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-Curated Academic Resources for Summer 2021!

Each year at The New Century School, teachers offer resources to families to help prevent the “summer slide” phenomenon that can happen to kids over summer break when they might be less academically engaged than during the school year and lose scholastic ground as a consequence. Although this problem disproportionately affects underserved communities, it is nevertheless felt to a certain degree across the board, as teachers find themselves re-teaching concepts that were learned the previous year and then forgotten. Some research has shown that students can lose as much as 3 months of reading and math achievement over the course of just one summer. (See Making Summer Count for more details on relevant studies.)

To negate this effect, here are this year’s recommended resources in core subjects. (Look for your child’s division within some subjects.)

English Language Arts

For elementary and middle school students, ELA teacher Jalynn Harris assigned a mandatory novel and a secondary novel (middle school students) and gave Summer Writing Prompts to encourage a minimum of 30 minutes of writing twice a week. Grammar Review and keeping a Reading Log are also encouraged.

Mandatory Middle School Novel: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Secondary Middle School Novel: Choose from the list below or from your own library.

  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • CHERUB series by Robert Muchamore
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
  • Legend trilogy by Marie Lu
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Finally, i-Ready, TNCS’s online reading and vocabulary program, will be available all summer. Students should complete a minimum of 30 minutes of i-Ready lessons per week.

Math

In addition to making practice workbooks available for purchase to elementary and middle school, math teacher Nameeta Sharma recommends these sites:

  1. iReady math is available to students over summer. Please encourage your child to do  iReady lessons at least an hour per week. This will help them stay on level, especially since they will have the first math diagnostic test in fall for the next school year.
  2. Khan academy. – Please remind students to use the school gmail account to log in so as to save their progress.
  3. Free printable math worksheets are available at these sites too:

Mandarin Chinese

“Wow, what a year!” said Li Laoshi. “To better state that what a complicated but great year!” Please see the following information and resources that will help your child can review and maintain their Chinese proficiency during the summer holiday. 

Websites

  • Duolingo
    • Target Age: 1st–8th grades
    • Target Level: Beginner and up
  • Hello-World
    • Target Age: 1st–3rd grades
    • Target Level: Beginner
  • Epic
    • Target Age: 1st–8th grades
    • Target Level: Beginner and up

Books

  • Better Chinese, Volumes 1–4
    • Target Age: 1st–8th grades
    • Target Level: Beginner and up

Global Studies and Science

Mr. Brosius offered the following optional summer activities with detailed instructions for Global Studies and Science extended projects.
The Summer Road Trip was primarily designed to be a global studies assignment, but does touch on a few science themes. The Time Lapse was primarily designed to be a science assignment, but can be adapted for various uses.
Also, check out citizen science projects in the United States!

Spanish

For 3rd- to 8th-graders, Sra. Noletto strongly recommends continued exposure to Spanish language during the summer fun days. “The more practice, the easier for them to remember what they learned,” she said.

Collection of Spanish Books

  1. Go to https://www.getepic.com/students
  2. Enter class code gun8437
  3. Select your child name
  4. Check his/her mailbox
  5. Enjoy!

Practice Reading Skills: Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd Grades:

  1. EL Mono Silabo has a complete collection of educational videos of the Spanish “Silabas” to teach and practice reading in Spanish for emerging readers. Kindergarten students already have practiced reading skills using this educational resource. Ask your children to tell you what sounds “Silabas” they remember from classes and then watch the corresponding chapter from EL Mono Silabo.

  1. 123 Andrés has a complete collection of educational videos for every letter of the Spanish alphabet (samples shown below, but there are 24 more!).

3. If you want to make a good investment, You can pair the experience educational videos of El Mono-Silabo with the collection of books made by Scholastic of 36 different books, one for each silaba. Or you can buy just a few depending on the level of engagement of your student.

4. If your student hasn’t finished the entire book of “Silabas” called “El Silabario,” you can find this interactive book at the summer resources folder from the Google Classroom along with other printable materials ideal for summer reading.

Apps and Websites

  • Spanishdict.com: The students are familiar with this app, and my classrooms are linked to it. It has grammar lessons, conjugations, vocabulary, conversations, videos, quizzes, and assessments that the students like to practice with.
    • Target Age: Elementary school and up
    • Target Level: Beginner and up
  • Conjuguemos: This website is packed with Spanish learning games that your student can use to practice verb conjugations, new vocabulary, and tricky grammar rules like “por versus para.” It is easy to navigate and helps students retain what they learn by reviewing their mistakes and providing explanations for the correct answers. For students looking for additional instruction, Conjuguemos also provides a reference section with clear, straightforward explanations of Spanish verb tenses and how they function.
    • Target Age: Elementary school and up
    • Target Level: Beginner and up
  • Duolingo: This gamified language-learning app can help your student learn Spanish on-the-go through short, daily practice sessions. Duolingo is based on a communicative model of language teaching, so it focuses on getting your child to use Spanish from the start and skips the long, technical grammar lessons.
    • Target Age: Middle school and up
    • Target Level: Beginner and up
  • Mango Languages: This popular language-learning program is available for free through many public libraries. Through its innovative multimedia platform, it helps students build proficiency in reading, writing, listening and even speaking in Spanish.
    • Target Age: Middle School and up
    • Target Level: Beginner and up
  • Spanish Playground: This is an amazing resource for parents who want to help their children learn Spanish through fun, hands-on activities! You can search through their activities by age, theme, or type (e.g., curricula versus music), so there’s something for everyone.
    • Target Age: Preschool and up
    • Target Level: Beginner and up
  • Spanish con salsa: Originally developed as a television series to teach Spanish to young children, Salsa Spanish is now available online, with free activities designed to accompany its 42 video lessons. The 15-minute videos are similar to Sesame Street and focus on a single Spanish concept—like food vocabulary or colors. The dialogue is easy to understand, so it’s appropriate for students who are just starting to learn Spanish, although true beginners might benefit from some additional parental support.
    • Target Age: Preschool through Elementary
    • Target Level: Beginner (best with some prior exposure to Spanish)
  • FluentU Spanish: Language teachers often tell their students to watch television in Spanish to further improve their listening and speaking skills. While this is a great suggestion; sometimes what students like is too challenging for them, not challenging enough, or even terribly scripted because of the direct translation. This is what makes FluentU Spanish a unique app for all Spanish students. First, browse through their library of multimedia content ranging from Spanish music videos, world-issue related interviews, and sporting events. While watching the video, users can click on any word in the script to read the definition before continuing. What’s even cooler is you can save these words and add them to a reference list which FluentU allows users to save and go through any time afterward. The app goes even further to suggest videos and other media content featuring those specific words.
  • Think Bilingual!: The basis of this game-based educational app is for Spanish students to not only memorize new words; but also act them out. Listening and doing is Think Bilingual’s way of teaching. Students will be introduced to two aliens who they will have to guide through everyday situations from cleaning, cooking, and driving on different levels. Before the start of each new level, a vocabulary list is shown so students can have a look and study. Once ready, students have to write out the words correlating to the actions the aliens must do to continue onto the next level.
  • Memrise: Like its name, Memrise, uses the technique of memorization and repetition for users to reach their next level language skills. Before each level’s test; users can listen to words and see how its spelled. Right under the word there’s also attributes to the word such as the phonetics and seeing how to pronounce it correctly. Each level is categorized by different subjects; greetings, cooking, directions etc.
  • Mosalingua: Mosalingua knows that motivation is the key to learning another language, therefore the app combines both motivation and repetition so learners don’t quickly forget everything they learn. Rather than quickly forgetting all that new information, Mosalingua builds new exercises that are repeated but simply delivered in different ways so users continue to be motivated and absorb all there is to know about Spanish.

Books

Kindergarten:

Beginner:

Intermediate:

Advanced:

Spanish Songs Playlist

You can also make a Spotify or Apple iTunes playlist with the most popular songs that we sang during the school year by these popular children’s groups:

  1. Una idea tengo yo, 123 Andrés
  2. La semilla, 123 Andrés
  3. El baile de la fruta, de Pica Pica
  4. El Baile de los Animales
  5. Chocolate de Jose Orozco
  6. El Pirata Benjamin, 123 Andrés
  7. Salta, Salta 123 Andrés
  8. Buenos Días, Jose Orozco
  9. Vamos a contar mentiras de Enrique y Ana
  10.  De Colores, 123 Andrés
  11. Un elefante, 123 Andrés
  12. El Girasol, 123 Andrés
  13.  Soy una serpiente
  14. Hola amigo, 123 Andrés
  15.  El Pirata capirote de Juana la Iguana

Whatever activities and summer fun your child has planned this summer, make time for reading, writing, speaking, and tinkering!

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”:

Valentine’s Day at TNCS is about Caring for Our Community!

For upcoming Valentine’s Day 2021, students at The New Century School are making a “wholehearted” push to spread some love to the Baltimore community. Compassion and service are two core values at TNCS and, along with respect and courage, are part of the day-to-day “invisible” curriculum. Finding new ways to demonstrate these values has been an ongoing goal of the 2020–2021 school year. This winter, students in all divisions have come together and overcome the practical challenges of partial remote learning to put these values to work in meaningful ways. TNCS students are showing our community within and beyond the campus walls what’s in their hearts.

Due to the changes this pandemic year has brought, service initiatives have largely come from the TNCS Parent Council and its committees, with the support of Señora Duncan and the TNCS administration. Continuing to emphasize service has been important to the TNCS community, who understand why this kind of engagement is so beneficial to children’s social, academic, and emotional development. And, according to research by Edutopia, “A schoolwide focus on cultivating traits like self-discipline, courage, and perseverance helps students meet high expectations.” This focus also stretches beyond the classroom, preparing students to contribute to the world as adults.

Hygiene Kits for Beans and Bread

So, classrooms in all divisions are collaborating on hygiene kits for Baltimore’s homeless population to provide basic supplies that are heartbreakingly out of reach for some. The timing is critical. Not only is it nice to show some love during “heart month,” but after the end-of-year holidays pass and the new year has begun, charitable donations taper off, which sadly coincides with the time of year those in need most require support and warmth.

Explore the Issue

Larger themes underlie this initiative as well, and the PC Community Engagement committee member and TNCS mom Mary Kay Page, who organized it and has kept it running so smoothly, was careful to make sure those themes became part of the process:

It’s important to me that service projects further compassion and empathy. I believe one way to accomplish that is to more deeply understand the people and the issues you support. To that end, I wanted to help ensure this was a service-learning opportunity by providing some resources for both the service and the learning aspects.

Ms. Page also credits her contact at Beans and Bread, Evan Gough, Senior Volunteer Coordinator for his help along the way.

An age-appropriate video was included with the resources distributed among the TNCS community that demonstrates economic inequality with Legos. “Brookings Fellow Richard Reeves shows the chances that the poorest fifth of Americans have to rise to the top, based on their race, the marital status of their mothers, and their level of education.”

In addition, a Fact Sheet for Kindergarteners through 2nd-graders is another way to start meaningful conversations with children and de-stigmatize homelessness, which is vital now more so than ever with the pandemic-related economic catastrophe affecting so many.

For older students, a game called PlaySpent simulates the choices that go into how to make ends meet after losing a job (“It’s just stuff until you don’t have it”).

Stories about local people provide a powerful reality check about how the pandemic has wrought such havoc in the lives of our neighbors.

Other informative resources were also included for adults, such as links to National Coalition for the Homeless and Homelessness in Baltimore | Healthcare for the Homeless.

Assemble the Kits

Kit collection was originally supposed to end on February 12th for distribution around Valentine’s Day, but the initiative is gaining momentum, and the original goal of 150 total kits for men, women, and children lovingly assembled by TNCS students seems well within reach with another few days tacked on. The initiative will now run through Friday, February 19th.

With clear instructions provided in English and Spanish, TNCS students and their families got to work.

Here’s how TNCS Parent Council Director Tilly Gurman describes her experience with her two children:

[My son] and I watched the video with the legos to talk about poverty in the United States. Then, I worked with [him] to help calculate how many of each item we would need, before we went to the store. I then took [my son] with me to the store, and he helped me count the number of the items we needed. I picked a store where I could get all the items I needed in one place, in order to save time. The next day, [my son], [my daughter] and I worked together to create the bags. We made it a fun activity for everyone.

Other TNCS moms also got impressively strategic with their approaches. Haleigh Forbes plans to donate 54 kits in the coming days. How did she manage to assemble a full third of TNCS’s overall goal?

We went out and bought the stuff for 10 kits at the Dollar Store, and I thought why not crowd sourse this! It was just such an easy and inexpensive way to help someone meet their basic needs. So we raised $430 from posting it on Instagram, and I bought all the items and packaged them all up.

I’ve also encouraged everyone to make 3 and always have them in your car so you can give them out while driving.

Ms. Forbes suggestion of having three in the car to distribute while driving is a great one and is what many TNCS classrooms encouraged families to do last year. This allows students to see first hand the difference their efforts can make in someone’s day.

(Note the socks, which are one of the most needed and least frequently donated items for individuals experiencing homelessness.)

At the inception of the TNCS Hygiene Kit Drive, 150 kits was acknowledged as quite an ambitious goal. With the way the TNCS community has joined forces since then, that goal is on track to be surpassed by dozens, translating to helping that many more individuals maintain some dignity in the face of extreme hardship. What a testament to and an embodiment of the values we share 💚💛🤍.

Editor’s Note: Ultimately, 173 Hygiene Kits were delivered to Beans and Bread on Monday, March 1st.


Although February is a big month for showing that you care—in fact, on the heels of Valentine’s Day comes Random Acts of Kindness Day on Monday, February 17th—it’s not the only time this year that the TNCS community has come together to show love to those who need food or clothing or even just a pick-me-up. Throughout the year, families and students have showered teachers with tokens of appreciation, and food and clothing drives got the most donations ever this year.

“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

Chinese Proverb

Jalynn Harris Writes a New Chapter for TNCS 5th- through 8th-Graders!

At The New Century School, farewells usually also mean hellos! That’s why, when former TNCS middle school homeroom teacher Daphnée Hope went on maternity leave unexpectedly early, Jalynn Harris was ready to step in. “Ms. Lynn” as she prefers to be called, began acclimating to TNCS in October, learning the ropes alongside Mrs. Hope to ensure a smooth transition for students. But, as you’ll see, her joining the TNCS community seems almost destined.

Prologue

Before becoming the 6th- through 8th-grade homeroom teacher and English Language Arts (ELA) and Global Studies teacher for the 5th through 8th grades, this west Baltimore native was immersing herself in her craft—writing. She studied Linguistics as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After her years as a Tar Heel, though, she felt called back home and pursued a Master’s of Fine Art at the University of Baltimore in poetry and book design. “I really learned a lot and enjoyed my studies,” she said. She also began teaching Writing Composition to undergraduates during her time at UB and graduated in the spring of this year. “I’m finally out of school,” she joked.

But she never really left the classroom. Earlier this fall, she taught a book-making class for the Baltimore Youth Film Arts Program, an affiliate program of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. They wrote, took photos, and designed their own books. “It’s a really great program that starts at age 16 through high school,” explained Ms. Lynn. “I encourage kids to enroll. They even give you a stipend for your work.”

The Story Begins

And now here she is! She says that she saw the listing on Indeed for a daily substitute, and something clicked:

I was thinking I felt ready to teach but hadn’t been applying for teaching positions yet. When I saw that listing, I knew it was time to do what I knew I wanted to do. Prior, I was feeling kind of shy about it, and then, of course the pandemic made me question whether this was the right time. But I really knew I want to be in the classroom. So I applied and spoke with Señora Duncan. When I learned that Mrs. Hope taught ELA and Global Studies, it was like serendipity—my major was Linguistics, and my minor was Geography. I was like, wow, my two favorite subjects—it was obvious alignment!

Although hybrid teaching (simultaneously virtual and in-person) might seem especially daunting to any new teacher, Ms. Lynn has adapted beautifully, probably largely due to her approach that will sound familiar to anyone among the TNCS community. “This is totally new, so I’m making mistakes and learning as I go,” she said. Being willing to try something new and challenging is just the resilience that we need right now, and it’s a great attitude to model for TNCS students. On top of the special demands placed on educators this crazy year, this is also her first experience teaching this age group. Nevertheless, she is particularly well suited for this new role she has adopted:

I’m very passionate about certain aspects of ELA. I’ve had two incredible writing teachers in my life who basically inspired me to write and to teach. The model is one of toughness combined with nurturing. They were always pushing me to pursue my curiosities and my work. That’s the kind of teacher I am—I really am very excited about student work. I encourage them to do their best and find their voice because I really believe writing is so powerful and potentially life-saving. Reading and writing saved my life, and I want kids to be able to engage with that and express themselves. Being able to express yourself is the most important thing. I also really hope to reach students who aren’t super excited about ELA as a subject. I hope to figure out what is interesting and see if I can pull that out.

Ms. Lynn credits Mrs. Hope for setting expectations. ELA requires rigor, but it pays off in so many ways. She describes her students as very independent. “I’m very impressed with how independent they are at such a young age. They are a mix of types of learners, so I’m still learning how to get to everyone, but I’ve encouraged them to explore EdTech tools, little add-ons, to try to engage them differently.”

Although her writing has had to take a bit of a back seat currently as she’s teaching full time, she is still writing. As a creative writer, she writes poetry: “I self-published my thesis, which was my poetry debut,” she said, “and I had a few poems published this year.” Of late, she says her writing has taken more of an editorial, journalistic turn. As these pieces published in BmoreArt show, Ms. Lynn is a fan of the late Lucille Clifton, who lived in Baltimore for many years and was the Poet Laureate of Maryland. In fact, Ms. Lynn says Clifton is her inspiration.

A Writers Workshop is Coming to Lucille Clifton’s Baltimore Home

This update just published earlier this month.

Baltimore Residency Space The Clifton House to Launch February 2021 

And she also recently published a piece in the archival journal Black Archives.

This dovetails nicely with what her students are working on—personal narratives followed by expository writing. For the reading component, the theme this semester is historical nonfiction:

  • A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park: 5th grade
  • Path to the Stars, by Sylvia Acevedo: 6th grade
  • Every Falling Star, by Sungju Lee: 7th grade
  • Night, by Eli Wiesel: 8th grade

In class, they hold literature circles, do peer review workshops on each other’s writing, and enjoy the occasional pep talk from Ms. Lynn about doing their best on quizzes and tests. She has students write about their writing strengths and weaknesses as well as make a plan for improvement. She also meets one-on-one with each student to get to know them better.

“I am very excited to be a part of this community and learn from the students,” said Ms. Lynn. “Teaching has taught me so much, and I’ve learned something from my students every class. I don’t know if they realize how much I’ve learned from them.” Another important thing she wants the TNCS community to know is how much she wants to get to know everyone:

I’m excited to meet everyone’s parents. I’m disappointed that with this coronavirus year there will be some people I won’t ever meet in person or won’t for a long time. I wish I could have more of a relationship with both students and parent, but it’s just not what’s going to happen. I’m very much still open to talk, though! If parents want to reach out and just say hello, I would love that. Parent communication is very important here, so I’ll make sure I keep everyone in the loop and don’t exclude anyone.

Jalynn Harris at the beach in Cape Town earlier this year, a favorite spot of hers. She studied abroad there during her undergraduate friends and made a lot of friends. “I go back almost every year to soak up the sun and chill with my friends,” she said.

Epilogue

“This community is so awesome, I love how small the school is, the greenhouse . . . there are so many aspects of the school that are unique. I felt really invited and welcomed,” said Ms. Lynn.

We are so glad you are here, Ms. Lynn, and are excited to see how you help our children find their voices, as you have so wonderfully found yours!