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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Oh, the places they go!

I love hearing stories about our alumni. 

Whether reminiscing about my advisee who got her tongue pierced the day she turned 18 (she's now an attorney, married to a rabbi, in Palm Springs), thinking about a Senior with a mischievous glint in his eye (he's now training doctors, based on his experience battling ebola in Guinea), or meeting a one-time high school trumpeter (who now lives on a houseboat in Paris and makes his living as a jazz musician), I love to see the surprising paths our students take from DA outward. 

Our mission compels us to equip students for moral, happy, productive lives. Of course we focus our efforts on the earliest chapters of those lives. But most of a moral, happy, productive life is lived after age 18. What fun, then, to interact with our alumni and…

Posted by mulkus on Tuesday September 30, 2014 at 01:41PM
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Hunting season begins - an anti-bias reminder video

In a blog post last year, I shared some thoughts about the qualities I often seek in faculty colleagues, regardless of the subject or grade level:

  • Ethical force of character
  • Intelligence
  • In-depth subject knowledge
  • Physical vigor
  • Humility
  • Commitment to personal mastery
  • Positive team play

 Click here to see the full post

In our recent community servey for the 2015 Durham Academy Strategic Plan, 85% of respondents said it is "extremely important" that DA hire and support "faculty with passion, energy and a love of teaching."  No surprise here, as our graduates, our parents, and our current students all point to the quality of the faculty as the single most important factor in the health of the school. 

How do we find extraordinary …

Posted by mulkus on Friday September 26, 2014
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Good neighbors and good work

Next Thursday, October 2, Duke School will host Michele Stephenson, filmmaker of American Promise, the film that catalyzed intense and multilayered conversations among DA faculty and families last year.

Michele and her husband Joe spoke with our faculty last August about their film, their family, and the 12-year journey of their son through New York’s Dalton School. After screening the film again for students and parents in April, we struggled to find additional time for conversation and processing. Here’s a good opportunity.  

Click here to see my earlier post about American Promise. Or here to see more information about the Duke School event, to which DA families have been warmly invited.

Two weeks from today, DA will host the annual Triangle Diversity Alliance (TDA) …

Posted by mulkus on Tuesday September 23, 2014
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Blast from the past

I recently spotted three strangers on our campus. After some handshakes, greetings, and the happy sight of their visitors badges, I realized one of them was no stranger at all.

Dan Sherlock, a DA graduate from the class of 1985, was in town for the first time in nearly three decades - for a friend's wedding in Chapel Hill. Dan now lives in Los Angeles, where he serves as President of Cinedigm. Before that, he was President of Baseline (a comprehensive film and television database owned by The New York Times Company) and Vice President and General Manager of Movies.com (owned by the Walt Disney Company). 

Dan was glad to be wandering his old campus, and I was glad to help him connect with a few of his old (scratch that - ageless) teachers. What a …
Posted by mulkus on Saturday September 20, 2014 at 10:52PM
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Girls, sticks, stones, and real men and women

Yesterday I heard the story of a college volleyball recruiter who attempted to flatter a high school athlete by telling her that she "played like a boy." 

Intended as a compliment and taken as a clueless chunk of sexist residue, the comment is, sadly, all too common. 

Even well-meaning, feminist dads-of-sporty-daughters like me can parrot the language we inherit from our culture - and do insidious damage to the psyches of our girls . . . and our boys.

Those looking for a quick antidote can watch this terrific 3-minute video introduction to the #LikeAGirl campaign. Or read this article about Mo'ne Davis, little league flamethrower. 

Knowing that quick antidotes are rarely sufficient, our Upper School is focusing several of its social and emotional learning …

Posted by mulkus on Friday September 12, 2014
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Time to make choices

As I was a couple of weeks ago, I am feeling ambivalent about technology.

On one hand, I see the maturity and discipline of our Upper Schoolers with their digital devices. This morning I hosted a provocative conversation with our Spanish exchange students, who marveled at the ability of DA students to use their iPads and laptops productively and without distraction. "In our classes in Madrid," one told me, "no computers or phones are allowed and still we spend too much time talking and passing notes. Here most students have a phone in their pocket and a computer on their desk, but still they listen to their teachers as if the discussions really matter." 

On the other hand, an essay from Outside magazine has been bouncing around in my head all week:


Posted by mulkus on Friday September 12, 2014
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Wake and thrive

Upper School history teacher Jim Speir shared an interesting story from Saturday's Durham News. The opening paragraphs: 

Wake Forest University is joining a few other campuses nationally in starting a new initiative dedicated to the well-being of students, faculty and staff that goes beyond academic performance and into physical, spiritual and other realms.

The school launched the initiative, called Thrive, on Friday and has hired a director of well-being, who starts work next month. Thrive includes eight markers of well-being: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual.

The initiative is something more than trying to ensure students, faculty and staff are happy, said Penny Rue, vice president of campus life at WFU. It's about trying …

Posted by mulkus on Monday September 8, 2014 at 05:49PM
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Lice, lice, baby.

Dear Students and Parents,

As we gain momentum after a smooth and energetic start to the school year, I write to remind you about lice, a problem that is most prevalent in children ages 3-11 and peaks in the weeks after Labor Day.

Lice is more of a distasteful annoyance than a true health threat. Nevertheless, caution and care can minimize impact on our learners.

Along with Mr. Hark, and with information from the Centers for Disease Control, I have recorded a message designed to provide information, spark dialogue, adjust the culture of silence that surrounds lice and – we hope – reduce the chance of lice spreading this year.

Posted by mulkus on Friday September 5, 2014 at 03:24PM
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You can't be what you can't see

In two weeks Student U kicks off its Year Round Program, bringing up to 150 Durham Public Middle Schoolers every afternoon together for three hours of homework help, enrichment and remediation classes, club and sports activities, and social and educational offerings for parents. 

Along with Student U's Summer Academy (6 weeks of intensive academic work at Durham Academy), the Year-Round Program helps Student U fulfill its mission: "to empower students in the Durham Public Schools to own their education by developing the academic skills and personal well-being necessary to succeed in college and beyond."

Durham Academy is proud and lucky to be a founding and sustaining partner of Student U. Their success is our success. "Their" students are our students. 

In …

Posted by mulkus on Monday September 1, 2014
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