Parents Association & Parents Council
The Durham Academy Parents Association supports the school's academic, social, fine arts and athletic objectives. Parents Association encourages volunteerism, raises and disperses funds, promotes communication and cooperation, and provides input to the school on issues of concern and interest to parents. All Durham Academy parents are members of the Parents Association.
The Durham Academy Parents Council is the governing board of the Parents Association. This group comprises members of an executive committee; division representatives; members of schoolwide committees on matters such as diversity, wellness and athletics; and parents who organize both community-building and fundraising events. See a list of the parents who serve on Parents Council.
Parents Bulletin Board
What if there were one tool or one skill more important than anything else, that would be a key indicator of your child’s future success, not just in school but in life?
According to researcher and clinical psychologist Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, there is. But it has to be taught and practiced at school and at home for it to work. Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process by which people learn to recognize and manage emotions; feel and show empathy for each other; make responsible, value-based decisions; and develop and maintain positive relationships and behaviors. And SEL is at the forefront of frameworks that schools are designing for their futures.
“There’s not one aspect of your child’s capacity to live into their potential, whatever their gifts are, to flourish, without SEL,” Steiner-Adair told a gathering of Durham Academy parents Oct. 9. “What is the heart of the matter? The heart of the matter, for all of us, is to raise good, ethical, smart, caring people.”
Steiner-Adair cited some recent research about the impact of SEL:
Students in schools that incorporated SEL into their curricula scored 11 points higher on their SAT exams.
50 percent of participating schools showed improved achievement scores and grade-point averages.
21-year-olds who attended k-12 schools with an SEL curriculum demonstrated an increased ability to complete college in four years.
Schools with an SEL curriculum noted a 50 percent decline in negative behaviors like racism, gender bias and sexism.
While that research supports SEL’s advantages and long-term impact, Steiner-Adair says there’s a significant challenge when it comes to not only teaching children SEL, but also teaching it well and equally to boys and girls. Children internalize gender stereotypes that often become entrenched by the time they are as young as 10 years old.
Over the course of a two-day visit to Durham Academy, Steiner-Adair shared her insights with parents, teachers, counselors, learning specialists and Middle School students. She challenged them all to rethink the role of gender stereotypes and their influence on the development of social-emotional intelligence in children and their impact on children’s visions of who they can be when they grow up and where they belong.
When Steiner-Adair asked her Middle School audience of seventh- and eighth-graders to identify some of those stereotypes during an assembly, they didn’t need much prompting.
Hide their feelings (don’t cry if you’re sad)
Punch someone (if you’re mad at them)
Like pink or purple
Be sweet (don’t be a mean girl, be mad or disagree)
Steiner-Adair identified these stereotypes as uniquely American and gave students examples of how gender code messages are reinforced by the movies, television shows and even some children’s books that pre-teens consume.
“These are stereotypes that you see that impact how you think and behave, but they’re not who we are, and one of the most important things is to learn how to deconstruct these messages that make you behave in ways that aren’t true to who you are and what your values are,” she told students. “And what I’m going to suggest to you is that it’s really important that you break out — your generation, I hope, is going to be the generation that moves us beyond thinking boys do this and girls do this, and the body you’re born into tells you who you are, how you feel, how you should act and what kind of power you should have.”
SEL tools are never more valuable than in a world Middle Schoolers navigate completely on their own — their life online. It’s a world where cultural values can be the opposite of values learned at school or at home, and it’s a world that often rewards negative behavior. Steiner-Adair noted an unprecedented spike in social cruelty, with real-life consequences for kids manifested through anxiety, depression, self-injurious behaviors and mental health issues. She told Middle Schoolers that texting in particular lacks two essential tools for relationships and communication: tone of voice and the ability to see the impact of your words on others.
“Sixty to 70 percent of what you do is fine! It can be good, you can help a friend, you can be there for someone in trouble. You’re so lucky that you can communicate with your friends around the world at any time! 24/7, you can FaceTime, you can Skype, text — this is great!” she said. “But here’s the paradox, these same devices that make it so wonderfully possible for us to be connected are also leading us to connect in ways that are not good for us. And here’s the other thing that happens: You lose your filter. You lose that social/emotional intelligence that says think before you speak. You push send before you think. And we text things that we would not say face-to-face to people. We text things that if we said them here at school, we might get in some trouble because we use language and resort to forms of communication and bias and stereotypes when we’re online that we wouldn’t choose when we’re talking to people face-to-face.”
All of Steiner-Adair’s audiences also got a preview into how SEL is being incorporated in the post-DA collegiate and professional world. Some of the country’s most selective colleges and universities are including SEL-related questions into their graduate school admissions questionnaires, asking applicants to reflect on what they do well and why. Google researched what qualities contributed to their most successful teams and found they shared high levels of social-emotional intelligence — team members with different perspectives, diverse in gender and ethnicity, and a shared respect for equal opinions.
“Research tells us over and over that businesses that succeed the most, schools succeed the most, students are the best when both genders are equally present and valued and equally represented, when we all free ourselves of the gender code and gender straitjacket that makes us hide the truth of who we are. And when we pay attention, not just to the product or what we’re trying to learn, but how we’re doing as a class of learners getting there, how we’re doing as a team, how we’re getting along together.”
Steiner-Adair’s advice for parents who want to help prepare their children for a future empowered by SEL? Resist your urge to “fix it” for them. Let them experience consequences, whether it’s a lower grade than they expected, not getting cast in the play or not making the team. Resilience and grit, she says, only develop if teens fail forward in a safe place to make mistakes, like at DA.
More of Steiner-Adair’s Tips on How to Bring SEL Home
Steiner-Adair’s challenge for Middle Schoolers? Understand your own values, be vulnerable and show who you truly are online and off, don’t manage your feelings and relationships based on gender stereotypes, practice empathy, have courageous conversations to resolve conflict and make responsible decisions. Make the world a better place with whatever strengths, gifts and talents you have.
“So as your generation is coming up and growing up with technology, pay attention to what kind of community you’re creating here as students at Durham Academy but also in your online Durham Academy community,” she said. “Are you bringing the same values you learn here in school to your life online? Because you are the generation that has to raise social/emotional intelligence, which you practice here every day, into life online. It is your age that has this challenge for the future, and on which so much depends.”