Tad Jacks Joins TNCS as Interim Head of School!

On July 1, 2021, Tad Jacks joined The New Century School as Interim Head of School. Before he had even started, though, he expressed how much he was looking forward to being part of such a multicultural environment. TNCS Executive Directors and Co-Founders Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner told parents that, “[Mr. Jacks] comes to us with a wealth of experience, pedagogical expertise, and leadership skills.”

Let’s explore that wealth!

An Abundant Career

Mr. Jacks’ road to TNCS stretches far—overseas, in fact. He was born and grew up in the King of Prussia area of Pennsylvania, but he began his career in education at the American School in London as a student teacher and baseball coach. Although his love lay with working with kids, his first job out of college was as a college admissions officer before re-entering the independent school realm. Re-entering? Mr. Jacks attended Friends’ Central School, a Quaker co-ed day school, in Pennsylvania as a student, so it was a good fit for him to join Friends School of Baltimore. At Friends, he wore a variety of hats, from admissions to development (for example, he started up a a center for Russian language and culture) to teaching (for example, a high school class called “US society 1900 to 1960”) and even coaching golf.

After 23 years at Friends and all of those many hats, he was approached by The Odyssey School to become their Head of School. Although Odyssey’s mission is to provide an education environment conducive to learning difference like dyslexia, they wanted Mr. Jacks for his extensive experience with governance, strategic plans, accreditation, admissions, and development. Within a few years, though, his athletic daughter was about to go to college. He needed the flexibility to attend her matches and provide all the support college students need. As she was attending school in New England, he decided to take a position as Assistant Head of School at the Wooster School, in Danbury, Connecticut, alongside the Headmaster who just happened to be a dear friend of Mr. Jacks’ as well as his former teacher. He actually commuted to Connecticut from Baltimore for 5 years! And called it fun!

Back in Baltimore, he embarked temporarily on a project to lead and support the Middle Grades Partnership with the Baltimore Community Foundation. Before the next school year began, Mr. Jacks was contacted about heading The Craig School in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. That 7-year stint came to a close just last year when the commuting finally did get to him (he was only home in Baltimore on weekends and holidays). “I decided that I’ve done this commuting enough, and I’m going to come home,” he explained. “So for the last year, I’ve been doing really interesting projects for people, mostly in education.”

TNCS and Tad Jacks: A Natural Fit

All in all, his career in education spans 42 years, a career he is grateful for. The depth and breadth of such an illustrious career might have tired out a less high-energy person than Mr. Jacks, but it’s clear he’s got plenty of ideas still to develop. And that brings us to TNCS. He says he had heard about TNCS both from friends of his daughter and from his natural habit of staying abreast of the independent schools in the area.

He has also worked side by side on diversity programs with our former Head of School Shara Khon Duncan. “I’ve known Tad since the 90s,” she said, “and TNCS is in good hands. He has a heart for diversity, and he digs right in and does the work.”

(Mr. Jacks says he is also eager to gain a little Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, not that multilingualism is his forte per se.)

Not surprisingly, given his background in development, he has begun to shape a vision of what his time at TNCS could mean.

I want a concept—a spirit—that as a school in Baltimore City we must continue making a difference for this city. And maybe it’ll come out in different forms along the way. There are so many problems that come to school even before a teacher can get to work with education. So I’ve always asked how I can make a difference in the city. I have way too much energy to not be in school right now. I just feel like it’s not just where I want to be, it’s also where I need to be.

Of course this kind of empathic orientation aligns beautifully with TNCS’s commitment to service learning, and Mr. Jacks says that’s another aspect of TNCS that attracted him. “It would be nice to put a solid foundation in place so that every year students in the different divisions know what big projects they’ll be working on,” he said.

That’s not to say that Mr. Jacks plans to make drastic changes—instead, he’s here to help. In an email to staff, he wrote:

My hope is that I will learn more during each meeting and want to hear from you about your roles, your interests, and how best I can help you. My pledge to all of you is that I will do my best to help each of you in your work and to support you on your objectives and goals. During the coming year, I plan to immerse myself in the life of the school, capitalizing on opportunities to build school spirit and support progress in key areas. I will be listening for ideas that foster relevant, engaging, and inspired learning.

And he’s eager to advance TNCS’s Core Values of Compassion, Courage, Respect, and Service. “In my first few days here, I have found that many individuals are compassionate about working with young children, have the courage to help a parent understand that their child may need more attention, have a respect for each other, and are in service to our community,” said Mr. Jacks.

Said Ms. Faux and Ms. Lawner: “It was clear from our interactions and from his amazing references that Tad’s philosophy of education, commitment to children, and auxiliary skill set would make him a fantastic fit for TNCS. We are confident and enthusiastic that this next step will move TNCS to an even stronger future as a leader in progressive, diverse, and joyful education.”

Although it may seem like he’d have time for nothing else, given his involvement in so many facets fo education, Mr. Jacks also has a personal life complete with hobbies and predilections, like contemporary music and visual arts. And yet, somehow, the conversation always swivels back to education in the best way. Mr. Jacks still remembers being in high school—elementary school, even. “I’m in education because of things that happened in the 4th grade; 4th grade and 11th grade were two watershed years, and I don’t think that’s any different for students now.”

How fortunate that TNCS’s current student body will have at least one of their watershed years under such capable and compassionate leadership. Welcome to TNCS, Tad Jacks!

TNCS Elementary and Middle Students Perform Standup Comedy for Theatre Class!

In late 2020, theatre teacher Alex Hewett returned to The New Century School, much to the TNCS community’s collective delight. Ms. Hewett has been with TNCS in various capacities since 2013. (Read Embrace the Bard from 2019, A Week of Wonder from 2016, Theatre Workshop and Drama Camp from 2014, and Summertime Theatrics from 2013.)

Here, we give you Immersed’s latest conversation with this artist, activist, and all-around wonderful human being just before her culminating project with her elementary and middle school students was about to begin.

Immersed: Since the last time we sat down for an interview, a lot in your professional life has probably changed.
AH: Yes! Currently, I teach a class at Johns Hopkins that I’ve developed on creativity inspired by The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I took a workshop with her a few years ago, and it changed my life, so I’ve incorporated some of her teaching. Each unit is different, from visual arts to music to writing and then performance. And in the past year the class was looking at how do you overcome trauma using creativity so that that’s how the class was structured. I have also produced a storytelling show called “Mortified*” for the past 6 years or so. We were not having live shows last year, although we did a few zoom shows to raise money for the Creative Alliance. In this show, adults share their childhood diaries, love letters, poetry—things they created as kids. So we look at the submissions and curate them, and then they share these things on stage. And it’s funny because at the time they were writing they never think they’re going to share it with anyone so it’s messy and hysterical and ultimately very cathartic. I’m also getting an MFA in creative writing and publishing arts at the University of Baltimore.
Immersed: Are you still doing anything with the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company?
AH: I am not actively teaching classes with CSC now but have been involved with their Veterans ensemble.
Immersed: When did you actually come back into the school?
AH: I started teaching in person about 2 months ago and virtually in November.
Immersed: Teaching theatre virtually—was that difficult?
AH: I was working with an acting teacher taking classes as a student myself all last year, and I learned that there’s so much you can do to create some of the intimacy of being on stage through zoom. That really helped me. I also usually don’t teach as young as kindergartners, but I have lots of puppets so with them we were able to move around a lot and keep the younger students engaged. It helped keep them going because they spend so much time on the screen, so much of my class was up and active. It was interesting because they would listen more to the puppets than to me!
Immersed: That sounds wonderful (and funny!). So how was physical reentry for you and when are you here?
AH: On Mondays I’m here for the K through 2nd-grade classes and Wednesdays I’m here for 3rd through 8th grades. Also on Mondays the 3rd through 8th grades get an asynchronous assignment from me, and the K through 2nd-graders get one on Tuesdays. The first day back was a bit overwhelming because some students were still at home and some were in the classroom. I talked to my actor friends who also teach theatre to ask how they approach this, because we can’t be together in this space, we can’t hold hands, we can’t see each other’s whole faces. How do we do this? But this collaboration with my peers and a lot of creativity paid off. We started with the kids writing their own stories—kind of creating their own model of who they are. We did scenes from Shakespeare, “Into the Spiderverse,” and “Harry Potter the Musical” to start with material they’d be more familiar with. After that first day, though, it was pretty joyous.
Immersed: Wonderful. And yet it’s difficult to imagine how you pulled it off with students in two very different spaces.
AH: Oh, well, there were challenges. Sometimes they couldn’t hear each other, for example. But we did lot of yoga and movement and breath and meditation. With the younger kids, especially, we played more theater and movement games. Or, I’d read them a story and then have them act out the scenes according to their own interpretations. We’ve also done a lot of improvisation.
Immersed: Tell us a little more about how you created your curriculum.
AH: You know, theatre is fun, and I think the stuff that I’m teaching is fun. I know I was leaving the classroom each day feeling good, and the kids were laughing. I really tried to do things with them that they would enjoy and ask for their feedback. Sometimes I pull stuff from the Kennedy Center or from live theatre performances and have them watch a play or a musical or even some dance. It’s different for each class depending on what we’re doing at the time. I often had to adapt my curriculum in the moment, so that was stressful in a fun way. I also feel like I’m on stage all the time and, like,
‘Oh no, what am I not getting through to them?’ Because I ultimately just want them to believe in themselves. Theatre does that. So it has definitely been exciting and a creative challenge, but I’m up for that!
Immersed: If we know anything about you, it’s that you are certainly up for creative challenges! And now here we are at the end of the year! What are students presenting for you today?
AH: Well, I knew we couldn’t pull off a traditional play, but I thought, why not do some standup? The past year has been really difficult; let’s end with a laugh! I interviewed a few of my friends who are professional comedians, and I presented the interviews to the kids as their asynchronous assignments to familiarize them with how to craft standup. Unfortunately, standup is usually geared toward adults and not appropriate for kids, so I had to be very careful. But, basically, kids are the funniest creatures in the world, so it’s not that hard to access the funny. I think the biggest part of it is getting over the fear of being by yourself up on stage with a microphone. The microphone makes it so much more real.
Immersed: So what kinds of things did you teach them to “access their funny”?
AH: In crafting comedy, you look at the things that are the most difficult in your life . . . things that bother you, things you want to change, the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. We’re seeing more of that sort of comedy, and it shows that everyone has problems.
Immersed: And through comedy, we can start to come to terms with them.
AH: Exactly. Everyone’s life has been affected this past year, so how can we reflect and talk about it? As you’re talking about the things that bother you the most, everyone’s going to connect maybe not on the exact same things, but it’s that you’re honest and you’re respected for being up there. That takes a lot of courage, so I really tried to stress that we must be supportive of each other, and we’ve been working on helping each other with crafting our pieces. Everyone gave a pitch of what they want to talk about, and we provided feedback about what was funny, what we liked, or how to use your body your body language to tell the story more effectively. So that’s we’ve been working on, and everyone is going to come up on stage for 2 minutes and do their thing!

“I ultimately just want them to believe in themselves. Theatre does that.”–Alex Hewett

Without further ado, we give you the TNCS Comedy Troupe! We even have a recording from a student who was virtual the day of the presentations (and she slays!).

“The microphone makes it so much more real.”

 

*Read more about “Mortified” in this great writeup!

Talking the Talk: Benefits of Multilingual Education at TNCS!

Ever wondered about the potential benefits your child could gain from a multilingual school? The list of benefits is impressive!

Your child’s education is one of your top priorities. You want them to have every possible advantage for a happy, healthy, and prosperous future.

Our children are growing up in an increasingly multilingual society. Studies show that children who have exposure to languages at an early age have an academic advantage

Choosing a school that offers multilingual opportunities for students provides many benefits for your child. And these benefits go far beyond the ability to adapt within a different country or culture.

Here are some of the foremost benefits of multilingual education.

Facilitates Cognitive Development

Children who learn more than one language as they grow up can benefit cognitively. For example, children exposed to language education perform better in pattern recognition, problem-solving, and creative thinking tasks.

Young learners have the ability to soak in new concepts, which makes early childhood an ideal time to begin multilingual education. Plus, learning another language is fun for children.

It helps them develop greater linguistic awareness and a deeper understanding of their primary language as well.

Boosts Academic Achievement

Exposure to more than one language provides an academic advantage for children as they get older. In addition, multilingual education challenges them to communicate and find meaning in multiple languages.

This gives students an edge in communication skills, social interaction, and understanding of complex ideas. However, some educators believe students should master their primary language before learning another.

But children have the unique capacity to learn more than one language simultaneously. As a result, children who understand and can communicate in more than one language have a distinct academic advantage over their monolingual peers.

Furthers Career Possibilities

In an interconnected global economy, a multilingual education can be a huge asset. As a result, many employers look for multilingual candidates who can communicate with business leaders and customers worldwide.

Within global companies, multilingual employees are highly valued. Starting your child off at a young age with a quality multilingual education can lead to a solid career and income potential in the future. 

Multilingual adults are more sensitive to cultural differences and are comfortable interacting with diverse populations. All of this makes multilingual employees an asset for any globally focused business.

Promotes Brain Health

Multilingual education increases cognitive function and enhances brain health. Although learning another language isn’t a miracle cure, research suggests improving memory and delaying dementia in some older adults.

People who think and speak in more than one language switch back and forth between languages on an ongoing basis. This is an effective exercise for the brain.

It’s best to begin multilingual education at a young age. However, it’s never too late to learn a new language. Learning a new language at any age is beneficial for cognition and brain health.

Expands Educational Opportunities

Multilingual students are also multi-literate. This provides a firm foundation for academic achievement and expanded educational opportunities.

A multilingual child may have more options for higher education and more opportunities to go to their college of choice. In addition, they may find more opportunities to study abroad or participate in exchange programs.

Multilingual students benefit from opportunities to immerse themselves in another language and culture. All of these opportunities can help to guide or enhance their future career paths. 

Broadens Cultural Exposure

As children participate in independent school multilingual education, they don’t just learn new words. They learn about history, geography, and other world cultures.

Students engage in language through songs, stories, play, and art in multilingual education. As students are immersed in print, sound, and play, they absorb language. In addition, they develop a deep appreciation for other ethnicities and nationalities.

You want your children to thrive and value others as they grow. In an ever-changing world, children who can communicate within various cultures may have an advantage over those who cannot.

Multilingual education provides so many opportunities for students to grow in their knowledge of languages, other cultures, and the beauty of a diverse world.

Cultivates Collaboration

Learning to work well with others is an important skill for any child. In addition, dual language programs offer students a broader world view.

They encourage communication and working within diverse groups. Multilingual education programs allow students to work together, learn from each other, and appreciate diverse viewpoints.

Students in quality multilingual programs learn to appreciate cultural differences and the value of the individual. This leads to enhanced social and communication skills.

These ideas help students become better collaborative learners as they learn about other cultures and value systems.

Enhances Lifelong Learning

Students who begin multilingual learning at an early age benefit in so many ways. But students of any age benefit from learning another language. 

Students learn the value of learning something beyond the traditional curriculum, enhancing their learning potential for life. In addition, studies suggest multilingual or bilingual capabilities can improve brain health and slow the aging process of the brain.

Young children can absorb new language and concepts easier than adolescents or adults.  These benefits enhance a child’s potential for success in school and for learning throughout their lives.

Amazing Benefits of Multilingual Education

As a parent, you have many things to consider when choosing the best private education for your child’s needs. However, as you make this important decision, don’t overlook the value of multilingual education.

Choose a school that values global awareness, critical thinking, and language learning. We would love to talk with you about your child and all that The New Century School has to offer. 

Contact us to learn more.

TNCS Primary Students Help April Do Its Job!

April showers bring May flowers—we all know that. But what brings the showers? Students at The New Century School do!

Last month, TNCS students in Maria Waldron’s primary Montessori classroom were given a really big job: to bring the rain. They also learned about the culture of Chile while involved in their rain-making project. Mrs. Waldron’s assistant, Sra. Espinoza, is from Chile and wanted to share something from her home with the students.

Palos de Agua

“Palos de agua (rain sticks),” said Mrs. Waldron, originate from Northern Chile, with African influences as well. Traditionally, they are made from dried cactus, from which the spines are then driven back into in a spiral pattern, and stones or dried beans are poured in to make the sound of falling rain.” Chile, by the way, is home to the world’s driest desert, so conjuring rain storms is important there!

Step Uno

The children punched holes in paper towel tubes in a spiral pattern, using big (safe) tacks.

Step Dos

Then they stuck toothpicks inside the holes and glued them in.

Step Tres

Next, the sharp toothpick edges were clipped off and filed down with manicure tools. “This took a lot of concentration and careful fine motor work,” said Mrs. Waldron.

Step Cuatro

They wrapped the tubes in brown packing tape . . .

Step Cinco

. . . and finally decorated them with colorful yarn and pom poms.

Here Comes the Rain Again!

“The children really enjoyed the process and learning about Chile and the instrument,” said Mrs. Waldron. We can’t wait to see what blossoms they bring!

 


Second-Annual TNCS Black History Month Celebration Lifts Parent and Student Voices!

More than anything else, the 2020–2021 school year at The New Century School has been a testament to what can happen when a community thrives. In the midst of the many and ongoing upheavals we’ve collectively experienced, the members of the TNCS community at all levels continue to not only surmount would-be obstacles, but turn them into new opportunities to connect and grow. This echoes a sentiment expressed by TNCS Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner a year ago, when they entreated the community to support each other through the crisis we faced, emerge stronger from it, and look back proudly on our conduct. Their steadfast vision of what TNCS can be and do has also grown stronger.

Celebrating Community

That’s why, having debuted a Black History Month Celebration just last year in characteristically stellar fashion, TNCS was not about to forfeit the promise to make this essential sociocultural event an annual occurrence, despite the practical challenges of not being able to gather in person. TNCS finds a way to forge ahead. While last year’s event was a celebration of music and culture and largely composed of student performances, this year’s event took a different tack to grapple with some of the United States’ societal ills—some of the very issues that underpin why Black History Month evolved. (Note that last year’s event certainly also brought its share of gravitas, especially when renowned artist Harold Caudio took the stage.)

To back up a bit, earlier this year, TNCS Head of School Señora Shara Khon Duncan and staff announced their plans to implement the Pollyanna Curriculum throughout school as one way to give TNCS students a way to talk about what they were seeing and hearing about racial and social injustice—the spring and summer of 2020 were socially turbulent not just because of the pandemic. According to their website, “Pollyanna is a national nonprofit helping academic and other institutions achieve their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.”

Racial Literacy

That brings us to the Black History Month event on Wednesday, February 24th, which featured a talk and Q&A by illustrious Guest Speaker Jessy Molina, currently of Molina Consulting (and a consultant for Pollyanna, among many other institutions and organizations). Ms. Molina founded Molina Consulting in July of 2020 in her Baltimore home after having served as the director of diversity, equity, and social justice at two local independent schools as well as working in nonprofits for the prior 15 years. She describes her path to Molina Consulting this way:

I am an attorney, a mediator, and a facilitator. I decided to move into full-time consulting work because I wanted to support more organizations and institutions to make long-term, sustainable change around equity and justice. I also had an interest in doing more conflict mediation and healing work with people and communities.

This is the best professional decision I have ever made. I am thrilled that I get to support people in healing from racial trauma every day, and in doing so, continue my own healing journey. Our bodies are carrying the weight of racial stress, anxiety, and trauma, and I’m grateful to support people to find more freedom and joy. We have to learn how to talk about race and racism in this country, and to make systemic changes with big impact. I am grateful to be part of that.

Schools are ideal places to start these conversations and to develop “racial literacy.” “Racial literacy,” explains Ms. Molina, “is the ability to understand race and racism in the context of our history, understand race as a social and political construct, understand how racism is institutionalized and perpetuated through systems, and know how how to shift practices, policies and protocols to make systemic change that leads to more equity and justice for more people.” Her presentation, “Talking to Children about Race and Racism,” was designed to help us parents understand our own orientation toward these subjects to better, more productively engage with our children. This starts from the ground up. “Parents are a critical part of helping our children develop healthy racial identities and learn how to stand up for—and build—more racial justice in the world,” she explained. “We can model being open and honest, acknowledging and repairing mistakes, leveraging our privilege for equity, and sharing resources and power. Research suggests that children learn more about racial justice from what we do, not what we say. Our children are watching everything we do—the best way to teach them is to be our best selves.”

After opening remarks by Sra. Duncan, Ms. Molina took the (virtual) stage.

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The event was exceptionally well attended (thank you, zoom!), and Ms. Molina’s presentation generated some very robust audience engagement. It was clear that parents were ready to talk about this. They were also overflowing with gratitude for Ms. Molina’s eye-opening talk and for Sra. Duncan’s efforts to make the event happen.

Ms. Molina is obviously committed to her work, and the world will be a better place for it (Molina Consulting’s fitting tagline is “Training to Change the World). “The most important part for me was connecting to my purpose,” she says. “Who am I and what I am here to do? Serving as a mediator, facilitator, and trainer helps me get closer to my purpose of building connection and community among people and supporting people to live full, free, and whole lives.” In addition, she gets more family time, which many of us are also experiencing. “I’m thankful that I get to work at home with my children. It’s a joy to help them with their homework, sneak in a favorite episode, or make cookies after lunch. It’s certainly difficult to balance on some days, but overall, I am loving the extra time we have together.”

What TNCS Students Had to Say

And let’s not forget, all that extra “together time” translates to time spent modeling an open, honest, and compassionate way to be in this world. Something is paying off, if these student presentations that followed Ms. Molina’s talk are any indication. At the behest of ELA teacher Jalynn Harris, students could read a Black History Month–themed poem (some in tanka form) they recently wrote for class or present research on a world-changing Black figure (or both in the case of one enterprising 8th grader!).

The evening ended in just about the most perfect way possible, with a beautiful rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing by high school students in Tallahassee, Florida. The audience was moved beyond description and came away brimming with thoughts and feelings about the event that could very well lead to important changes.


Resources from “Talking to Children about Race and Racism”: