Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

December 2010

Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter December 2010

Food Drive for ArtAID: Help Fill the Cart - Accepting donations through Monday, Dec. 6!

This year's ArtAID event in Foster Gallery will highlight the issue of hunger from a local and national standpoint. A team of committed students from both the Upper and Middle Schools have been working with Gallery Director Amanda Wastrom, Visual Arts Head Betsy VanOot and Service Learning Coordinator Linda Hurley to design a gallery installation created from donated foods. ArtAID will donate the food collected to the Dedham Food Pantry at the end of the installation.

The students have mounted a challenge: which group can bring in more food—Class I, Class II, Class III, Class IV, the Middle School (Classes V and VI combined), or the faculty and staff? Please help your students by donating canned goods, cereal and pasta. Food will be collected in marked shopping carts in Foster Gallery through Monday, December 6. If you have questions, please contact Betsy VanOot at or 781.320-7224.

Visit the Parents' Calendar for Event Details & Information

Volunteer with the PA

Gratitude and Viral Marketing by Ben Snyder, Head of Upper School


For me, I remember it starting with Nicole Silver – a student in my Genocide class about 10 years ago. I know she wasn’t the first student to thank me on her way out the door after class, but somehow her thanks resonated as a bit more sincere – even though it happened literally every day as we wrapped up another lesson.

As the year progressed – and she kept thanking me – a wonderful ritual began to evolve as another student, and then another and another would thank me on the way out. Pretty soon it was a veritable cacophony of thanks heading out in to the hallway.

I began to ask my colleagues about whether or not they were experiencing the same things, and it turned out they were. I don’t know if it really was Nicole who started it, but for the most part, students at Nobles are not only grateful for the opportunities they have here but are increasingly – and appropriately – expressing that gratitude with thanks after class, practice or rehearsal.

In a community like ours, small gestures – "thanks" to a teacher as one walks out of class; "hello" to someone you don’t really know in the hallway; clapping with some enthusiasm for a mundane announcement in Assembly – collectively build our culture.

Last summer our daughter worked at a social media and marketing company and I learned a bit about viral marketing – using social media to spread a message or advertise a product. As the fall has gone forward at Nobles it is increasingly apparent to me that the small gestures of "thanks" and "hello" really "go viral" and create an important collective connectivity and school culture. I’ve also realized how fragile this kind of culture can be and how quickly it could turn negative (and there has been lots in the media about things like bullying on Facebook which could have enormous implications for a community like ours).

This is the time of year when we pause and give thanks in a variety of ways. But it is also the time in the term when students have a pretty significant amount of work to do. What I hope doesn’t get lost – and what I hope parents can reinforce at home – is that even with the depth and breadth of our school responsibilities it is critically important that we take care of each other and our community with those most valuable small gestures of a kind word, a quick note, a smile and gratitude for the opportunities we all have as part of this community. 

For an Amazing Faculty & Staff Surprise Breakfast

“Giffordleaks” from the Middle School by John Gifford, Head of the Middle School

It seems that perhaps the most interesting information is the information that we are not supposed to know about. The collection of “inside information” keeps numerous people employed, from gossip columnists and paparazzi, to serious journalists and Wikileak founder Julian Assange.*

While I admit that I am not really going to share the information that is the most sensitive (it most often revolves around the complicated lives of kids) I have attempted to come up with a number of items that might be interesting but that I wouldn’t typically think to write about. The goal is that I reveal some of the inner workings of the Nobles Middle School, what we care about and what we worry about.

• Moving Jen Hamilton into the Middle School was an excellent strategic decision. Jen is an amazing counselor and having her here in the Middle School for a full two days a week has been tremendous. It took a financial commitment from the school to build a office upstairs in the Forum that allows for a private conversation. The office looks like it has been there forever and Jen gets student traffic that she’d have never gotten were her office still upstairs in Shattuck. While Jen was initially worried that she wasn’t making connections with kids quickly enough, I assured her that “if we build it, they will come” and have they ever. This is a ringing endorsement of this talented professional.

• I feel that students often write in admission applications that they are passionate about music or the visual arts or trying a new sport and yet I’m not sure that we see it come to fruition during their Middle School experience. Some of it may be because we ask a lot of them and I feel that is understandable and appropriate. If I’m right, however, is something else going on as well? Do they feel the need to say such things in the application – even if they are not as passionate about the ideas as they imply? If the interests represent risks in some way, is there something about this culture that makes it hard for students to take these risks?

• We have many more kids taking Class V Latin this year, and I think it's great. Two years ago, we had the feeling that seventh-grade students were calling the shots on course sign-ups more than was appropriate. Kids were expressing concern about their schedule and were worried that they’d be signing up for too heavy an academic load. I made a push last year with parents, explaining to them that while there are a few students who might best be served by not taking two languages in Class V, the majority could and should take Latin. I reminded parents that Nobles has long believed in the benefits of a student learning Latin. Sign-ups increased this year and I have heard little to no concerns about the work load. I hope that trend continues.

• I’d wager that there are about eight students in the Middle School who would clean up a mess without being asked to do so (and it would have to be a small mess). They’d all pick up a mess if specifically asked by a faculty member but at least five would groan while doing it.

• Students are still upset that we replaced the 700-calorie muffins with healthy alternatives in the snack bar. Oh, well.

• I remain concerned about the way that kids treat each other. I’m starting to believe that the origin of 90% of all undesirable behavior is insecurity. There is arguably no more insecure time period in a child’s life than the Middle School years. Students’ worlds are being turned upside down. They are maturing and developing at disparate rates. These various rates of development lead to different looks, interests, priorities and moods. The buddy that you have had since third grade no longer wants to build models, he wants to date them.

Insecure individuals tear down others. More to the point, students who are trying on, for the first time, a new persona or market testing a new interest are deeply insecure about their new interest. They feel, for example, that they have turned into one of the “popular girls” but are they really? Is it good to all of a sudden be very interested in boys? One way to ensure that you get the message across that it is appropriate to have these new interests is to denigrate those who are stuck in the sixth grade with their sixth grade interests.

I must continue to believe that our relational model is the truest path to confidence in young people. Continuing to nurture healthy relationships with adults who will both challenge and support young people is perhaps not a time-efficient model to develop confidence but it is the best method.

In the meantime, we must call kids on everything! Sometimes our relational model leads this faculty, who care deeply about these students, to be too soft on them.

• I don’t know when it happened, but students often say “thank you” at the end of class. (True, in my class, I wonder if they are channeling one of the fraternity pledges from the 1978 film Animal House, who, after being spanked with a wooden paddle say “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”) Whatever the reason, I find it generous and thoughtful. Twenty years ago when I started as a teacher, students didn’t do that. What does it mean?

• Kids don’t complain about the “no backpack rule” anymore. Some say that they like it. This reminds me that kids simply resist change. Once we got through a cycle and the rule was no longer change but simply the way it was, they were fine. What else should we change?

• I look forward to a process of looking again at the Middle School schedule. While it may be best to not change, we’ll start a study of the issue in January. The new Castle construction project is vital to any change as it will allow for some more flexibility. I particularly look forward to having students being able to eat a bit later in the day.

I’m sure that I could generate many other tidbits of information. In fact, it is probably obvious that this mix of big-picture items and minutiaeonly scratches the surface. Perhaps if you enjoy these “Giffordleaks”, I’ll do it again.

*A quick aside about the recent leaked cable communications via Julian Assange’s Wikileaks. As a citizen I am concerned that we are having sensitive government discussions and strategies aired broadly. As an educator I was chagrined, but not surprised, to see that intelligent adults would pass judgments on others that might warrant a SCRAP in Nobles the Middle School. Do we really need to know that Moammar Gadhafi travels with a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse? We can be outraged by the way that young people occasionally treat each other, but we should also understand that we, and I include myself, have succumbed to inappropriate comments as well. It doesn’t excuse the behavior but it reaffirms the challenge of developing sensitive and appropriate young adults. It emboldens my assertion that we need to work on it consistently and in all facets of our lives to make it “stick”.

Middle School's Annual Apple Pie Drive

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

Let's Bring Back Phones with Cords! by Erika Guy, Dean of Students

For a long time, I thought that the single greatest triumph of my adolescence was convincing my parents that I needed a phone extension in my upstairs bedroom. At the time, we had but one phone in the house (we did not call it a “land line” - it was simply “the phone”). I achieved this landmark social advancement by making a compelling argument that a) our kitchen was too small for me to be on the phone (getting my homework assignments, of course) while all of the other kitchen activities were going on and b) that the upstairs needed an extension since no one in our family could, no matter how speedy, make it down to the kitchen in time to answer those vital incoming calls. Somehow, my reluctant parents acquiesced, and that moment marked a major social long jump for me.

Before long I was spending hours on that phone. I walked home from school every day with the same group of girls. The moment after I arrived home, I headed to my second floor lair, where I immediately phoned by best friend Linda. I had left Linda just moments before on the sidewalk in front of my house. I cannot recall much of the content of those hours of talk, but I do remember the duration and the seeming importance of our telephone connection to one another. After about a month of this, my parents began fielding complaints about endless busy signals from friends and relatives. Their strategy was to impose time limits on calls that came in but I quickly learned that while they noted incoming calls, they had absolutely no clue as to when I dialed out. The Waterloo moment came late in the fall when on a rainy and cold afternoon, I asked Linda to “just hold on” while I went to take a warm shower. As adolescents are inclined, I completely forgot that I was still tethered to Linda and what was even more adolescently predictable, was that Linda never questioned it. She went about her business with the phone tucked into her shoulder, patiently waiting for me to return. By the time I made it back to my pink princess phone after dinner, over 3 hours had elapsed but Linda was still there. My uncle arrived at our front door to deliver some important news from my Mom’s family in Switzerland. He had been trying to call us for two hours. I knew I was toast. The solution for my parents was so very simple: they executed an immediate phone-ectomy. It was painful and it was permanent. Aaaaah, those were the heydays of parenting.

The challenges my parents faced were simpler: busy signals, siblings competing for phone time, kids distracted by other kids via land line phone technology, etc. The advantage was that we were tethered and parental monitoring of adolescent behavior was a much smaller game. While acknowledging the breadth of the 2010 version of the parental challenge, fear not, for you are not without options and resources:

1) Ask your child to surrender his/her cell phones during your family’s evening study hours. Texting can be SUCH a distraction/temptation during time that should be focused.

2) Have your children do their studying in a “public” family place.

3) TALK with your kids about the risks, the temptations, the bottomless pit of wasted time that the internet can be.

4) Stay informed about what is out there. A good place to start:

Microsoft also offers a free ebook about cyber security: Own Your Space - Keep Yourself and Your Stuff Safe Online by Linda McCarthy. This is a digital book.

5) Parental monitoring software programs (i.e. Webwatcher) are often the first line of defense for parents. There are countless versions of this type of blocking software but I am of the strong belief that fences (blocking software) encourage and promote tunneling. These kinds of cat and mouse games are challenges to kids and chances are, you will lose.

In addition to the perennial challenges that adolescents face (under-developed frontal lobes, over-active hormones, short spans of attention, etc.), the digital distractions that now exist only exacerbate the competition for their time and attention. Do what you can to help them self-monitor. Chances are if they find themselves running out of time during their nightly homework sessions, a searching and fearless inventory of their time management may reveal that they have Facebooked/Tweeted/or texted away a considerable portion of that precious time.

Thanks for reading,
Erika Guy

Write To Us!

From the PA Co-Chairs

As we enter the holiday season, we would like to thank you for your enthusiastic support and your participation in Parents’ Association events this Fall.

We will not have a PA meeting in December. In lieu of this, we invite you to join us for a service event at Cradles to Crayons on Tuesday, Dec. 7 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Don’t miss this opportunity to socialize with other Nobles parents and provide meaningful assistance to area families in need. Please contact Jill Ellison at if you can attend.

Remember to check out the student ArtAID installation at the Foster Gallery on Friday, Dec. 10, the night of the Choral Concert. The focus of this year’s event is the alleviation of hunger. The exhibit will be open that afternoon and can be viewed on your way to the concert that evening.

Looking forward to the New Year, on Friday evening, Jan. 7, Nobles will host students from The Cotting School for a basketball game. This third annual contest between the Nobles Girls' Varsity Basketball team 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.

At our monthly PA meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 12, Michael Denning, Director of College Counseling, 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 date: Tuesday, Feb. 15, for a special PA outing to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Mass.

Please accept our best wishes for the Holidays and the New Year.

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

Class I Notes, December 2010


Bookmark this page and check back soon for Class I Notes!

Yvette Shakespeare -
Amy McLaughlin-Hatch -
Lori Giandomenico -

Class II Notes, December 2010

We hope you are having a great start to the holiday season. To get you in the spirit, the Choral Concert will be held on Friday night, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. This is a fun event to attend even if your child is not performing. We hope to see you there.

If you know anyone interested in attending Nobles, there will be an Admissions Open House on Dec. 7, from 6:30-9 p.m. This is a great opportunity for potential parents and students to see Nobles.

Assessments will begin on Tuesday, Dec. 14. Please check the Nobles calendar for the full schedule of exams. There will be no school on Friday, Dec. 17, (Faculty Comment Writing Day) and winter break will begin after school is dismissed on Monday, Dec. 20.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season,

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

Class III Notes, December 2010

Dear Class III Parents and Guardians:

Thank you to Tara Cocozza, Erika Guy, Doug Jankey, Jessica Brennan and Bob Kern for conducting the informative Cognitive Leap forum for Class III parents and guardians in November. Thank you also to everyone who attended the Parent Social with a special thank you to our planners, Lisa Walker, Jennifer Sleeper and Jane Stiles, who created a wonderful evening for us all.

Please take note that the Head of School Dinner and Dance has been rescheduled and will now take place on Saturday, March 5, due to conflicts with the original date. The snow date is Saturday, May 7. This dinner dance is for Class III students only and is an annual tradition hosted by Bob Henderson in the Castle. We will need many volunteers both to plan the event and to help with set up and clean up on the day of the festivities. If you would like to be involved, please let us know at your convenience!

Below please find other important December dates to remember:

December 10 – Choral Concert at 7 pm in Lawrence Auditorium
December 14-16 – Assessments
December 17 – Comment Writing Day/No School
December 20 – Last day of classes for the Fall semester
December 21 – Start of Winter Break
January 4 – School reopens
If you have any questions or suggestions, we would love to hear from you. Happy holidays to all and enjoy winter break!

Kris Ganong -
Valerie Kolligian Thayer - 

Class IV Notes, December 2010

Dear Class IV Parents and Guardians,

December is here! Planning for the Surprise Lunch for Class IV Students is underway. Please consider volunteering for this fun event (date TBD.) All are welcome to attend our first planning meeting Wednesday, Dec. 8, from 8:10 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. in the Castle Study.

On Friday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m., the Middle School and Upper School choral groups will perform in Lawrence Auditorium. Come and enjoy this impressive display of the rich and varied talents of Nobles singers.

December is busy month academically. Assessments (exams) will be held Tuesday, Dec. 14 through Thursday, Dec. 16. The exam schedule will vary depending on your child’s classes. Most assessments will be held at the MAC; your children should verify exam time and place with their teachers.

Students should arrive 30 minutes before exam time. Lunch will be served in the Castle during these assessment days.

Friday, Dec. 17, is a “No School” day for Nobles, allowing teachers to grade exams and write comments. (There will be some athletic tournaments taking place on this day; please have your child verify with his/her coach.) Students return on Monday, Dec. 20, for a Holiday Assembly, mini classes (9 a.m. – 12 p.m.) and individual meetings with their advisors. Winter break begins at the end of these meetings.

Please mark your calendar for our next Class IV Parent Coffee, which will be Thursday, Jan. 6, at 8:30 a.m. Lynda MacDonald, mother of Malcolm, has so kindly offered to host the Coffee in her home. Thank you, Lynda! It will be fun to reconnect after the vacation over coffee chatting with friends! Lynda MacDonald’s address is 90 Seaward Road, Wellesley Hills, MA. Please RSVP to Suzie Montgomery at if you would like to attend. Hope to see you there!

We wish all Class IV families and the entire Nobles community a relaxing and peaceful winter break. School resumes on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

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

Middle School Notes, December 2010

In November, many Middle Schoolers enjoyed the first Game Nite of the year. Activities included a moon bounce, cotton candy machine and countless games. Also in November, the Middle Schoolers participated in the Thanksgiving Pie Drive. They made more than 250 pies in two days, donating 100 to Single Parent Family Outreach in Boston. The proceeds from the sale of 150 pies to the Nobles community were donated to The Greater Boston Food Bank - the charity chosen this year by the Middle School.

Thank you to Anna Abate and Elizabeth Clarke for organizing and orchestrating this huge event and making it all go so smoothly. Additionally, many thanks to all the volunteers who donated ingredients, helped with producing the pies and made this important community event such a success.

December will be a short month with Assessments, preparation by the Sixth Class for the annual Holiday Assembly and the start of vacation. If you missed opportunities to volunteer in the fall there will be plenty of chances in the new year, including Jan. 17, (MLK Day of Service) and the RTW (Round the World) surprise lunch in March.

Important Dates for December:

Dec. 7 - Admission Open House
Dec. 10 - Choral Concert - 7 p.m., Lawrence Auditorium
Dec. 14-16 – Assessments
Dec. 17 - No School - Comment Writing Day
Dec. 20 - Holiday Assembly, 8 a.m.; Mini-classes, 9 a.m.- 12 p.m.; Individual Advisor Meetings (Students are dismissed after their advisor meetings.)
Dec. 21 - Winter Break Begins
Jan. 4 - School Re-Opens
• Hold the Date: Monday, Jan. 17, MLK Day of Service

Happy Holidays!

Class V Reps
Anu Gulati (
Heather Zink (

Class VI Reps
Carol Taiclet (
Heather Woodworth (

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