Meet TNCS Volunteer Coordinator Alicia Rojas!

Parent volunteering has not only been a key driver of The New Century School‘s evolution to the thriving community it is today, but it also informs the school’s very premise. Head of School Alicia Danyali has always believed strongly that volunteering is a primary component of any successful organization (read her guest blog The Most Important Partner: You). Additionally, the concept of Service was formally made one of four TNCS Core Values this 2016–2017 school year.

Meet Alicia R.!

If parents and teachers are partners in the school and in the children’s individual achievements, what—make that who—is the crucial link in putting it all together? Long-time TNCS parent and Volunteer Coordinator Alicia Rojas, that’s who! As liaison between willing parent volunteers and the school staff and administration and their needs, Mrs. Rojas makes fulfilling the contractual volunteer obligation a snap.

Hailing from Toronto, Canada, she studied French for years and has French Canadian relatives by marriage. Attending Syracuse University in New York for her undergraduate degree, she then came to Baltimore about 10 years ago to pursue a Master’s Degree in business. Around this time, a match-making friend introduced her to her future husband, Phil, who is a native of Bogata, Colombia and, despite having lived in Maryland since he was 8 years old, continues to speak and write fluent Spanish. He is also a “soccer and cycling enthusiast,” says Mrs. Rojas. After taking time off from work when her daughter was born, she decided to return to the world of business. After an unfulfilling stint with Baltimore City as Liaison Officer of the Bureau Heads Department, she realized she wanted to be where the excitement is at . . . in start-ups! She now works in affiliate marketing for Performance Horizons, another arena in which she connects different kinds of groups to accomplish shared goals.

tncs-parent-volunteer-coordinator

TNCS Volunteer Coordinator and Unsung Hero, Alicia Rojas!

Meanwhile, the road that led her to becoming Volunteer Coordinator was quite a direct route—during a tour of the school when she was considering enrolling her then preschool-age daughter, she learned of the mandatory volunteer commitment and thought “that was the greatest thing ever. To be able to give back and participate in what’s going on in my daughter’s school day is something I find very enjoyable,” she said. She found herself volunteering on school grounds pretty frequently during her daughter’s preschool years, which, she says, laid the foundation for her current role.

She also appreciates that she gets the opportunity to interact with so many members of the TNCS community, beyond just the quick hello at drop-off and pick-up times. She gets the chance to really get to know teachers, admin, and parents, all of whom she says, “always go above and beyond.” She finds that even after parents have fulfilled their hours helping with event set-ups and breakdowns, for example, they are still eager to help out in “more impactful” ways such as being in the classroom. “And, even when something comes up at the last minute, parents are very accommodating and step up to help us get the job covered.”

But don’t be fooled—enjoyable as it may be, this job is also a huge responsibility. To get it into manageable shape, Mrs. Rojas had to put in a lot of time creating systems and processes for handling the near-constant influx of requests and questions as well as tracking each family’s hours. She implemented Sign-Up Genius, for example, so that would-be volunteers know instantly whether they have been assigned to a task rather than having to wait for an emailed response. In her third year in the position, she has the whole parent volunteering enterprise working like a well-oiled machine and communicates regularly and in timely fashion. She has just the organization and efficiency that the role demands. She is the nexus where parent volunteers, the Parent Council, and Class Parents connect, helping each sphere of that Venn diagram as needed and keeping it all connected and cohesive.

tncs-volunteer-coordinator-alicia-rojasVolunteering at TNCS

Because TNCS recognizes just how stretched many families are, the volunteer obligation is hardly onerous at only 8 hours. Per family. Per year! Also, the hours do not have to be completed by an actual parent, but by anyone affiliated with a particular student, such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, caregivers, etc. Best of all? Volunteering doesn’t necessarily involve blood, sweat, and tears (although if that’s what your area of expertise involves, it’s welcome!). Mrs. Rojas sends out a monthly newsletter covering a broad range of ways to help out. There’s truly something for everyone. Moreover, off-school hours are readily available for those who cannot sacrifice work hours to volunteer for the school. Volunteering at TNCS is not a burden; it’s a pleasure—no, an opportunity, a gift even. It’s a chance to be deeply involved in your children’s day-to-day school lives, to connect with them on their turf, and to see and experience what’s going on in their lives from their points of view, all while providing a service to the school. There’s nothing so reassuring in parenting than to get proof that your child is happy and flourishing even when you aren’t there—as well as to have a hand in helping make that possible.

“Once parents volunteer and see how easy and rewarding it is, they’ll also start to create their own initiatives,” said Mrs. Rojas. “We have found that in asking people their specialties, they volunteer not just their time but their experience and expertise. They are bringing a lot to the table. It’s not just dependent on what opportunities come up; a lot of people create their own, which is great.” They are, in effect, providing extra learning and enrichment in areas tangential to the formal curriculum. Indeed, TNCS students have learned about a variety of cultures from natives of those cultures, about playing any number of instruments, about computer programming, and even how to perform various dances—all from parents!

Feeling the volunteer spirit? Parent involvement sets an example to students that we are a true community, an extension of family. No matter what little time parents have available in their busy lives, they can contribute in some way with the volunteer opportunities the school provides. Whether cataloging books in the library, laying down mulch in the playground, or laminating classroom materials from home, everyone is contributing to the school in some way. It fosters a sense of belonging and involvement.

“I’ve learned how much parents and their willingness to give enriches the school. It’s really special,” said Mrs Rojas. “Volunteering can be your time to go into the classroom and share your skills. You can come up with any volunteering idea you want, and I can help you make it happen. Anything that interests you about what your kid is doing, is probably something that you can create a volunteer opportunity in.” One thing she emphasizes is that she is available to answer your questions: She can be reached at volunteer@thenewcenturyschool.com.

Already completed some volunteer hours? Don’t forget to log them by visiting the Parent Hub or by clicking here!

Immersed’s Bicentennial!

tncs-imersed-bicentennialDear readers and members of The New Century School community, Immersed is happy to herewith arrive at Post #200! (Cue the fireworks!)

To commemorate this achievement, we give you all 199 prior posts, starting with the most recent and ending with Immersed’s very first post on October 12, 2012. Please enjoy this look at how Immersed (and TNCS) have evolved together over the years!

199. Taking Time Out for Peace at TNCS

198. TNCS Hosts a Special 10th-Anniversary Back-to-School Night!

197. TNCS Exemplifies Four Core values

196. Belaboring Labor Day: Two Schools of Thought

195. TNCS Summer Theatre Camp 2016: A Week of Wonder

194. TNCS Camp Invention 2016 is Epic!

193. TNCS Chinese Summer Camp: Promoting Healthy Lifestyles and Happy Campers!

192. Kids Brush Up on Creativity at TNCS

191. Summer Camp with the Painting Workshop!

190. Kids Get It Together at TNCS Lego Camp!

189. TNCS Spanish Immersion Camp Gets Kids Hablar*!

188. Hit the Ground Learning in Summer 2016 with TNCS-Approved Resources

187. Goodbye 2015–2016 School Year! It’s Been Great!

186. TNCS Upper Elementary Bond in the Great Outdoors!

185. TNCS Elementary Attends Healthy Harbor 2015 Report Card Release!

184. TNCS Teachers and Admin Share School Memories, Part 2

183. TNCS Upper Elementary Treads the Boards!

182. TNCS Teachers and Admin Share School Memories

181. TNCS Hosts Education Conference for Teachers from China!

180. Multilingual Media for Kids: Explore Beyond Dora; Bid Kai-Lan Farewell!

179. Go Native for Earth Day 2016!

178. TNCS Elementary Engages in Conservation by the Barrel

177. Why You (Yes, You!) Should Consider Becoming a Host Family!

176. TNCS Science Fair 2016: It All Starts with a Good Question!

175. TNCS Teachers Get Mindful!

174. Guest Blog: Stop and Smell the Roses!

173. Meet the Art Teacher: A Portrait of Elisabeth Willis

172. TNCS Primary Workshop: Connecting Montessori to Home

171. “Keeping The Conversation Going” – In Multiple Languages!

170. TNCS Elementary Gets Positively Presidential!

169. TNCS Goes to the Grammys!

168. TNCS Celebrate the Chinese New Year!

167. TNCS Parent Workshop: Making the Transition from Pre-Primary to Primary

166. TNCS Elementary Walk Back Through History with Frederick Douglass!

165. Meet the Teachers: Wei Li and Yangyang Li!

164. Meet the Teacher: Kiley Stasch Joins TNCS Elementary!

163. Vote for Your Favorite Post of 2015

162. TNCS Middle School: Opening the Window of Awakening

161. TNCS Elementary Saves the Holidays!

160. Right from the Start: Talking with Elementary-Age Children about Sexuality

159. Meet the Teacher: Manuel Caceres

158. Lessons in Gratitude at TNCS

157. TNCS Visits Schools in China!

156. You are NOT human!

155. Go Outside and Get Dirty, Kids!

154. TNCS Honors Dia de los Muertos!

153. TNCS K/1st Classes Get to the Core of Apple-Harvesting!

152. Cutting Edge Skills at TNCS

151. The Most Important Partner: You!

150. TNCS Performs at Continental Bridge Celebration!

149. TNCS School Lunch Goes Global!

148. ColorCycling Comes to TNCS!

147. Councilman Kraft’s Fall Initiatives at TNCS

146. Guest Blog: Back-to-School Transitions

145. Back-to-School Traditions from Around the World!

144. Meet the Newest Addition to TNCS’s Administration!

143. STARTALK 2015 Campers Get a Taste of Taiwan!

142. TNCS-Approved Resources: Avoid the Summer Slide!

141. Help TNCS Support Pratt’s Summer Reading Program!

140. TNCS Elementary Attends Healthy Harbor Report Card Release!

139. TNCS Elementary Field Trip: A Natural Choice

138. TNCS Elementary Skypes with Students from other Countries!

137. TNCS Primary Students Have Something to Crow About!

136. Mindful Parenting: A TNCS Workshop that Could Change the World

135. Planet Uptune Debuts CD at Dunfest 2015!

134. Gilman School Seniors Visit TNCS for Some Spanish Fun!

133. TNCS Elementary Takes Earth Day by Storm!

132. TNCS’s Go-Green-for-Earth-Day Raffle!

131. Read-a-Thon Opens New Chapter for TNCS Outdoor Activities

130. How to Be an “Askable” Parent

129. TNCS Elementary Students Inform through Writing

128. TNCS STEM Fair 2015 Makes a Huge Splash!

127. TNCS’s Second Annual Town Hall

126. News for STARTALK at TNCS!

125. TNCS Primary Classes Jazz It Up!

124. TNCS Rings in the Year of the Sheep!

123. TNCS Students Discover Math-e-Magic!

122. Transitioning from Preprimary to Primary at TNCS

121. TNCS Welcomes DBFA and the “Big Kids”!

120. So What’s Bugging You?

119. Phys Ed Is Going Strong at TNCS!

118. Meet the Teacher: Montessori-Trained Maria Mosby Joins TNCS

117. Standardized Testing Debate Continues

116. Winter Break—It’s Not Just for Homework Anymore!

115. TNCS Elementary Information Night Rounds Out a Great 2014!

114. TNCS’s Winter Performance Amazes and Delights!

113. TNCS Launches New Website!

112. Lessons in Thanksgiving at TNCS

111. TNCS Elementary Needs Your Vote!

110. Meet the Teacher: Elementary STEM Instructor Dan McGonigal Joins TNCS

109. State-of-the-Science Elementary Writing Instruction at TNCS

108. TNCS Elementary Students to Enter BGE Video Contest!

107. Theatre Workshop Promotes Team-Building among TNCS Elementary Students

106. TNCS and Councilman Kraft: Outreach for Our Shared Community

105. Meet TNCS’s Newest Chinese Teachers!

104. TNCS Uses Viridian’s Power with Purpose!

103. TNCS Performs at Confucius Institute Day!

102. TNCS Students Get the Wiggles Out and the Learning In!

101. Back-to-School Night: Meet New TNCS Teachers and More!

100. Immersed’s Centennial!

99. It’s Good to Be Back at TNCS!

98. TNCS Gets Ready for School!

97. Camp Invention Takes Creativity to New Heights (and New Depths) at TNCS!

96. TNCS Knows Safe Urban Gardening!

95. Cooking and Gardening Camp at TNCS Is a Recipe for Fun!

94. STARTALK Is a Huge Success at TNCS!

93. TNCS Summer Camp Heats Up Under New Directorship

92. The Painting Workshop at TNCS: Kids Paint the Town!

91. TNCS Drama Camp Brings Out Kids’ Inner Artists

90. TNCS Summer “Move It!” Camp Gets Kids Moving and Learning!

89. Excitement and Creativity Build at TNCS Lego Camp!

88. TNCS “Pops” the Trash!

87. TNCS Elementary Sing in Mandarin in Command Performance!

86. STARTALK Shines at TNCS!

85. Best of Immersed: Reader Poll

84. Music Is in the Air at TNCS!

83. Community Conversation: Protecting Our Children

82. Baseball Fundraiser Scores Big for TNCS

81. Admissions Fridays: Your Ticket to Getting to Know TNCS!

80. Holidays at TNCS: How Do We Celebrate?

79. Meet the Big Kids with TNCS!

78. Cultivating a Growth Mindset at TNCS

77. Kids and Safety: When (If) to Let Go

76. TNCS Elementary Science Fair 2014!

75. TNCS Lower Elementary Goes Around the World in 80 Days

74. Making School Transitions: Pre-Primary to Primary at TNCS

73. See What’s Jumping at The Lingo Leap!

72. Cultural Diversity at TNCS: Insiders’ Perspectives

71. Year of the Horse Festivities Giddy-Up at TNCS

70. TNCS’s Foreign Language Program Embraces the 5 Cs

69. Spaceship Club Elevates Aftercare at TNCS!

68. TNCS’s Garden Tuck Shop Program Relaunches!

67. TNCS’s Inaugural Town Hall

66. TNCS Elementary Information Night: A School Grows and Flourishes

65. New Year’s Resolutions TNCS Style

64. TNCS Holiday Outreach Programs

63. TNCS Wins Southeast Baltimore City Schools Recycling Competition!

62. What Does Kindergarten Look Like at TNCS?

61. Volunteerism at TNCS

60. TNCS: A School to Be Thankful For

59. The ABCs of ZZZs at TNCS

58. Anxiety-Free Kids at TNCS

57. TNCS Gives Thanks by Giving Back

56. TNCS Makes Strides Against Breast Cancer

55. Pipa Concert at TNCS

54. Elementary Strength Training

53. Open House at TNCS

52. Happy Birthday, Immersed!

51. History of Our Beloved Buildings

50. STEM Teacher Arrives at TNCS!

49. TNCS Back-to-School Night

48. School Daze: Where to Educate City Kids?

47. A TNCS Original

46. Immersed Is Here!

45. Hack the Trash: Community Art Project

44. International Camp at TNCS

43. Making the Case for Cursive

42. Elementary Math and Reading Skills: Important Predictors of Successful Adulthood

41. Bagging Bagged Lettuce

40. Summertime Theatrics: Drama Camp at TNCS

39. And the Winner Is . . .

38. You Say Tomayto, I Say Tomahto

37. Adventures with One Straw Farm CSA

36. The New Century School: A Retrospective and Prospective Look

35. The Rename Game

34. Resources and Links Page for TNCS Families

33. Sanctuary Bodyworks: An Exercise Haven

32. Honoring Parenthood at The New Century School

31. Camp Invention Returns to TNCS in June

30. Strengthening Friendships, Creating Art: TNCS Welcomes Back Baltimore Love Project

29. Making Summer Count—Weekly Camps at TNCS

28. Touch Screens and Your Child: To App or Not To App

27. Breaking Down the GMO Issue: Some Earth Day Musings

26. Spring Break—a Noteworthy Topic

25. Community-supported Agriculture and TNCS

24. Elementary Science Fair!

23. Standardized Testing: It’s Time to Talk About It

22. Imagination Playground Comes to TNCS

21. Language, Math, and Science—Montessori Style!

20. Charmed by TNCS’s Year of the Snake Performance

19. Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge: TNCS Update

18. Preschool Conundrum Solved: Research Demonstrates Benefits of Montessori Education

17. Language Curriculum Specialist Joins TNCS

16. The Importance of Being Artistic

15. Multilingualism at TNCS: Optimizing Your Child’s Executive Function

14. TNCS Launches Green Neighborhood Energy Challenge

13. Achieving Balance in Education at TNCS

12. Giving Back: TNCS Kids and Heifer International

11. Elementary Program Merges Montessori and Progressive Education at The New Century School

10. Top 10 Reasons to Attend Montessori Kindergarten

Inside the Montessori Classroom

9. Exercising That Mind–Body Connection

8. Blown Away with Wind Energy

7. Getting the Education Nitty Gritty

6. Sustainable School Lunch: Garden Tuck Shop Program Part 2

5. Sustainable School Lunch: Garden Tuck Shop Program Part I

4. Baltimore Love Project

3. Kindness Counts!

2. International Walk-to-School Day

1. Hello World!

 

 

Belaboring Labor Day: Two Schools of Thought

This first week back to school for the 2016–2017 school year has been historic—in more ways than one. As has come to be expected, The New Century School once again launched many new initiatives and embarked on several new “firsts.” Numero uno among these has to be the opening of TNCS’s Middle School, as the eldest among the TNCS student body entered 6th grade. Congratulations to them!

There are many other new and noteworthy topics to explore through Immersed in the coming weeks, such as new teachers to meet, expanded music education programming, a new library, and the brand-new Ozone Snack Bar, and we will get to those in due time. For now, though, let’s focus on the other reason this week has been historic: It may be the last time that Maryland students will have started school prior to Labor Day.

Announced August 31st, MD Governor Larry Hogan’s executive order extends summer break into September and has raised quite a ruckus. “School after Labor Day is now the law of the land in Maryland,” he said.

Advocates say the order will “help protect the traditional end of summer” and “give families more time together, generate more revenue for the tourism industry, and help keep students in the Baltimore region out of sweltering classrooms that lack air conditioning.”

Opponents say it will “hurt the state’s most vulnerable students” who can lose an average of 2 months of learning during the so-called summer slide and who rely on up to two meals a day provided in school as well as cause “what had been the minimum of 180 days of education [to] become the maximum” and thereby reduce valuable instruction time. Some have distilled the issues down to business and political interests versus kids’ welfare.

Other potential pros to an extended summer break include:

  • facilitating teacher continuing education efforts
  • allowing high school students to get summer work experience
  • making it easier for families to plan vacations
  • reducing breaks during the school year that can be a hardship for working parents

Other potential cons to starting school after Labor Day include:

  • costing more in childcare
  • teachers going longer without income
  • reducing breaks during the school year that kids and families enjoy
  • causing school to extend farther into June in the event of snow day make-ups

Either way, as residents of Baltimore City, we are at the crux of the debate, having the largest population of underserved communities. What are your thoughts? Take the poll below and leave a comment if you wish!

 

Why You (Yes, You!) Should Consider Becoming a Host Family!

Given its firm emphasis on global citizenship, The New Century School is working harder than ever to expand cultural programming for 2016. In addition to the ongoing guest interns from around the world who act as assistant teachers and immerse TNCS students in their native languages in the classroom, a big part of this year’s push will include hosting separate groups of teachers and students (and chaperones) both during the rest of the school year and during the summer months.

International Campers

Camp Instructor Craig Lapreziosa and our Chinese and American friends say cheese!

A trial of such programming happened in the summer of 2013, when a group of three Chinese girls age 9 years and the mothers of two of the girls attended a 2-week International Camp at TNCS. On the heels of that initial success, TNCS Co-Founders Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner are finding ways to make international exchanges a regular happening.

Later this month, for example, a group of 15 Chinese kindergarten and preschool educators will be visiting Baltimore, hosted by TNCS, for a week-long conference on various aspects of education. Their conference will include lectures on such topics as Montessori education, multilingual education, classroom management, and more as well as school tours of John Hopkins University, Loyola University, The Key School, the Baltimore School for the Arts and—of course—TNCS. Immersed looks forward to covering this visit and conference, so please stay tuned!

In the meantime, there are other possible programs in the works that are more student oriented. Groups of both Chinese and Spanish elementary-age children have been invited to join TNCS this summer—opportunities so rich in possibility for both host and visitor that this topic bears exploring even before program details are finalized.*

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Hosting Expert Dominique Sanchies!

Depending on the group and its country of origin, the programs will likely vary in certain details, but they will all include the chance for the TNCS community to act as host family to one or more visiting children (and, possibly, chaperones). Admissions Director and Assistant Head of School Dominique Sanchies, in fact, is a huge fan of hosting and says, “I can’t say enough about hosting. I’m very passionate about it.” You may recall from a post back in the fall that Mrs. Sanchies put herself through college working as a group representative for EF Foundation for Foreign Study, a foreign exchange student company headquartered in Switzerland.

What was not reported in that bio, however, was that her family also hosted while she was in high school. Mrs. Sanchies says that the French girl, Gabine, they hosted remains her best friend to this day. The idea was that would improve her English during her stay with the U.S. family of French Canadian origins, but Mrs. Sanchies says that her own French also improved immeasurably at the same time. “She came into our home and was like an adopted child—my sister—for the entire summer. I was driving, so we went everywhere together. It was this great opportunity for me to learn all about Parisian culture, to live with somebody from that culture . . .to have her cook for us one night, to see how she dressed . . .it was just lovely. It was the best experience.”

Drawing on the memory of this wonderful time, it was a natural choice for her to join the EF Foundation. She worked with groups of Spanish 30 students ranging in age from 14 to 18 years to make hosting and being hosted an experience available to others. Her primary task was to place students with host families from the community, which came easily to Mrs. Sanchies because her first-hand experience and obvious passion quickly won over prospective hosts. Another part of Mrs. Sanchies’ position included hosting the Spanish teacher who accompanied the students. This friendship has also held fast through the years.

“Growing up in Portland, Maine, I was starved for culture,” said Mrs. Sanchies. “But the world opened up when my family hosted an exchange student, and the same will be true of TNCS families who host. Your kids are studying Chinese and Spanish languages, but imagine what could happen if a Chinese or Spanish student stayed in your home and accompanied your child throughout the day. The language fluency, the relationships, the cultural understanding . . . it just makes the world more accessible.”

Mrs. Sanchies and her husband have also hosted Chinese and Japanese students themselves in the past and may do so again, circumstances permitting. “I would love to host a child from another country—any country,” she said. “It’s just so enriching.” As for what is required of the host family, besides providing appropriate accommodations and meals, “it’s basically just keeping [the visiting child] safe and sound. Just like you’d do for your own children,” said Mrs. Sanchies. “It’s not much work. But the benefits could potentially explode.

Hosting Benefits

Never hosted or even considered hosting? Here are some of the tangible and intangible reasons why hosting is a transformative experience for both host and guest, most courtesy of ExchangeStudentWORLD.com and of Pitzer College. (You’ll surely add your own benefits to this list once you join the ranks of host families!)

  • Personal and familial development. Be it travel, school or work, foreign interaction with diverse cultures is a part of life. When individuals and families open their homes to students, personal development is inevitable. Familiarization with another culture and ethnicity expands the mind. It offers the entire family a study on how to be adaptive to intercultural interactions and demonstrates how different yet similar we all are.
  • The chance to help a student experience life in another country and culture. This is an amazing journey. They will have many questions about why you do things. They will want to try new activities and learn about your traditions. You will get to see your culture and your town through another’s eyes, which will likely be rejuvenating. This is also an excellent chance to learn about their country and culture as well.
  • The chance to gain a son/daughter. This experience will give you the chance to bond with a child in a way you never expected. Many will have so much gratitude for the opportunity you have given them. You will share many laughs along the way and make memories to last a lifetime. Often you will remain in contact long after they return home, and if you are really lucky you will get to see the child again!
  • You help your children to learn and grow. If you already have children this is a great way to help them learn about another country and culture—they will have a Host Sibling right there! Kids are great at asking questions and often you will learn through their questions. The bond children make no matter the age is wonderful to watch.
  • New language possibilities. Learning another language as a host family can be a lot of fun. Children in host families—even adult children—develop and expand analytical skills and even improve their English when they compare languages. As globalization redefines the world we live in, learning a new language is a rapidly growing asset in the business world. It can be beneficial for both a host and their family. When children are exposed to exchange students, they can learn the fun and simplicity of learning a new language.
  • Lifelong attachment. Although it might be hard to let go at the end, it is such a great feeling to know you have made this special bond with this student. You will make plans to email and call each other. Maybe he or she will want to come back for college, or to come back in a couple years to see you again. Maybe you will plan a trip to their country to see him or her. You have spent time getting to know this person, and the bond can be deep.
  • Have fun. Host families and students laugh. A lot. Whether giggling over the mispronunciation of words or sharing students’ excitement about newfound joys, host families have a tremendous amount of fun.
  • Change the world. Most important is the rewarding sense of fulfillment you will experience as a host family, knowing that you have played a key part in helping a young person achieve his or her dream.

But Mrs. Sanchies sums it up best: “You’ll fall in love, the kids will remain in touch, and who know what the future might bring.”

Additional Resources

Now that you’re convinced of the benefits of hosting and ready to host a student or students yourself, here are some other helpful resources for making the experience the best it can be:

From the Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs: Commonly Asked Questions

From Wandering Educators: 8 Tips for Hosting an Exchange Student

From One Life Log: Advice for the Host Family

*Although the enthusiasm for these programs is very much in place on all sides, the inevitable red tape surrounding foreign travel might take a little longer to work out in some cases. But it will happen!

TNCS Teachers Get Mindful!

Last week Immersed featured guest blogger Carisa Perry-Parrish writing about her presentation to The New Century School staff on how to bring mindfulness principles into the classroom in Stop and Smell the Roses. This week, we’ll hear from some of the TNCS attendees about what they took away from the presentation.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 3.16.51 PM

Courtesy of Dr. Carisa Perry-Parrish

TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali organized this staff development initiative after hearing from several staff members that Dr. Perry-Parrish’s mindfulness workshop for parents inspired them to want to learn more about the topic and how to use it to help them better relate to their students. This meshed very well with Mrs. Danyali’s own overall approach. “My mom always reminds me that when you are on an airplane and the oxygen masks drop, you are instructed to care for self before assisting others. What this translates to for me personally is, the more we take care of self, incorporate deliberate choices to model appropriate behaviors when it comes to support, the more others around us benefit,” she said. Thus, for Mrs. Danyali, practicing mindfulness is an important part of personal and social health.

tncs-mindfulness-classroom

Courtesy of Carisa Perry-Parrish.

Although practicing mindfulness is arguably beneficial everywhere, all the time, for educators it has a particular resonance. A central tenet of mindfulness is regulation of emotion, the ability to make a considered response rather than reflexively react, as Dr. Perry-Parrish’s slide at right illustrates. This idea reverberates in many ways inside the classroom, where teachers continuously interact with children who are still in varying stages of development. Teachers must find ways to bridge the cognitive, emotional, and social gaps this interaction entails as well as model for their students the right way to handle various challenges.

Says Mrs. Danyali: “The role teachers play in a student’s life is defined in part by cultural expectations, social norms, and organizational rules that usually operate outside the classroom. Mindfulness is one more ‘tool’ in a teacher’s toolbox to help their students think things through for themselves, take accountability, and make choices that tune into their emotional needs. On the social aspects of teaching, mindful practices encourage students to feel important and cared about, as well as gain confidence in their own abilities. To acquire a personal sense of respect and responsibility for themselves and others is the focus.”
tncs-mindfulness-classroom

Courtesy of Dr. Carisa Perry-Parrish

This seminar was a very natural fit for the primary teachers, who implement a classic Montessori curriculum in their classrooms. Maria Montessori was a proponent of what would evolve as what we know today as mindfulness practice. Let’s hear from a TNCS teachers who asked for, attended, and learned from this seminar.

TNCS primary teacher Maria Mosby: “It was great to get a more in-depth understanding of mindfulness and its many benefits for adults and children alike. Several teachers that I talked to were excited to read and learn more, and begin incorporating mindfulness into their lives and classrooms. I would definitely like to begin a practice of mindfulness meditation before each school day begins, to help prepare myself for being more present with the children and other teachers. It was interesting to learn how the practice has helped so many others in many different professions and walks of life. Though we occasionally do a group meditation in class (such as the flower and candle breathing exercise), I think it would be a great way to begin every day, as opposed to the typical circle time. When the children are sitting in the peace corner alone or as a group sitting on the rug, you can see them begin to try to quiet their bodies and minds and prepare for the day. It’s a practice we can all benefit from- tugging at the leash, and getting the easily distracted little puppy dog in our minds to focus on the path in front of us. Everyone needs time to breathe between tasks and have a moment to themselves.

The children who have a teacher who is present and is calm, not reacting based on his or her instinctive thoughts in a given situation, are likely to learn better coping and social skills themselves. They will also have more focus and joy in the classroom environment. Integrating mindfulness into any classroom can help everyone to become more focused on each individual task, and improve student-teacher and student-student relations, thus enhancing the experience for the entire class.”

Other non-Montessori TNCS teachers also benefited in multiple and sometimes surprising ways, as well. The elementary teachers, for example, face daily challenges that are different from what teachers of 3 to 5-year-olds might face, but these challenges are no less real and no less vital to handle in the best way for the child.

TNCS upper elementary STEM teacher Dan McGonigal: “My take-away from this presentation was really simple but something I need to remind myself of is that our students are not adults and they aren’t going to behave that way. After this presentation I have tried to take a step back and just teach in the moment and be present for that moment and not think about past or future difficulties. I try to remind myself of what was important to me when I was 7–11 years’ old. This has helped me better relate to some of the decisions students make on a daily basis. I try to better appreciate the student’s perspective of things, especially those that may have a learning disability or behavioral challenges. Teaching can be difficult because you are constantly looking for progress and, at times times, their progress may appear invisible. But students often need time, numerous examples, and development to start making progress.”
That’s a clear benefit of employing mindfulness as a teacher, and here is another perspective on the importance of teaching mindfulness.
TNCS upper elementary Language Arts and Global Studies teacher Kiley Stasch: “I thoroughly enjoyed the mindfulness presentation, not only from the perspective of a teacher but also for myself. As a teacher, it has helped me to take a step back and understand that teaching these skills explicitly is important and essential to do. We often assume these students have learned how to best manage their own emotions, but even older students have not necessarily had someone to help them through the steps they should be taking. Breaking it down for the students and helping them to understand where their emotions are stemming from helps them to reduce a poor reaction at that moment as well as in similar instances that will come up in the future.”
As for future staff mindfulness initiatives, Mrs. Danyali says, “The hopes are that this training was a nice reminder or a validation of current approaches, but also encouragement for implementing new strategies that will not only benefit one or two students, but the class as a whole.” Dr. Perry-Parrish also provided three models for continued development in this arena: CARE, SMART, and MWBE, detailed in the slides below.

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These final words from Ms. Mosby might best encapsulate the experience for TNCS teachers and perhaps all teachers, worldwide: “Mindfulness is an experience we all can and should offer our students each day. It’s easy to become so focused on the specific learning goals and daily tasks of teaching that one doesn’t always stop to slow down and truly listen, observe, and enjoy the children. There are so many wonderful moments that we miss out on this way.”

Anyone reading this post has already hit pause on the day to stop and be in a moment. We recognize that, and we thank you. The kids around you will thank you, too, both for knowing how to be truly present with them now and for showing them how to grow up to be adults who embody this critical awareness in their future lives.

Guest Blog: Stop and Smell the Roses!

This Immersed post comes to you from guest blogger Dr. Carisa Perry-Parrish, who recently presented a workshop on mindfulness practices to The New Century School staff and writes about this experience. Dr. Perry-Parrish is Director of Training, Child Clinical & Pediatric Psychology Postdoctoral Fellowship and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins as well as a TNCS parent. As part of Johns Hopkins Expert Team in Pediatric Medical Psychology, “[she] specializes in improving emotion regulation in children and adolescents. Her clinical interests emphasize practicing and promoting evidence-based care, including parent management training for childhood noncompliance and ADHD, cognitive-behavioral therapy for youth anxiety/depression, and acceptance and mindfulness-based interventions to improve self-regulation.”

Stop and Smell the Roses!

Last spring, I was asked to give a parent workshop on mindfulness in parenting. A great group of parents attended and it was a good experience. Several teachers were interested in the topic as well, and this year I was invited back to provide a teacher workshop on mindfulness. Our teachers and staff were another lovely group, very engaged in learning about meditation and mindfulness.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, so I shared one of my favorite pictures of Dr. King and Thich Nhat Hanh (mindfulness author and monk), engaged at a conference back in the 1960s. Gauging from how many recognized this favorite author of mine, it was clear that several in the group were already engaged in mindfulness in various forms. So what is mindfulness?

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and Thich Nhat Hanh.

Mindfulness has been described as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). As L.A. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson put it, “when [basketball] players practice what is known as mindfulness…not only do they play better and win more, they also become more attuned to each other.” In essence, mindfulness is the complete awareness in what is happening right now. Therefore, mindfulness instruction is intended to enhance an individual’s innate ability to be aware.

Formal mindfulness instruction entails a range of techniques that help foster an intentional focusing of attention on one’s present-moment experience while letting go of negative, self-critical judgments. As detailed explicitly in many mindfulness programs, this type of training aims to help individuals accept unpleasant and painful experiences without reactively attempting to change the experience. However, as most of us would prefer to reduce or eliminate pain and discomfort as much as possible, some mindfulness-based programs additionally adopt a dialectical position of balancing desire for change alongside intentional acceptance of the inevitability of suffering. As moment-to-moment awareness through the day is the ultimate goal of mindfulness programs, there is also instruction of informal techniques that can be used at any time.

The recent teacher workshop provided an introduction to mindfulness and some suggestions for how to weave contemplative practices to support our children’s development of focused attention. Given the range of daily hassles and life stress we all experience, activities that foster our children’s focused attention are theorized to help them regulate their emotional reactions.

For those of you who have observed in our children’s classrooms, you have probably seen several teachers engage in mindfulness activities—whether or not the teacher had identified the activity as such. You have likely witnessed your own child become absorbed in a favorite activity, whether it was engineering a LEGO construction, collecting wildflowers, or watching the clouds pass by. Awareness training is quite complementary to a central tenet of Montessori philosophy, which is to develop the innate ability to become absorbed in learning. As Maria Montessori stated, “The first essential for the child’s development is concentration” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 202).

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Mind full, or mindful?

Portions excerpted from Perry-Parrish, C., & Sibinga, E.M.S. (2014). Mindfulness meditation. Functional Symptoms in Pediatrics (ed. R. Anbar). Springer.

—Carisa Perry-Parrish

. . . And stay tuned, readers, for teacher reactions to the workshop as well as some of Dr. Perry-Parrish’s very helpful, evidence-based tips on how to (and why we should) mindfully interact with children, whether at home or in the classroom.