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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Changing the iPad, Being the Change

How to Change the World (thoughts from Dan Kimberg and members of Student U's class of 2013):

When Student U students first arrived on campus in June of 2007, we proclaimed “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.” We asked students to write down a dream they had for the future on green cut out circles, many of which hung on my wall in my office years later. Students shared dreams to end gang violence, find homes for all abandoned dogs, solve Global Warming, and close the achievement gap. Our sixth graders (now seniors in high school) were an ambitious group! After dreams were written, we explained that at Student U, “crazy dreams come true.” We shared that if they committed their best selves to working with Student U, together, we could turn those dreams into a reality. And then we asked the question “how do we change the world?”

Seven years later, I still don’t have the complete answer. But as I have been reading personal statements and writing letters of recommendation letters for those once 6th grade dreamers, I am just now starting to figure it out. We change the world by following Gandhi’s message and being the change. We change the world by discovering OUR best selves and then allowing that new version of our selves to inspire others. We change the world by first focusing inward and then looking out to the horizon.

So, did our seniors live up to Gandhi’s challenge? Have they become the change they wish to see in the world? Read a few excerpts from some of our senior’s personal statements and decide for yourself:

“Everything in the auditorium is cloaked in black. The lights are low. The creak of the floorboards guides me to the front of the stage. I stop. I can’t see anything yet. Suddenly, the lights strike me all at once and I can finally see. On my left and right I have my best friends ready to face the same crowd I am. Without much looking I can already sense the anxiety of those around me and in the crowd in front of us, too. Right as the music begins, I shut my eyes and draw air into my lungs. Even before I sing the first note, I transport myself into my performance. In those moments on stage I find that I’m able not only to convey my feelings through dancing and singing, but that I have a confidence that I wouldn’t have otherwise found.”

“I am the survivor of the lions’ den; not because I share the name of a man whose unshakable faith saved him from certain death, but because I was born into a world with countless lion-like predators that I continually fight off. I was born into a world where because I dream a dream that is greater than some people’s expectations, words like “can’t,” “mustn’t,” and “impossible” ring viciously in my ear like a lion’s roar. I was born into a world where ignorance is used as a weapon, taking the form of the eyes of a lion to scare me and make me shut my eyes; tricking me into thinking that I am shutting my eyes from a gruesome beast, but in reality I am shutting my eyes to knowledge, truth, and justice. Finally, I was born into a world where because I am different, whether that be because of my skin, ethnicity, or beliefs; the people around me grow barbed claws like those of a lion and attempt to carve me into a shape that is more aesthetic or relatable to them.”

“All clichés aside, at the end of the rainbow I hope to find a pot of gold. However, my gold is defined by more than monetary treasure. In my pot of gold, I hope to be seen for all that I am. I hope to find balance and peace; not only amongst the world, but within myself. Constantly, I struggle to find harmony between the different pieces of my personality and to be seen rather than observed. The eyes of an individual who has truly seen the fullness of my being would see the blushing redness that is the love I have for others around me. They would see the orange that conveniently illustrates my obsession with basketball and the impact athletics have on my work ethic. Their eyes would be filled with the searing yellow that is my vigilance for life’s little moments and radioactive green that is my pursuit of a comfortable lifestyle for not only myself but for my family as well. This person would see the blue sky of knowledge that I attempt to fly through and indigo artisan that lives within me through music and writing. At last, their final view would be the blooming violet that represents my passion for spirituality and finding a greater purpose. This colorful arc that has been imprinted in the eyes of this beholder is the rainbow of my personality. It is my hope that one day these colors will mature, illuminate, and fuse together to form a dazzling lifetime and legacy that is my pot of gold. Then, I can stand with arms akimbo, roaring into the sunset.”

“Walking off the bus, entering into a tunnel of college students singing a version of Joy to the World that I had never heard of before, I was wondering “what did my parents get me into? These people are crazy!” The most important lesson from Student U, which is instilled in every student that goes through this seven year long program, is to be the change you wish to see in the world. Student U changed my views on life. I realized what change I wanted to be in the world.”

“When the song is over I close my eyes once again. There’s a very brief moment of silence from the audience and then it comes- a wave of applause and cheers. The powerful, soothing feeling that comes with sharing my voice makes the stage my home. And it’s not just my voice. It’s the personal things that I can share with a crowd without feeling that I’ll be interrupted or judged. Standing on a stage has given me that comfort of being heard and has provided me with the one place where I’m not afraid to be myself.”
Posted by in Other on Wednesday October, 30, 2013


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