Friday, December 16, 2011

December 15: Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Last weekend, our heating system went down and we were forced to call a repairman to the house.  He arrived promptly and (to our surprise) with his two sons—age 3 and 6.  The repair called for changing a circuit breaker causing me to lead the technician and his sons to the basement.  The area in which you can stand in our basement is relatively small and there is a large crawlspace which is not lit.  To help occupy the two boys, I mentioned that a dragon lived in our crawlspace.  The six year old immediately called my bluff by saying it was not true and dragons do not exist.  The three year old was less positive.  I suggested, he look into crawlspace intently as sometimes when the dragon breathes hard, little sparks can be seen.  After about a minute of staring into the darkness, the three year old triumphantly announced that he had seen a spark.  His brother stared into the darkness and still saw nothing.  He was adamant no dragon was hiding back there. 

I then mentioned that I know the dragon’s name—Sparky.  The older brother, with a bit of disdain in his voice, yelled, “Here Sparky.”  Immediately after he called, someone upstairs moved a piece of furniture creating a noise that was clearly heard in the basement.  At that moment, a little boy once again believed in dragons and more importantly he believed in magic.  I hope that this holiday season helps you notice and believe in the magic of family, good will and cheer.  Enjoy your time off with family and friends and I wish all of you a happy and healthy new year!     

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December 12 Riff: Duke School students are prepared to face the future

Last week, the first grade had their reptile project culminations.  Both classes were fantastic.  Six and seven year olds, having made life-like representations of their reptile, talking about them with calm expertise was impressive, and so rare.  Games, made by the students, were projected onto the smart boards to make them interactive while board games were displayed as well.   A buzz of knowledge, confidence and pride permeated the room. 

Interestingly, Carolynn and Rebecca invited prospective families to attend their culmination and about fourteen attended.  Their enthusiasm for what they were seeing reminded me how special the work we do at Duke School is.

This Sunday, I read Thomas Freidman’s article in the New York Times.  In it, he suggested that the country’s economic future will not be found in factories but in “hubs.”  These areas (and he names Raleigh-Durham) are “networked urban areas where people learn, imagine and create value rapidly by … collaborat[ing] and compet[ing] to invent things that make people’s lives more entertained, productive, healthy, educated and comfortable.”  

I agree that future success requires creativity, imagination, collaboration, hard work and resilience.  The reptile project, and indeed all our projects at Duke School, allows students to practice and become proficient in these skills.  Our students leave Duke School prepared to face the future and prepared to be the problem solvers for our complex world.  How exciting and gratifying. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Riff for December 5:

Tonight is a Duke School board meeting and to prepare I read through all the reports in the lengthy packet.  As I read the packet this weekend, the PSO report caught my eye—well, really, it took my breath away.  The report, which is printed below, lists some of the volunteer support offered by the PSO and the list is extensive.  Duke School is so much stronger because of this volunteer work, powered mostly by parents who are carving time from their busy schedules.  Not only am I thankful for this great volunteer effort, I am humbled that so many people care so deeply for the school and for all of its students.  I also want to thank the PSO leadership whose organization and leadership allow volunteers to shine.  It is exciting to be part of such a vibrant community.

Here is the list of PSO events thus far:
  • Class liaison and committee chair training was held prior to the first Parent Night.  
  • Creation of lunch coverage sign-ups for lower and middle school classrooms and ongoing management of volunteer coordination (approximately 616 positions filled)
  • Hosted 3 days of hospitality coffees for the Preschool and K/1 buildings affording parents the opportunity to visit during the first few days of school.
  • Supported “Coffees with Directors” for the lower and middle schools.
  • Approximately 55 Duke School volunteers participated in NC Big Sweep collecting over 60 bags of trash.
  • Approximately 26 Duke School volunteers harvested vegetables and tended gardens with SEEDS, Durham Inner City Gardeners.
  • Over 186 volunteer opportunities were filled at Fall Festival.  New events and activities were included this year.  Attendance was strong.
  • More than 60 parents attended the first discussion group of Raising a Self-Reliant Child in a Self-Indulgent World.
  • Approximately 100 parents attended the lecture by clinical & organizational psychologist and author Robert Evans.   
  • 38 parents filled over 60 volunteer roles for the Book Fair.  74 middle school students shared an original work or brought an existing piece of prose to life on stage and more than $2500 was raised for the libraries.
  • Breakfasts featuring homemade treats and fresh fruit were provided for teachers during conference days.
  • Over 1,000 individual baked goods have been provided for Fall Festival, Teacher Conference Breakfasts & the Book Fair.
  • 11 parents delivered approximately 3,050 slices of pizza to lower school students.
  • Ongoing collection of Boxtops.  New “collection worksheets” given to the preschool, kindergarten and 1st grades.  
  • Hosted two “Playground Socials” for the kindergarten and 1st grades.  Over 50 families attended.
  • An immeasurable number of parents have volunteered not only to cover lunch duty but have also driven for field work, participated in classroom activities such as cooking, interviews and story reader as well as attended culminating events.