Mr. Warren Goes to Washington!

And just like the 1939 film, this story is worthy of Hollywood!

You all know Martellies Warren as the beloved long-time educator at and Music Director of The New Century School. Many of you even know of his second career as a member of the three-time Grammy nominated Anthony Brown and Group TherAPy. But did you know that Mr. Warren just sang in person for President Biden and Vice President Harris?

In honor of Black History Month (and what a way to close it out!), Anthony Brown and Group TherAPy were rather suddenly invited to The White House to perform on Monday, February 27th, but they really don’t know fully how or why except that it probably had something to do with their single titled “Call to Action,” a powerful song inspired by the George Floyd tragedy but that exemplifies what Black History Month is all about: righting social injustice and advocating for equity.

Someone in Washington contacted the group’s management, a performance for around 200 to 300 guests was arranged, and the rest, well . . .  we’ll let Mr. Warren take it from here!

What had been proposed as a 45-minute set got whittled down to one song, but they said that’s pretty normal and they have to be flexible given that it’s The White House. So, we sang, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The experience was amazing. Although it was not my first time being at the White House, this was the real deal. I literally stood on the South lawn, and we were escorted around like famous people. Then we were brought into this room, and there they were—President Biden and Vice President Harris! They shook our hands and asked us where we’re from and what we do. Of course, I had to tell them I’m from Montgomery AL, the birthplace of the civil rights movement, and President Biden was like, wow! I also told him that I’m an educator a The New Century School, and he was really intrigued that I teach and have a musical career.

Then, Vice President Harris gave me the warmest hug, and I was able to tell her that before she passed, my mom got to see her become the first African American Vice President and the first woman Vice President. She then wanted me to tell her about my mom, so I shared how she was my cheerleader, and now it’s a little different because I don’t have her here. But Vice President Harris said, “she’s always with you; don’t ever forget.” It was a really heartfelt moment with her. I know my mom would be smiling.

As Mr. Warren recounted this amazing experience to his family, his brother reminded him that as a child, he always claimed that he’d meet the president one day. And here we are. He didn’t just meet the president, though—he conversed with and sang to the president and the vice president!

What an honor indeed, and thank you for name-dropping TNCS, Mr. Warren! You’re never far from our thoughts, either!

For the full event, watch this video. Mr. Warren appears at 1:06.

TNCS Celebrates Black History Month 2023 with African Dance!

In keeping with its emphasis on celebrating culture and diversity, The New Century School observes Black History Month annually by inviting special guests to showcase art, perform music, and present special topics.

This year, on February 22nd, TNCS welcomed the Keur Khaleyi African Dance Company for a special presentation for our students and staff. “Keur Khaleyi is a multigenerational, tradition-driven African dance company,” said TNCS Director of Student Support Alexis Boyd. “Their mission is to promote, provide, and produce African culture to the community at large and share the riches of the African Diaspora.”

By all accounts, the performance was absolutely inspiring, as these photos show. The opportunities for audience participation made it even sweeter!

Fortunately, TNCS Head of School Erika Johnson captured some video, so we can also hear all the fun!

Earlier in the month, members of the dance company visited TNCS preschool classrooms to do story time and introduce the drum and the other instruments to TNCS preschool students. “That was amazing,” said Ms. Boyd, “and I got a lot of good feedback from the families about it.” Kids came home eager to practice the new words they learned in Swahili!

For past Black History Month celebrations, see these posts from February 2020, February 2021, and February 2022.

TNCS’s First-Ever Middle School Valentine’s Day Social!

[The New Century school students] have been doing a really good job of advocating for the type of special events they want to do. They have to be partly accountable for their experience here. I tell them ‘I’ll do my part of executing if you do your part and bring me ideas of what you want to do.’ I’m a firm believer in planning things with students as opposed to for them. If I already have their buy-in from the jump, it makes the process so much easier.

–Alexis Boyd, TNCS Director of Student Support

This quote exemplifies a few things about The New Century School. To name just a few: education is inquiry-driven, so it follows that TNCS students would have a voice in their extraclassroom activities; TNCS nurtures the whole child, so cultural and social events are just as important as academics; and education is a partnership, with student advocacy helping drive learning. And that’s how TNCS’s first-ever Middle School Social evolved!

In talks with students, Alexis Boyd heard loud and clear that socializing with students from other schools is important to them as well as participating in events that give them the chance to lean into their seniority at the school and their budding maturity. The Middle School Social was Mrs. Boyd’s answer.

Held on Valentine’s Day, the social was, by all accounts, a runaway hit. With 100% attendance (with the exception of one illness), TNCS 6th- through 8th-graders embraced it wholeheartedly. Although students from another school were supposed to join, plans fell through at the last minute. Mrs. Boyd says they quickly pivoted, and the event morphed away from a dance and more into a chance to hang out, dance, listen to music, play games, and get to interact in a new way—just have that special time together, as Mrs. Boyd put it, and have it be just for them.

They were so excited, that some students bought special outfits, or had their hair and/or nails done. Even the gents got into the dressing up aspect and wore suits and special jewelry. Mrs. Boyd did not impose a dress code, however. She told them to channel the Met Gala, which is more about creative self-expression through formal dress than adhering to prescribed norms. “I want people to feel comfortable, and I think this is a good opportunity for them to present themselves to everyone the way that they want to,” she said. Mrs. Boyd herself wore a gown to honor the occasion (with sneakers to honor her feet!).

To start off the event, they went out to dinner at nearby Chilango’s restaurant. Mrs. Boyd says, “It’s important that all students have that social component on how to represent themselves and the school in public. They got to use their Spanish language to order, so also using the tools they are learning in the real world.”

Back at the ranch, parents pitched in to help Mrs. Boyd arrange food, games, and decorations for the main event. Even before they arrived, it was clear that TNCS students were going to have a wonderful time!

On returning and getting the social into full swing, TNCS students upped the merriment factor exponentially.

After it was all said and done, Mrs. Boyd says she got nothing but positive feedback from students and parents alike. “One of the students let me know that they felt proud to be ‘giving high school vibes by being out to eat and dressy,’ and I was like, mission accomplished! You are getting ready for high school, and I want you to make sure that you have those functional elements intact.”

We ❤️ these awesome, talented, funny, vibrant kids! Watch out world!

TNCS Celebrates Lunar New Year and the Lantern Festival!

One of the most anticipated annual events at The New Century School is celebrating the Lunar New Year. This year rang in Year of the Rabbit, TNCS’s second rabbit year, with the last happening in 2011, when TNCS was very much still in its infancy.

For the second year running, TNCS held a Chinese bazaar to honor the occasion. (See Li Laoshi’s Chinese Night Market from last year here.) So, on January 24th and 25th, the auditorium in building north was transformed into an indoor market of craft and clothing stalls, food vendors, and performances. This, says Yujie Peng (“Peng Laoshi”), allows students to collaborate with their peers and to communicate about real-life subjects in Mandarin Chinese.

The bazaar, she explained, presents an opportunity to explore different Chinese cultures. Students were so excited leading up to the event, she said, and it turned out even better than she had hoped. So much better, in fact, that she thinks she will need to double the goods offered next year (Year of the Dragon)! The bazaar was not only a sell-out, but it also came close to tripling the funds raised last year, with more proceeds still to come. Parents, said Peng Laoshi, had lots of positive feedback to share. Not surprising, as you’ll see!

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As the photos (courtesy of Peng Laoshi) show, 4th- through 8th-grade students set up stations focusing on a topic that  interested them, such as Kung Fu, Chinese food, pandas, traditional traditional crafts, and traditional clothing. Qipao, for example, is the traditional Chinese dress and is commonly worn to celebrate the New Year. Students created trifold poster presentations and presented their topics in a mix of English (so attending parents could understand) and Mandarin Chinese, as part of the lesson in learning new vocabulary related to culture. New this year, Peng Laoshi asked her students to use the three parts of their posterboards trilingually, each in a different color to represent the three languages TNCS students learn: Chinese characters and pinyin in green, English in blue, and Spanish in orange. Younger students (K through 3rd-grade) made posters to decorate the walls of the auditorium.
Another special bonus is that each class did a classroom presentation in Mandarin that was recorded and shown on a loop during that class’s time at the bazaar. Courtesy of TNCS’s Mandarin Chinese teachers, these are sprinkled throughout the remainder of the post.

At the bazaar, students needed to demonstrate their proficiency in buying and selling in Mandarin as well as advertising their stations. Goods were bought and sold with tickets that attendees could buy prior to entering. “This not only allowed them to practice their language skills, but also practice life-ready skills,” said Peng Laoshi. “They need to know how to cooperate with their peers, because each station had two, three, or four students. They also need to know how to organize their station with the different items.” Prior to the event, more learning took place as students developed online research skills and then how to coherently present their research on Chinese culture according to parameters set by Peng Laoshi.

But it wasn’t all work for these industrious bazaar managers! Each student got a package that included a red Year of the Rabbit tee-shirt in one of two styles depending on division to wear on bazaar days. At the bazaar, they each got a red cup containing two dumplings and a spring roll—they could buy more if still hungry! (This proved to be very much the case, and next year Peng Laoshi plans to have extra air fryers on hand!)

The tee-shirts were a runaway hit and have made several subsequent appearances at school, including during this past spirit week’s Twin Day.

Peng Laoshi said she didn’t have a favorite presentation—they were all great—but she did express how impressed she was with some of the beginners, who learned very quickly and brought their A game to the bazaar. “Overall,” she said, “I see that students can really learn a lot from this kind of activity.”

And now, we look forward to the Lantern (Shangyuan) Festival, which happens on the 15th day of the lunar calendar and coincides with the full moon. That is Sunday, February 5th this year. Peng Laoshi says, “I hope more people around the world can know about the Lunar New Year and the Lantern Festival. It’s like a new beginning—everything’s new, and we have new hope and a whole new start.”

When asked what the celebration means to her personally, Peng Lasohi said:

The Chinese new year is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture. It means reunion of family and celebration of the beginning of a new year. I am so happy to celebrate it with TNCS families, which is like a big family reunion and celebration. The rabbit symbolizes peace, longevity, and prosperity in Chinese culture. The year of the rabbit is predicted to be a year of hope. May the year of the rabbit bring every TNCS family good health, happiness, and abundance.

Wishing you lots of luck this rabbit year! Tù nián dà jí! 兔年大吉

Guest Blog: ChatGBT on How Artificial Intelligence Can Affect Education!

I know, so meta, right? A blog about artificial intelligence (AI) is written by a chatbot! Welcome to 2023.

But at The New Century School, education is all about embracing possibility and exploration. So, let’s see what ChatGPT has to say . . . about itself.

This image was also created by an AI bot!

TNCS Blogger: Explain how AI can help elementary and middle school students.

ChatGBT: AI can help elementary and middle school students in a variety of ways. One way is through personalized learning, where AI algorithms can analyze a student’s performance and adapt the curriculum to their individual needs. This can help students learn at their own pace and improve their understanding of the material. Another way is through educational games and interactive simulations, which can make learning more engaging and fun for students. Additionally, AI can assist teachers with tasks such as grading assignments, providing feedback, and identifying students who may need extra help. Overall, AI can help students learn more effectively and efficiently, and can also help teachers manage their workload.

TNCS Blogger: How can ChatGBT, specifically, help elementary and middle school students?

ChatGBT: ChatGPT can help elementary and middle school students by providing a natural language interface to various educational resources and tools. For example, students can ask ChatGPT for explanations of concepts they are learning in class, and ChatGPT can provide clear and concise explanations in a way that is easy for students to understand. ChatGPT can also help students with homework and other assignments by answering questions, providing examples, and giving feedback. Additionally, ChatGPT can be used to create interactive educational games and simulations that engage students and make learning more fun. Overall, ChatGPT can serve as a valuable learning tool for students by providing them with instant access to information and guidance in a way that is easy for them to understand and use.

Sidebar: What is ChatGPT? Who is OpenAI? ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence bot that dialogues with users. It comes to us from OpenAI, a research and deployment company, whose  “mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity.”

TNCS Blogger: Can ChatGPT do students’ homework for them?

ChatGBT: While ChatGPT can certainly provide students with answers and explanations to help them with their homework, it should not be used as a tool for completing homework assignments or taking the place of a student’s own learning and understanding. The purpose of homework is to practice and reinforce what was learned in class, to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. If a student uses ChatGPT to simply copy answers or complete their assignments without understanding the material, they will not be able to develop those skills and may have difficulties when they have to apply the knowledge in real-world scenarios or in more complex problems. It is important for students to use ChatGPT as a learning aid and not as a replacement for their own work and understanding of the material.

***Editorial Note: Great response, ChatGPT!

TNCS Blogger: How can instructors differentiate ChatGPT-generated work from a student’s work?

ChatGBT: Instructors can differentiate ChatGPT-generated work from a student’s work in several ways:

  1. Checking for understanding: Instructors can ask follow-up questions or request additional explanations to ensure that the student has a full understanding of the material, rather than just being able to repeat information provided by ChatGPT.
  2. Comparing to previous work: Instructors can compare the student’s work with their previous assignments or quizzes to check for consistency in style, level of understanding, and progress.
  3. Plagiarism detection tools: Instructors can use plagiarism detection tools to check if the work submitted by a student matches any other sources, such as websites, books, or other students’ work.
  4. Assessing critical thinking and problem solving skills: Instructors can design assignments that require students to apply the knowledge they have learned, rather than just repeating facts and figures, this way they can evaluate the student’s understanding and critical thinking skills.
  5. Using multiple assessments: Instead of relying on one type of assessment, instructors can use a variety of assessments such as exams, projects, presentation, and essays, which can provide a more holistic understanding of a student’s understanding of the material.

It’s important to keep in mind that ChatGPT is a powerful tool, but it can’t replace the human touch in assessing students work.

***Editorial Note: Another great response, ChatGPT!

TNCS Blogger: Explain how students can use ChatGPT to enhance their work.

ChatGBT: Students can use ChatGPT to enhance their work in several ways:

  1. Research assistance: ChatGPT can help students find and organize relevant information for their assignments and projects by answering questions, providing sources, and summarizing key points.
  2. Proofreading and editing: ChatGPT can assist students with proofreading and editing their work by identifying grammar and spelling errors, and suggesting improvements to the overall structure and clarity of their writing.
  3. Enhancing vocabulary: ChatGPT can help students expand their vocabulary by providing synonyms and antonyms for words they are using, and helping them find more sophisticated words to use in their writing.
  4. Enhancing critical thinking and problem solving skills: ChatGPT can assist students with solving problems and answering questions by providing explanations and examples that can help them understand the material better and develop their critical thinking skills.
  5. Improving communication skills: ChatGPT can help students improve their communication skills by providing them with an easy-to-use and natural language interface for expressing themselves and communicating their ideas.

It’s important to note that ChatGPT is a tool and it can’t replace the student’s own understanding and creativity. It can be used as a resource for students to enhance their work and improve their knowledge, but it should never be used to replace their own work or creativity.

TNCS Blogger: Are there any disadvantages to using ChatGBT in an educational environment?

ChatGBT: While ChatGPT can be a valuable tool for students and teachers, there are some potential disadvantages to keep in mind:

  1. Reliance on technology: Overreliance on ChatGPT can prevent students from developing their own critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and make them dependent on technology for answers and explanations.
  2. Limited understanding: ChatGPT can provide answers and explanations, but it does not have the ability to understand the context and nuances of a question or problem like a human can, which could lead to incorrect or incomplete answers.
  3. Bias: ChatGPT is trained on a large dataset of text, and it may contain biases that are present in the training data. It’s important to be aware of this and to critically evaluate the information provided by the model.
  4. Privacy concerns: ChatGPT may store and process personal information of students, which could raise privacy concerns. It’s important to ensure that any personal information is handled in compliance with data protection laws and regulations.
  5. Limited to language-based tasks: ChatGPT is designed to understand and respond to natural language, so it’s limited to language-based tasks such as answering questions, summarizing text, or writing. It is not able to perform other types of tasks such as image or voice recognition.

Overall, ChatGPT can be a useful tool for students and teachers, but it’s important to use it in a way that complements and enhances their learning and understanding, rather than replacing it.

For more on how ChatGPT can be a friend to the classroom, see these articles written by humans (or so we think 🤔):