Parent Update: Sept. 7, 2017

NMH’s 139th Year Begins

The skirl of bagpipes signaled the NMH community to process into Memorial Chapel on Sept. 4 for Convocation, the official opening of the school’s 139th academic year.

In her invocation, Rev. Lee-Ellen Strawn, NMH chaplain, linked NMH’s founding by D.L. Moody and NMH’s “education for the head, heart, and hand” by inviting us to envision positive change. “With our minds, then, let us strive to learn about our diverse and complex world, and to act according to the principles of wisdom and justice. With our hearts, then, let us embrace our broken world with the principle of compassion, believing with hope in the possibility of healing and renewal. And with our hands, let us reach out to the world in need with the principle of generosity.

Head of School Peter Fayroian spoke to the assembled students, faculty, and staff about the role that cell phone apps, social media, and other recent technology should play in their lives. “The technological tools you have at your disposal are unprecedented in terms of their power to improve our world,” he said, adding that since “all this information and education is available to us in our pockets, it’s a reasonable question to ask why we come together at all on this hill.”

“We are privileged to have both these incredible machines at our disposal and to have the time and space to be with each other [in person]. But we do have to make time to get off the Internet and connect with each other; we do have to make sure we are harnessing the creative powers of technology and resist its destructive powers.”

“Let us take advantage of our time together on this hill and take Abby Maymi’s advice last night in her moment of silence to learn from and about each other by talking with each other. Let’s disconnect from the Internet and connect with each other, and when we do turn our smartphones on, let’s use them smartly and with humanity and purpose.”

Check out photos and the program from Convocation, and read Fayroian’s address, the chaplain’s invocation and benediction, the moment of silence by Alex Dumitriu Carcoana ’18, and the spade oration by Leighlani Sanchez ’18.

From Director of Advising Diane Arena: There is an unmistakeable heavy sigh most families release as they drive away from campus after saying goodbye to their student. You know the separation is coming, but that does not make it any better. If you are a parent or guardian who’s new to the boarding-school world, it is hard to know what to expect in these first couple of weeks and months.

What you will come to know is the “NMH norm” for your student — particularly in how you relate to each other. They’ve discovered new independence, but you are likely still the safest place to which they will turn. Try to keep thinking about all the ways you can support them through your interactions and your overall relationship. Parents have been separating from their boarding-school students for centuries, and there is good information out there in the world about how to maximize your student’s potential for a successful transition.

If you get that late-night phone call or text proclaiming intense anxiety, homesickness, desperation about social issues or status, loneliness, or isolation — remember it is normal. These emotions pass, especially with your help. You serve as a place where your student can unload. They might not feel comfortable enough to do that with the adults supporting them on campus — yet. It’s still early.

In these moments, it is best to listen to their complaints, concerns, and worries. Just listen. When you listen, your student accesses inner resources. Pay attention to the rhythm of the conversation and, when they calm down, ask them how they think the problem might be solved. Try not to solve the problem for them. It is important that they figure out how to solve problems for themselves.

After students unload on you, they are usually able to adjust to the situation. They will most likely prove to be resilient. If they do not, their advisor and other faculty in the dorm are great people to talk to. Suggest that to your student. Homesickness is real and happens all the time, and it usually passes. Prolonged homesickness might call for different measures, but homesickness through October or early November is common and not a bad thing.

The best thing you can do for your student in these first few weeks is encourage new activities and friendships. Try to avoid being in constant contact with them. The more they are talking with and writing to you, the less they are transitioning to the NMH community and establishing themselves as NMH students. Encourage your student to seek out and connect with adults in the community who can help guide students as they learn about independence. Please don’t worry; your students will experience growth and resilience, they will have good times with good people, and they will learn who they are in the NMH community and the world.

On Sept. 17, more than 100 admission representatives from colleges across the country and around the world will visit campus for the school’s 32nd annual college fair. Students can meet these reps, who often end up reading their completed applications. The fair is an excellent chance for college representatives to see the faces that go with the applications, and for students to gather more information about colleges.

The fair runs 3–5 pm on Sunday, Sept. 17, in Forslund Gym. This list of attendees identifies colleges scheduled to participate, and will be updated if plans change. Before the fair, 20 colleges will offer on-campus interviews to seniors and postgraduates. Students have been signing up for interviews via email this week. Parents are welcome to attend the fair, but please check with an NMH college counselor in advance.

College-admission representatives also visit campus throughout the fall for information sessions and dinner meetings with students. To learn more about the schools scheduled to visit this fall, go to the NMH calendar. College-visit listings can be isolated by clicking on the down arrow next to “Agenda” at the upper right of the calendar and unchecking all criteria except “College Visit Calendar.”

Rabbi David Burstein ’85 will join us at NMH for the Jewish high holy days again this year, using the Torah that given to the school by Phyllis and Gilbert Aliber ’51, P’77, ’82. Rabbi Burstein will be on campus to lead Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, to attend classes, and to be a pastoral presence for students and faculty during this significant time of the year. The services are also listed on the spiritual life calendar. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Rev. Lee-Ellen Strawn at In addition, here are the dates for Protestant worship services in Memorial Chapel in 2017–18.

Over Labor Day weekend, NMH welcomed new and returning students from around the globe. This year, our students hail from 57 countries and 34 states, reinforcing our proud heritage of educating students from near and far. For parents who were unable to join us at registration, here are some helpful links: a basic information packet, student-life presentation, academic-life presentation, and photos from registration and new international student check-in.

Every fall since 1897, students have inscribed signatures next to their names in a special journal, pledging to uphold NMH’s community standards. New students signed what is known simply as “the book” in a special matriculation ceremony on Sept. 1. See photos of the ceremony, read the moment of silence given by Chianna Cohen ’18, and learn more about the history of “signing the book.”

Once parents left campus, students immediately began orientation activities. See photos of ninth-grade orientation, during which students paddled canoes around Shadow Lake, explored the ropes course in the NMH forest, and told stories and sang around a campfire. Also see photos of 10th-grade orientation, during which sophomores engaged in team-development activities on our confidence course, went on a scavenger hunt to learn about campus resources, built friction fires, and square danced. Juniors and postgraduate students participated in their own orientation activities.

We are excited to welcome you back to campus for fall family days in four weeks, Friday, Oct. 6–Saturday, Oct. 7 (for families of juniors, Thursday evening, Oct. 5, too). As you review the schedule, we hope you’ll plan to join us. You’ll receive an official invitation on Sept. 18, with one link to register and another link to sign up for teacher and advisor conferences. As you coordinate travel plans, please note that students may leave for the long weekend only after their academic, athletic, arts, and workjob commitments are complete. All performing-arts students will participate in a show on Friday evening, Oct. 6. Athletic events occur on Saturday, Oct. 7. There are no classes on Monday, Oct. 9, or Tuesday, Oct. 10. The dormitories will be open for students who remain on campus. While classes resume on Wednesday, Oct. 11, seniors have the choice of using that day to look at colleges and return that evening. Follow this link for tips on attending family days. For more information, please contact Beth Towle.


Academic Course-Change Process

There is an important shift in the course-change process. Starting this year, all student-initiated course changes for spring-semester major courses need to be made by Sept. 29. This means there will not be an add/drop period during the first week of the spring semester. The only changes that will be considered after Sept. 29 are teacher- or department-chair-initiated level changes (for example, a move from Honors Geometry to Regular Geometry). Changes to athletics and co-curriculars can be made as usual. Student-initiated changes for fall semester are due by Friday, Sept. 8.

Suspicious Social Media Posts

We are aware that an unauthorized person has posted to social media posing as a member of the NMH community. Please beware of bogus accounts labeled "NMHdeans"; all official emails from NMH come from an account ending in "" Should you or your student encounter suspicious social media posts or emails appearing to come from NMH accounts, yet not reading as if they were sent officially from NMH, please contact Interim Dean of Students Angelita Castañon by email or phone (413-498-3423). NMH will block inappropriate posts/users once they are reported.

Art Gallery Exhibition Opens
Please join us for the first show this year in the Gallery at the Rhodes Arts Center, our premier venue for exhibiting professional-quality visual art. Portraits, an exhibition of drawings and oil paintings by Katy Schneider, opens Sept. 15 with a reception at 6:30 pm. The exhibition runs through Oct. 15. Families are welcome to visit the campus gallery, which is open Monday–Friday from 10 am to 7 pm and on weekends from 1 to 5 pm.

Drivers’ Education Class

Precision Driving School will offer one session of the classroom portion of drivers’ education this year. Classes meet on Saturday mornings in Upper Mod 113 on Oct. 14, 21, and 28; Nov. 4 and 11, Dec. 2 and 9, and Jan. 6, 13, and 20. Students must be at least 15 years and nine months old to participate. Payment for the course is made directly to the driving school. Please contact Precision Driving School directly at 413-773-8600 or see their website for details.

Catholic Confirmation Class

The Catholic confirmation class is open to any student interested in learning about the Catholic faith. The first session met on Tuesday. Families interested in getting more information about the confirmation program should contact faculty advisor David Dowdy.

Apply Now for Model U.N. Conferences

Students interested in attending one of this year’s Model United Nations travel conferences should attend the informational meeting during X-block on Sept. 12 in the Rhodes Room (Beveridge). Applications are due Oct. 2 for conferences in: The Hague, Netherlands (tentative dates 1/26–2/4/2018), Johannesburg, South Africa (tentative dates 3/18–26, 2018),and Ivy League UPenn Conference (tentative dates 1/24–28, 2018). Please contact Grant Gonzalez or Jensi Rovang in the Global Engagement Office with questions.

Upcoming Events

9/9–11 Closed weekend
9/9 Opening school dance
9/10 NMH On the Water: Los Angeles
9/13 Hogolympics
9/15 Student involvement fair
9/15–17 Closed weekend
9/16 Hogger fair
9/17 College fair

A bird's eye view