TNCS Hosts Chinese Teaching Interns, Summer 2018

To start off the 2018–2019 academic year, The New Century School hosted a group of 12 university students visiting from China to gain some intensive training in how to teach. In addition to sharing their talents and gaining insight into the American education system, they also wanted to experience what typical American daily life is like and were happy to be placed with host families to participate in cross-cultural immersion. Wenya Liu, Leisi Ye, Xiaohan Fang, Lihui Xie, Jianping Wu, Huizhu Gu, Bixia Wang, Yidong Fu, Buqing Sun, Ziyu Long, Qi Wang, and Xiao Ma, from Shanghai, China arrived at TNCS on August 22nd, and, although their visit was brief, they made a lasting impression on TNCS students.

tncs-hosts-chinese-university-students

For their initial tasks, they assisted teachers with classroom setup and new-student orientations. TNCS Chinese teacher Wei Li (“Li Laoshi”) was always on hand to provide guidance and help with acclimatization. In fact, she provided many of the photos in this post—xiè xiè (谢谢), Li Laoshi!

tncs-hosts-chinese-university-studentsIMG_6521

When school began on August 27th, the interns supported TNCS teachers inside the classroom.

Toward the end of their 2-week program, they were given free reign during Chinese class to take over. The videos below show them instructing TNCS middle school students in some games—the Chinese charades was especially fun to watch!This is the second annual hands-on training program that TNCS has hosted for the start of the school year. Last year, a group of nine college sophomores and juniors majoring in teaching were the first group to have come out of this partnership with a Chinese organization and the University of MD. Other similar groups (interns, teachers, families, etc.) visit regularly throughout the year.

Working at the school is only part of their overall experience, however. Equally vital and enriching is what they do outside of the school day, and that’s where the host family comes in. One component of the TNCS identity is cultural exchange, so, multiple times throughout the year, TNCS families have the opportunity to be hosts to students and/or instructors.

Hosting exchange students is a wonderful way to engage the entire family in a cultural exchange, and these relationships can last a lifetime. For this particular program, hosting families received a per-student stipend to cover any associated expenses like food and travel. The interns partook in daily activities during regular school hours on and off site. Outside of school activities, host families provide any number of enjoyable excursions and recreation.

Veterans at hosting, TNCS families like the Eibs and others curate activities to give their guests authentic and meaningful experiences true to the setting. To provide a taste of Baltimore, for example, they took interns to Oriole Park at Camden Yards for some good old American baseball. For some good old American history, they traveled to Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, to see actual the United States constitution, perhaps the single most important symbol of this country. (See TNCS Hosts Education Training Program for Chinese Interns! for more fun from last year.)

Said Mr. Eib:

We took our interns to Philadelphia to see Independence HalI; to Washington, D.C. to visit the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the National Gallery, the Washington & Lincoln Memorials, and to my favorite bookstore in the world (Kramer’s in DuPont Circle); and, in Baltimore, to see the Orioles take on the Yankees, the zoo and the Baltimore Museum of Art, to Hampden to experience a local neighborhood for dinner and bubble tea, to Great Wall Market to show them that we can actually get a few Chinese food items, and to Blue Pit Barbecue for a nice divey dining experience where (probably) no tourist has ever visited before.

tncs-hosts-chinese-university-students

The big thing on every visitor’s mind, is, indeed, usually food. The best way to experience a new place is to sample its cuisine, and sample they did!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

September 5th was their last day at TNCS, and the closing ceremony, moderated by TNCS Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder Roberta Faux with assistance from TNCS Chinese teacher Wei Li, was held in their honor. The group was awarded certificates earned for completing their training; they also gave and received speeches of gratitude that provide a peek inside what the interns’ days were like at TNCS as well as how valuable the experience was for the teachers they helped support, the students they interacted with, and for themselves. In the words of Yidong Fu, “it’s so wonderful to see what American school is like–it’s completely different from what we have in China! We have had an amazing experience!”

For TNCS, too, Fu Laoshi, the experience was unforgettable, having an incalculable impact on students’ cultural learning. You all will be missed! Until next time, zài jiàn 再见)!

IMG_1784.JPG

TNCS’s Annual Elementary and Middle School Back-to-School Night: Your Source for Need-to-Know Info for the 2018–2019 Academic Year!

Now that summer has unofficially ended, and school is back in full swing, The New Century School kicked off the 2018–2019 school year with its annual Back-to-School Night. The focus of the evening was to meet your student’s teachers and to present the student’s daily schedule, a curriculum overview, and school policies. In other words, students have had 2 weeks to acclimate—now it’s our turn!

As TNCS enters its 12th year, it’s worth noting how the school and its programs have expanded and grown to what they are today. Changes each year are inevitable, but TNCS has stayed true to its identity and has successfully weathered those changes, transforming would-be obstacles into opportunities and growing the student body to more than 200 children, 117 in the preschool and 88 in the elementary and middle schools.

An overview of tips and policies is given here, and specific documents can also be downloaded at the links provided at the end of this post as well as from the TNCS Parent Hub.

Welcome to Some Great New Enhancements!

The evening began in the gymnasium of building north with Head of School Shara Khon Duncan warmly welcoming parents, new and old: “It’s nice to see all of your faces again—welcome,” she began. She next introduced teachtncs-back-to-school-night-2017ers, who then returned to their classrooms to prepare for the group breakouts by division. Sra. Duncan then addressed the parent audience and presented some important school year expectations.

Just a few things before we get started—that you’ll probably hear the teachers reiterate because these things are really important. First arriving on time to school is very important for all of our students. It gets the day started right, it helps the students feel that they are coming in and ready to go. So, please, as much as possible, arrive on time. That includes preschool. We have to get them modeled right from the beginning. I know from experience how hard it is to get out of the house—I had two girls who did not want to cooperate, so I totally get it.

Next, be sure that when you pull up into the carline rectangles at drop-off and pick-up times that you are actually in the lines and not blocking the crosswalk, so that walkers can cross safely. Also do not walk anywhere but the crosswalk for everyone’s safety. Again, we’re trying to model as best we can what we want our children to do.

Another thing I’d like you to remember is that you have been sent the Parent Guide by Admissions Director Mrs. Sanchies, which is a fabulous resource that breaks down all the essential things you need to know—such as signing up for before and after care or school lunch, what happens when it snows, and so on—so please refer to that often. You also should have received the Family Handbook, so please take some time to look through it and sign the second page.

Yet another exciting new thing this year is that, in addition to receiving weekly emails from your child’s homeroom teacher with pertinent information about what’s going on in the classroom and what’s coming up, we’re moving toward implementing software called Sycamore that will allow teachers to have class web pages. This will be very easy to log in to and use to see class-related information. The weekly emails will be sent every Friday around 5; emails about specials will be sent every other week.

Finally, please remember that we are a nut-free school and are also committed to having a sugar-free environment. So when it comes time to celebrate birthdays, for example, please make sure that you talk to the teacher ahead of time and discuss what kind of treat might be appropriate.

With that, have a lovely evening and a great year!

Elementary and Middle School Breakouts

Once the initial introductions and welcome message concluded, parents moved on to spend time with their child’s teachers. This was the opportunity to learn about what the school day looks like, what the educational goals are for the year, and what the specific class-related expectations are of both parent and child. Upper Elementary and Middle School was jointly hosted by veteran Math and Science teacher Nameeta Sharma and veteran English language arts and Global Studies teacher Ilia Madrazo.

Ms. Madrazo handled many of the practical details, reminding families of the importance of being on time. Class begins promptly at 8:25 am with key information and planner assignments, all things you don’t want your child to miss. She promised parents that any questions or concerns about anything going on in the classroom would be responded to within 24 hours. She also went over the handout that enumerated class and school policies as well as gave a deeper dive into each subject’s curriculum. First up, the fun stuff!tncs-2018-2019-back-to-school-night

Specials

New art teacher Jia Liu will be profiled in an upcoming Immersed “Meet the Teacher” post, and art happens twice weekly. Students also have music taught by the illustrious Martellies Warren twice a week. Physical education now includes 1 day of teacher-led PE consisting of yoga, plus 1 day of regular coach-taught PE each week. Teacher’s Choice is also now considered a once-weekly special, and this 45-minute block can be used for exploring a topic students want to learn more about, an activity the class collectively would like to pursue, or anything different from the usual academics, explained Ms. Madrazo. This might even be making a fun visit to the Ozone Snack Bar!

Ozone Snack Bar

Speaking of “the ‘zone,” students can also visit the snack bar housed in the second-floor Union Box space of Building North, from 8:10 am–8:25 am on Tuesday and Thursday mornings starting the week of September 10th. Teachers will have sent permission slips that allow parents to set a spending limit for their children as well as opt for cash payment or convenient billing through FACTS. Li Laoshi will supervise these morning visits.

Recess

New this year, students will be going outside every day, regardless of weather. “Rain, shine, snow,” said Ms. Madrazo, “whatever happens, we’re going out every day. We’re taking them to Thames Street Park currently, so they have plenty of space to run and have fun.”

Field Trips

At least four trips are planned this year (at least one per quarter). Parents–chaperoning field trips is a fantastic way to not only experience a fun trip with your child but also to rack up some of the obligatory 10 volunteer hours! This quarter, a trip to the Irvine Nature Center is scheduled (9/17). Next up, the ever-popular National Aquarium! Successive trips will be announced as they are confirmed.

Math

Ms. Sharma took over to explain the math curriculum. “We have four rotations,” she explained. “Students will work on the computer on Success Maker, in small groups playing math games, independently in their workbooks, and one on one with me.” The primary resource is Singapore math, which returning students are already very familiar with and probably worked with over the summer to stay in practice. Middle school students will use the Go Math curriculum. TNCS students may also once again opt in to participate in the Math Kangaroo competition in March—TNCS’s third annual!

English Language Arts

Ms. Madrazo took back over for ELA. “I had the pleasure of going to New York this summer,” she began, “to take training in teaching writing. We will continue using the Lucy Calkins writing curriculum.” (See State-of-the-Science Elementary Writing at TNCS for more on Calkins’ acclaimed approach.) “We will use ‘mentor texts’ that are great works of literature that help students figure out what was done really well that they can incorporate in their own writing. They write every day in class for 20 minutes. The biggest indicator of success in high school is the volume of writing they have already done. It is extremely important for them to be able to take notes, to write deep and long, and to develop ideas.”

ELA uses the Daily 5, which consists of: Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Work on Writing, and Word Work.

Wordly Wise 3000 will once again be used for ELA homework. Wordly Wise 3000 focuses on improving students’ vocabulary by furthering their understanding of new words and concepts. By focusing on vocabulary development, students are able to read increasingly challenging texts with fluency and improve their chances for success in school and beyond. Additionally, spelling practice will also help improve student writing. (See more on ELA homework below.)

Science

The major science themes throughout the year that will guide learning and understanding will include Unit 1: Macrobiology and Genetics, Unit 2: Engineering, Unit 3: the Scientific Method (Science Fair), and Unit 4: Astronomy and Weather.

Interdisciplinary learning is a big part of TNCS’s approach, so ELA and world language reading will routinely relate to science and global studies units.

Global Studies

Global studies will comprise both United States history and World history. The Elementary and Middle School programs will focus on the same unit of study but will be differentiated based on grade level:

  • Quarter One, Ancient World Cultures with focus on India, Greece, and Rome
  • Quarter Two, World Cultures and Geography with focus on India and Africa
  • Quarter Three, Civics
  • Quarter Four, American History

Surprise! Ms. Madrazo plans to teach in and incorporate as much Spanish as possible here! (Reinforcement in English will always be available, but learning a subject in another language deepens language fluency exponentially.)

Spanish

Spanish learning will be taught through the use of different games, dances, and songs. I was born in Chile, and this is my third year as lead Spanish teacher,” said Sra. Sanzana. “Spanish class is a little bit of everything—grammar, culture, vocabulary, talking, reading, and listening,” she said. As in other subjects, teaching is differentiated. “I divide students into groups based on levels after making a differentiation plan for each child,” she explained. “Don’t be afraid of whatever comes; I will be here helping them.” Note that, as TNCS has evolved, Spanish class now happens daily, with Friday being reserved for fun and games in Spanish.

Spanish class will adopt a Daily 4: Read to self, read to each other, independent work in their folders, and work with the teacher. Reading comprehension will be a big emphasis. A big addition this year for students who are ready for it will be writing 100-word essays in Spanish. For everyone, learning by teaching will be introduced—the big kids get to read to their smaller compatriots in Spanish and work with them on vocabulary and so on. “They will become the teachers,” said Sra. Sanzana. “They will solve their own problems to do so, such as figuring out how to pronounce an unfamiliar word.” This idea was happily embraced by parents, who well know the benefits of this popular TNCS approach.

Mandarin

Li Laoshi believes Mandarin Chinese is best learned through pursuing various real-life activities that connect to what lesson is being taught. “I really believe that interest is the best teacher,” she explained, “so we cook, do calligraphy, go on trips, and other do other activities that the students really enjoy.” Project assessments are mainly performance based—in other words, she wants to see her students successfully using their Mandarin skills. Like Spanish, Mandarin class now happens daily.

Better Chinese will continue as our backbone curriculum as well as our Daily Four,” said Li Laoshi. In Daily Four, students are divided into small groups and use different levels of books according to their language proficiency. The students rotate among the four centers, which are meet with teacher, computer, reading, and games. “Friday will be the weekly Activity Day featuring various activities that integrate Chinese culture, such as calligraphy, Tai chi, Kung Fu, Chinese games, and cooking Chinese food,” she continued. “On Friday, September, 21st, we will make mooncakes in honor of China’s mid-Autumn Festival, and the students are very excited!”

Li Laoshi got big laughs when she suggested that parents allow themselves to be interviewed by their students as part of homework and thereby begin to pick up some Mandarin themselves! Around the room, parents began counting to themselves (“yī, èr, sān, sì, wǔ, liù, qī , bā, jiǔ, shí . . .”), rightly proud of their Chinese prowess! She suggested the websites Hello World for beginners and Duolingo for other students to get further practice at home.

Students will be assessed the traditional way (pencil and paper); however, the main approach of assessment will be performance based. For every new unit, formative assessment will be used daily and summative assessment will be used at the end of each unit.

Homework

The big question on BTS attendees minds’ was, “what’s up with homework this year?” There’s good news: The bottom line is, homework is necessary but should never be onerous. “Our purpose here is to help the kids to succeed,” said Ms. Madrazo, “not to have unrealistic expectations and make everyone unhappy.”

Homework in math, ELA, and world languages will be assigned each Monday and is due on Friday. Other important points to note are:

  1. Students are expected to record their homework assignments each Monday in their planners, but please check that they are doing so.
  2. Students are expected to complete this work independently with minimal support as needed from parents. This is key—helping your child to an extensive degree will not show teachers where and how they need to adjust assignments and better meet students where they are.
  3. After care participants are given time to complete homework as well as as-needed support from Sra. Sanzana.
  4. Your child’s teachers are flexible. If a student needs more time to complete an assignment well, communicate this, and teachers will work with you to accept it the following Monday.
  5. Mandarin and Spanish alternate weeks for elementary students, whereas middle school students should expect weekly Spanish homework.
  6. Additional Internet research may be assigned when pertinent to, for example, specific global studies or science lessons.
  7. To great applause from parents, weekly science homework will not be assigned, however.
  8. Altogether, weekly homework assignments should take about 2 hours or less, depending on division, apart from daily reading and writing and any music practice (if your child takes instrument lessons).

Here is the breakdown:

  • Math: Homework will consist of ~30 minutes per week of problem solving or Workbook completion (translating to four pages in the workbook for 4th- and 5th-graders and two or three for 6th- through 8th-graders).
  • English Language Arts: Each week, there will be one lesson (~30 minutes) in Wordly Wise per week, which includes a list of vocabulary words to know, and various assignments to complete.
    • In addition, this year, students are expected to spend 20–30 minutes reading independently and at least 10 minutes writing (or mind-mapping, which is a critical part of the writing process) every day.
    • Daily writing should be in cursive and in pen; students will have been given prompts from Ms. Madrazo or can free write. Journals are provided, but separate sheets of writing are also acceptable when a student forgets to bring the journal home.
  • Spanish: Grades 4 and 5 will work on a small packet the 1st and 3rd weeks of the month; 6th- 7th, and 8th-graders will have homework weekly. Homework will be reading-comprehension based.
  • Chinese: Grades 4–8 will work on a small packet the 2nd and 4th weeks of the month.

What Lies Ahead!

Although BTS night is over, know that teachers and administration are always readily available to answer any questions regarding your student’s development. Also know that you’ll be meeting teachers new to TNCS in Immersed profiles throughout the coming year as well as hear more from staff and administration who are adopting new roles and taking the school in new directions.
Finally, expect to hear more about forthcoming parent volunteering opportunities and service learning initiatives. Stay tuned!

To get a look at past year’s back-to-school nights or just to reminisce about the school’s early days, read:

Spanish Immersion Camp 2018: Fun Times! Tiempos Divertidos!

The New Century School was fortunate to welcome Señora Begoña Bredberg to teach the 2018 2-week Spanish immersion camp this summer. Read about Sra. Bredberg in TNCS Spanish Immersion Camp 2018 Features Talented Guest Instructor from Spain!.

This post, titled by one of the camp attendees and a huge fan of both Spanish immersion camp and of Sra. Bredberg, will explore what campers actually did during their 2 weeks of Spanish-speaking fun! Camp started July 23rd and ran through August 3rd, with 9 students (including TNCS’s first-ever camp raffle winner) attending Week 1 and 16 in Week 2. They ranged in age from 4 years to 11 years, and the level of Spanish spanned from none to quite proficient. This meant that Sra. Bredberg had to determine how to differentiate classroom activities right away. “They can all follow instructions, and I use some English only when it’s essential, along with the instructions given in Spanish. But to get this many different children to speak,” she explained, “means having enjoyable activities to do at all times, that do not take very long, to keep their interest.”

Habilidades Fundamentales

Her approach was to first give campers a chance to get to know her as well as each other so they could acclimate to the environment and feel comfortable. This also included explaining the differentiated areas of the classroom so they know the structure and also for classroom management, given the age and proficiency ranges. On Day 2 and henceforth, she moved into her curriculum, introducing more learning-related activities now that the students were familiar with expectations. Mornings meant convening in a circle to get an overview of the day’s events; from there, the day progressed quickly from one activity to the next.

For practice work, she used Aprendo jugando—actividades de español para niños de 6 a 9 años (I learn playing—Spanish activities for children 6 to 9 years) and Español para ti—Iniciación en ambientes comunicativos multiculturales (Spanish for you: initiation in multicultural educational environments). These workbooks of games and other activities provided the foundational vocabulary campers would need for application in real-world settings—from sports, to clothing, to food, and so on.

“I also used this YouTube video to show the students some of the popular songs I used to learn at their age,” said Sra. Bredberg. “At that time there were a group of clowns—all family—who created a television program, ‘Había una vez un circo,’ and all the kids loved them. This video shows a modern animated video of their most popular songs. The kids learned two of them: ‘La gallina turuleca’ (the first camp) and ‘Susanita tiene un ratón’ (second camp).”

tncs-spanish-immersion-camp-2018Susanita Has a Mouse
Susanita has a mouse
A little mouse
She eats chocolate and nougat
And balls of anise
Sleep near the radiator
With the pillow on your feet
And dream that you are a great champion
Playing chess
He likes football, cinema and theater
Dances tango and rock ‘n’ roll
And if we arrive and notice that we watch
We always sing this song

The Hen Turuleca
I know a neighbor
Who has bought a hen
That looks like a canned sardine
It has the wire legs
Because she is very hungry
And the poor thing is all plucked
Put eggs in the room
And also the kitchen
But she never puts them in the corral
The hen Turuleca
It is a singular case
The hen Turuleca
She really is crazy
The hen Turuleca
She has laid an egg
She has put two
She has put three
The hen Turuleca
She has put four
She has put five
She has put six
The hen Turuleca
She has put seven
She has put eight
She has put nine
Where is that little hen?
Leave her, poor thing
Let her put ten

Desfile de Moda

One day in Week 2 saw many of the foundational lessons being put into practice. On this day, students made muñeca de papel (paper dolls), dressed in all of the various clothing they had learned to identify and name in Spanish. “With clothes, it’s a lot of words to learn, so we have been practicing to say what they are wearing,” said Sra. Bredberg.

“When they are active, it’s good. I can do Spanish with them individually or in groups because I see that that helps a lot. They are able to say many more things and understand many more things now. Even those who had no Spanish on entering camp have picked up an amazing amount.”

The muñeca de papel exercise was then followed by a highly anticipated event—a desfile de moda! Fashion Show!

Each student had the opportunity to walk the “catwalk” and describe what he or she was wearing. It was a hoot!

Al Final del Día

At the end of each day, campers once again convened in a circle to debrief the day’s events. They reviewed and reinforced vocabulary, and everyone had the chance to contribute.

Said Sra. Bredberg of Spanish immersion camp:

The experience to teach Spanish immersion camp at TNCS has been great—to work with kids in this way. I had worked with kids before, but only for private lessons. Spending the whole day with them is a lot different. A lot of what I’ve been doing is improvisation but also getting to know them. To see what’s important to them allows me to adapt as I go along. I get them engaged in an activity, and I keep the classroom very dynamic at all times. They come together in groups, then we stop, disperse, and do something else. We come back together, and the day flows like this to they will not get bored or tired, which will not help them speak or learn.

Her and her husband have loved their time in Baltimore, as well. “This area is so great,” she said. “We love to look at the architecture and take in all that Fell’s Point has to offer.” TNCS hopes to welcome you back soon, Sra. Bredberg!

tncs-spanish-immersion-camp-2018

TNCS Chinese Camp 2018: Life Cycles!

Just because it’s summer, The New Century School does not stop bringing the language-learning! This week, Immersed is so happy to present this blog by Guest Blogger and TNCS Chinese Lead Teacher, Wei Li (a.k.a., “Li Laoshi”)!

The theme of 2017–2018 Chinese summer camp is “Life cycle.” The duration of this summer camp is 1 week, and the range of students’ age is from K through 8th grade. Joining me in the classroom was our brand-new intern, “Xu Laoshi” (a.k.a. “Nina”).

The main idea of the camp is combining the Chinese language and the subject of science together, with lots of fun, meaningful, hands-on activities and projects, which means our students are learning by doing. We started each day with a little movement to warm up our bodies and minds, in fact.

An important component of our camp was to encourage peer teaching. For example, we had a student who is currently in 8th grade. This student was assigned in the position of director when we were practicing our role play. She felt very proud of this and showed a lot of leadership. Other peer learning happens when students work in small-group activities since our students are both in different ages and levels.

In the camp, our students have learned three life circles: tomato, butterfly, and frog. Our students planted some tomato’ seeds on the first day for observing how they sprout and grow up. They took turns to water the seeds daily.

We next made a poster about the life cycles of tomatoes and butterflies and did a very nice presentation.

In the middle of the week, we learned a story and made a book about “Tadpoles Look for Their Mommy” and shared it in the front of whole class.

On Thursday, we went to Patterson Park for a field trip. Our students picked some leaves and made beautiful art work about the things that we have learned in the camp.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On Friday, we we had a fun cooking activity, making (and eating!) Chinese pancakes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We also did Chinese painting about the story of “Tadpoles Look for Their Mommy” for reinforcement of the bookmaking we did earlier in the week.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In addition, we put on a play, that was the culmination of all our lessons for the week. For those of you who don’t speak Mandarin Chinese, here is the script of “Tadpoles Look for Their Mommy”:

Narrator: Spring is coming. The eggs have changed to tadpoles. Tadpoles swim around and see a duck mommy.
Tadpoles: Duck mommy, duck mommy, where is our mommy?
Duck mommy: Your mommy has two big eyes and a big mouth.
Narrator: Tadpoles swim around and see a goldfish.
Tadpoles: Mommy! Mommy!
Goldfish: I am not your mommy. Your mommy has four legs.
Narrator: Tadpoles swim around and see a turtle.
Tadpoles: Mommy! Mommy!
Turtle: I am not your mommy. Your mommy has a white belly.
Narrator: Tadpoles swim around and see a goose.
Tadpoles: Mommy! Mommy!
Goose: I am not your mommy. Your mommy wears green clothes.
Narrator: Tadpoles swim around and see a frog.
Tadpoles: Mommy! Mommy!
Frog: Dear Babies, I am your mommy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What a great week had by all. Thank you for hosting such a wonderful camp and for contributing this fantastic blog about it, Li Laoshi! 谢谢! Xièxiè!

tncs-chineses-summer-camp-2018

TNCS Welcomes Shara Khon Duncan as Head of School!

As The New Century School continues to grow and develop, day-to-day operations and school supervision have also become increasingly complex. For this reason, TNCS school Co-Founders/Co-Executive Directors Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner, along with current Head of School Alicia Danyali, decided it was time to expand the administrative structure. Starting this summer, Baltimore native daughter Shara Khon Duncan will become year-round Head of School, while Mrs. Danyali will be Head of the Lower School as well as schoolwide Dean of Students. This framework will increase operational efficiency, while allowing both Heads of School to fully engage in their respective roles as not just administrators, but also what they are at heart—deeply committed educators.

tncs-garden-tuck-shop-refreshmentsOn May 3rd, TNCS hosted a Meet & Greet with Mrs. Duncan (“Shara Khon” to parents) to give attendees the chance to meet her in person and snack on coffee and refreshments provided by the Garden Tuck Shop. Immersed subsequently interviewed Mrs. Duncan to give those unable to attend the Meet & Greet an opportunity to get to know her as well.

As you’ll see, she is an eloquent, thoughtful speaker, with a warm, engaging manner.

Meet TNCS’s New Head of School!

Immersed: How did you become the TNCS Head of the School?

Shara Khon: I was drawn to TNCS’s unique distinction of having such a valued foreign language program, unlike any other that I’ve seen, where students learn two foreign languages. And music and art is such an integral part of the program as well. As a teacher of Spanish, my subject has always been a special or an extra, but, here, the specials rule. That really drew me, because things that are often seen as extras are really seen where they should be here—as an invaluable part of a child’s education. They are part of how a child as a whole should be seen and just as important as what are now  known as the “core subjects.” They all fit together to help educate a child.

Other aspects that drew me to TNCS are the project-based learning and how instruction is differentiated for students, which is just amazing. To be able to do that, where it’s not just rote learning, and providing the opportunity for students to learn through doing is just fantastic. I’m really excited to be a part of that.

IMG_0700

Immersed: Can you explain a little about your history with Spanish and why you became a Spanish teacher?

Shara Khon: When I was a child, my mom exposed me to a lot of languages. She thought language was important and would learn as much as she could—and this was before the Internet and YouTube. Spanish, Swahili, French, Hebrew—whatever she could find, she would try to learn it and take the time to help me learn as well. So, the love of language started for me at a very young age.

I then took German from 2nd grade through 12th grade and continued it in college at Dartmouth. I added Spanish in 9th grade because I thought it was an important language to have; I could see that it was a growing language in the United States. When I got to college, I majored in Spanish, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time living in different places. I studied in Mexico, for example, and I lived in Turkey for a summer via American Field Service (AFS) when I was in high school, which was wonderful. That gave me my first bug of spending some time living with people and getting to know other cultures, which is really important to me. I don’t like to travel as just a tourist; I’d rather spend time with people and get to know them. I can be a tourist here. I’d rather go and learn about the people.

Immersed: What made you decide on Turkey as a destination?

Shara Khon: Interestingly, you don’t usually get to pick. I actually wound up originally with Sri Lanka, but the day that I found that out, the Sri Lankan Civil War started. So, AFS pulled everyone out and gave us a choice between Greece and Turkey. I figured I would probably go to Greece anyway one day, so I chose Turkey in order not to miss that opportunity. That’s the kind of person I am: I like to choose the road less traveled. And I just loved it. It’s wonderful. I’m still in contact with my Turkish family, and my youngest sister is named after my Turkish sister. We all have a very special bond. These kinds of things are what are important to me—spending time with other people in their cultures and learning their languages are really key to me.

Immersed: How many languages do you speak?

Shara Khon: Not a lot anymore. I speak primarily Spanish now, although I used to speak German as well. Now I understand German better than I can speak it. Likewise, I now understand written Hebrew better than I can speak it. But, if you drop me somewhere, I can pick it back up. I can fight my way out, but you lose it if you don’t use it.

Immersed: It sounds like a lot of your passion for language and culture originated with your mother. What do you think it is about languages that had such a draw for her?

Shara Khon: She wanted to learn Spanish because of “I Love Lucy.” She wanted to know what Ricky was saying—at least that’s what she told me. She has a wonderful sense of humor. But she’s always been one to love other cultures. Take my name, for example. She loved Rudyard Kipling books, so I’m named after Shere Khan, the tiger from The Jungle Book. My mom was always one to try different things and explore other cultures. She would make kimchi when I was a kid, for instance. It was amazing.

Another example is that most of my friends at the time were Jewish and went to Hebrew school, and I wanted to enroll in Hebrew school. My grandfather was a baptist minister and took me to a local synagogue to try to get me into Hebrew school. It would have meant converting to Judaism, but my grandfather the black Baptist minister was going to try to make it happen for me if I wanted to do it. It’s amazing how much they valued language for me. It all worked out in the end, because my mom was a police officer and worked at the training academy with someone who spoke Hebrew, and he would teach me here and there. I did more of it in college. I was the only person like me in the Hebrew class in college. In fact, I think I was actually the only non-Jewish person in that class. I just love learning languages and about cultures.

Immersed: Where did your career take you after graduating from Dartmouth?

Shara Khon: When I graduated, the first Gulf War was underway, and corporate recruiting just wasn’t happening. I had always wanted to teach, but I thought I wouldn’t be able to afford it, having graduated with a lot of student loan debt. However, since there was no corporate recruiting, I figured I would teach for a bit and wound up teaching for 7 years. I first taught for 1 year at Purnell School, which was a boarding school in New Jersey for girls and a great place to start my teaching career. It was dedicated to students with learning issues, so I learned how to teach to different learning styles and how to celebrate everything about a student, not just her academics. Particularly because it was a boarding school, you could see other things about a student that weren’t just in the classroom. That was something wonderful, so I tried to keep that as a piece of my teaching—trying to find things that a student loves and really try to hold that up and remind them that class isn’t everything, to remind them that ‘yes, you are really special and wonderful.’ I then returned to Baltimore and taught at Bryn Mawr for 6 years.

At 30, I decided to go into the corporate world because I wanted to see what it was like. I don’t like to live with regrets, and I didn’t want to turn around one day and say, ‘why didn’t I try?’ So, I worked at Legg Mason for the next 5 years. I started off as an office manager, then did some marketing and investor relations specialists kinds of things with their private equity group. It was a lot of long hours and a lot of work, but it was a great experience, and I’m glad I took the opportunity to do it. But, I’m also glad that’s not the path I took. I needed to spend more time with my very young children, Mary and Marina.

So I stayed home for a year and got very involved in their lives and wound up teaching at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, where they attended. The principal at the time had been trying to get me to teach there for years because I taught her daughter at Bryn Mawr and talked me into first just helping out as a parent. I thought, ‘they’re little, they’re scary, they cry, I don’t want to do that,’ and wound up loving teaching elementary and being with elementary kids. I was an assistant in a kindergarten classroom for a couple of years and loved it. I later taught middle school Spanish there.

When my youngest moved over to private school in 4th grade, I went back to private school because it didn’t make sense to be the only one on a public school schedule. So I switched to Calvert, and I’ve been there since.

Immersed: What do you think made you love teaching elementary so much?

Shara Khon: First and foremost, the students are always happy to see you. How can you have a bad day when people are happy to see you when you come to school? And then, no day is ever the same, ever—you never know what they’re going to say or do. They keep it interesting. And when they make a connection, it is amazing—you can almost see the spark happen. They absorb everything, and one of the things that I’ve loved about teaching them Spanish is that almost everything I’ve thrown at them, they’ve done with no problem. And it’s all them. It’s not me. These kids have such a capacity to learn. If you give them the right environment, and you water them, they grow.

Immersed: Let’s now talk about what you’re going to do here at TNCS. How do you characterize your role as Head of School, your understanding of it?

Shara Khon: This summer I plan to take a look at some behind-the-scenes operations to help us run a little bit more smoothly, like solidifying staff roles, getting some more systems in place, prepping for teacher professional development to start the year off right, and taking a look at our curriculum vertically. I want to look at each one of our subjects and how they flow and connect from grade to grade going up. That process will continue throughout the year, but this summer I’ll be seeing where we stand right now and start getting the map and process set, so that when the teachers come back in the fall they can have input into how we proceed. They are the ones doing the teaching, so they need to a have a say in processes.

The next big thing will be our 8th grade. We will be working out that process of getting them in high school, so there are things that I will get started this summer toward that end, like finding out what they need to do and who needs to do it and getting that down. I’m very much a person who likes to have all procedures clearly outlined, and I really want to make sure we have a good handle on how that operates.

Immersed: Do you think that all of your experience at other jobs informs your organizational abilities?

Shara Khon: I see a lot of spreadsheets in my future. There are a lot of things from Legg Mason that will definitely help me with that. There are a lot of things from managing people there and doing some management with my team at Calvert that will help as well.

Immersed: I think a question that a lot of parents may have is, how will yours and Alicia’s roles work together?

Shara Khon: I think that’s a good question, and some of it will probably evolve over time. Alicia is going to be the Head of Preprimary and Dean of Students, and I’m Head of School, mainly K–8. I’m sure there will be some overlap in roles, but usually a Dean of Students handles any issues with students that come up. I think her restorative practice work will be a major part of her Deanship. I also imagine a large piece of it will be community outreach.

We’ll be feeling our way along as we go, but at this point we feel good that we are going be able to work together well. Our shared goal overall is to make sure that TNCS is the best school that it can be, so whatever we can do to work together to make that happen, that’s what we’re going to do.

Immersed: To wrap up, is there anything else you want parents to know?

Shara Khon: For me, the children are our primary objective, and what we need to do to help them achieve their goals is to work together as productively as possible. I firmly believe that as parents, teachers, and staff, we all need to do the best that we can to all work together to help our kids. Making that relationship as productive and communicative as it can be is really important. Sometimes those communications can be tough on either end, but it’s really important that we keep the lines of communication open and be ready to listen as well as to share information. The more we know, the better we can help students. The more we can share, the better we can help students.

tncs-new-head-of-schoolI really want to hear from parents over the summer. I will be here starting June 18th, so if you are around and want to pop by, definitely let me know by email or calling. I am interested to hear what your thoughts are about the school. I may not always agree, but I do like to listen and gather as much information as possible before making decisions. I also consider all aspects as much as possible. I don’t like to have just one opinion, and I’m not looking for people to always simply agree with me. I’m also pretty straightforward, and I don’t mince words, so you don’t have to worry about trying to figure me out. What you see is what you get.


#SpecialsRule #RoadLessTraveled

Meet the Teacher: Pei Ge Rejoins TNCS!

IMG_0082

Pei Ge first joined The New Century School as an assistant in 2016 after earning a bachelor’s degree at Towson University. She then decided to pursue a master’s in early childhood education also at Towson. On graduating this past January, she returned to TNCS in an enhanced role.

“Peggy,” better known as “Pei-Pei Laoshi” to her students, is originally from Shanghai, in China. There, she taught children ages 3 to 6 years. In 2012, she came to the United States and taught in the English program at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Now, living in Towson and back at TNCS, she assists as a floater among the primary classrooms during the mornings, and then teaches the Mandarin Chinese language each afternoon to the lower elementary classes. In fact, the kindergarten/1st-grade level is her favorite grade, but she is certified to teach toddlers up through 3rd-graders. “I’m kind of flexible for the grade,” she said. “My hope is that, maybe next semester if they have a position available for me, I can take the whole class. The Chinese immersion program would be perfect for me.”

Pei-Pei Laoshi is really a perfect fit for the TNCS approach to education. “I really like it here because they have a lot of choice for the language,” she explained. “Teaching Spanish and Chinese provides children with a really great opportunity to learn new languages at a young age. I really think that’s a good idea for young kids, especially with Chinese, because they are able to correctly reproduce the tones when they’re that young. When they’re older, there will be no problem for them.”

She also appreciates the TNCS emphasis on meeting each child at the child’s level: “Because in my class I know there is a Chinese level difference, I try to make sure that I meet everyone’s needs. I use differentiation for each one to make sure that they can learn based on their level.” She works with Li Laoshi to get an idea of each student’s learning profile, as many of her current students were formerly taught by Li Laoshi. They communicate regularly.

Her own style also aligns with TNCS’s overall approach:

For me, my goal is that students can play while learning—not just sitting there while I say, ‘you have to remember this and remember that’—we play and have fun, but we learn something, too. They enjoy it more and learn more when they have hands-on activities. For example, instead of rote memorization of vocabulary words, they might create their own books and vocabulary charts, which will be fun for them as well as being something they created.

For the Chinese Lunar New Year, she and her students made dumplings together. Pei-Pei Laoshi is a lucky rat in the Chinese zodiac.

In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music, reading, and painting. She also likes to relax at home and favors Towson for being a small, quiet town. When she feels like being social, she watch movies with friends and scouts out new restaurants to try (for good, authentic Chinese food, she recommends Orient Express, near the Hopkins campus).

Traveling is also important to Pei-Pei Laoshi. So far, she has visited San Diego; Los Angeles; Seattle; Las Vegas;IMG_0910 and, of course, Orlando.

In closing, she affirmed, “I want the students to want to come to my class everyday, and happily. Then, parents will feel the same, and that’s my goal, too.”

Well said, indeed, Pei-Pei Laoshi!

TNCS Welcomes Chinese Visitors for the Lunar New Year Holiday, Part 2!

As recounted in last week’s Immersed, The New Century School takes advantage of the 2-week holiday many Chinese have in the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year by hosting special programs and inviting various groups to TNCS. For the Year of the Dog, first came a group of 15 university students, eager to take home innovative education ideas, followed by three 3rd-grade students and their parents.

IMG_0052.JPG

The purpose behind this second visit was some cultural exchange—immersion in an English-speaking classroom for the Chinese students for 2 weeks, and a chance for TNCS students to practice conversation skills in Mandarin with their visiting friends Myra, Tony, and Michael.

The outgoing and adaptable trio meshed immediately with their new schoolmates and were welcomed into Mrs. Sharma’s 3rd-/4th-grade homeroom with open arms. It must be said that having the visitors in class for 2 weeks meant that TNCS students got a bit of a holiday as well, getting to go on four field trips during that time!

First up was the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in honor of February being Black History Month.

Next the students visited ANG Pottery in Fell’s Point and saw a master at work, then crafted their own masterworks.

This was followed a few days later by bowling at Patterson Bowling Center.

The Port Discovery Children’s Museum was last, as appropriate, featuring Year of the Dog exhibits (among others).

Meanwhile, lots of fun things happened during school time as well, like making tacos with Chef Danielle!

Even after the school day ended, the visitors were made to feel a special part of the TNCS community, as TNCS families welcomed them into their homes for dinner. . .

IMG_3833.jpeg

. . . or for a musical interlude during an unexpected snow day!

tncs-lunar-new-year-visitors

Their stay culminated with a farewell and awards ceremony held at TNCS, as their proud parents watched.

TNCS students were sad to see them go, but plans are in the works for keeping in touch with Myra, Tony, and Michael, who will always remember TNCS!