A Tangent Towards Growth

How often in team meetings do we find ourselves on a brief tangent, an unexpected turn in a conversation that is sometimes distracting, while other times leads to a helpful insight. A year ago, it seemed my career was taking a tangent, diverging from World Languages to the base classroom. I felt like a kid on their first day in Spanish class. The classroom was familiar, yet everything I heard was in an obscure language. Number talks? Lucy Calkins? Running records? I was in the classroom but not the classroom I was comfortable in.

During the year, I found myself leaning into something very different and very stimulating. With guidance from the Sixth Grade leads, I tried my hand at teaching in the four academic classes. Lesson planning became an artistic process of learning, creating, and risk-taking. In my excitement for new subject areas, my mind continued to drift to World Languages. How did this all translate?

zoom-out-icon-png-32This reflection harkens back to a pre-planning presentation from Maryellen a few years back about perspectives. I remember her talking about zooming in and zooming out. (Perhaps the TTT segment “WHAT IS THAT?” comes to mind.) I spent a year zooming out, and looking at children with a new lens. I sat in on parent sharing conversations and graduation practice. I dabbled in new curriculum, Opera rehearsals, and field trips. A year later, I’m zooming back in, making a b-line to language instruction, while seeing the big picture of Sixth Grade life.

So, how did this translate? Like a number talk, I look for flexibility and creativity in language production. The Lucy Calkins mini-lesson architecture informs writing and grammar lessons. The World Languages team uses benchmark assessments, similar to a running record, to track growth in language production over time.

At the time, I could not see how spending a year in the base classroom might better prepare me for language education. Now I cannot help but wonder what other tangents I might take to new areas of growth.


Learner, Thinker, Writer: Julia Kuipers serves the Trinity School community as a World Languages Teacher & Sixth Grade Associate.


Photo: “www.freeiconspng.com.” Web. 03 Oct. 2016.

I believe …

In honor of the Sixth Graders’ school theme and in the spirit of the holiday season, I present…

I believe.


I believe that …

… I was meant to be a mother and a teacher.

… God wants us to love one another, not judge one another.

… the sound of a zipper unzipping will always remind me of Jekyll Island campgrounds.

… given enough time, space, and encouragement, all children can learn math.

… Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I believe.


I believe that …

… my 6th grade team keeps me going on those hard days (and the easy ones, too!).

… laughter, while it might not be the absolute best medicine, is up there in the top three.

… snacks make a Wednesday afternoon meeting a little more bearable. (Thanks to whoever instituted this new practice!)

… my mindfulness practice and meditations help me each day.

… Anne Lamott’s writing speaks to my soul. She wrote in Traveling Mercies, “Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I pray them EVERY day.

I believe.


I believe that …

… SEC football is SO MUCH FUN!

… being a mother is the best job I will ever have.

… Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, and that Disney World is the happiest place on earth.

… Trinity is an amazing place to work.

… 6th graders at Trinity represent the best of ALL our work.


I believe.


Learner, Thinker, Writer:  Kristi Story (@kstorysquared) serves the Trinity School community as the Sixth Grade Math Teacher.

Modeling Improves Learning

I deeply appreciate working in an environment that models and fosters growth and learning. As a summer reading assignment, I experimented with the Word, Phrase, Sentence reflection strategy as I read Doodle Revolution. A new believer in WPS and doodling, I decided to share these methods with my students. What a response I got! They love collaborating around post-its while talking though their thoughts on the book Three Wishes. When they see flair pens out, I hear, “Yes! We get to take notes!” Their notes are beautiful!

How fun it has been to learn along side children. As part of the Sixth Grade experience, students take an Explorations class. The contagious excitement for doodling (and flair pens) made the Sketch Noting Explorations class one of the popular options. In the first class, we used BrainDoodles to aid in our visual literacy. As she enjoyed practicing the visual alphabet, one Sixth Grader said, “Goodbye gel pens, hello flairs!”

Doodling and post-its are just a medium used for students to engage. But to me, they represent the power of modeling. These methods were modeled by (and passed from) administration to teachers to students. That’s what it’s all about.   My professional development and growth should inform my teaching practices. It’s refreshing and necessary to work in a place that the growth mindset is alive and well!

sentence phrase word doodle notes


Learner, Thinker, Writer: Julia Kuipers (@jkuipers_3) serves the Trinity School community as a Sixth Grade Associate Teacher

Article Reflection on Global Collaboration

I just read a fabulous article from Education Week called Four Steps to Jumpstarting Global Collaboration Projects by Ben Curran.   This is part of a larger “Spotlight” about Global Learning and Language.

The author outlines these four steps:

Step One: Develop Habits of Collaboration

Step Two: Before You Go Global, Go Local

Step Three: Join Existing Global Projects

Step Four: Use Social Networks to Create Your Own Projects

The author of this article talked about how our students need to be proficient at collaboration.  I pondered  the importance we place on cooperative learning and extending it beyond our classroom at Trinity.  Ben Curran says, “Before connecting with another classroom, take time to develop these skills so that students become adept at collaboration. These skills will serve them not only in their schoolwork, but in the 21st-century workforce as well.”

As I continued reading, my mind shifted from conversations on cooperative learning to practice with the art of questioning.  In his explanation of “go local,” the author suggests to ask an open ended question, pose a challenge, and use digital collaboration tools (such as google drive or wikis) to start practicing collaborative effort.  I love the idea of partnering with other classes (possibly across grades) to practice the skill of collaboration before reaching across the globe to do so.  And the good news is, I think a lot of classes are already doing this!

These ideas lead up to a class joining a global collaboration project that is already in motion, such as Challenge 20/20The Global Read AloudThe Global Virtual Classroom, and iEARN.

What would it look like for an elementary classroom to engage globally?

Maybe Trinity School classrooms have already started this work.

Either way, I would be excited for a World Languages class (or any class) to expose children to global collaboration now and see where it takes them in the future.


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

A multilingual future

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. ~Nelson Mandela

Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, along with Libia Gil, wrote a piece that highlights our obligation as educators in our endeavor to grow future leaders.  The authors remark, “We challenge our schools and communities to invest in our future leaders with biliteracy and multiliteracy skills.”  While much of the writing talks about ESL learners as an “asset,” the article also describes multilingualism as a tool of significant importance for both the global economy and national security (and I would add to that- cognitive development and cultural competency).

When reflecting on the importance of international events, such as the winter Olympics in Sochi, reading this article gave me pause.  I love that the authors quoted one of the most inspiring people to live, Nelson Mandela, who said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”  This speaks to the need for our educational system to both embrace heritage language learners while encouraging multilingualism, and I am encouraged by the recognition language is getting in our predominantly monolingual nation.

Follow the link for the complete article from the Redlands Daily Facts.


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

A Reflection on Changing Technology

One month ago I was leading a fairly typical warm-up in World Languages.  Students sent me screen shots of challenging pictures from Rosetta Stone, and as a class, we worked through the process of deriving meaning.  We used the promethean board to project the image in a flipchart where students could circle and draw and label all over the Rosetta Stone picture.  It worked!  It helped!  Students were problem-solving and leaning collaboratively.  We integrated problem-solving skills and technology (promethean board and flip charts).  Check!

Two weeks ago Mrs. Harris introduced me to a new technology, ShowMe.  On this app students can upload pictures onto an iPad and record themselves writing on the screen.  So we moved from a full class working on a promethean board to partners creating screenshot movies on ShowMe (here’s our google doc).  Same skill, new technology. Check!

In the middle of my lesson today Mrs. Harris walked in.  As my students worked on ShowMe, I was introduced to Doodle Cast Pro, a new app.  Whereas ShowMe can only capture one page, Doodle Cast Pro has the option to flip pages and essentially capture a book with drawing and pictures and kids voices.  Same skill, new technology. Wait!!

What’s going on here?  Am I reinventing the wheel or finding the next iteration of a classroom activity? I value options.  I value innovation.  I value introducing better ways to develop a skill that is personalized and project based.  Yet, as I give students more freedom to create, there seems to be endless means to do the same thing (some means are certainly better than others).

How do I stay current?  In this example my technology was outdated (or at least I discovered something stronger) in two weeks!  As a teacher, I have to consider how I spend my time with students.  This rotation I spent at least half of every class introducing, practicing, then creating with ShowMe.  Was this time lost?  Absolutely not!  Can I afford to do this with each technology that presents itself?  Absolutely not!  So what’s the remedy?  How do we balance innovation and options and personalized learning with the reality of time constraints and learned that should happen though the use of technology.

This post is in no way conclusive.  It’s an open-ended reflection, and I welcome feedback and discussion.


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

Planning to learn

When walking to youth group with my neighbors yesterday afternoon, Brea, at 13 years old, out of nowhere asked, “So Mrs. Julia, what did you learn today?” Her brother, 14, answered, “Mrs. Julia didn’t learn anything; she’s a teacher.  She teaches other people.”  Brea responded, “Teachers can learn things too!”  And there I was, on the spot.

I thought for just one moment before it came to me- I learned how to crochet with Rebekah Daniels in the Sixth Grade Explorations Class today!  (More on that in her post tomorrow).  “Yes, I did learn something!” I shared proudly.  Being the sweet kids that they are, my neighbors inquired into what I was making and applauded my efforts.

Our conversation continued, and it was not until my post-it reminder popped up that I realized how ironic Brea’s question was.  Yesterday, the day when I should be extra attentive to my learning in preparation for this post, it took the friendly yet curious mind of a student to bring my attention to my own continued learning.

So, where was my mind if it was not on learning?  Where do our adult minds wander or, more candidly, what do we get bombarded with that detracts from the simple joy of learning?

In my case, I was in list-making mode: planning dinner, planning class lessons, planning visits with friends, planning to plan (I wish this was a joke, but the third item on my list yesterday evening read: “make a plan”- yikes!)  My dad always says, “We plan, God laughs.”  He is surely quoting somebody, but I do wonder how much planning is necessary and helpful, and at what point we pass the “over-planned” mark.  Over planning is a common topic for bloggers, and there are plenty of opinions on how to liberate ourselves from this tendency.

I guess what I learned today is that I am a good planner.  And I enjoy planning.  I could plan all day long and feel completely content and even accomplished in my work.  Now to be my own Devil’s advocate, what am I forgetting on my “to do” list?  What do I intentionally leave out of my plan?  Does reflection often make the list?  How about journaling? Learning?

I hope to prioritize personal learning and reflection in the way I expect all my Fifth and Sixth Grade students to.  Just this week I asked students to explain their language learning SWAG (at Trinity, SWAG stands for Strength, Wisdom, And Growth).  Am I willing to commit time to reflect on my own strength, wisdom, and growth as a learner?

I just added that to my list.


Learner, Thinker, Writer: Julia Kuipers teaches Fifth and Sixth Grade World Languages @JKuipers_3