Last year might have marked The New Century School‘s first-ever Lunar New Year Event, but, not to be outdone, this year’s event on Thursday, February 11th was the first-ever virtual Lunar New Year Event and the first-ever Game Night!
Hosted by TNCS Chinese teachers Wei Li and Pei Ge, the evening was full of fun and games and was exceptionally well intended by students in divisions K–8th-grade as well as their families. Señora Duncan provided opening and closing remarks.
It’s safe to say that no one left disappointed. Whether Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, or Pig, everyone in the audience enjoyed the competition and the chance to experience some Chinese culture.
The night chosen had very special significance as well: Lunar New Year’s Eve is traditionally the night when families gather and dine together. Togetherness was very much a part of this evening, as individual families joined in on the zoom where they merged with the larger TNCS family. We hope Li Laoshi and Ge Laoshi felt the abundant love locally, even if they couldn’t be in China with their immediate families.
The format of the evening was divided into timed sets of trivia, classified by division. The only rules were: 1. Brush up on your Chinese culture knowledge beforehand and 2. Wear red!
Oh, and have two devices handy—one to view the Kahoot screen and another to submit your answers.
Here are some special moments from the lively and very well put-together trivia game. Some answer choices (for students) were even in Chinese, meaning that players had to put their ability to read Chinese to work!
The first-, second-, and third-place winners in each of four groups (K, 1/2, 3–8, parents) will be awarded special prizes in the form of Year of the Ox decorations. The winners from first place to third place in Kindergarten are Nathan, Karim, and Clara, and, in the 1st- and 2nd-grade groups, Ariel, Adam, and Bay. The photos below show the winners from the Parents’ and 3rd- through 8th-grade groups.
After the event, the compliments poured in, congratulating and thanking the TNCS Chinese team for their wonderful efforts at bringing us all together to honor each other and bring good luck to the year ahead. Here is a smattering of the many testimonials:Read more about Year of the Ox (and other members of the Chinese zodiac) here!
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.
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 💚💛🤍.
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.”
At The New Century School, Curriculum Specialist Adriana DuPrau is always looking for ways to effectively engage students in their learning. One long-standing method is the i-Ready platform, which TNCS adopted several years back to help teachers assess the math and reading areas their students might need additional support in, personalize their learning, and monitor their progress throughout the school year. TNCS teachers immediately appreciate the targeted, individualized instruction i-Ready allows.
The early implementation of i-Ready turned out to be rather prescient, when TNCS students found themselves distance learning nearly a year ago now—fortunately, i-Ready was at the ready, and students were able to continue making their math and reading gains without a hitch! For some families, one thing did change, however, and that is the presence of parents working at home alongside their students. Parents, having seen your children working with i-Ready first hand, many of you have questions about the platform, and that’s what this edition of Immersed hopes to address!
Mrs. DuPrau finds that a commonly expressed concern is that, “Parents feel [i-Ready] isn’t placing their child at the correct level and also find it repetitive. We are hoping to help families feel better or to help educate them on the program.”
Here are three important links where you can find a treasure trove of super helpful information:
But we’ll also walk through some of the key points so you have everything in one place.
Perhaps most importantly, you should know that your participation in this process is not only welcome by TNCS teachers and staff, it is also beneficial for your student. According to i-Ready’s website, “Helping families understand i-Ready and encouraging them to talk with their child about strengths or areas for growth support a growth mindset and student success.”
The first item you’ll want to keep handy is the Family Guide. This is available in English and Spanish as well as other languages. Your students already know much of this information, but you never know when you might need to revisit the basics.
You can also view these helpful videos, available in English and Spanish.
Environmental sustainability is a key message at TNCS, and TNCS students in all divisions learn the importance of protecting our natural world as well as regularly engage in various initiatives that actively support it. Being “green” is part of our identity—just look at the school logo! Last school year, then TNCS Parent Council member and now TNCS PC Director Tilly Gurman heard about the school recycling challenge and thought it was ideal for TNCS students to join.
Trex School Recycling Challenge
You can get the scoop on what qualifies as recyclable here (as well as in an explanatory video below) and where to drop off your materials here. We’ll explain more about the need-to-know info of the school challenge itself in details outlined throughout this post, and you can get just about everything you need to know in this handy presentation from the TNCS Parent Council Special Events Committee.
But first let’s explore that “extra pinch of fun”!
What Was That About a Competition?
And now on to the really good stuff! In our case, the competition is two tiered: TNCS is up against other mid-Atlantic schools (with comparable student body sizes), and we are also doing an intraschool competition—classroom à classroom!
This year, the Special Events committee of the TNCS Parent Council is running a Name the Blue Crabs Challenge! In a “crab shell,” here’s how it goes:
“You’ve seen the crabs in action. What would you name them? Share your ideas [in Google Classroom]! The class with the highest total of recycling in December gets to name the crabs and keep them in their classroom for the month of January!”
Friday, January 8th, is the last day to log your weights and and drop off your Trex Recycling items at the various sites for for the naming contest. (Note, that the overall challenge runs through April 15th.)
To keep TNCS students invested in the process, videos of the crab duo’s journey to TNCS were posted in Google Classroom.
As if all this isn’t great enough, for the Mid-Atlantic contest, we could win special prizes from Trex such as our very own park bench made from Trex recyclables! Due to TNCS’s small size and mixed-age classrooms, we are able to compete as an Elementary contender in the 0 to 350 student body category and will face off against other MD schools as well as schools in Washington, DC; Delaware; Kentucky; Ohio; Virginia; and West Virginia. Every school that participates gets an award.
So What Is the Challenge?
TNCS will compete in the Trex Recycling Challenge through April 15th. The challenge is simple: Gather plastic grocery bags, bread bags, ziplocs, bubble wraps, case overwraps, dry cleaning bags, and newspaper sleeves and take them to specific drop-off locations to be recycled. Wait—those items aren’t recyclable, you’re thinking? Normally, no, but this program takes many such plastics that most recycling programs (including ours in Baltimore) do not take. Trex, on the other hand, turns them into decking material and outdoor furniture (more on that below).
💚♻️ Trex Recycling Challenge How-To Guide
Collect your plastics (bread/newspapers wrappers, bubble wrap, etc.); see below.
Note: Even after Earth Day and the Trex School Recycling Challenge has come and gone, the giving back doesn’t have to stop! We can continue to collect plastic film and bring it to our partner locations.
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.
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.
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.
“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!