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Sleep is Homework And Other Tips About the Brain

The special assembly with Andrew Watson, of Translate the Brain, began with a game. The Upper School students had 30 seconds to examine a chart and, using three simple conversion rules, figure out solutions to several strings of numbers.

But there was a trick to this game. After calling time, Mr. Watson asked if any of the students had picked up on it. The key, he said, was in the numbers: the first half of the answers mirrored the last. Those who recognized that could complete the task in half the time.

Why was this relevant to students on an early November morning? Mr. Watson promised his talk, entitled “How to Study Less and Learn More”—and bizarrely subtitled Import Anthill Wontons!—could give students half a dozen strategies for achieving higher grades while doing less work.

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Elinor Lipman: Fiction Writing is Creative Lying

2013_1105_Chattman_Writers' Workshop_Elinor Lipman at podiumSixteen years ago, authors Madeleine Blais P’00, ’04 and Elinor Lipman P’00 combined forces to create the Writers’ Workshop Series, a long-running lecture series that invites fiction and non-fiction writers, playwrights, journalists, and poets to speak to students and to the general public.

On Monday, November 5, Ms. Blais introduced her fellow co-founder by first listing several of the renowned authors that had visited the Williston Northampton School since the series began in 1998: Wally Lamb, Arthur Golden, Anita Shreve, Tracy Kidder, and Nikky Finney, among others.

“There are two things all of these authors have in common,” Ms. Blais said. “They are all performing at the top of their game… And they’re all personal friends of Elinor’s, who she talked into coming to talk to you.”

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Patricia McCormick: Sadness with a Redemptive Quality

2013_10_Chattman_Patricia McCormick_profile Patricia McCormick doesn’t pick the lightest fare to write about. Topics of her award-winning novels have included self-harm, teenage substance abuse, sexual slavery, and Cambodian genocide.

In an introduction to her fellow author on October 7, Madeleine Blais P’00, ’04 recounted how Ms. McCormick’s son once asked, “Where do you come up with your ideas for books, Mom? What do you do, Google the word sad?”

Yet, Ms. Blais said that of the people she knows, Ms. McCormick is one of the upbeat and optimistic—sharing a quality of all good writers: a deep and abiding belief that stories matter.

“She gave you a very good summary of the books,” agreed Ms. McCormick. “They are sad, but they all have a redemptive quality.”

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Four Faculty Honored for Their Passion and Leadership

Describing the recipients as leaders, thinkers, and positive forces in their community, Dean of Faculty Peter Valine named four new instructorships during Upper School Assembly on October 9. The members of the teaching faculty—Susanna White, Tom Johnson, Lynn Magovern, and Betsy Grant—were all honored for their efforts both in and out of the classroom.

The following are from Mr. Valine’s remarks during assembly:

George E. Gregory and Catherine B. Gregory Instructorship

Susanna White received the George E. Gregory and Catherine B. Gregory Instructorship, which recognizes the initiatives of a young faculty member of the fine arts.

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A Visit to the Garden of Martyrs

2013_09_hill, Robert_Garden of Martyrs_students readingOn Saturday, September 14, a group of students from Michael Fay’s AP U.S. History class climbed a hill to a large stone marker. Located near busy Route 66 and Smith College, the site commemorates the place where two Irish immigrants were executed in 1809.

Largely viewed to be victims of ethnic and religious bigotry, the two men, Dominic Daley and James Halligan, had been persecuted for murder. They were exonerated in 1984. Their case was novelized by author Michael C. White in the book The Garden of Martyrs, which Mr. Fay assigned to his students as summer reading. As part of their trip, the group climbed the hill where the executions took place and read aloud Mr. Daley and Mr. Halligan’s last words.

Upon their return to campus, Mr. Fay asked the students to write comments about the trip. “How did it make you feel to stand near the spot where James Halligan and Dominic Daley could see both the procession of spectators behind them, and the gallows in front of them?” he asked.

The students responded with a range of perspectives: from the empathetic (“They were people, just like me or anyone I know,” wrote Emma Kaisla) to the metaphysical (“It forced me rethink the importance of the human life and death,” noted Marcus Gould). Gabriel Jacobson said he better understood that “past wrongs over time become lessons,” while Alec Bickerstaff compared the hanging to a modern rape trial and wrote, “Can we honestly say that as a country we are any different/ less discriminatory/ less racist?”

Others, such as Hannah King, said being on the site of the hanging helped them more fully understand the emotional and historical impact of the execution.

“I found myself feeling guilty, as if I was the one who sentenced them there; as if I was the one who put those bags over their heads; as if I was the one pressured to lie at the witness stand,” Ms. King wrote. “I wanted to help these two men, but it is too late.”

Read more student comments.

Mr. Fay said later that he was amazed by the depth and thoughtfulness of the students. After reading all of the submissions, he wrote a note thanking the students.

“The compassion in your words of wisdom is reassuring that your generation has the capacity to make the world a better place,” he wrote.