Mission in Action through 6th Grade Speeches

file1Next week, one of the great NCCS traditions will again kick off as the first class of 6th graders – Mr. Randolph’s – will deliver speeches on topics they care about. The other three classes will follow in the months to come.

Students pick a topic that moves them, write a speech about it, and then deliver the memorized speech to an audience of classmates and family members in our auditorium. Throughout the unit, they learn about speech writing and public speaking. They study great speeches, and even hear from some guest speakers (like me!). When I met with the class, we talked about everything from the power of a story in engaging an audience to the fact that, yes, I get nervous before my speeches too.

This week, in anticipation of the speeches, I received an invitation that lists the titles of the speeches the students will deliver. Reading them made me think of one of my favorite lines from our mission statement: “we respect childhood as an integral part of life.” Part of that respect is giving children the forum to respectfully and thoughtfully talk about topics that are important to them, and this list so perfectly reflects that.

Next week’s topics are: Save the Sea Turtles; Funding Cancer Research; Save the Polar Bears; The Need to Change School Starting Times; Why the US Needs Stricter Gun Control; Benefits of Service Animals; Benefits of Stuffed Animals; Why Plastic Should Be Banned; Distracted Driving; Childhood Drowning; Head Injuries from Youth Sports; Racial Profiling; Artificial Intelligence; The Environmental Impact of Plastic Bags; Gun Rights; Expense of Youth Sports; Unfair Rules by the NFL; and The Current Effects of Climate Change.

No matter what our own personal beliefs may be about such topics, this list is a wonderful affirmation of our students’ thinking and shows true respect for childhood in a pure form. These 6th graders have the opportunity to share their thoughts on a topic that is important to them and, in many cases, the topics are quite relevant in the greater discourse of our society as well.  To be able to share their thinking on these topics in a memorized speech form is all the more impressive, and I greatly look forward to witnessing our mission in action while listening to the speeches next week.

Life Beyond Country School

beyond country school panel bq3a8142Last night, I had the pleasure of attending Life Beyond Country School, a panel discussion featuring two recent alumni and two parents of recent graduates. The event was moderated by Tucker Golden ʼ90, current parent and President of the Alumni Council. Throughout the evening, topics of leadership, relationships, budding passions, and favorite memories of teachers emerged. In addition, the panelists fielded questions about the transition to high school and college — socially, academically and athletically. Continue reading

Happy New Year!

coopers letters from aaronHappy New Year!  I hope that this break and the dawning of 2019 have been great for you and your family and that you have found the time in these past two weeks to rest, rejuvenate, and ready yourselves for a 2019 filled with inspiration, learning, and growth.

After spending the first week here hosting some extended family and enjoying time together in New Canaan, my family and I spent the second week up in the Adirondacks where we also visit in the summer.  Our hope was to ski, snowshoe, ice skate, and generally spend as much time as possible outside enjoying winter. Continue reading

Taking Time to Celebrate Personal Bests

As many of you know, I have been a competitive runner for many years. One of my favorite aspects of the sport is the camaraderie around celebrating “personal bests.” Since we race against the clock as much as we do against other people, it is fairly easy to compare performances from race to race (and, now that I am getting progressively slower each year, age-graded tables help!) While winning is worthy of celebration, it is often the personal best that gets the most enthusiastic congratulations from fellow runners.

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Beyond Straight As

Over the last week, several of you sent me an opinion piece, “What Straight-A Students Get Wrong,” by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant. Grant writes about some of the sacrifices to other, potentially more valuable learning that many make to get such grades, about the poor correlation between college GPA and career success, and about traits that are valuable for one’s career that are not measured by GPA in college. Continue reading

A Peek Inside the Classroom

DSC_9381It has been so great to see so many of you here today. One of the best parts of my job is that I get to experience every day what you did today. I get to see the ways our teachers inspire our children and instill the joy of lifelong learning. Inspiration comes from being exposed to engaging information in an environment that is psychologically safe. The way that we create such an environment involves knowing every student well, caring for their individual development, and challenging them to be their best in myriad ways. Put another way, students learn best in a culture of high expectations coupled with high levels of support. Our teachers cultivate such an environment in every class at every level here. Continue reading

Lessons from the Ice

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 11.18.03 AMThis winter, my family was fortunate enough to join the New Canaan Winter Club and we had our first moments there Thanksgiving week. My daughter Charlotte, who had only skated a few times, stepped on the ice Tuesday. She took three or four steps—no gliding—and asked me how to actually skate. After a 2-minute lesson about angles and edges, she went off and started skating on her own. She and her sister Julia went down to the ice every day of the holiday weekend, and on Saturday they asked me to come with them. After passing a puck with Julia for a while, Charlotte asked me to play tag with her. Suddenly, she was zooming all over the ice as if she had been skating for years rather than days. Continue reading

Welcome Home Young Alumni


Last Monday afternoon we held our annual young alumni event, a highlight of the Thanksgiving week.  More than 60 members of the classes of 2016, 2017 and 2018 descended upon campus for an hour and a half of reconnecting, catching up and reminiscing.  They met with some of our beloved faculty, saw the new Dining Hall, and heard from Holly Donaldson Casella ‘04, our alumni director. Their faces lit up each time a new classmate turned the corner from the Carver Commons into the Dining Hall, and inevitably several students rushed to the door to hug and welcome a newcomer. Continue reading

Thankful for One Another

Tim Delehaunty

Next Tuesday, our entire community of students, faculty and staff will gather for our annual Thanksgiving Assembly. Though I have not experienced one before, I understand that various classes and student groups will share some of their work that relates to gratitude and the season. I am sure it will be heartwarming and uplifting in a way that only a totally child-centered performance can be, and a wonderful way to ring in the Thanksgiving break.

I will also address the gathering. I have spent much of my week, like so many others, absorbing the tragic and shocking news of the passing of our beloved former Upper School Head Tim Delehaunty. Continue reading

A Community that Reads Together

This has been a fantastic week of community with the Festival of Books. From the opening book talk on Monday to the last frantic moments of buying just one more book on Thursday, it has been a great week.

DSC_9094Some of my favorite moments included children in pajamas excitedly learning who their mystery reader was, teachers buying gift books for fellow teachers, seeing the wide eyes of our students the first time they saw the library transformed into the festival, and watching parents already loaded down with an armful of books as their children try to stack just one more onto the pile. Such excitement over books, reading, and stories is such a hallmark of Country School. Continue reading