Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

January 2011

Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter January 2011

It Takes Brains to Know Something by Bob Henderson, Head of School


In the fall of 1973 I arrived as a brand new member of Class III at Noble and Greenough School. I was not entirely sure I wanted to be at the school, as I was leaving behind a very close group of friends in my hometown, as well as a carefully established identity as a soccer player. I was coming to a school that, at the time, was all male and quite small. I had to put on a tie and jacket every morning, abandoning my jeans and sneakers, which made me very grumpy. I found myself shifting from large classes, where my relationships with my teachers were rather distant and I could hide in the back of the room, to small classes, where I was accountable and expected to participate knowledgeably every day. As a new 10th grader, I joined a school where it seemed the other students had been friends for many years, and I was on the fringe of every social group. I criticized vehemently, in that cynical manner of adolescence, the oddities of Nobles’ organization and structure (like calling sophomores “Class III” and the idiosyncratic Nobles grade point scale). Soccer did not seem to matter much at Nobles; football ruled in this community in those days, and that made me feel devalued.

I thought often about leaving during those first several months. Because I did not ever like admitting my mistakes to my parents, I kept this largely to myself. But I silently plotted fantasies about how I could blame them for the error and return to a more comfortable haven in my town. I hedged with my old friends, telling them that Nobles was okay, but that I thought I might be back with them as a junior. Yet there were some experiences at Nobles that started to make a huge impression on me, and I did not even truly sense how my expectations and identity were shifting. I did not yet recognize it, but leaving was becoming impossible. I had Mr. Baker for English, and I had never before experienced anything remotely like that; I was motivated and engaged, and I relished going to class every day. Indeed, I liked all my teachers, and I remember them all well; Mr. Warner for math, Mr. Keyes for history, Mrs. Wells for biology, and Ms. Twiss for German. I did not like them all equally, and some were certainly more inspiring than others, but I developed a positive individual relationship with each of them. Honestly, I can only remember one of my teachers from ninth grade at my previous school. Morning Assembly was a powerful part of this shift as well; every day at Nobles I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself, an experience that bonded me with all the others who shared it, even when the subject was little more than mundane announcements. So often, however, it was far more than that, with Headmaster Gleason talking about the mission of the school, or seniors making me laugh at some marginally appropriate lunacy, or a faculty member commenting profoundly on an event in the world.

There was one moment, however, when I became genuinely and inescapably a part of this place. I understood its meaning only in retrospect because it was not a positive experience in many ways at the time. I was in Mr. Warner’s math class during the highly pressured period before the December Break. Desperate to be accepted, and feeling terribly anxious about upcoming exams, I allowed myself to be distracted by an obnoxious and literally sophomoric conversation with two other boys sitting next to me. We were supposed to be working on some review problems, and Mr. Warner more or less exploded on me, singling me out and telling me to keep quiet and get to work. Upset at taking the entire rap, I said so, barking back something to the effect that he had no right to pick on me. Mr. Warner then threw me out of class, and I remember what he said and eventually put the words on my senior page in the yearbook, “Henderson, get out of here, and don’t come back until you understand that it takes brains to know something.” Mr. Warner was a quirky, traditional guy, but he was also a kind and often funny man, someone I felt cared about me, and I was really hurt by this, although I had no clue exactly what his parting words meant (and I’m still not entirely sure, but I like the sentiment on many levels!).

Quite angry and sad, I went directly to see my advisor and biology teacher, Mrs. Wells. Remarkably savvy and intuitive, she read me perfectly. After allowing me to vent, Mrs. Wells simply said to me, as I essentially recall, “You need to realize that Mr. Warner has very high expectations for you, and you disappointed him more than those other boys in this situation. You made it seem as if the most important thing for you in that class was to be liked by those other boys, more important than learning. But you can’t really start liking anything in this world until you like yourself.” That final clause also ended up on my yearbook senior page. She sent me back to Mr. Warner to apologize, which I did sheepishly, and which he accepted with a harrumph and an admonition to do better in the future. I went on to earn an A in Mr. Warner’s class, the best math grade I had ever received or ever would receive again. Mrs. Wells and I began an intermittent dialogue that lasted through the rest of that year about how one balances fitting in and respecting oneself. I have never forgotten, and I will always be grateful to both Mr. Warner and Mrs. Wells (both of whom have since passed away) for seeing me with greater clarity than I could see myself, and for raising the bar for me appropriately, both in terms of my intellect and character. This little vignette probably says as much as anything else I could share about why I became a teacher, and what I think great teaching ultimately is all about.

Very few of the adults I know would go back and relive their early teenage years again. It is often hard work, full of doubt and pressure, arguably far more stressful today even than when I went through it. Sometimes, however, its most important moments, and its most essential interactions, are only clear in hindsight, when you look back a year later, or maybe only in reminiscing as an adult. When kids are in the middle of growing up, striving to win independence and autonomy in the world, they can’t always sort out what matters most. Parents are critically important in this life passage, and not to be devalued – they love their children and have watched them grow with pride and passion. Often, however, it is teachers who see young people with the greatest clarity. Sometimes the way teachers see students is with a more stark and bright light than they are used to, but also sometimes they can offer the most help in finding the path kids need to follow to go where thet want to go. As your children set goals for the second half of this school year, remind them to listen carefully to teachers and advisors as they try to help. And who knows, maybe something they say will end up on your son or daughter's yearbook senior page. Best wishes for a great second semester, and Happy 2011!

News from the Foster Gallery


"Work," the biennial Visual Arts faculty show, will be on view in the Foster Gallery beginning on MondayJan. 10. The show features new works in photography, painting, drawing and ceramics by Nobles faculty members Betsy VanOot, John Hirsch, John Dorsey, David Roane, Lisa Jacobson, Amanda Fiedler and Nora Jean Creahan. The Visual Arts Department celebrates this opportunity to share with the wider Nobles community a little bit of our work and our lives as professional artists. We see this show as an important way in which we bring the arts alive and out of the classroom for our students. Come celebrate the exhibition at our opening reception, Thursday, Jan. 13, from 4-6 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information, visit

Nobles Theatre Collective


Greetings from the Nobles Theatre Collective. We hope you had a wonderful holiday season and winter break and wish you a happy new year. The winter months are a busy time for the Nobles Theatre Collective, so please mark the following dates on your calendars!

• The student-directed plays will take place on Feb. 3 and 4. The core of directors includes Haley DeLucaJeffrey FishmanAva Geyer and Rosalind Watson, all Class I. The selection of plays are The Actor's Nightmare by Christopher Durang, It’s Called The Sugar Plum by Israel Horovitz, Within Reason by Ava Geyer and The Edge by Craig Pospisil. 

• Feb. 17 and 18 brings the Middle School production of Alice in Wonderlanddirected by Kelly Jean Mullan, Performing Arts faculty member.

• The winter mainstage play, Big Love by Charles L. Mee (based on Aeschylus'The Suppliant Women), directed by Jillian Grunnah, Performing Arts faculty member, will be performed Feb. 23 -26.

• Also, auditions will be held at the end of January for the spring musical –Urinetown, music by Mark Hollmann, lyrics by Hollmann and Greg Kotis, and book by Kotis. Audition dates will be posted soon on the Nobles website calendar. Pit band players will be selected on an ongoing basis. Rehearsals and technical theatre calls begin the week before spring break, to resume in late March.

More information and descriptions of the productions will be in the February newsletter.

We hope to see you at one of the winter events.
Lisa Pisano - 
Miguel Urena - 
NTC parent reps

We’re Only As Happy As Our Unhappiest Child by Ben Snyder, Head of Upper School


I remember the day our daughter Abby (now 21 and a senior in college) was cut from a soccer team at age 12. She had been with the club for a couple of years, enjoyed the game, seemingly had improved, worked hard, and developed healthy friendships with her teammates. Her coach was a good guy – an old friend, in fact – and he made a hard decision that he thought was right for his team. In Abby’s moment of abject sadness (anyone with a daughter that age has seen those tears that come only with rejection), I was reminded of an adage I had just heard: as parents we are only as happy as our unhappiest child. 

Our temptation as parents in that moment was to pick up the phone and call her coach – or dash off an angry e-mail. Abby had been hurt, and emotionally, it felt as though we needed to run to her rescue by pointing the finger at someone who clearly didn’t appreciate or understand her abilities as we (and she) saw them. That instinct to run to our children’s protection and support is so powerful that it takes enormous restraint not to lash out when we see our children upset. Her tears made us as unhappy as she was, and somehow we felt entitled (and even obligated) to "do something about it."

I’m not sure why (maybe it came from all my years of coaching), but we held back from rushing to her defense. On some level we knew it wouldn’t make any difference, but my hope is that as parents we wanted her to learn how to persevere through her disappointments and know that her parents were not going to fight her battles for her. So once the tears dried and the sobs settled to normal breathing, the three of us talked. We talked about why she was upset. We talked about soccer – and how she felt about playing the game. We talked about losing things that are important to us and how to find ways to work through those losses. We talked about team sports and how coaches sometimes have to make hard decisions based upon what they think is best for the team. We talked about how proud we were of her - of how hard she had worked as a member of the team and how pleased we were with how much she had improved over the last few years. And we hugged a lot.

On the soccer front, the story has a pretty mixed ending (the good news - Abby found another club that she loved, played six years at Nobles and got in a year of college soccer; the bad news is she sustained some devastating injuries and had a rough end to her college career). But looking back, we feel that our not rushing in and responding emotionally to her unhappiness may have been one of those times we did a good thing as parents. Abby now knows that when something doesn’t go her way, she has the ability to work through it herself. She has enough self awareness to know that she’s not always going to be the "top" kid and that hard work and passion can make up for a lot. She knows that we love and support her unconditionally. 

On that pivotal day for all of us, Sarah and I learned the importance of stopping to think and talk something through together before taking action against someone or something that has caused our child pain – that good parenting often is not allowing our children’s emotions to dictate our behavior.

The Dance of Development by Bill Bussey, Provost

October, 1961: My father tells my brother Bob that they are making the long drive down to Providence in two weeks for a college interview at Brown University. My brother says he doesn’t want to go Brown; he wants to go to Wesleyan. My father says that he wants Bob to go to Brown.

As my father pulls his car in front of the Brown admissions office and lets my brother out, he tells Bob to hurry up, that they are running late, and that he will join the interview after he parks the car. A few minutes later, my father is walking up to the admissions office when he meets my brother coming down the stairs. Stunned, my father asks Bob what is going on. Had the interviewer headed off to lunch? My brother replies that his interview is over and that it was a quick one.

Staring dead straight into my father’s eyes, Bob laid it out: “The guy asked me why I wanted to go to Brown and I said that I didn’t want to go Brown. I said that I wanted to go to Wesleyan. And then he said ‘Well, I guess we don’t have much more to talk about.' And I said, ‘No. I guess not.’”

It was a quiet ride back home to Maine.

April, 2000: In one month Bob’s son Nick is graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in electrical engineering. Nick calls him and says that he has good news and bad news. My brother tells him to give him the good news first. Nick says that he is going to graduate on time. My brother says now give him the bad news. Nick replies that while he is not really sure what he wants next, he knows without a doubt that he wants absolutely nothing to do with engineering. My brother tells him, “Better for you to figure that out now rather than realizing it 15 miserable years from now.” Nick is now a film editor in New York City and loving it. Go figure.

Not everyone develops at the same time. It is a delicate dance for parents to be patient without feeling that opportunities are slipping away. The truth is that like many things in life we don’t always get to call how things will play out—and that is often painfully true when it comes to our children. However, when we are constantly looking into the future, we miss the joy of the here and now. Between our own egos and our best laid plans, we often completely blow those moments when our children are trying to tell us who they are and what they think they may want to be. Yet, when patterns ultimately reveal a serious truth about our children — and about ourselves, that for various reasons we do not wish to swallow — we often find ways to obfuscate, diminish, or dismiss things in order not to further complicate our already stretched-out lives and worldview. For our children to see the importance of living a life that respects themselves and others, to have the confidence to initiate conversations that will lend a perspective to making the right decisions, they need balanced, ever-present adults in their lives who will listen and treat their concerns not as complications but as opportunities.

Visit the Parents' Calendar for Event Details & Information

Parents Lend a Helping Hand

Save the Date: The Annual MLK Day of Service, January 17, 2011

January 2011: Middle School Notes


From left, Heather Zink, Anu Gulati, Heather Woodworth & Carol Taiclet
From left, Heather Zink, Anu Gulati, Heather Woodworth & Carol Taiclet

Happy New Year! We hope everyone had a wonderful and relaxing winter break. With the New Year upon us, we are up and running once again. Thank you to all who have helped out so far this year. There are still many volunteer opportunities remaining in the months ahead. Here are some important dates to remember for the month of January:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 4: School Reopens.
  • Monday, Jan. 10: Faculty Meeting in Morrison Forum at 3:15 p.m. All Middle School students are dismissed at 2:30 p.m. We will be asking that all Middle School students still remaining in the building relocate to the Library Loft where there will be adult supervision. There is no Middle School Afternoon Program. 
  • Wednesday, Jan. 12: Parent Association meeting at 8 a.m. in the Castle Library.
  • Thursday, Jan. 13: Parent Book Club at 8 a.m. The book for January is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. 
  • Thursday, Jan. 13: Jazz/Blues/Percussion Concert in Lawrence Auditorium at 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, Jan. 13 & Thursday, Jan. 20: The Middle School will be hosting two admission events in Morrison Forum starting at 4:30 p.m. Again, we will be asking that all Middle School students still remaining in the building relocate to the Library Loft where there will be adult supervision.
  • Monday, Jan. 17: Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Click here to learn more and to RSVP for your family to participate.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 19: Middle School Shakespeare Breakfast at 8 a.m. in Morrison Forum.
    Thursday, Jan. 20: Wind/String Concert in Lawrence Auditorium at 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 26: PA parent outing. This is a parent volunteer opportunity at Cradles to Crayons (C2C), an innovative Quincy-based nonprofit organization that equips homeless and in-need children with the basic essentials they need to feel safe, warm, ready to learn and valued. 

    Class V Reps
    Anu Gulati (
    Heather Zink (

    Class VI Reps
    Carol Taiclet (
    Heather Woodworth (

From the Parents' Association Co-Chairs



Welcome back! We hope everyone had a relaxing break. On Friday evening, Jan. 7, Nobles will host students from The Cotting School for a basketball game. This third annual contest between Nobles Girls' Varsity Basketball and Cotting School players is sure to be a great event again this year. There will be food, fun and a lot of action on the court. Come and cheer on all of the players. The game starts at 5:30 p.m.

At our monthly PA meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 12, Director of College Counseling Michael Denning will speak and answer your questions about the college process. Please join us for what promises to be an interesting and informative morning.

Finally, please save the dates: Tuesday, Feb. 15, for a special PA outing to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Mass., and Wednesday, Feb. 16 for our another PA meeting at the Castle.

Happy New Year!

Melanie Mace ( and Fiona Roman (
Parents’ Association Co-Chairs

January 2011: Class II Notes


From left: Lisa Soule and Lynn Gilbert
From left: Lisa Soule and Lynn Gilbert

Welcome back, everyone! Hope you all had a relaxing and fun holiday. January is a busy month, so here we go. Be sure to mark your calendar for Friday, Jan. 7, at 5:30 p.m., when Nobles hosts the fourth-annual Cotting School basketball game, an event not to be missed! Thursday, Jan. 13, the Jazz and Blues Concert will be held at 7 p.m. in Lawrence Auditorium; it's a wonderful way to listen to our talented children and ease our way into the second semester. Due to the Faculty Meeting, only Varsity teams will practice on Monday, Jan. 10, starting at 3:15 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17, MLK day, is a No School day. It is also an optional service day for those who would like to give time. Visit the Nobles website for a myriad of community service opportunities. Thursday, Jan. 20, is another musical evening - the Wind and String Concert is at 7 p.m. in Lawrence Auditorium and is always a wonderful evening. Finally, on Saturday, Jan. 29, the Multicultural Students’ Association is hosting a dance in the MAC (Time is still TBD.).

As you all know, January also starts the season of SATs, ACTs and other college-oriented events for Class II students. The College Counseling office will keep you apprised of all deadlines for tests that your child may be considering and anything else you need to be aware of. Your child’s advisor can also help you navigate your way through these early waypoints.

Your Class II Parent Representatives,
Lynn Gilbert - 
Lisa Soule -

From Community Service


“It is paradoxical but profoundly true that the most certain way for people to bring hope, help, meaning, and joy to their own lives is by reaching out and bringing hope, help, meaning and joy to the lives of others. If you have already experienced this beautiful phenomenon for yourself, you are in good company.” – Dan Zandra

January 2011 brings more opportunities for Nobles students to make a difference in the lives of others. Head of Cotting School Dave Manzo visited Nobles last year after the devasting Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. He introduced us to Cottings’ sister school in Haiti called the Wings of Hope. Join us on Friday , Jan. 7, at 5:30 p.m., for the Fourth Annual Cotting/Nobles basketball game. Refreshments will be sold by the Parents' Association and all proceeds from the evening will benefit the Wings of Hope.

The Northeast Passage Youth and Veteran Sled Hockey Clinic program has had a strong beginning and continues to grow in numbers. We have two sessions in January. Volunteers are welcome on Sunday, Jan. 16, and Sunday, Jan. 30, from 9 a.m.-noon at the Nobles ice rink.

Save the Date for Feb. 7 (noon-4 p.m.) - Looking for summer service options? Are you a fan of the TV show “The Sing-Off?" TeenLife Boston will sponsor a community service fair at The Mall at Chestnut Hill. Representatives from many local not-for-profit organizations will be on hand to provide information and field questions about summer service opportunities for young people. The Nobleonians will perform in an a cappella competition and could use your votes. Visit for more information.

Spring Break is coming! Spring Service Trips are making plans to support organizations in New Orleans, Romania, South Africa, Vietnam and Cambodia. Watch for updates in the weekly parent e-mail for information about ways to help.

Happy New Year! 

Linda Hurley and Louis Barassi

January 2011: Class I Notes


From L: Yvette Shakespeare, Amy McLaughlin-Hatch, Lori Giandomenico
From L: Yvette Shakespeare, Amy McLaughlin-Hatch, Lori Giandomenico

Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and got some much-deserved rest over the break. Many of you have been busy with travel and getting final applications to colleges, so now we can all enjoy the rest of senior year at Nobles. January is a quiet time  for Class I but we start back up in February.

On Tuesday, Feb. 1, there is a parent coffee scheduled. We are trying to find a different venue and will apprise you of the details in the upcoming Friday e-mails. On Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, we will be having “Just Desserts” for Class I students. This is a dessert extravaganza served after lunch. Gail Radley has graciously offered to chair this event and we will keep you posted about it in upcoming e-mails and in the next e-newsletter.

We are looking for parent volunteers to chair some upcoming events: namely, the Class I Surprise Lunch on Friday, March 4, 2011, and "The Way We Were" on Tuesday, May 31, 2011. If you have any interest, please contact one of us. We would love your help and ideas.

Thanks for all your support and we look forward to making this last year the best for all our Class I students.

Yvette Shakespeare -
Amy McLaughlin-Hatch - 
Lori Giandomenico -

January 2011: Class III Notes


From left: Valerie Kolligian Thayer and Kris Ganong
From left: Valerie Kolligian Thayer and Kris Ganong

We hope you all had a restful holiday break and a happy New Year.

On March 5, 2011Bob Henderson will host the Class III Head of School Dinner Dance. This is a semi-formal, no date, dinner-dance attended by Class III students only. This special event is organized by Class III parents and we would love to have your help! Please come to our first planning meeting on Jan. 11, at 8 a.m. in the MAC conference room. (Bring your own coffee!) If you can not attend but would like to help in some way, please e-mail Kris Ganong at

On Thursday, Feb. 3, please join us for the Class III winter parent coffee at 8 a.m. in the Castle.

Other January dates:

Tuesday, Jan. 4: School reopens
Monday, Jan. 17: MLK Day – School closed – Optional Service Day

As always, please contact us if you have any questions or comments.
Kris Ganong - 
Valerie Kolligian Thayer -

January 2011: Class IV Notes


From left: Betsy Allen, Kathy Fitzgerald and Suzie Montgomery
From left: Betsy Allen, Kathy Fitzgerald and Suzie Montgomery

Happy Holidays, everyone! Our best wishes for a joyful and healthy New Year.

Back in September, our hope was two-fold: (1) that new and returning students would join together to form a cohesive, civic-minded, serious yet fun class; and (2) that parents would be involved and engaged, share information, get acquainted, and participate as fully as their schedules allow. The ultimate goal was for our kids to seamlessly transition into high school and to have a fun experience as well.

From our vantage point, we are happy to report that this hope has largely become a reality. Our kids have adapted to their new status as high school students with surprising ease and old students have welcomed new ones into the fold to form a cohesive group. New friendships have been formed by both students and parents and we have been gratified by the outpouring of support for all of the activities we’ve had thus far. We hope you know that your help is highly valued. We also hope that you can maintain that fantastic level of involvement even as our days get busier. One of the great benefits of involvement is the wonderful opportunity it presents to share in the lives of our children at Nobles. We hope that you have been pleased by what you’ve seen and that you have been taking advantage of all that the school offers.

Please be reminded that our second Class IV coffee is on Jan. 6, after drop-off. Linda Macdonald, Malcolm’s mom, has graciously volunteered to host this event at her home in Wellesley and we are, of course, appreciative and grateful to her. Also, please, mark your calendars for the spring parent dinner which will be on Friday, April 8, at Kamal Gupta’s home in Newton. We are also extremely grateful to her. Both women are wonderful symbols of the level of involvement and enthusiasm we have had.

We are requesting volunteers to help with the Class IV Surprise Lunch which is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 4, and will be held at the Castle. Please e-mail Suzie if you’re able to volunteer. We appreciate any assistance you can give us to make this event a fun one for all our kids. Discreet details will be forthcoming.

As always, please feel free to contact us if you have any ideas, suggestions or questions. Thank you once again for your support. We look forward to seeing you all on Jan. 6. We hope to start the New Year the way we ended the last one – together and happily engaged in a common purpose.

Betsy M. Allen – mother of Jason -  
Kathy Fitzgerald – mother of Audra & Julia -   
Suzie Montgomery – mother of Max - 

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If you have questions, comments or suggestions for this newsletter, email Kim Neal at