Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

February 2017

Nobles Parents' Newsletter February 2017

"Encourage, Support and Love" by Director of College Counseling Kate Ramsdell

I asked our Class I students, now hearty veterans of the college application process, if they would be willing to share advice with the parents and guardians of younger students. This is not a novel topic, but kids generally deliver advice with striking clarity and have the ability to make us, the adults in their lives, step back and reconsider our habits or inclinations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the seniors who responded were thoughtful, self-reflective and empathic. Here is what they shared:

Support during the process

“Ask questions.”

“Listen to advice.”

“When kids are anxious, they might act disrespectfully towards their parents. There is no excuse for rudeness, but my parents definitely accommodated me and backed off from asking questions about the process when my anxiety showed. I appreciate them endlessly for that.”

“Promote the idea of unity among the class during the college process. Students should not have the idea that their classmates are trying to ‘take their spots.’”

“After taking care of a major deadline, a little celebration would be nice; it can be as small as a weekend afternoon off or even a quick ‘Congratulations!’ Encouragement really helps.”

“I was talking with a couple graduates and we pretty much agreed that parents should just trust the college counselors more, trust the college process, and trust that everything will work out.”

The College List

“Try not to focus on ‘the one’ when looking at schools…. The truth is that most kids would be happy at a handful of schools…. When you put all that pressure on “the one” and it happens to not work out, you haven't been able to fully develop those other schools you overlooked.”

“Don't pressure your child into thinking only one school is the best for them. With the great Nobles education we have gotten, we can be successful and happy in many places.”

“Keep an open mind about the colleges that might be a good fit.”

“Most important - smile and keep an open mind!”

The Plan

“Encourage your child to develop a game plan.”

“Start a nice, relaxed conversation and have the kid lead the conversation; if he/she is not saying much, ask gentle questions about their thoughts on the process.”

“I had friends who were struggling to get their early applications finished by November 1, and then didn't touch their regular decision supplements until they heard back from schools in the middle of December. Tell your child: Don't put off the writing, get it out of the way early.”

“Visit potential colleges early so you are not cramming in visits in the end.”

Responding to news

“…you can do EVERYTHING you possibly can and it could still not work out. But that doesn't mean it's not all worth doing…. Sometimes you can do nothing wrong and it just doesn't go your way. You just can't always blame yourself.”

“Do not talk about what other parents have told you about their kids!”

“We all know that some kids might have very strong hooks. If you don't have them, don't get angry or jealous, just focus on doing the best that you can do.”

“No one I’ve known at Nobles has regretted what they've done after Nobles, whether that’s going to a school and loving it, going to a school and then transferring to be happy, or taking a gap year. [Believe that] it will all work out.”

Parting advice (we couldn’t have said it better ourselves!)

“I think both parents and students learn and grow from this process. The Nobles College Counseling Office is here to help, and don't hesitate to reach out to them if you have any questions!”

“Encourage, support, and love.”

If you’re the parent or guardian of a Class II student looking for more advice, on February 4th, we’re hosting what we have long called our “College Counseling School,” where we invite three deans of admission to be guest faculty for a morning. This year we’ll welcome Lee Coffin from Dartmouth College, Christopher Gruber from Davidson College, and Joy St. John from Wellesley College. Lee, Chris and Joy brought decades of experience, an insider’s perspective and levity to the day last year. It’s always one of my favorite events, and I hope you’ll be able to join us. Please be sure to RSVP.

"Shrek" The Musical

Please join the Nobles Theatre Collective for our 2017 musical, featuring the work of over 80 student designers, technicians, instrumentalists, stage managers, and actor-singer-dancers! Performances will begin on 2/15 and end on 2/24; details and ticket links available soon.

"What Would You Do?" by Director of the Anderson/Cabot Center for EXCEL Ben Snyder

What would you do?

You have $39.00 in your pocket, no credit or debit card, and no access to transportation. Your neighborhood is flooded. You have two young children and an elderly parent to care for.

Such was the hypothetical scenario faced by 40 Nobles students as they began their preparations for Nobles’ 11th consecutive trip to New Orleans in March (and a very real situation faced by tens of thousands—in an infinite number of forms—during and after Hurricane Katrina).

In the coming weeks, 138 Nobles students and faculty will be gearing up to head to New Orleans, Georgia and Alabama, South Africa, Cambodia and Vietnam, China, Rwanda and Guatemala with very clear goals and objectives.

Students will learn about issues of urban poverty, race, class, and the cultural joys and nuances of the Big Easy in New Orleans. In Cambodia and Rwanda, travelers will confront the realities and legacies of genocide and global indifference. In Vietnam, there are opportunities to see the remarkable economic growth of the country in the aftermath of “The American War.” In Alabama and Georgia, middle school students will face tough questions about the civil rights movement, and, in Guatemala, they will work closely with a small nonprofit building sustainable housing. Nobles students in China will live with host families, work at a school of migrant children, and attend classes at Beijing School 57. In every venue, students will get to know people whose lives are very different than the ones we live in Greater Boston and make meaningful contributions to our long standing partners.

EXCEL Travel is an area that often comes under an understandable level of scrutiny: “Why go across the country or around the world when there are plenty of challenges to address right here at home?” The primary focus of the service program at Nobles—both in hours served and dollars raised—is on Greater Boston; the service travel program complements that daily work. We also approach teaching service with the commitment to providing students with a range of opportunities to discover a form of service that is meaningful to each of them—and that could be right around the corner or halfway around the world. After many years of doing this work, we know that removing students from what is most comfortable and familiar and appropriately challenging them opens their hearts and minds in unique ways—and that doing so with Nobles teachers and fellow students has an even more substantial impact. Adolescents are particularly open to these kinds of experiences, and we know from ongoing research with Nobles graduates that these experiences resonate over a lifetime.

We also have come to realize that in an age where Nobles students simply don’t fail very much, the combination of travel, service, and cultural immersion allows for plenty of opportunities for our students to fail (and not fear the “fatal” consequence of a low grade that might appear on a transcript). There is great certainty that within these programs, Nobles students will struggle with something, be it trying to teach English to a young person in Cambodia, putting shingles on a roof in New Orleans, or communicating with a host parent in Beijing. Those “failures” almost always lead to some sort of recovery and problem solving that in the long run builds critically important qualities of empathy, resilience and adaptability. I’m certain each of you can identify a moment of struggle in your life that led to significant growth. One of our major goals in the travel program is to create those opportunities for struggle in safe contexts and with appropriate levels of support.

So what would you do in the opening scenario?

There is no simple right answer to that question, which is exactly the point. Preparations will continue in the coming month (and the groups heading out in June will do the same) and, as always, Nobles so appreciates your support, which adds to the success of these programs and the creation of lifelong learning opportunities for our students, your children. 

Green Team Tips for February 2017

Did You Know?
Four Simple ways to Save Energy (& Money) in your home

1. Lightbulbs.

One of the easiest ways to save energy is to ditch your incandescent light bulbs and switch to CFLs or LEDs.

  • CFLs (and fluorescent tube lights) are lit by an electric current that is sent through a tube containing argon and a small of amount of mercury gases.
  • A light-emitting diode, or LED, is a type of solid-state lighting that uses a semiconductor to convert electricity into light.
  • When possible, especially for recessed and track lighting, converting to LEDs is preferred. Unlike CFLs, LEDs can withstand extreme temperatures, do not contain toxic mercury, and last the longest.*

Residential LEDs—especially Energy Star-rated products—use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer, than incandescent lighting.

“Good-quality LED bulbs can have a useful life of 25,000 hours or more—meaning they can last more than 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs. That is a life of more than three years if run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” (

In 2012, about 49 million LEDs were installed in the U.S.—saving about $675 million in annual energy costs. Switching entirely to LED lights over the next two decades could save the U.S. $250 billion in energy costs, reduce electricity consumption for lighting by nearly 50 percent and avoid 1,800 million metric tons of carbon emissions. (

By 2030, it's estimated that LEDs will account for 75% of all lighting sales. Nobles is committed to this energy saving effort—about 90% of all of our light bulbs are LEDs!

2. Turn off electronics when not in use and install power strips.

In the average home, 75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while they are off. Even when electronic devices are turned off, they draw significant standby power. “Across the US, this equals the annual output of 12 power plants and costs over $1 billion each year.” (

One idea to manage these home electronics is to utilize common power strips. Turning your electronics off at night with a power strip can save up to 10% on your energy bill.

It’s easy, just plug your electronic devices into power strips and flip the switch at night when the electronics are not in use. Computers, printers, TVs, stereos as well as lights and other appliances all apply.

3. Turn down your thermostat.

Adjusting your heating and cooling at home to reflect family routines will save energy and money. In the winter, consider lower temperatures (60 degrees) when you are away and then adjust when you are home. Installing HVAC controller devices, such as the Nest, will also help you save energy, as these are programs that learn your habits and adjust your thermostats for you.

NOBLES works hard to manage temperatures to maximize efficiency, especially in the winter, so wearing sweaters/fleeces is recommended.

4. Don’t forget to flip the switch!
Turning off the lights when you leave the room can save trees, coal, natural gas and more.

*If mercury-added products can’t go in the trash, what should we do with them?
For information on how to recycle CFLs please see:

Many point of purchase locations (such as Lowe's and Ikea) will recycle them for you.

"Not Everything of Value Can Be Measured" by Provost Bill Bussey

From the sublime (David McCullough, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jackie MacMullan) to the ridiculous (The Regurgitator), we all know about Wednesday’s long assemblies. These happen every other week. But what happens on the other Wednesdays?

Many years ago, the school decided to create a block of time during the week when all students could get together. Our hope was that students from different backgrounds and cultures, students who might not otherwise connect outside the classroom could find common interests and friendship in say, the chess club or the cooking club. To put it mildly, it worked.

Some organizations like the Multicultural Student Association, Peer Help and School Life Council are made up of students who are either elected by their peers or are appointed via a rigorous process. To start a club, students must craft a mission statement and find a faculty member who will, to varying degrees, oversee and give guidance. Some students float between clubs depending on what the agenda is that week. Some clubs meet at every opportunity, some less so; some slowly fade away. Still, at least a couple of times a month, someone wants to create a new club.

Following our 20-minute assembly, clubs and organizations gather from 8:20–8:55 a.m. during an open time known as X-block. There is another X-block on Friday, but it’s the longer Wednesday X-block that most clubs and organizations rely on most. A fair number of students use this chunk of time to meet with teachers or to catch up on their work—that’s fine—but they may miss something that could change their lives.

On Wednesday, January 25, I stepped away from my own student group to visit as many upper school meetings as I could, and asked students and faculty to email me what they were up to. What follows only skims the surface of what went on that day and does little justice to the depth of the discussions that took place.

  • The Nobles Model U.N. club welcomed about 20 students from Robert College in Istanbul, Turkey. They held a Joint Crisis Simulation in preparation for the following day’s Harvard Model U.N. Conference in Boston.
  • Students for Gender Equality hosted a debrief of the Boston Women’s March. One participant said, “The discussion progressed to considering how the feelings of inclusivity, hope and momentum might manifest in everyday activities. Students took risks, modeling the kind of listening and exchange of ideas that everyone—regardless of political opinion—recognizes we need to get better at.”
  • The Multicultural Student Association discussed “safe spaces” (where anyone can feel safe to fully express without fear of being made to be uncomfortable, unsafe, or unwelcome for any reason) and “trigger warnings” (a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc. warning of potentially distressing content). ”
  • The School Life Council worked on a special Valentine Day’s surprise as well as an upcoming assembly game show presentation.
  • The Environmental Action Committee discussed a fundraiser for a new roof at the Endicott Community Greenhouse and talked about Earth Day and new signs asking people to turn the lights off when leaving a room.
  • The Asian Culture Club brought in the new year by making dumplings and writing Lunar New Year wishes.
  • The Marine Conservation Club conferred about how companies like SeaWorld should maintain the health and safety of their larger animals, and generated topics for future presentations.
  • The Young Republicans’ Club focused on the signing of President Trump’s first few executive orders; both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the construction of the wall along the Mexican border that garnered varying degrees of support.
  • The Computer Science Club debugged a scoreboard they are making for the squash courts. They also had a team working on an emergency attendance app, as well as remaking the Nobles app.

Not everything that is important can be measured. Many who have passed through Nobles over the years remember those Wednesday X-blocks with great affection. By creating a structured but informal atmosphere, the school has created a sliver of time that allows many students, without pressure and at their own chosen speed, to connect not only with their peers but also to the world at large. What happens for many during x-block—the friendships, the exchange of ideas, becoming more aware, or just having fun—are mosaics that when joined allow students to find the confidence to craft not only their own future but quite possibly a crescent of the world community as well.

Class II Deans

Dear Parents of Class II,

As Brian Day heads off to his sabbatical for this semester, we are lucky to have Karen Gallagher step into the role as co-dean once again. We thought it would be a good idea to share with you the kinds of things we say to your kids and to report on some positive trends we are beginning to see. But first, we can all agree that last semester was a challenging one for all kinds of different reasons. We hope that your kids have felt supported in getting the help they may need. We continue to urge them to “never worry alone.” The long winter break was certainly much needed for the recharging of spirits and energy in the comfort of home, family and friends.

There is a sense now, we believe, of things returning to a place where students and teachers can fully engage in the work they are doing together, with full academic weeks, routines and predictability. Regular class meetings every other week will help buoy the class and help to create more cohesion and unity. The SLC leaders are in the process of planning a class outing as part of their goal to bring this class together, but that job is not theirs alone. Each member of the class can lead the effort for showing more respect, more inclusion, more civility, and more kindness, one interaction at a time.

As we told this class earlier this year, a year from now, they will be seniors with one last semester left of their Nobles career. The last applications will be in, they will be thinking about senior projects and senior spring, and they will be wondering where all the time has gone. Invariably, seniors tell us that their single biggest regret is not making the effort to know more people, faculty as well as kids in their own class. Now is the time to reach out across groups to learn more about the incredible people here. Talk to someone new. Sit somewhere different. Deepen a connection with a teacher, coach or advisor.. Support risk-taking and take some yourselves. We think this is beginning to happen, and we are excited to watch the dynamic grow as this class begins to shape its identity in very positive ways.

While we, as deans, don’t spend a great deal of time talking about the college process, we know it is underway and recognize the additional stress it can bring for some students. Again, the message is simple: if you can manage your time, do your best, communicate, and stay healthy, all will be well. The most stressful days of junior spring and senior fall will not be what your children remember. They will remember the wonderful, different people they came to know, people who pushed them to be their best selves.

Thank you for your ongoing support!

Julia Russell and Karen Gallagher

Class III Parent Reps

Dear Class III Families,

It’s hard to believe we are entering the second half of the year. One of the big social events coming up for Class III is the Head of School Dinner Dance, hosted by Bob Henderson, on Saturday night, March 4. The goal of this Nobles Class III tradition is to further unite the class into a tight-knit team as they prepare to assume leadership roles as Class II and Class I. It’s a fun social evening and will hopefully be a very memorable one for all of them. Given this is Bob Henderson’s last Head of School Dinner Dance, the “elegant disco” theme is a nod to Bob’s own time in high school in the '70s.

Your Class III student will be receiving an email invitation to the dance directly from the class deans. This event has mandatory attendance. We ask that you encourage your child to RSVP as soon as possible after receiving the invite. Please email Susie Winstanley if you are interested in helping set up on the day of the event.

A few dates to remember:

Monday February 13: Special Interests and the College Process, 6:30 p.m. Athletics; 7:30 p.m. Performing & Visual Arts

Monday February 20: Presidents' Day—School Closed

Tuesday February 21: Faculty Retreat Day—No Classes

WednesdaySaturday February 22-25: The NTC's 2017 musical, 6:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m.

Monday February 27: Standardized Testing and the College Process for Class IV, III, & II Parents/ Guardians, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m.

Looking Ahead:

Saturday March 4: Class III Head of School Dance

Friday April 21: Class III Parent/Guardian Coffee

Friday May 19: Class III Parent/Guardian Social

From the Co-Chairs: Kennie Grogan and Anne Kelley

Welcome to February!  Despite being the shortest month of the year, there is a lot going on at Nobles! Come cheer on the Bulldogs at a basketball game or hockey game, and not to be missed are the Nobles Theater Collective (NTC) performances this month. The Middle School play, She Kills Monsters, is on February 8 and 9, followed by the NTC musical, Shrek, February 16–18 and February 22–24. More details will be on the website calendar.

February is the month the Parents’ Association begins to plan for next year. More specifically, NOW is the time to sign-up to get involved in next year's PA! Click here for more information. All parents are welcome!  Whether you are new to Nobles, or a current or past volunteer, we welcome your time and talent to further your connection with other Nobles parents and our school community. For more information, please see the weekly emails under "Parents’ Association." The deadline to submit your name is Friday, February 10, so please take a look at the wonderful opportunities and let us know if you have any questions. We appreciate and are grateful for your support of the PA!

We also hope you will plan to come to our next PA meeting on Thursday, March 2 in the Castle Library from 8:00–9:15 a.m. Bill Bussey, provost and ombudsman, and Mark Spence, dean of students, will be our featured speakers. You will not want to miss this one; as they talk about their roles with our children everyday and the overall tone and culture at Nobles.

Other PA happenings this month: As a reminder, these are all great opportunities to make new friends, see old friends, learn something from each other and have some fun together!

- Come join fellow parents at the MAC for fitness training led by Dan Warren on Wednesdays and Fridays, 8:15–9:15 a.m. The sessions are a great way to get in shape and meet some other Nobles parents in a small setting. You may jump in at any time!  Please email Anne Gatnik with any questions or simply show up. Drop in fee is $25 for one session or $80 for four sessions.

- Our final PA skate will be on Monday, February 6 in the Nobles Omni Rink from 8–9:30 a.m. There is no need to RSVP, just come for all or any part of our ice time and bring your own skates (no rentals are available). There is no charge and all parents and guardians are welcome!

- Please join us for a fun-filled morning at Weston Cross Country Ski Track (190 Park Road, Weston) on Monday, February 13 at 8:30 a.m. You may stay as long as you like. No experience is required. The cost is $27.40 per person, which covers the equipment rental and the required trail pass.  Please RSVP to Lori Shaer and indicate if you are interested in carpooling from Nobles.

- Class Coffees and Class Surprise Lunches ~ please see the weekly emails for your class-specific dates, times and any opportunities to help. Thank you to our class reps for organizing these class events. If your schedule allows, your class coffee is a great way to connect with fellow class parents.

Thank you for reading this long letter! Please do not forget to take a look at the PA volunteer opportunities for next year. Have a great month and we look forward to seeing you on campus soon.

Anne Kelley and Kennie Grogan

Class II Parent Reps

Dear Class II Parents,

This month we are looking forward to hosting the surprise lunch for the kids. The theme is Mardi Gras and we are grateful to all the wonderful parents who have helped us in the planning. The lunch will take place on Tuesday, February 28. This is always a fun event for the students as well as the parents who volunteer to help. If you would like to help set up, serve and/or clean up, please sign up using this link or the link to Sign Up Genius in the weekly Nobles parent Friday emails: 

Thank you so much!

Please remember to check the College Counseling section in the weekly emails for all the important testing dates and college information events. 

As always, please contact us anytime if you have any questions or suggestions.

Your Class II Parent Reps,

Gretchen Filoon:
Jessica Patterson:

Class IV Parent Reps

Dear Class IV families,

Welcome to February! There are several opportunities this month to spend time on campus getting involved with Class IV and the school. Thank you for the great enthusiasm and support we have received in planning the Class IV Surprise Luncheon.   

Here are some important dates for your calendar:

Thursday, February 9, Class IV Surprise Luncheon, Castle Lower Dining Room  

Monday, February 13, Special Interests and the College Process, 6:30 p.m. Athletics; 7:30 p.m. Performing and Visual Arts, Towles Auditorium

Thursday, February 16–Saturday, February 18 and Wednesday, February 22–Friday, February 24, Nobles Theatre Collective (“NTC”) 2017 Musical, Shrek the Musical, Vinik Theater

Monday, February 20, NO SCHOOL, President’s Day

Tuesday, February 21, NO CLASSES, Faculty Retreat Day

Monday, February 27, Standardized Testing and the College Process seminar for Classes IV, III, and II, Parents/ Guardians 7:00–8:30 p.m., Towles Auditorium

As always, please feel free to be in touch with us if you have any questions or concerns.


Catherine Walkey:
Deanna DiNovi:

Class I Parent Reps

Dear Class I Families,

Campus is back in full swing again, following a now long-forgotten break! Thank you to all of those who attended our Class I coffee last month—it was great catching up and beginning to plan the upcoming spring festivities for our seniors.

On Tuesday, February 14, Class I will be treated to a surprise Valentine’s Day brunch.  Please look for the signup genius link in the weekly notes if you would like to help out with this fun event. We are looking for help decorating, baking and serving. Other dates to note this month are Monday, February 20, President’s Day (school closed) and Tuesday, February 21, Faculty Retreat Day (no classes).

Looking ahead to Thursday, March 2, please mark your calendar for the PA meeting in the Castle from 8–9:30 p.m. We hope to see you there!

Happy February,

Sherri Athanasia:
Rikki Conley:
Sarah Keating:

Middle School Parent Reps

Thank you to all who attended the first middle school parent social. What an enjoyable evening we spent in the castle and what an engaging group of parents! As always, February promises to race by. Nobles has many activities and events of note scheduled for February. We hope to see you at some of the events listed below.

Key events & dates for middle school in February 2017:

Wednesday, February 8 and Thursday, February 9:  The middle school play, She Kills Monsters, written by Qui Nguyen, will be performed in Towles Auditorium. Performances begin at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, February 17: Middle school no homework weekend. Enjoy the long weekend with your middle school student.

Monday February 20: President’s Day—School Closed

Tuesday, February 21: Faculty Retreat Day—School Closed

Wednesday, February 22: Class V Parents meet as a group for information on the upcoming Washington DC Trip as well as important course information for the 2017–2018 academic year. Class VI parents meet as a group for information regarding the upcoming class Boston trip. Locations and times of these meetings will be determined shortly and published in the weekly emails.

Thursday, February 23: The second PA middle school coffee will be held at 8 a.m. in the Castle Library. Please come and mingle with other middle school parents and learn more about how the Nobles middle school is teaching our children. More details on this event will be published in the weekly emails.

Monday, February 27:  Middle school long advisory meetings will be held from 2:45–4:15 p.m. Students will gather in their advisor groups to discuss course selections for the next year in addition to breaking into class groupings to discuss the upcoming events in March: Class V D.C. Trip and Class VI Boston Trip. No MS afternoon programs will be held, so please pick up your student at the Pratt middle school building at 4:15 p.m.

Special Note: The upper school musical, Shrek, will be performed in Vinik Theatre from February 16–18 and again from February 22–24.  Please check the weekly emails to determine how to purchase tickets in advance for this entertaining and popular event.

We look forward to seeing you at many of these informative and enjoyable events. Please let us know if we can provide any additional information or answer any parent-related questions.

Thank you,
Class V Reps
Kate Saunders:
Kristin Welo:

Class VI Reps
Melissa Janfaza:
Sarina Katz:

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