Just a taste…

The tables are set with primary-colored table cloths. Snacks neatly poured into bowls of various sizes. Menus crisply folded. Pencils sharpened with brand new erasers, placed in the center of each menu as the only utensil needed. Books carefully strewn over any empty space, titles peeking out from behind one another. The Thomas Cafe is ready for customers.

As the students approach, I hear “Yay! Another book tasting! I loved doing this last time.” This makes my heart burst.

“Come on in. Welcome to today’s historical fiction book tasting. Please find a seat. Service will begin in a moment.”

The students bustle about, putting binders and computers away. Finding a seat, anxiously awaiting instructions. I wait while each person gets settled, which honestly, doesn’t take long because they know what is coming. All eyes are on me. Let’s do this.

“All right. You remember the rules. Scan the books. Pick a title which interests you. Read the first three pages – that’s all. Then record your thoughts. You may snack while you read, but remember, the goal is to taste the books. When the timer dings after seven minutes, we rotate to the next station. Are you ready?”

The yeses echo around the room, like kernels of popcorn, indicating they’re anticipation. “Enjoy,” and I begin the timer. They dig right in. For the next 45 minutes, every child is reading. Not only are they reading, they are devouring the books and wanting more. The jazz music quietly plays in the background. Occasionally, you hear the turn of a page, the crunch of a cheese ball, the unwrapping of a mint. And each time the alarm rings, groans are heard and “Just one more minute” is yelled. These kids are all in.

As the end of our book tasting approaches, each student surveys the various books they have tasted and try to narrow down one title to consume on their own.  Most leave with at least one new book to read. Many have a list of multiple books they want to experience. Some are hoping mom or dad will download it on the Kindle so they don’t have to wait for their peers to finish before diving in. Even I discover a new book to add to my ever-growing stack of escapes. Another successful book tasting has come to a close. Until next time…

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Amanda Thomas serves the Trinity School community as a 5th Grade Teacher. 

“If a Bee Stings You, Give it a Flower”

Perspective:  Seeing life through the lens of a child. 

Recently, we were deep into the culminating lesson of our team handball unit. After several fundamental classes based on skills and lead-up games, we decided it would be fun to break our class into teams of three to play small-sided, competitive games. The students would have a chance to apply their well-rehearsed skills plus their new and existing knowledge of strategy to a competitive setting.  We, the teachers, would also have the opportunity to observe and reinforce gamesmanship and proper game etiquette. After all, once the scoreboard is turned on, sportsmanship can take on multiple personalities. Our numbers allowed us to have four games going on at once. Three of the four games were in cruise control. We witnessed shared responsibilities, movement from each player, strategic passes, integrity, and positive communication. They were a thing of beauty.

Our fourth game was equally poetic…or so we thought.

It is customary during the closing minutes of our classes to meet in the center of the gym as a group to process the day’s lesson. On this occasion, we asked the students to comment on their games, specifically, the participation, communication, gamesmanship, and integrity. Following several uplifting comments and compliments, one student raised her hand and stated that her team was NOT nice to her.

“When I dropped a pass, one of my teammates yelled at me. It’s not like I meant to miss the ball. It made me NOT want to play anymore.” Nearly in tears, it was apparent the girl was sincerely stung by the words of her teammate.

Anticipating a rebuttal from at least one of her teammates, there was nothing but silence. With the end of our time together quickly approaching, I was about to intervene when a hand shot up in the center of the group. Eager to share, the student exuded her familiar look of confidence and determination as she calmly waited to be called upon. It was a look that said, I know exactly how to remedy this situation.

I gladly called on Celeste.

My mom was recently trying to sell our house. She spent a lot of time getting the house in order so that people who were interested in buying the house would be impressed. She even baked cookies so the house would smell nice. A man and a woman came to look at our house. They were kind of obnoxious. They were saying things that didn’t make my mom happy. They didn’t seem to appreciate our house. When they left, my mom was really sad. She had worked so hard. So I just told my mom If a bee stings you, give it a flower! Maybe they had a bad day. Maybe they need us to be nice to them. Don’t let their mean words hurt you. Instead, maybe they need our kind words. We have a beautiful house, and it even smells like cookies.”

 With that, there was a brief silence in the gym. Thirty-nine other students and two teachers were in complete reflection mode. Celeste’s words were INDEED the perfect remedy for the situation. If a bee stings you, give it a flower.  So simple. So meaningful.

“How can we apply this to our situation?”

Without hesitation, Celeste responded. “That’s easy! You look the person who was being mean in the eye, and with a smile give them a friendly pat on the shoulder, then carry on. Go about your business. When people tell me I’m short, I just shrug my shoulders, give them a smile and go about my business.”

Often in life, we’re going to get stung by a bee. People are going to say or do mean things to us. How we respond to that bee sting is up to us. You can leave in the stinger, allowing it to fester and get infected, and over time, the pain will eventually lessen then go away. Or you could remove the stinger, apply ice, and understand the bee was simply trying to survive and protect itself or its family.

In any case, we should reflect not only on Celeste’s empathetic and compassionate statement, but the action she had poised behind those words.  As parents and teachers, we are constantly looking for the perfect, appropriate, and impacting lessons to impart on our kids. But maybe next time conflict arises, we should stop our words in their tracks and allow children to share their thoughts, flourishing in their own teachable moments.

 

Justin has been teaching physical education for 22 years.  He began his career teaching in Washington, DC before moving to Atlanta, Georgia to teach at Trinity School.  He is happily married and has three beautiful children who are constantly KEEPING HIM IN MOTION!

La Grafiti de Colombia

I am thrilled to share the following #doodlenotes about a few lessons I just finished up with my 6th graders. We learned about how graffiti is changing Colombia- brightening up its cities, challenging false narratives, shifting political thought, and empowering its youth.

I was honored to meet and spend some time with one local grafitero, Nico. He graciously agreed to let me film him talking about his work, and my students loved watching the video and checking out his crew’s instagram page (pre-screened and supervised by me, of course). I will be sending him their response videos this week, and the students are excited to hear back.

Gratitude continues to abound as I reflect upon and share my experiences with students. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as my students and I have had during the lessons.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Lauren Kinnard serves the Trinity School community as a World Languages Teacher. 

Stretching to Grow

This year has brought a lot of new changes to my life, and it’s stretching me.

First off, we have a new addition to our family. Not a baby (thank goodness), but rather a 16-year old exchange student from China. Suddenly, we are a family of five. Things are different. I see my routines in a new light. I’m trying to be a better person. Maybe I’m even succeeding, at least some of the time.

A friend of mine has gotten sick. She’s one of those friends that is always there for EVERYONE. Suddenly there is a two-year old who needs watching on a regular basis. So I am riding an elevator up and down 15 times so that the sweet toddler can press the button again and again. I’d forgotten how tiring tiny children can be. I’d forgotten how loving they are, how full of wonder they are, how much you have to read their body language.

Finally, there’s the literal stretching. After a long hiatus, I’m back at my beloved neighborhood yoga studio, where they casually ask me to drape my leg over my shoulder or balance on one foot while folded over for what seems like an eternity and I do it, because that’s what’s going on at that moment, and, surprisingly, I CAN DO IT.

I’ve clearly lost control of my life. Surely, I could say no, right? At some point, I could have said “our family is perfect the way it is” or “you will need to find alternate arrangements for this child” or “are you crazy, I don’t bend that way”. But I didn’t. Through these stretching experiences, I find out new things about myself. I continue to grow. I stay young, or at least, younger.

How are you being stretched? How are you expanding your horizons and experiences? I invite you to say yes to the unexpected, and see how you grow.

Becky Maas teaches fifth graders the wonders of science. She has two children of her own, and can frequently be found singing, reading, or picking dog hair off her clothes.

Commitment to Trinity School

Photo Credit : Paul Ward

 

It was a long day – for all of us. Members of the Board of Trustees met at Trinity for a Board Retreat from noon – 5:00PM with the Leadership Team. Together we listened to current trends and potential shifts in schools from Dr. Jeff Jackson, Georgia Independent School Association President, and then broke into teams to identify what Trinity might need and would look like in 8 years. What struck me about this afternoon’s work was the passion, love, and commitment of this group of Trustees for Trinity School. Few of these folks will have children at the school in 8 years and some have graduates who are adults. Still, they labored, discussed, and forecasted the future of our school. Their comments were born of a desire to create pathways for future generations of students to experience the school that has been and the school that is now.

Each month Board members meet to serve in committees who work on behalf of Trinity School. They share expertise from their respective fields and listen to those of us whose roles are to tend to the daily work of a school. The commitment of their time and talents is humbling.

As I prepare to write my January Board update, I am grateful for this group of dedicated individuals whose primary responsibilities are outside the realm of the classroom, yet they intentionally lean into the present and stretch ahead to the future for Trinity children. Thank you, Trustees, for the gift of your time and expertise. Thank you even more for your commitment and passion for this great school.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Maryellen Berry serves the Trinity School community as Upper Elementary Divsion Head.

A Wish for the New Year

                  Wishing Tree – Chastain Park

Anyone who has known me since I was young knows that becoming a teacher was an oxymoron for me. As a child, my excitement for school pretty much ended the day I finally got to ride the big yellow bus for the first time in Kindergarten. My biggest gripes were: I had to get up early, I thought school was boring, and I hated being “stuck” in a room with fluorescent lights all day. All I really wanted to do was be outside or doing some form of art.  Because of this, I would often just sit at my seat, talk only when necessary, doodle, and look at the clock praying for the end of the day to come sooner than later.

Looking back and talking with my parents, I was often labeled as a kid that was hard to crack and not working to their ability. But, in actuality, I don’t think I was a hard kid to appease. The answer to helping me open up in school was actually very simple: Sit down, talk with me, and make a connection.  

My favorite teacher of all time, Mr. O., was a guru at this and continues to inspire and challenge me to try and work at his level of expertise. Mr. O. was my math teacher for three years. Not only did he teach his subject well, but he also took the time to make connections with all of his students.

During my sophomore year of high school I became sick. I was in the emergency room several times that year, at weekly doctor’s appointments, and was very scared. Mr. O. was the teacher who always asked how I was doing, told me that everything was going to be alright, and would talk to me when we didn’t know if things would be ok. This meant the world to me.

I wasn’t the only student that he took the time to make a connection with. I remember him sitting with kids before, during, and after class and talking to them. Oftentimes, past students would visit to say, “Hi,” or just to check in. He always had an open door and we knew we could talk to him about anything.

In 1999, when we got back from winter break, Mr. O did another activity that made everyone love going to class; he made a wish box for us. The wish box involved everyone writing down their hopes and wishes for the new year and for our lifetime. He told us that he was going to make a huge bonfire, burn the box in his backyard, and all of our dreams would float into the atmosphere. Everyone was in awe of this “math“  lesson, and I am positive that anyone he hadn’t made a connection with had one with him now. We all knew that Mr. O not only cared about us as students, but he cared about us as people too. This was such an exciting way to end my senior year of high school.

I still think about the wish box every new year and wonder if the things that came true were because of the box or if it was because I had a teacher who helped me believe in myself. I think it’s a little bit of both.

I don’t know where Mr. O is today, but I would like to thank him for teaching me what I believe to be one of life’s most important lessons; make a personal connection with those around you. So, to honor Mr. O., and teach by example, my class will be creating a wish box and my students’ hopes and dreams will float into the atmosphere like mine did 19 years ago. I hope this activity makes an impression on them, helps them work toward their goals, and assures them that their teachers care about their well-being and future.

Happy 2018 to everyone, and may all of your dreams come true!

Learner, Thinker, Writer:  Brooke Ovorus, 4th Grade Teacher

BOLD – a reflection on this year’s school theme

Bold

Chosen by the Sixth Graders, this year’s theme connected a little more personally to me. A little back story first. My younger daughter, Carly, was born in January 1998. When I nursed her at night, I would listen to the radio. During these early months, I would often hear the song “You Gotta Be” co-written and sung by the British artist, Des’ree. It seemed to me to be an anthem for my baby girl. As I look back at the lyrics now, I see that it could be the same for our students as well.

Listen as your day unfolds,
Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky
Lovers, they may cause you tears
Go ahead release your fears,
Stand up and be counted
Don’t be ashamed to cry

Refrain:
You gotta be
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day

Herald what your mother said
Read the books your father read
Try to solve the puzzles in your own sweet time
Some may have more cash than you
Others take a different view,
My oh my, heh, hey

Refrain
You gotta be
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day

Time asks no questions,
It goes on without you
Leaving you behind if you can’t stand the pace
The world keeps on spinning
Can’t stop it, if you try to
The best part is danger staring you in the face

Listen as your day unfolds,
Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky
Lovers, they may cause you tears
Go ahead release your fears,
Stand up and be counted
Don’t be ashamed to cry

Refrain:
You gotta be
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day

As I think about our students, here are some lessons I hope they take from this song. I want them to “challenge what the future holds” and “stand up and be counted.” I encourage them to “solve the puzzles in (their) own sweet time.” I hope they will be bold, wise, tough, strong, cool, calm. Finally, I hope they remember that “love will save the day.” Not the syrupy, flowery kind of love, but the love that demands we fight for the rights of others and to be there for those in need, the kind of love that dispels the darkness and that can (and will) defeat evil. The love that is, well, … BOLD. May all our students leave Trinity with that bold love and spirit.

Ferdinand Loves Flowers

While preparing for a lesson about Spanish culture based on the classic children’s book The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, I encountered Lori Day’s article “The Story of Ferdinand: Talking with Kids About the First Children’s Book on Gender Nonconformity”. Her article provides a few questions to prompt thought and discussion about gender norms, based on the character, Ferdinand. As expected, my students had plenty to contribute to such a conversation, as seen below in my #doodlenotes.

I always leave these lessons both disheartened by the reality that such young children have already absorbed negative social norms and inspired by their continued passion for equality and respect. May we fiercely pursue education that interrupts this negative socialization and invigorates our children’s natural instincts to be fair and just.

Also, the new feature film Ferdinand releases on December 15, 2017 and provides a great opportunity to continue the conversation.

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 9.50.32 AM

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Lauren Kinnard serves the Trinity School community as a World Languages Teacher. 

A New Math Mindset

 

When I was an elementary-school student, I hated math time. My brain didn’t work as quickly with numbers as many of my other friends and peers, and I felt that I was “bad” at math. Unfortunately, I had this misconception until I was 33 years old when I began my three-year goal study at Trinity School.

When I think back three years ago when I decided to focus on the math growth mindset for my goal, I can remember having a feeling of trepidation; however, I knew that I needed major growth in this area if I wanted to be a better math teacher myself. I began my journey by taking Jo Boaler’s online course, which is what I truly believe was the turning point in my philosophy about being “good” or “bad” at math. I not only learned that all math minds are different and have different speeds and ways of thinking about numbers, but I also came to believe in my own heart and mind that anyone can be “good” at math, including me!

It was at that point that I noticed a shift in the way I thought about math and taught it to my own students. I spent nights at home searching for math challenges for my students and myself and felt an invigoration when working hard to complete them. I shared this attitude in my classroom and soon noticed my students were working on these challenges during snack time, way after math time was over, because they wanted to persevere. Soon my twitter account was full of smiling student faces that were posing with pictures of their completed math work and I was hash-tagging the “math growth mindset” numerous times a week. We began celebrating our work together by charting our attitude and successes and in no time the students began using math vocabulary regularly when talking about math and even in other subject areas too! They understood terms such as “number flexibility” and felt excited to not only talk about it, but also prove they could do it.

One of the more exciting highlights from the past three years was when I read the book, Making Number Talks Matter, and began implementing number talks in my classroom. Number talks have been a wonderful teaching strategy that allows the students to feel comfortable with math and helps them appreciate the idea that there are many ways to solve a math problem. It also has helped me informally assess my students’ understandings and given opportunities for every voice to be heard in math.

The completion of my three-year goal study came with a feeling of pride, confidence, and a math attitude change. I have pride and confidence in my ability to teach math to a younger generation of students. Many of these students are young versions of myself who long to feel “good” at math, and I love being able to impart my own newfound math growth mindset on them.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Sarah Hanzman serves the Trinity School community as a Second Grade Teacher. 

Peu à Peu

I find myself remembering in bits and pieces. The peeling paint of an ancient wooden door, the crunch of toasted bread smeared with butter, the gears of the glass elevator in our hotel lobby. My grant trip to Paris was an intense whirlwind that ended as quickly as it began. My family and I left on a Friday night and caught the red-eye from ATL to CDG. Fighting jet-lag and work-week exhaustion, we landed Saturday morning intent on making the most of this amazing opportunity. Each day packed with tours, tickets, and best-laid plans, the week flew by so quickly that I have trouble remembering the whole.

Back at Trinity, I stand in the semi-darkness of morning carpool duty twiddling the metro ticket still in my coat pocket.

A small memory comes swimming forward:

My brother Jack and I hop off our bus tour early so that we can catch the Paris Saint-Germain vs. Bayern Munich game. He had been looking forward to this match the entire trip and it just so happened to fall on his birthday. We dash to the nearest metro station only to come to a complete halt. I should rephrase that: I come to a complete halt. Jack, on the other hand, is bouncing on his heels waiting for me to translate the enormous rail map that glows ominously in the underground station. It is agonizing for him to wait while my brain decodes the French. Three days into our trip and I am slowly squeaking back into my language skills.

Another memory surfaces, sparked by Jack’s anticipation:

My dad, my step-mother, Jack, and I are in the basement of the Louvre. We have somehow made our way to the Egyptian antiquities wing and we are so far from the beaten path that the museum placards no longer provide English descriptions alongside the French. Jack points to a mummified head whose face is coated in gold leaf and asks, “That’s real, isn’t it?” Day four and I still have enough younger brother patience to keep from snapping back, “Of course it’s real, this is the Louvre.” Instead, I lean in to translate the long caption out loud to him. I speak slowly, reading each word carefully. Admittedly, I stumble over the complex museum terminology and completely skip the French version of the Egyptian words, but nonetheless, I am proud of my ability to wade through the paragraph. Finally, I stand up straight to meet his eyes and ask what he things about the mummy, but Jack has walked away in boredom: my translation too slow.

By day five and six I am proud to say had several successful all-French conversations. I cleared things up with the ticket-taker at Gare du Nord when our TGV tickets hadn’t been printed correctly. A French waiter and I discussed the aperitif my step-mother was looking for on the menu at a brasserie. I was even able to make a disgruntled taxi driver laugh when I explained that I often get my left and my right mixed up, no matter the language.

Little recollections edge back into my mind while I shower or walk the dog. A slow trickle that surprises me each time a family member calls to reminisce or a co-worker asks if I got to see their favorite spot. These become daily reminders to keep sacred my interests. Interests in art, language, and travel that help nourish my creativity and fuel my teaching. I look forward to welcoming every little memory as it resurfaces.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Nina Chamberlain serves the Trinity School community as the EED art teacher.