Making Headlines: A Message from the Director of Online Communications
Few spaces can accommodate the complete register of human emotion like the Middlesex Chapel. A wedding one week, a memorial service the next, a mindfulness retreat now, a steel drum concert later: the Chapel, dimly bright and intimately spacious, doesn’t just feel like a good space for all poles of emotion, it feels like the right space.
On September 3rd, it was just the right space for the powerful moment when 116 new Middlesex students gathered outside the Chapel and hugged goodbye to their parents. Standing off to the side with my fellow faculty members, the poignancy of the moment—the intersecting heartache and excitement as families closed one chapter and opened the next—had me a little choked up, as it does each year. I vividly remember when I was a Middlesex freshman in the fall of 2000, standing in the cool shadow of the Chapel and saying goodbye to my parents. I watched my mom wipe away tears and I fought back a few of my own, lest I’d be seen by any of the four girls I’d fallen hopelessly in love with during registration. I squeezed my mom tight and said yes, I promise I won’t forget you, and yes, I promise I’ll be home for dinner because day students like me get out at 7:30pm.
Whether the parent of a day student or boarder, there’s substantial emotional weight to contend with when letting go of your child and entrusting his or her most pivotal years to a community that you yourself are just getting oriented to. As a father of a toddler, I’m newly familiar with this feeling of dropping off your child at a new school (or a nursery), so I was particularly struck by how effectively artist Chris Ware captured its emotional complexity on the cover of this week’s New Yorker:
Looking at this picture, I find the inherent push/pull of sending your child off to school is both subtly and powerfully underscored by the ambiguity of whether, in this moment of goodbye, the mother is pulling her daughter in or letting her daughter go. On one hand, it’s clear the daughter is ready for this new beginning; she has grown up—way, way up—and needs to follow her peers into the space that will allow her to continue her growth as a student and individual. On the other hand, she seems vulnerable: the slight tilt of the head, the arms just a smidge over the line of gangly, the endearingly earnest lunchbox, so lovingly packed, a vestige of simpler times with mom, that none of her classmates carry anymore.
I can’t help but look at this picture and feel profoundly sad for the girl as she prepares to leave her mother, the one splash of pink and comfort and love amidst a backdrop of drab, unwelcoming beiges. The sense of apprehension, from both the girl and her mother, is palpable.
But I also take great comfort knowing that here at Middlesex, this is not how the year starts for our new students. They don’t pull up to campus and see a wall of turned backs, as this girl does. Instead, they are greeted by dozens of returning students waving hello on the front steps of each dorm, the words “Ask Me” literally stamped on their backs and figuratively implied in their welcoming smiles.
Our new students enter a community where their peers are not staring at their phones, as many of the students in Ware’s picture (so realistically) are doing. Instead, they make connections—real connections, in person—with their new classmates in a meticulously designed, multi-day orientation.
My Middlesex orientation wasn’t without a few bumps. I recall my panic when I couldn’t figure out how to work the three-number combination lock of my sports locker, and the feeling that I was somehow failing my first Middlesex test, one that I literally had the answer sheet for. But this was only a small blip on an orientation that at times felt like a coronation as my fellow new students and I were officially welcomed into the community with 500 pairs of open arms.
In 2018, the Middlesex welcoming committee is as enthusiastic and caring as ever. Part of this comes from a Middlesex culture of supportive friendliness that has been passed down for decades. But now, as a faculty member, I’ve seen how orientation is a meticulously crafted experience with every hour of every day planned with the utmost care and intentionality.
I think that’s part of what makes Middlesex so special: the School understands that a strong culture is not automatic and not wholly organic. It takes work, diligence, and refinement on top of refinement. In June, before the school year is even complete, a team comprised of the Deans’ Office, Admissions Office, Health Center, Academic Office, Athletic Department, Technology Department, Facilities, and Dining Services all begin planning the Opening of School for the next fall. That work goes on for the entire summer, and every last corner of the student experience is examined and refined. What time do the flights get in for our international students? How can we help them adjust to jetlag? What hours will they most likely be hungry? And what about the new sophomore day students—will they find themselves in an uncomfortable limbo during the hour of dead time before the square dance? Let’s schedule an ice cream social during that hour so the entire sophomore class can begin to bond with their new classmates. (And speaking of that dance, it’s no coincidence that the first big social event of the year, one typically fraught with anxiety for inexperienced dancers, just happens to feature a band that literally calls out basic dance directions so everyone can step to the left, step to the right, and Do Si Do together.)
On September 27th, a group of administrators and faculty will meet to debrief this year’s orientation, compare notes, and look for areas to improve. After all, the 2019 Opening of School is only 355 days away. I have a freshman advisee right now who’s already excited to wear an “Ask Me” shirt, eager to pass the goodwill he received this September on to the next crop of new students. At Middlesex some things never change, and the rest is refined. Get this: when I asked that same advisee what he was most nervous about during his orientation, he paused in thought and finally said, “Honestly? Figuring out the lock to my locker.”
I almost spit out my coffee.
“And how’d that go?” I asked him calmly, trying to hide the remnants of my own locker room panic.
“Oh, it was no problem,” he said casually. “The School had upperclassmen stationed in the locker rooms to help new students with their locks.”
--Eric Kester '04, Director of Strategic Marketing and Online Communications
- September 14: Class IV Chapel/Event (required), 6:30-7:30pm
- September 17: Class III Connections
- September 20: Special schedule – athletics in the afternoon
- September 21: All School Chapel (required, classroom dress), 7-9pm **Note time change**
- September 22: No classes – All School Read (required, classroom dress) 9-11:30am; Athletic competitions in the afternoon; Freedom of Speech, 9-11am
- September 23: Practice SATs and ACTs (Class I), 9am
- September 24: No classes – Class II and IV Community Service Day (required); Class III Trip (required)
- September 25: Class III Connections, 7:30-8:30pm
- September 26: Class I Leadership meeting, 7:30-8:30pm
- View the 2018-19 Calendar at-a-glance
Announcements and Reminders
-Laura Darby McNally, Head Athletic Trainer
- The Alumni and Development office would like to remind all parents that there will be a cocktail reception at the New York Athletic Club on Wednesday, October 3rd, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm. Head of School Kathy Giles P'06'09'11 will be there to greet guests and share some thoughts on the state of school today. If you (and a guest) would like to attend this reception, please register online by 9/21.
- Photos from the Square Dance have been posted!
This fall there will be the 6th annual Introduction to Mindfulness course for Middlesex Parents and Alumni. The course is similar to the mindfulness course taken by Middlesex students, faculty, and staff. We will meet Thursday evenings from 6:30pm-8pm starting October 11th and ending on November 15th (6 sessions total). If you are interested or have any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-807-5735. The course is freely offered by the school.
If you would like to speak with MX parents/alumni who have attended the course in the past just let me know and I can put you in touch. Also, it is ok to miss one of the six sessions; however, if you plan to miss several sessions it is probably best to wait for another year.
Doug Worthen ’96, Director of Mindfulness Programs’
Throughout the year, Academic Support Coordinator Molly Gerrity offers optional seminars to help students hone their study and organizational skills. Below is the schedule for Academic Seminars for the first semester:
- Monday, Sept. 17, Meeting Block- Organization
- Friday, Sept. 28, Senate Block-Time Management
- Friday, October 5, Senate Block- Reading Comprehension
- Monday, October 8, Meeting Block-Note Taking
- Tuesday, October 16, Meeting Block-Test Prep: What is studying?
- Friday, October 26, Senate Block-Test Prep: Study Guides
- Monday, October 29, Meeting Block- Test Prep: Study Strategies
- Monday, November 9, Meeting Block-Writing: Brainstorming & Outlines
- Monday, November 12, Meeting Block- Exam Prep: Organization, Best Use of Thanksgiving Break
- Monday, December 3, Meeting Block-Exam Prep: Time Management
- Friday, December 7, Senate Block- Exam Prep: Studying for Exams
We would like to remind all parents that you are encouraged to attend the upcoming Parents' Weekend on October 19-20th. Please register online at your earliest convenience.
From the MPA
Welcome to the Middlesex Parents’ Association! The MPA is a parent-run, all-volunteer organization. Getting involved with the MPA is a great way to meet other parents and support the school, whether you live far away or nearby! We encourage you to volunteer by completing the electronic Parent Volunteer Form found on the Parents Page on the Middlesex website or by clicking here. All parents are automatically members of the MPA.
During the school year, the MPA has four Saturday morning meetings that present key information for current parents. Parents are encouraged to attend in person or to view the electronic broadcast of each meeting. The meeting dates for the 2018-2019 year are as follows:
- September 29, 10:00am-11:30am- Rachel Carson Center
- November 17, 10:00am-11:30am - Barron Room, Ware Hall
- January 19, 10:00am-11:30am - Barron Room, Ware Hall
- April 13, 10:00am-11:30am – Barron Room, Ware Hall
Join the MPA for our first meeting of the year on Saturday, September 29 from 10am-11:30am in the Rachel Carson Center. The meeting will feature four teachers and administrators who will give an overview of different aspects of school life. Dr. Munro will present the development of Dialogues Across Differences, Mr. Sheff and Ms. Cohane will discuss Community Life, Ms. McLaughlin will report on how the school encourages our teens to eat and sleep well, and Mr. Crozier will give an update on the visual arts and theater projects.