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.

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. 

Cherishing Childhood

The other day, my husband and I ran into Addie, one of my students, out in public. We had a sweet but brief exchange, and then we were on our way to enjoy the rest of our weekend. As she was walking away, my husband commented on how young my student looked.

“What do you mean?” I asked him.

“Well, the way you talk about your students makes them seem so much older. You talk about loving Fifth Grade because the students are independent and responsible. They can even email you. I just pictured older kids.”

His response really made me think. I do love Fifth Graders because they are becoming independent and responsible, but the thing I love most about my students, is the fact that they are still kids. The are playful, energetic, and curious. Recess is still their most prized possession because they still enjoy playing outside. These 10 and 11 year olds eagerly want to please their teachers while seeking the approval of their peers. And they are not too old to love a good hug from me.

Having the second oldest students in the school makes it easy to push responsibility and independence on the students. While those skills and characteristics are very important pieces of the Fifth Grade year at Trinity, cherishing childhood is just as important. And let’s face it, recess makes us all smile!

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Laura McRae serves the Trinity School community as a Fifth Grade Teacher.

Flourishing: A Trinity Journey

Needless to say, I have done more than my share of reflecting this past week as Sarah prepared to graduate. The last nine years of my daughter’s life have been spent at Trinity School. With each passing year, I watched her engage with the faculty carefully chosen to support the learners at each stage of development. I watched her experience the curriculum and activities that we as a school had developed to help students build a strong academic and character foundation, cherish childhood, empower learners, deepen experiences and to cultivate curiosity, creativity, and confidence. All of this was designed to help students flourish. It’s a lovely tagline, evoking a picture of life unfolding. The marketing strategy is more than a clever draw on one’s heartstrings. A Trinity journey results in students who flourish. I know. I watched it happen.

Sarah entered the Butterfly class, full of delight and activity. She was disinterested in coloring in the lines, often failed to follow instructions, and was busy when she was supposed to be sitting still. At the same time, she loved the roly polys she found at recess, cherished dress up time, and devoured the lunches – as her clothes clearly showed each afternoon. Reading came hard and slow for her. Her classmates zoomed ahead. Learning Team members intervened to support her, yet she still lagged behind. Friendships lagged as well. It was hard to be different. I often wondered if perhaps she wasn’t a good fit at Trinity. Sarah could do math with ease, and she loved art and music. But still the reading and writing kept her from feeling like she was a student.

Third Grade came and our lives changed in an instant with the death of her father. It was the Trinity family who made sure my daughter was okay. Miss Paige bought her art supplies, knowing how she loved to draw and perhaps drawing would help her sort out her feelings. Miss Coote showered her with love and encouragement. Miss Suzanne wrote her a note about her own loss at the age of 9. Ms. Hansen honored the math student that she was so proud to be. Reading was still the enemy, and she was even further behind due to the emotional toll and lack of progress.

Fourth Grade. A year that I had dreaded as a parent, knowing that the amount of reading and writing increased. Knowing that friendships become even more difficult for girls. Knowing that reading would impact the math student she was so proud to be. A diagnosis of dyslexia, flair pens introduced by Miss Nims, new methods of taking notes shared by Mrs. Dickey, Mrs. Lynah, a devoted Trinity teacher who tutored her with gusto, and Learning Ally turned her story around. Day-by-day, she gained confidence as a reader. For the fourth year in a row, her teachers had carefully placed her with her dear friend who loved her for who she was, and she had new opportunities to show what she knew in different ways. All of a sudden, she started talking like a student, sharing what she was learning, seeking information, choosing to read. She worked hard. So hard.

Fast forward to her Leadership year. Cobalt blue. Meaningful school field trips and outdoor education trips. Student Council. Carnegie Hall. Tours for prospective parents. Taking tours at prospective secondary schools. Projects where art and creativity were honored. Opportunities to think differently. Opera. Capstone about the advantages of dyslexia! And this week. . . Graduation.

Each year, growth as a learner. Each year, growth as a friend. Each year, growth as a thinker. Each year, opportunities to shine in her own way. As I have reflected upon her journey at Trinity School, and I have shed more than a few tears at this loss of childhood, I have been immensely proud of the school that has shaped Sarah, allowing her to stretch and honoring the gifts she brings so joyfully. Thank you, Trinity School, for helping my girl flourish.

 

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Maryellen Berry serves the Trinity Community as the Upper Elementary Division Head.

TEAM

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”
― Helen Keller

I love my teams. I am a part of several at Trinity – my beloved 6th Grade team, the caring and supportive 6th Grade values/outdoor ed team, the inspiring math curriculum team. These teams all perform valuable tasks at Trinity. Without these teams functioning at high levels, the students at our school would not have the grand experiences that they currently have.

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
― Phil Jackson

Depending on the day and the team, I contribute differently. I may offer my organizational abilities or my peacemaking skills or my nurturing disposition. I hope my teams appreciate my contributions even a fraction of what I learn and value from working with them. From Javonne, purpose; from Kailynn, creativity; from Kate, enthusiasm; from Brian, encouragement; from Sarah Morgan, sensitivity; from Becky H, introspection; from Kerry, poise. These single characteristics are just the tip of the iceberg. I am always amazed at the wealth of talents on my teams.

“None of us is as smart as all of us.”
― Ken Blanchard

I feel fortunate that with all my teams there are common threads. First, we have a definite sense of camaraderie and support. Second, we share common goals and are committed to reaching them. Next, we all bring our best selves to the table. Also, we are professionals who enjoy collaboration. Finally, for the most part, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. (You will often hear the 6th Grade team laughing with each other, sometimes at each other, but always with love.)

“Unity is strength. . . when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”
― Mattie Stepanek

This last quote capsulizes the spirit and truth that I experience every day with my teams at Trinity. How lucky am I?

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Kristi Story serves the Trinity School community as the 6th Grade math teacher.