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.

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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.

What is Your Purpose?

PURPOSE
Noun: the reason for which something exists 

What is your purpose? What is preventing you from discovering your purpose?

 

Leadercast Women asked this very question to the hundreds in attendance. That is a pretty lofty question to impose on someone, isn’t it? I honestly can’t articulate my purpose on this Earth in a neatly written phrase…YET. I know that we are here for many reasons beyond our recognition and understanding. Purpose for ourselves, and purpose for others. 
                          
So, that was the theme of the day, Powered By Purpose.
What are you even here for?
How have you gotten to the place where you are now?
Can you see a clear path, with direction for your future? 
                                  
As educators, we could say that our purpose is quite clear. Our purpose is to serve children, nurture their academic and character growth, and help them find THEIR purpose. But deep down, beyond our job, our purpose is bigger than that. Being able to articulate our purpose will help empower, drive, and inspire action. 

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The gift that was given to me yesterday was a cold, gray stone. I have the responsibility of leaving no stone unturned until I am clear about my purpose and the journey that I’m taking during this time on Earth. I need to push away those roadblocks, turn over stones, and discover more about myself. 
                       
As I reflect on the messages from the incredible speakers, I will continue to post my thoughts through their words and inspiration in the upcoming posts on my personal blog. You can follow along and hear their stories of purpose at LinkToLearning!
                      
Molly Fletcher, Neeta Bhushan, Ginger Hardage, Laura Vanderkan, Shabnam Mogharabi, Mama Jan Smith, Dr. Bernice King, and Jenn Lim
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Learner, Thinker, Writer: Marsha Harris serves the Trinity School community as the Director of Curriculum.

Trail Magic

For my father’s 75th birthday a couple of years ago, my husband and four friends about our age joined him in hiking the “100 Mile Wilderness,” which is actually the top 120 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine.  They planned it for a couple of years, mapping out their meals, miles and carefully measured weights of their packs.  On the Friday before Labor Day, they left Atlanta to begin their ten day adventure.

My dad had always loved hiking and being outdoors, taking his own English students from McCallie and Westminster out on trails to read such poetry as Frost’s “Swinging from Birches” in places where they could actually try what the poem described. There is something about nature that restores our humanity in the midst of a world that often demands we operate more like machines, which is why the trail often sends hikers home more alive than when they began.  While the unaccosted beauty of nature does so much to heal one’s soul from the constant barrage of daily demands and responsibilities, the isolation from people for my extroverted dad in his early 20’s prematurely ended his first attempt at completing a solo hike of the entire AT.  So, it was this mission of completing what he’d set out to do so long ago, but this time with a “band of brothers,” that compelled them to go.

One of many special things about the Appalachian Trail are the traditions of the trail, such as hikers abandoning their real names and going instead by nick names, provided by others in the group, by which they are known up and down the trail.  There are also certain accepted mantras, like “hike your own hike,” which gives each explorer permission to accomplish what he or she needs from the trail rather than what his or her companions have come there to achieve.  “Trail Magic” is the AT’s version of “paying it forward.”  When you have extra cinnamon rolls to share with other groups at one of your stops, they also may share extra provisions on a following day with another group.  Or, providing piggy back rides for small hikers over deeper streams may inspire similar labor to be shared further along.

For my birthday this year, my husband (with the help of my three children, parents and sister), created a box labeled “Trail Magic” for my school year.  Inside this truly magical box are 180 envelopes (the number of school days he thought we had) in each of which one of the seven of them had copied a poem or a joke or photograph, or written a note for me to open at the start of each day in my classroom.  So far this year, I have begun my day inspired by Longfellow, amused by my 7 year old, brought to tears by a love note, and made to laugh out loud by a funny photograph.   This Trail Magic has propelled me into my day with my students better equipped to resist the pressure to have that place become a factory of life sucking machine like accomplishment, and instead a space that restores and relishes the fullness of our humanity, in all of its mess and marvelousness, that we all may engage the world more alive than we were before.

Learner, Thinker, Writer:  Jane Gilbert, 4th grade 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.

A Song in the Spotlight

It’s the final stretch. I can see summer’s promise of mornings lazing in my PJs, afternoons lost to the hammock and a book, and evenings’ dark freckled by fireflies. But between me and all the splendid serenity of summer are progress reports.  And Graduation rehearsals.  And Fun and Field Day.  And Morning of Memories.  And the kickball game.  And final reflections for MyLearning.  And, and, and!

This is a time of year when I often feel rushed or to feel the desire to speed through final things that seem to be standing in the way of my well-deserved break. It’s easy to think, “Ugh! The kickball game is coming up. It’s going to be so hot out there. I don’t know why we bother.” Or, “I’ll just throw this in their MyLearning as a final piece. The parents don’t even look at these anyway.” I’ve been at this job for a while. I’ve seen it all. I know what to expect in these last weeks and from these kids.

But, last Thursday morning, I was reminded of something very important during the student performance of “Carmen.”

Heather F. as Micaela. Photo by Paul Ward

Our Micaela began singing her aria, but the audience couldn’t hear it. Those of us who had been in the rehearsals with her for the last four weeks knew she was singing it in French, and we knew the lovely sound of her voice because we had heard it many times. But, for this almost 12-year-old chanteuse, this was her one shot to show her fellow Trinity students how hard she had been working on mastering this song. It was through the admirable actions of our talented music teachers that I was reminded of the importance of every moment for our students. While I may be returning to 6th Grade again in August, these students will never have another chance at being Trinity 6th Graders again. Dr. Chandler quickly brought her piano playing down so that the young lady might be heard. But after a few moments, Mrs. Vrieland stated, “No, she’s going to start over.”

These decisions allowed the other adults who were working as stagehands and crew to remedy the issue with the young singer’s microphone, and she was given the chance to sing her song in front of her fellow Trinitians so that it could be heard. Doesn’t every young learner deserve the chance to sing their own songs so that they can be heard, regardless of how many times we, the adults, might have heard it in practice or a similar tune before? Where are the places that we, as teachers, can bring down the competing noise or restart the song once everything is in order?

In these last weeks, I hope every one of our students is given their rightful moment in the spotlight because each moment only comes around once, and they will never again be 6th Grade stars of an opera, or 4th Grade egg safety capsule designers, or 1st Grade authors of a book on Georgia animals, or Pre-K explorers seeking a wayward pastry.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Kate Burton serves the Trinity School community as 6th Grade science teacher.

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.

Keep in Rhythm

One of the best parts of being a member of the 6th Grade teaching team is a guaranteed spot on the two Outdoor Education trips a year. When I interviewed for the position of 6th Grade science teacher, I tried not to let my glee show too much as I was asked, “How do you feel about tent camping?” As a young person, I loved going to camp. As a young adult, I worked every week I could at camp. Every opportunity to try something new– from knots to fire building, from constellation identification and legends to exploring tide pool communities, and from popsicle-stick crafts to small boat sailing– was another opportunity to learn by engaging in play. I felt like I had a lot of background and skills that could enhance Trinity’s Outdoor Ed program. What I didn’t realize was that even with my vast camp experience, it would be the 6th Graders who would teach me something new on our trips together.

“Keep in rhythm,

Jolly, jolly rhythm.

Ready- o?

Let’s go!

Starting with?

Ze- ro!” begins one of my favorite hand-song games from my days at Girl Scout Camp Mahachee. Two weeks ago, as the Oaks and I bumped along in our “hayride” back from feeding the chickens at Camp Twin Lakes, I taught the group sitting around me this simple game. Rhythm is kept by players hitting their thighs twice, then clapping twice. Each player is assigned a number from zero on up. “Zero” begins the game by saying “zero, zero” as they hit their thighs twice, and then as “zero” claps twice, he or she says another number twice. The player with the number called by “zero” then says that number twice while hitting their thighs and then calls a different number while clapping twice. Play continues like this until someone falls out of rhythm, doesn’t respond to their number, or calls a number that is already out. It’s an easy game to learn, and the Oaks took to it quickly, with several of them choosing to continue to play it over putt-putt, archery, or tennis after we met back up with the rest of the Leadership class.

Before I knew it, the circle of players had gotten quite large; I think at one point there were players numbered 14 and 15! I was tickled to watch some of the original Oak players beginning to instruct those new to the circle… “Here, just watch for a bit, and you’ll get it…”, “Don’t worry, we’ll give you a Mulligan the first time you’d be ‘out’ so that you can learn before it counts…”, and “Okay, now let’s review; which numbers are left?” There was lots of laughter as 6th Graders and adults “kept in rhythm” that afternoon.

After a time, I left my place in the circle. This old brain had a hard time remembering if I was number seven or two, and the tops of my thighs were getting quite red. As I sat on the grass and watched the happy group continuing to play I thought how prepared these 6th Graders were for the next stage in their lives and education– a stage that would find them as members of a new community, a new circle.

Our Trinity students see the value in watching for a bit and giving and getting encouragement during the learning process. They understand that everyone needs to take “Mulligans” when they are in the learning stage because that will encourage risk-taking and experimentation without punitive consequences. Trinitians know that it’s a good idea to assess where they are and what they know as they go along. They do know how to keep in with the figurative rhythm of the group and keep it “jolly.” And even though in August they will be “starting with zero” at their new schools, they are ready and eager to see where this game takes them.

These are good lessons for all of us– it doesn’t matter if we’re 12 and heading off to a new school, or 43 and returning to the science lab again next year.  Everyone needs to find some “jolly, jolly rhythm,” but if you’re struggling to find yours, I can highly recommend 33 excellent “teachers.”

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Kate Burton serves the Trinity School community as 6th Grade science teacher.