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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Dean Bitterman's manifesto for the new school year

Tomorrow we welcome back students of all ages with a series of orientations and open houses. The day is as full of hugs and squeals of delight (as students reunite with long-lost pals and drop in on last year’s teachers) as it is with nervous anticipation. Tuesday we begin our regular academic routines but tomorrow will be a busy, dizzy, happy, sweaty “Welcome Backapalooza.”

Today, on this last day of summer vacation, our new Upper School Director Lanis Wilson sent his YO LA TENGO message to all students in grades 9-12. As Dean of Students, Lanis has done this each Sunday for several years – sharing brief reflections on life and the school week ahead. Click here to see another example – including Lanis’ explanation (especially popular with New York Mets fans) for choosing YO LA TENGO as his title.

As we begin the school year across fourteen Durham Academy grades this week, I hope you’ll enjoy reading Lanis’ manifesto – yet another example of our faculty speaking with earnest clarity about what matters in our community.

Happy 2016-17, everyone!


Good Sunday morning all,

And suddenly it was the end of August. Time to start waking early, making that commute to school and expanding our intellects. As much as I love summer with its dolce far niente, I do find myself looking forward to the start of school. New shoes, clean unmarked pages in my notebooks, a fresh pack of sharp pencils…so much potential. I hope you all had restful and productive summers and are ready to face the new year with resolve and diligence and humor.  This week offers us a great opportunity to meet some new folks, expand our circle of friends and be that best self we always wanted to be.  

For those of you new to YLT you should know I spend a little time each Sunday to put together some thoughts and some calendar details that afford you a peak at the week ahead. My goal is to clarify any confusion about the week by laying out the schedule in broad strokes.  Vendors, special events, announcements…this is your go to resource for what’s about to happen at DA…and all you have to do is open your mail.

Although I shared this back in July with the faculty, I want this first letter to serve as my manifesto, an articulation of my vision for the Upper School and a delineation of my values and guiding principals. I may not always achieve the ideal, but these beliefs drive my efforts and my expectations…

  1. I believe in hard work. I do not always relish it, but I believe it is the bedrock of good citizenship.
  2. I believe that family is the most important thing in the world. I also believe that we are a family and we are at our best when we are helping each other survive the mundane and the momentous. 
  3. I believe that every student deserves our best effort. The rude, the quirky, the disinterested, the unlovable should never be dismissed. Once upon a time I was that student.
  4. I believe good citizenship starts with empathy.
  5. I believe in appropriate candor. We are all better off when someone tells us we have spinach in our teeth…myself included.
  6. I believe in service. We all have a responsibility to leave a place better than we found it.
  7. I believe I will make mistakes and I will learn from those mistakes and I will be a better person for the experience.
  8. I believe difficult conversations should be conducted face to face. This can be awkward and unsettling, but it is the best way forward.
  9. I believe that communication is essential, that miscommunication is inevitable and that patience is the most valuable tool we have.
  10. I believe in schedules…and flexibility.
  11. I believe that meanness is the creeping crud of any community and candor and collegiality are the best disinfectants.
  12. I believe change is both scary and necessary.  We all must be willing to learn and grow…to lean into the uncomfortable…to find that zone between complacency and terror where we grow as individuals.
  13. I believe I am extraordinarily lucky to have this job and will do my best to lead the Upper School in accordance with these beliefs.

Thanks for taking the time out of your Sunday to read this. If you have a moment, I encourage you to sit down and write your manifesto. What do you value? What do you want this next year to look like?  How are you going to be the change you want to see in the world? Put it on paper and make it so.

I look forward to the coming academic year and serving as the Upper School Director.

Lanis Wilson, aka (and on Twitter) @DeanBitterman 

Posted by mulkus on Sunday August, 21, 2016


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