewardship issues around Nobles. We would love to have more parent involvement so please let us know if you would be interested in joining!

We wish you all a safe and happy holiday season with family and friends. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or simply want to chat do not hesitate to reach out to us!

Your PA co-chairs,

Barbara Ito
Polly Maroni

10 Campus Drive,
Dedham, Massachusetts
tel: 781.326.3700
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