Do Good Work: An Opportunity for You by Ben Snyder, Head of Upper School

On Fri., March 8, Nobles is collaborating with Project Zero to host a conference for educators from around the country called “Developing Responsible, Caring & Balanced Youth.” The conference will feature internationally notable educators and social entrepreneurs including Howard Gardner, William Damon, and Kiran Sethi of Design for Change.

Our goals for the conference will be to address important questions such as these:

• How do we raise balanced, responsible and caring youth in this opportunity-rich, yet challenging context?

• How are young people responding to the changing world in school, at home, and in social environments?

• Are youth more socially aware and less prejudiced than ever before, or are they more narcissistic, egocentric and self-serving?

• How do we equip young people to recognize and confront ethical dilemmas and to respond with integrity?

• How do we help them develop a sense of purpose for themselves, yet also care about the wider world?

The world young people encounter is dramatically different than ours was at their age. Social media, access to infinite information via the internet, a hyper-competitive race towards college, and many other pressures have put adolescents in decision-making situations in which, frankly, they may not be developmentally ready to make good choices. We hope this collaborative effort helps adults understand those pressures more sensitively and develop ways—both in and out of the classroom—to help kids negotiate the minefield of adolescence to emerge as young adults who hope to lead lives characterized by integrity and character so that they will make a positive difference in their communities.

Anyone is welcome to register for the conference; visit to sign up for either a day or full conference. And, please feel free to share this opportunity with friends, colleagues and family.

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Building Relational Capital by Rick Wilson, Consulting Psychologist

My oldest daughter just presented a very elaborate, creative and well-delivered Power Point presentation…of her Christmas list. Fancy dissolves, rotating cubes and a thumping sound track pulled me in like a tractor beam. I was impressed, to say the least. Somewhere, on high, I heard the faint chorus, not of angels, but of focus groups and ad execs proclaiming, “Gloria!”

And so it begins: the pressure to please, the set-up for disappointment, the potential to become reactionary, the hurry to get it all done, the family expectations and conflicts. It seems like an impossible balancing act. Ahhhh! The holiday season is here. You probably have your own version of this snapshot. The holidays are inherently stressful. Despite this, there are ways of surviving with your spirit intact.

I don’t know about your family, but we really don’t need more “stuff.” My daughter will probably receive many of the items on her list, but the most important part, from my perspective, as a dad and as a psychologist is this: Looking for intentional ways to build relational capital within the family. No amount of success or achievement can match, or supplant, working to build deeper bonds within our family. Research study after research study affirms this truth—we all benefit most deeply from the feeling and experience of authentic connection with others. So here are some ideas to build relational capital this holiday season. Most of the suggestions cost little money, are not flashy and intentionally “low fi.”

Building Relational Capital:

  • Take an “electronics sabbatical” for some agreed on length of time
  • Make cookies or cook something together
  • Decorate together
  • Play a family touch football game
  • Crank up the music and dance
  • Serve meals together at a shelter
  • Take a short winter hike
  • Walk the dog and have your child join you
  • Play an old-fashioned board game
  • Tell a story about positive holiday memories when you were a young
  • Go bowling
  • Visit a neighbor with a plate of cookies
  • Take your child out for cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Talk in the car ride, sit and enjoy together.

The key is having fun and bonding together! You and your children will not regret it.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season,
-Rick Wilson, Consulting Psychologist

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The Measure of Self-Worth by Sherrie S. Delinsky, Ph.D.

One of the necessary tasks of adolescence is developing a sense of oneself. It is one of those clichés of the teenage years that happens to be true. An adolescent goes through growing pains, separating from family, in order to figure out who he/she is, as his/her own individual. A natural corollary of exploring one’s identity (i.e., “Who am I?”) is assessing one’s self-worth (i.e., “How good am I?” “What am I worthy of?”) As a clinical psychologist, I listen to messages about perceived self-worth in the way a pediatrician might utilize a stethoscope to detect the telltale signs of asthma. Disturbances in self-worth are common in depression, anxiety, perfectionism, body image disturbance, self-defeating behavioral patterns, and general unhappiness. Here are some truths about self-worth:

  • Perceptions of self-worth are incredibly subjective and may not correlate at all with others’ impressions. It may be surprising—even shocking—to hear how an individual may perceive his/her self-worth, because he/she may appear to have it “all together” to the outside world. Low sense of self-worth is often at the root of angst, suffering, and self-defeating behaviors.
  • Self-worth that is predicated on external achievement (e.g., grades, praise from others, or winning in sports or other arenas) is precarious. The most stable and meaningful sources of self-worth are those that are internally derived. These internal sources of self-worth require work to develop, even for adults. Intellectual curiosity, caring about others, spirituality, and connection to one’s values are examples of internal sources of self-worth.
  • Just like with the stock market, diversity is best. The more sources of self-worth a person has, the better off he/she is. That way, if you take a hit in one area (e.g., get injured and cannot participate in your sport), your self-worth does not plummet. This is especially applicable with the college admissions process!
  • Ironically, many perfectionists suffer from low self-worth. In order to compensate for deficits in self-worth, they set unreasonably high standards for achievement (e.g., “If I can get all As, then maybe I’m not so bad”). Unfortunately, it is impossible to be perfect and the inevitable falling short of such standards perpetuates the vicious cycle of low self-worth.
  • Much has been said that teenagers today are part of a generation of inflated self-esteem predicated by adult behavior to prevent kids from feeling bad about themselves (e.g., trophies for everyone for everything!). These efforts do not seem to boost self-esteem, and in fact, may confuse kids about what actually contributes to self-worth. The critical task is to help adolescents sort out for themselves, perhaps with guidance, which values truly matter to them. These values should be a compass for determining and working towards life goals as well as for achieving a stable, internal sense of self-worth. Questions to ask are: “What makes you feel good about yourself? When do you feel you are living according to your values? What traits do you appreciate in yourself and why?” Self-worth may fluctuate at times, but overall, should provide a sense of security and comfort, even in the face of adversity.

Sherrie Delinsky graduated from Nobles in 1994, before earning her BA in psychology summa cum laude from Yale University in 1998, and her PhD in clinical psychology from Rutgers University in 2005. Delinsky is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Wellesley, Mass., and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. She specializes in the cognitive-behavioral treatment of adolescents and adults with eating and weight disorders, body image disturbance, anxiety, and depression. Delinsky has authored more than 20 research papers and book chapters on mental health. For more information, visit her website:

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The Studies Show: Study Spaces

“The Studies Show” is a podcast series hosted by Nobles Learning Specialists Gia Batty and Sara Masucci. Through this series, the two hope to share information about some of the research they have come across in their work.

Click here to listen to this month’s podcast of
The Studies Show: Study Spaces


For more information about Dr. Robert Bjork’s work at UCLA (mentioned in the podcast), check out the following links:

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Essential Work by Steven Tejada, Dean of Diversity Initiatives

I recently sent this New York Times article to our entire faculty and staff.  The piece highlights the importance of the work we do at Nobles around issues of race and class.  We host monthly racial affinity groups (Brother to Brother, Sister to Sister, Asian to Asian), advise diversity student organizations open to everyone (Multicultural Students Association, Students for Socioeconomic Awareness), fund student conferences (NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference, AISNE Students of Color Conference, AISNE student diversity conferences), incorporate race and class into our curriculum, and provide professional development opportunities for faculty (AISNE diversity conference, NAIS People of Color Conference, Diversity Institutes).  The article also stresses the need for us to continue to think of these issues creatively and as a community.  Diversity work is always evolving and always challenging us to find the best ways to serve all of our students.

The article has a couple of points of personal intersection for me.  I served as the Director of Admissions and Placement at the Oliver Scholars Program in NYC for 5 years.  I also have crossed paths with Andre Robert Lee many times since we have been asked to speak at many of the same conferences.  A couple of years ago several of our teachers and students had the opportunity to view the film at the People of Color Conference and Student Diversity Leadership Conference.

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Believing in the “Beauty of Benign Neglect” by Jen Hamilton, Middle School Counselor

I recently read an article in Psychology Today called “Lessons for Living:  Five surprising principles for living, loving, and playing well with others” by Elizabeth Svobada.  It offered a great deal of wonderful advice, but one piece in particular really jumped out at me. Lesson #2 on the list, “The Beauty of Benign Neglect,” asserts that over-parenting can be extremely harmful in that it robs our children of opportunities to become resilient and self-sufficient.  As the mother of three young children, I truly understand how difficult it can be not to try to smooth out hurt feelings, offer solutions to tricky problems, or even suggest corrections to be made on homework assignments.  It is so painful to see our children struggling.  Yet without the struggle and the opportunity to problem-solve, kids cannot develop a sense of competence.  And there is nothing like competence to foster true confidence in our children.
Reinforcing this point, Dr. Joann Deak came to Nobles recently to talk with students, faculty, and parents about brain development and the importance of ‘stretching’ oneself during the adolescent years. One of Dr. Deak’s assertions is that making mistakes offers an incredible opportunity for our brains to learn deeply.  In analyzing what we did wrong, rethinking our approach, and trying again (and again, and again!) we are able to develop and grow in amazing ways.  During adolescence, brains are elastic and have the ability to increase neurotransmitters in response to this kind of exercise.  So not only is making mistakes essential in terms of building confidence; it also, quite literally, can make our kids smarter!!  Again, this got me to thinking:  If we rob our kids of the opportunity to make mistakes by paving the way for them or being a little too helpful in solving their problems, we are denying them a real opportunity for growth. Sometimes the best way to help is to step back and allow our kids to help themselves.
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What Teenagers Really Need

JoAnn Deak, adolescent development specialist, spent Oct. 17, 2012, at Nobles speaking with students, faculty and parents. Deak specializes in brain research and helped students understand what factors contribute to optimal brain function and growth. “Your brain is growing tremendously,” she said.

She spoke about the importance of eating well, exercising, hydrating and getting enough sleep. In an afternoon session with the faculty, she discussed differences in male and female brain development, recommendations for teaching and giving homework and myths about stress.

She also identified two factors that make for effective teachers: 1) a teacher who makes it clear to each student that he or she cares about and is interested in that student and 2) a teacher who conveys excitement about the subject matter and passion for sharing it.

A recent Wall Street Journal article echoes and underscores some of the brain research about which Deak spoke:

Bottom line: Teens need sleep desperately, and they are not getting enough.

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Community Voices

Earlier this month, The Bay State Banner published an article by Nobles visual arts teacher David Roane, discussing violence in schools and how it is often defined or labeled differently within the context of race and class.

Click here for the October 4th article, “Community Voices: Anti-bullying laws should apply to gangs, too.”

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The Value of Vulnerability by Erika Guy, Dean of Students

Author and Nobles graduate Amor Towles, Class of ’83, was our most recent Assembly speaker. While he could have spent 60 minutes discussing his current best-selling novel, Rules of Civility, he chose rather to speak about “living a life filled with ‘passion, honesty and competence.’” He began by noting that high school “sucks.” He described it as a period of intense humiliation and vulnerability. The following TedTalk challenges us as students, parents and as people, to embrace vulnerability and have the courage to be imperfect. Brene Brown makes a convincing argument aboutthe necessity of these tasks in order to achieve “wholeheartedness.”
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Introducing “The Studies Show” – A New Podcast Series

“The Studies Show” is a podcast series hosted by Nobles Learning Specialists Gia Batty and Sara Masucci. Through this series, the two hope to share information about some of the research they have come across in their work.

Click here to listen to “The Studies Show” premiere podcast about the benefits of water during the study process and academic performance.

For more information, visit

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