Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 

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Little Ol' Photographer

Kudos to 5th Grader Caroline Aldridge, recognized as an Honorable Mention Finalist in the Earth Day 2014 Photography Contest at Time for Kids. Caroline's advisor Virginia Hall let her know about the competition and MS Digital Learning Coordinator Karl Schaefer helped her get the photo into the right format to send.

click here to see Caroline's photo: titled "Little Ol' Me" and the sixth in the slide slow.

Posted by in Middle School on Monday April 14, 2014
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18th Century values solving 21st Century problems

Upper School parent Frank Morgan shared an on-target editorial, published last week in the News and Observer. Some exerpts from the case for "grit over wits" by J. Peter Zane:

Here’s a smart way to improve education in North Carolina: Banish the words gifted and talented.

As flattering as it is meaningless, the G&T label has metastasized across our state and country in recent decades, distorting our understanding of learning. Suggesting that cognitive biology is destiny, it subtly tells good students to attribute their high marks to smarts and struggling students not to bother because they don’t possess the cerebral goods.

Fortunately, this is beginning to change as educators recognize that noncognitive skills – especially grit, tenacity and perseverance – are …

Posted by in Upper School, Other on Sunday April 13, 2014
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A heck of a day

In his unforgettable speech at the 1993 ESPY awards, Jimmy Valvano said, "If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day."

My Friday began with the 3rd Grade Grandfriends Celebration and ended with an Alumni Reception honoring Kim Ionescu, Sheppy Vann, and Chris Rosati. We laughed, we thought, and we cried several times today.

Stay tuned for more from tonight's festivities. For now: check out this tear-jerking video prepared by LS Librarian Michelle Rosen - a mosaic of immigration stories and pictures from our 3rd Graders, their parents, and grandparents. If you're looking for evidence of the diverse and unified power of our families, our school, and our country, here it is.

Posted by in Lower School, Other, Alumni on Friday April 11, 2014
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Humility + hard work = happy, healthy team success

Kudos to the boys golf team, who swept the Durham High School Invitational tournament at Treyburn. Will Beischer's 3 under-par 69 won top honors individually. Even more impressive: his post-round humility and the no-I-in-teamwork nurtured by Coach Greg Murray.

Click here to see the story (and the picture above) in today's Durham Herald.

Posted by in Other on Thursday April 10, 2014
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A good example from High Tech High

A Middle School parent shared this compelling 8-minute video with MS Digital Learning Coordinator Karl Schaefer and me. Karl passed it along to our MS faculty, urging his colleagues to try more projects like the one described at San Diego's High Tech High.

Already, in and out of their classes, our students invest their effort and creativity in projects and share the results publically. The 3rd Grade state projects, 6th Grade hero books, 10th Grade bridge and mousetrap projects and every single fine arts performance or sports/debate/science olympiad competition are all examples.

Still we can strive to ask more of students in the way of craft and creativity - giving them practice digging deeply into a new skill set, collaborating with their peers, and sharing their mastery in exhibitions that…

Posted by in Other on Monday April 7, 2014
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Rube Goldberg meets Goldilocks

My wife just shared with me this video, set to the music of the Beastie Boys, lauding the power of girls as world-changing engineers. I don't like to flog commercial products on this blog but think this piece is worth your two minutes.

Hooray for Lyn Streck, Nataki McClain and Michele Gutierrez - DA's Lower School Science, Math, and Technology Specialists - all three of them savvy, creative, world-changing role-models!

Posted by in Other on Sunday April 6, 2014
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Promposals and Circumstance

As the sap rises in the Carolina pines, our Seniors are feeling particularly springy. AP and final exams, Senior Projects, and Commencement are on the horizon. The glee of emancipation mixes with the sadness of goodbyes to dear friends and teachers.

Into this exciting and enervating emotional soup we stir the Prom.

With typical creativity and aplomb, our students are inviting each other to the big event (dinner and dancing at Duke's Nasher Museum of Art) in some clever ways. Jackson Dellinger, an 11th Grade candidate for Student Council Secretary, ended his campaign speech last week in Kenan Auditorium by asking Marie Li to the Prom (no pressure, Marie, other than the 450+ expectant witnesses).

Click here to see another memorable and public Promposal - this one from In the Pocket's sold-
Posted by in Upper School, Other on Sunday April 6, 2014
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Oh, the places you'll go!

It was clear to me as Camille Immanuel's 10th Grade English teacher that she would go far. Less clear was the direction, for Camille's range of talents and interests made her future difficult to discern.

After graduating from DA in 1998, Camille earned a degree in cellular and mollecular neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. She then went on to JHU's School of Public Health to study biochemistry and mollecular biology, then to rural villages to provide health care to those in need, and later to the University of Pennsylvania to do cardiothoracic surgical research. After attending medical school in New York City and working as a rock climbing and martial arts instructor, Camille is now finishing her Pediatric Residency at Mt. Sinai. She is also a poet, a painter, a dancer, and a model.…

Posted by in Other, Alumni on Saturday April 5, 2014
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Hope and dress code conversations spring eternal

Having spent eight years in a school which required uniforms (coat-and-tie for boys and similar formality for girls), I appreciate that relatively few student-teacher interactions at Durham Academy focus on student dress. Still, spring (and the resulting liberation of arms and legs) requires us to remind students that school is a special place with special norms for dress. Thanks to parents, students, and teachers alike for upholding our community standards in this area. Here's the entertaining reminder sent to Upper School students today:

Hello all,

On Monday morning I awoke in New Haven Connecticut to snow fall. I had been in NYC for a conference and decided to journey a little further north along Interstate 95 to visit New Haven, home to the Hopkins School, the venerable institution (…

Posted by in Lower School, Middle School, Upper School on Friday April 4, 2014
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Seminarians blog Full Frame

The Upper School seminar program allows a small group of students to spend two full days delving deeply into a topic of interest. In recent years, the spring seminar has taken shape around Durham’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

For those new to Durham, “Full Frame” is an annual international event dedicated to the theatrical exhibition of non-fiction cinema. Each spring Full Frame welcomes filmmakers and film lovers from around the world to historic downtown Durham for a four-day, morning to midnight array of over 100 films as well as discussions, panels, and southern hospitality. Set within a four-block radius, the intimate festival landscape fosters community and conversation between filmmakers, film professionals and the public. (Text and image above from www.…

Posted by in Upper School on Friday April 4, 2014
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