“No Hill Too High for a Climber”

When I heard the phrase “No hill too high for a climber” three or four years ago, it resonated. Not that I am a mountain climber, but because I thought it was a very appropriate metaphor for the type of energy and attitude we seek to develop in our students. Yes, we want to develop lifelong learners, individuals with highly-developed academic skills—readers, writers, scientists, mathematicians and artists—but just as importantly, we want our students to be “doers,” to believe in themselves and demonstrate a determination and resilience that empowers them to make a difference—for themselves and others.

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Moving forward, willingly taking on challenges, trying, trying and trying again, all describe those students, or people, we hope emerge from their North Shore experience. For we all know that determination, resilience and resourcefulness enable individuals to live fulfilling and meaningful lives.

I am a great believer in the power of modeling; the impact that role models—whether they be parents, teachers, coaches or older students—have in shaping the development of our students. Jim Lumberg, father of Hannah ’15 and Sarah ’17, husband of Traci and our current Board Chair, left town on March 26 to begin a two-month expedition to climb Mt. Everest. Jim is the latest in a number of outstanding Chairs I have been extremely fortunate to partner with—people who have taught me, challenged me, encouraged me to be my best and who led in ways that have contributed significantly to the School.

His trek is one more way he is making a difference for me and for North Shore. There couldn’t be a better example of “no hill too high for a climber.” Jim is leading by example by taking on the world’s highest peak—pushing himself to extremes both physically and emotionally. If we want to develop “climbers,” we need models like Jim to help us understand and believe in the importance of practicing physical and emotional challenges.

Thanks Jim, for inspiring all of us at North Shore, for being a role model, helping us develop “climbers” and developing an understanding that we need to believe in and push ourselves.

Follow Jim’s expedition to Mt. Everest on his blog at jameslumberg.com.

North Shore Country Day School is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.

Focus on the End of the Season

The winter athletic season has come to an end for Middle and Upper School girls’ and boys’ basketball and Upper School winter track. The teams were successful on a number of levels—our students grew physically and they developed an increased awareness both of themselves as individuals and their place as teammates.

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In a conversation I had last week with Athletic Director and Track Coach Patrick McHugh, I heard him say, “So many of our teams played their best at the end of the season. Our coaches really do a great job of building to the end.” Patrick’s comments got me thinking about one of the overall goals of coaching, teaching and, even, parenting—children/students are at their best as individuals and as teammates at the end of a year, a season or even an era or milestone.

Too often, I think, we lose sight that growth and development is a process that can’t be abbreviated or cut short. Learning and development takes time. In this world of “hands-on” parenting, coaching and teaching, it’s easy to fall into the trap of measuring progress and development too narrowly; of “keeping score” or judging student growth based on games won, grades or test scores. While we clearly want what is best for our children every day and we want their growth to be sequential, steady and predictable, it really doesn’t work that way. Expecting it to work like that can undermine and send the wrong message to our children or our teams. My experience is we serve our children and students best if we keep score less and focus more on the process and getting them to be their best at the “end of the season.”

We need to teach, coach and encourage day after day and work to keep our children, teens and young adults aware of the big picture, the long-term. And we need to remember that doing so will help them play and/or be their best when it matters most.

North Shore Country Day School is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.

It happens very quickly.

With the benefit of modern technology—FaceTime—my wife and I checked in on our two granddaughters last night. Georgia, two-and-a-half, and Stella, seven months. Things were quite busy. Georgia was in search of her two dolls, Amber and James, to show us (they were never found) and in response to my telling her that she was a “true sport,” wanted me to explain what a “true sport” meant. I tried with limited success. Stella was busy smiling and having dinner—rice cereal, sweet potatoes, carrots and mushed ham. (Some of the food actually got in her mouth.)

When we finished our call, I was struck by how much they are absorbing and growing every day—how quickly they are growing up.

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This morning, I was in my office early and at about 7:15 said hello to a current junior girl and her parents. They were here to meet with Kristen Kaczynski and Lizzy Giffen, our College Counselors. I have known this girl and family for awhile. In fact, I remember meeting them at an Admissions Open House in the fall of 2008 prior to the year she enrolled at North Shore as a 5th grader in the fall of 2009. I have watched her, her siblings and her classmates grow and evolve over the years and have taken delight from a bit of a distance as she, like her classmates, has grown and contributed. While I know she is a junior and see her in action every day, the reality that she is ready for the college process caused me to pause.

Granddaughters growing so, so quickly and becoming who they are, and a junior girl growing so, so quickly on a similar but different track. The lesson? Enjoy the way, honor the process and take it all in. We all grow up far more quickly than we think.

North Shore Country Day School is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.

It’s the People

Working in schools is (has been) a very satisfying career. There are a range of reasons that make it satisfying. The single biggest reason became clear to me when I attended an Alumni Event on Monday evening in New York City. That night, I had separate conversations with at least 10 different alums all of whom talked about their North Shore experience and referenced individual teachers and coaches who had made a difference in their lives. “Do you remember so-in-so? Where are they now? I think of him/her often. I’m still in touch with him/her”—were the phrases that I seemed to hear again and again.

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Interestingly, there were four former teachers who were also in attendance. In my conversations with them they, too, talked about individuals who had made a difference in their lives—former students who they think of often, some of whom they remain in touch with today.

In my remarks to the group, I updated the alumni and former faculty on our Strategic Plan initiatives, changes on campus that have taken place in recent years, our excitement to welcome Tom Flemma as our new Head of School this summer and how we are beginning to prepare for our Centennial that will take place during the 2019/20 school year. Our guests were polite and interested, asked a few questions and, when I finished, they immediately went back to what is, was, and continues to be, really important to them—people.

My time in New York reminded me what I already know—it is the people in our lives that make a difference. How fortunate we are at North Shore to have such people in abundance, along with a culture that perpetuates the desire for young and old to appreciate each other.

North Shore Country Day School is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.

“Conversation is gold.”

It’s not a surprise that I receive many, many emails, articles and magazines all related to the subject of education. Typically those that catch my attention deal with best practice in teaching and learning, and child and adolescent development. During the recent Winter Break, I found time to catch up on my reading and was struck by two articles—one dealing with high-school students and the other kindergarten students. I find it interesting that the messages contained in these articles overlap, despite the fact they focus on children and adolescents at opposite ends of our North Shore experience.

2015-2016_Buddies_JK-SK-Sr. Buddy Introduction_891169The first came from Challenge Success, a program affiliated with Stanford University that partners with schools throughout the country. North Shore has been a part of the Challenge Success network for four or five years. The mission of Challenge Success is “to partner with schools and families to provide kids with the academic, social, and emotional skills needed to succeed now and in the future.” We have found the program to be very valuable in helping us guide students to not only manage, but thrive, as they work to take full advantage of their high-school experience.

Madeline Levine, Ph.D., psychologist, educator and co-founder of Challenge Success, wrote in a blog post, “The greatest predictor of academic success (for students) is engagement; the greatest predictor of workplace success is emotional intelligence; and the greatest predictor of emotional health is self-control.”

I would agree. Since North Shore’s founding in 1919, we have remained committed to the development of the whole child and focused on preparing students to be successful adults. While we have a clear and ambitious academic agenda—information to learn, skills to develop and master, habits to establish, work to be done—it is done so in a manner that supports the outcomes that Dr. Levine advocates and serves our students well—done in a manner that contributes to our students engaging, interacting and self-regulating.

The second article that caught my attention was The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids—Today’s young children are working more, but they’re learning less, written by Erika Christakis, author of The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups. Interestingly, it was one short, three-word sentence that really stayed with me. “Conversation is gold.” In essence, it is dialogue, discussion, interaction with others—fellow students and adults—that meaningfully advances student learning and is the critical element to the development of students becoming who they are and what they can become.

Engagement, the development of emotional intelligence, emotional health and conversation—all critical, all advance student development—whether the student is in kindergarten or high school.

Not surprisingly, all exist at North Shore—every day and, hopefully, for every student. Clearly, conversation and interaction are hallmarks that define North Shore. It is nice to know that Madeline Levine and Erika Christakis would give us their full endorsement.

North Shore Country Day School is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.

Firouz

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Yesterday’s Morning Ex was a preview of the Holiday Concert featuring Lower, Middle and Upper Schools performing selections from this evening’s full concert program. The song selection and the singing were at a very high level. Hearing our students perform and getting a sense of the progression and growth that occurs from Lower to Middle to Upper School was very compelling.

Following the Upper School’s performance, Middle and Upper School Chorus Director Michael Querio called the Lower and Middle School choruses back for the finale. As students made their way on stage, a member of the Upper School chorus, 11th grader Firouz Niazi, walked to the front of the stage and waited patiently for the entire group to assemble. Firouz was poised and comfortable, and his presence alerted the audience he would have a special role, perhaps a solo. Mr. Querio introduced the song I Sing Out, and encouraged the audience to listen—really listen—to the words, pointing out that the lyrics are a metaphor for the power of each individual’s own voice. Then, in a very light-hearted way, he said the song featured a solo from “Firouz, who we all know, have been waiting for and can’t live without.” Everyone laughed, Firouz smiled modestly and the stage became quiet.

As the music started, all on stage seemed eager and focused, and then Firouz sang—he was remarkable. After completing his part, he took his place with the other members of the Upper School chorus. The song, the sound, the energy and the spirit were all touching.

Interestingly, yesterday morning wasn’t the first time I have heard Firouz sing a solo. In fact, as he sang so beautifully, I couldn’t help but remember sitting in on one of Michael Querio’s Middle School chorus classes four of five years ago. As the class ended, Michael reminded those who wanted to audition for solo parts in an upcoming concert to stay after class. Four or five students stayed; one was Firouz.

I remember marveling at the mix of eagerness, hesitancy and confidence displayed by those Middle School students. Each one stood by the piano all alone. Mr. Querio played as they all sang with great earnestness. Some were good, some OK. Mr. Querio guided and encouraged each one, and then thanked all who tried out. As the students left, he asked Firouz to stay. I then witnessed a conversation I still remember.

It went something like this: “Firouz, thanks for trying, you’re getting better. Your voice is changing, though, so it will be a while before you are ready for a solo. Don’t be discouraged, keep working.”

Firouz’s face fell and his response was something like, “Are you sure? I really wanted a solo part. Yeah, I know you are right, though. I had a hard time with the high part. Hopefully, next time.”

I know there have been many “next times” for Firouz—and for all our students. As many know, one of the things I value about schools and, more specifically, North Shore is how well we do “next times.” We do them often, we make them count, we provide multiple chances and we guide our students to aspire to reach new levels, to believe in themselves, to keep trying, to learn to excel and to give their very best.

Firouz’s very best yesterday morning was awfully good. I was truly moved.

Credit goes to “next times,” to teachers like Mr. Querio, to our students, and most of all—Firouz.

North Shore Country Day School is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.

You Have More to Give than You Think

My daughter Mullery, a 5th grade teacher and coach at an independent school in Boston, a Middlebury College graduate and North Shore graduate class of 2006, sent me a link last week to a Middlebury Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony. One of the honorees is a parent at Mullery’s school whom she really admires – a mother of three, facing some very serious health challenges.

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I found the woman’s remarks at the induction ceremony inspiring.

After being acknowledged by her coach for her athletic prowess and, more importantly, for her spirit, leadership and commitment, this mother took the podium and thanked the college – and, more specifically, her former teammates, her family and her coach – for the support she received. She was very modest and genuine and clearly grateful to be honored.

During her remarks, the woman emphasized the role her coach played in her development – not just as a lacrosse player but also as a person. She referred, a couple times, to what was apparently a very consistent message the coach imparted, “You have more to give than you think.”

These words resonated with me in many ways, especially with the upcoming Thanksgiving week. I think all of us associated with North Shore have a great deal to be thankful for, including our teachers/mentors/coaches – parents, grandparents and friends – who believe in us, and, in many ways, instill the belief in “You have more to give than you think.”

“More to give” can mean many things, and it is in each of our personal journeys that we will discover what and where we can give.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I am very grateful to the many people who have believed in me and instilled this same strong message that I, in fact, have more to give than I think.

Managing our relationships with our children and our students takes commitment, awareness, instinct and insight. And to the extent that we, like the Middlebury coach, can convince our children and students they have more to give than they think, we will have made a very meaningful impact on their lives – and possibly the lives of others.

For that, we can all give thanks.

North Shore Country Day School is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.