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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Wondrous Advice

Fifth Grade Teacher Avery Goldstein recently challenged the Middle School student body to live up to the spirit of Wonder. Below are her remarks from the MS Community Meeting. Click here to see her slide show introducing the unique and wonderful 5th Graders.

At some point in your life, you will have a dream about being at school in your underwear – or worse.

Maybe it has already happened to you, and if so, you probably woke up with your heart racing, filled with terror. Why is that? Why is the idea of having no clothes on so scary to us, regardless of how old we are?

I think it is because showing up without clothes on would mean having everyone see us without the labels, symbols, trends, and logos that we want people to see so we fit in. Without those shields, we would be seen for what makes us different from everyone else.

This summer, the fifth graders all read a book about a boy who didn’t have the luxury of being able to pretend that he was the same as everyone else. Auggie, the protagonist of Wonder, was born with severe facial deformities. Even after countless plastic surgeries, Auggie caused quite a spectacle everywhere he went. Some kids even burst out crying when they saw him. Auggie went through a long period in his life when he wore an astronaut helmet around everywhere he went. He thought that if he covered up what made him different, he could live a normal life and be happy.

But he was wrong. His life did not become normal or happy until he tried something tremendously scary. He took off the helmet and enrolled in school for the first time. He was in fifth grade. Things were not easy for him, but little by little, he made friends.

The kids who became his friends were the kinds of friends I hope you all find here at the middle school. True friends, who enjoyed the same things he did, who treated him with respect, who needed him as much as he needed them. So many of us spend a lot of energy worrying about keeping the friends we have or getting the friends we want.

I am here to tell you how to stop worrying about this: be yourself. Don’t hide underneath the helmet of doing what everyone else does or liking the people everyone else likes. Know and do what makes you happy. Be who you are. This is the same message you heard from Chris Hendricks, the performer who came last week.

When my middle-schooler got home and told his little brother about it, he said, “A rock star came to assembly,” not “A person with something wrong with their muscles came to our assembly.” We all think of him for what makes him amazing, not what makes him different from us. He has the courage to do what makes him happy, and he doesn’t worry if people might notice that he walks a little differently.

I want to introduce you today to 80 people just as courageous, amazing, and talented as Chris. So far, you might have only seen the backs of their heads. Perhaps you have just labeled them “fifth graders.” But each and every one of these spectacular people are giving you a tremendous gift – they wanted you to see them for who they really are, so you can treat them like a true friend. Smile, nod, give them a high five if you pass them on the sidewalk – now you will know who they are on the inside and I know that you will be as impressed as I am.
Posted by in Middle School on Sunday September, 29, 2013


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