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.


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.

Go Raiders!

2015-2016_Homecoming 2015_Raider Fans - Saturday_983763 I’ve always held a very strong belief that young people gain a great deal from participation in athletics and more specifically from the team-sport experience. I played a variety of sports growing up, coached a lot in my first years as a teacher and spent a countless hours watching my children play sports.

Being on a team, and working with teammates and coaches to reach a common goal (pun intended), has great value. While North Shore may never be an athletic power in the traditional sense – i.e. a narrow focus on wins and losses – in terms of student development and student growth, those traditional powers could learn a lot from North Shore.

I am also convinced that our fall athletic season has been as successful as any in North Shore’s long history. Not because we won more games – although our teams did very well, including a couple that had the strongest seasons during my time at North Shore – but because our students participated with energy, engagement and focus. Our students were guided by talented coaches/educators/mentors. They worked hard and they worked together. They had fun and exhibited wonderful spirit. They won and they lost. They celebrated and they faced disappointment.

The success that took place last fall began this summer when many members of our teams came to campus on a regular basis to work out, build strength and athleticism, and build partnership and teamwork with one another and their coaches. Not only did our students gain physical strength and skills, but more importantly the time spent with their friends and coaches provided a structure for their overall growth as young men and women. They learned and grew, not just as volleyball players or cross-country runners, but as people, learning who they are and who they can develop to be. A sense of connection and belonging was established as was the initial development of a common purpose.

Each team has its own story – stories that include individual successes as well as disappointments, relationships deepening by coming together, role models emerging, frustrations dealt with, and empathy and awareness growing for teammates and even those we competed against – the “other” teams.

While our students’ wins were celebrated, we worked to remain committed to focusing on energy, effort, collaboration and the sense of team.

At the beginning of the school year, Athletic Director Patrick McHugh told me he felt better than ever about the strength of our coaching staff and he predicted a successful season for our students and teams – success defined by growth, commitment, friendships, accomplishments and fun. It seems clear that Patrick is not only a talented teacher/coach and athletic director, but he is a bit of a clairvoyant as well.

In a video produced last year about North Shore’s athletics program, Patrick concluded by saying “The outcomes of our athletic program go beyond the physical. They come back to the values like cooperation, determination, persistence — values and traits that will help our students decades later when they are in their 30s and 40s faced with the challenges that life deals all of us. So those are what we hope will ultimately be our outcomes. We love having championship athletes, but we’d also like to see championship people.”

As I look at the increasingly long list of North Shore graduates who have built on their North Shore experience to play sports in college, I smile. Not because they are captains of teams or part of winning programs (although they are), but because of who these individuals are as people – well-rounded, aware of others, focused and wonderfully positioned to move forward and contribute – in multiple and meaningful ways.

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.

Tell Someone What You Love About The School

NSCDS_2015_1306I had a conversation with a fellow Head of School a few weeks ago about, among other things, marketing and advertising strategies. In doing so, I was reminded that NAIS (the National Association of Independent Schools) research reports that 70% to 80% of new families indicate what compelled them to investigate independent schools, and ultimately enroll at a particular school, is word-of-mouth —conversations with current students and families already enrolled in the school.

This Head confirmed he works to deliver a strong message to his faculty, parents and trustees that they all share the responsibility of admissions. It’s as simple as telling people what you love about the school.

Last weekend, we hosted the first of our Open Houses, an indication we have entered the admissions season. As I thought about our enrollment marketing and advertising, I concluded that while we are clearly in a strong enrollment position, I have not reminded everyone enough to spread the good word about North Shore.

In my role, I hear quite often from students, parents, alumni and faculty why North Shore is their school. To the extent we can empower our best ambassadors — our North Shore community — to share their good thoughts and their North Shore experience, we will have the best ad campaign a school can find.

I don’t need to tell you why or what you love about our school, but I will share with you what I tell prospective families what I love about North Shore.

  • North Shore students – Our students are our great strength. From our youngest to our oldest, they are bright, motivated, curious, invested, responsive and respectful. In how many schools do students say “yes” I will try, I will volunteer, I will extend myself, with the regularity of North Shore students? In how many schools do students routinely thank their teacher at the end of a class and in how many schools are students referred to as “open, nice and genuine?”
  • North Shore adults – faculty and staff, parents and parents of alumni and alumni commit, contribute, care and engage. All want what is best for our students, what is best for our school.
  • North Shore’s program – “A very big program for the size of our school.” From academics to the arts, from service opportunities to athletics, our students are required to participate in it all, and in turn become well-rounded young adults well prepared for college.
  • Our Culture – in some respects this is hard to define, but very easy to feel. People – young and old – like being together, bring out the best in one another and themselves, and generally just like being on campus and at school.

There are many, many other things that I love about North Shore, I could go on and on, but selling the School and encouraging others to investigate North Shore shouldn’t just come from me. You are our best advocates . . . so, spread the word. “Tell others what you love about North Shore.”

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.

Homecoming and Community

2015-2016_Homecoming 2015_Pep Rally _976375 (1) Last weekend, we celebrated Homecoming. While Homecoming is about reconnection, Raider spirit, purple and white, bonfires and reunions, it’s also very much about community. Despite the fact that many of our current students remind us that we talk too much of community and, at times, it gets a bit tiresome — the reality is that community is the heart and soul of North Shore and impacts all that we do.

Last Sunday morning, following the Homecoming festivities, I received an email from a new colleague with a photo of his two senior kindergarten twins sitting on the laps of their senior buddies at the Pep Rally in the Mac Gym. The kindergarten students were dressed in purple and white, they were beaming, obviously very, very comfortable with their “big friends” — their senior buddies.

While these two kindergarteners have only been North Shore Raiders for just over a month, it was clear North Shore is THEIR school.

Interestingly, I received the email the morning after I attended a gathering for North Shore Raiders at the other end of the age spectrum. On Saturday night, 70 members of classes that ranged from 1937 to 1960 enjoyed one another’s company and their reconnection with the School. My dinner partners were not senior kindergarteners; instead the women seated on my right and left had a combined age of 186. Both were there because they, too, are Raiders and North Shore is THEIR school and they care about it deeply.

As I’ve processed the weekend, I’ve been struck by the strength and substance of our community, and by the large number and wide range of people – countless, really – who make us who we are.

North Shore is a place where all ages count and contribute. To be convinced, all you have to do is ask our youngest, our oldest or our in-between students and alumni.

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.

What a Neat Kid

US 1st Day-8

Typically when I leave my office, which fortunately is quite often, I have a specific task in mind whether it’s to touch base with a colleague, follow up on a conversation or attend a meeting. Beyond accomplishing the task, my wanderings provide me with very real and, I think, meaningful perspectives on how we are doing as a school. I get a chance to observe the interaction between students and teachers, see how students are engaging in their day – whether in a class or moving through the halls – and get a sense of my colleagues – their energy and focus.

I also have a number of unscheduled conversations with my colleagues whether it’s a quick “Hi, how are you?” or something more substantial, possibly a follow up on a previous conversation or my making an inquiry about a specific issue or topic.

It is no surprise that the start of the school year leads to many colleague conversations that start with my asking, “How is your class?” or “How are your classes going?” Thankfully, we are off to a good start and, without exception, the responses I have received have been enthusiastic and very positive. Interestingly, I find myself making note of a number of these conversations so I can follow up. I am convinced these moments have real value — enable me to connect with people, gain insight and work to leverage our collective commitment to our students in productive ways.

A conversation I had on Monday has stuck with me. In response to my inquiry about how her classes were going, an Upper School teacher immediately mentioned individual students in her classes, how well they were doing and how much she was enjoying them. Then, she named a senior, commenting “What a neat kid and really able. I am excited to work with him this year, I think he is really positioned to excel.”

This conversation stayed with me because the feedback I would have gotten from teachers who taught this student four years ago when he was in 9th grade would have been quite different. In 9th grade, this student was “young,” an “adolescent” who not only struggled getting his act together as a student – finding his backpack, getting to places on time, staying focused – but also as a person – being attentive, respectful, and understanding how to build and navigate trusting relationships with adults. As I have observed him over the years, I’ve been aware he has grown, become more focused and more aware. In fact, he has become a real contributor and is well positioned for a positive senior year.

I have talked and written often about the power of education and North Shore. As I think about this student and so many others – young and old – it occurs to me I may have focused too much on the power of education and North Shore. My new view includes the “power of young people” as an important element of successful school outcomes.

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.

Packing Right

As I walked from the Library through the Arts Center early yesterday morning, I passed a number of 7th grade students making their way from drop-off to the Middle School. All were carrying duffle bags and sleeping bags in preparation for their Outdoor Ed trip that day. For many, it seemed as though their duffle and sleeping bags were as big as they were. In fact, I commented to a couple students that it looked as though they were packing for a week or two and not for just two-and-a-half days.

Interestingly, seeing these students with their duffels and bags got me thinking about where they are in terms of their overall development. I realized it is, in many ways, very appropriate they may have over packed. In many respects, our 7th graders are packing not just for who they are, but also for who they will become.

At the start of every school year – before routines are established, class identities take shape and getting caught up in the day-to-day routine – it’s easy to focus on what good education should be. While incredibly complex and multifaceted, good education needs to recognize where students are in their overall development and meet them at that level. After all, the best teachers understand their students and “get where they are.” It is this understanding that allows teaching and guidance to be personalized, to be targeted to what students need when they need it. It makes the learning dynamic, real and responsive.

At the same time, good teachers teach in a manner that keeps the end in mind. They recognize where individual students are heading – whether it is a student growing throughout the year, their time in a division or, ultimately, where they will be when they leave North Shore – and the student’s potential.

Our students’ potential is enormous. Their ability to grow and evolve is actually quite inspiring. It is our job as adults to recognize this potential and create the conditions for it to be reached.

Critical to the endeavor is “packing right” – bringing enough of the “now” so our children/students feel safe and secure, while packing what they will need on their educational journey. They need to travel with those things that support them as they grow and change, take on new roles and new challenges, and continue their paths to become the people they can be.

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.

Thank You North Shore


Earlier this week, faculty, staff, trustees and friends gathered to salute Pam Whalley and Emily Denesha on their retirements from North Shore after 23 years and 29 years, respectively. It was a fitting tribute to both Pam and Emily. A wonderful cross section of the School community came to acknowledge their very meaningful contributions. The energy, spirit and sense of warmth were felt by all in attendance. We had a short program to formally wish Pam and Emily well and to offer our very genuine thanks.

As the sequence of the remarks played out, Pam was the last to speak. Pam made it clear she hadn’t been looking forward to the point in the evening when she would give her remarks. As we all know, Pam is much more comfortable when the spotlight is on her students and not on herself. After thanking a number of people, she thanked North Shore. “One of the things I love about North Shore is that the School instills a curiosity in children that is carried on long after they leave. North Shore helps students find their passion and follow it.” She commented that she has seen generations of North Shore students become empowered and leave North Shore with the confidence to take on whatever they can imagine. As an example, Pam acknowledged neither her son Ned ’04, a journalist currently living and working in Beirut, nor Nick ’02, a business consultant currently on assignment in London, were able to be there on Tuesday night. Their incredibly poignant email softened Pam’s disappointment, as did the fact that they were doing what North Shore had taught them – following their dreams and their passions.

Thank you Pam, thank you Emily and thank you all North Shore teachers, for all you have done for our School and for our students – igniting their curiosity, inspiring their creative problem-solving and encouraging them to pursue their dreams.

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.