Daphnee Hope: TNCS’s School Counselor Shares Her Philosophy of Positivity!

At The New Century School, the whole child is important, and this is not just lip service. Not just students’ academic selves, but their psychological, social, emotional, and artistic sides are cared for and cultivated. So, although the 2021–2021 school year has been particularly challenging for students who are still coping with the fallout from the pandemic, TNCS students are fortunate to have a very important addition to faculty this year to help: Daphnee Hope, TNCS School Counselor. Mrs. Hope began counseling during the last school year in a limited capacity but has now made it official, and TNCS students are flourishing under her guidance. Together, her and TNCS Dean of Students Adriana DuPrau have joined forces to ensure their health and happiness.

Counseling

Mrs. Hope has been meeting with TNCS students through whole group lessons, targeted small groups, and one-on-one counseling. Counseling has been really fun this year,” said Mrs. Hope. She feels she can really blossom in this role, and with no existing curriculum to draw on, she has been developing her own. This has given her the freedom to move in the directions she feels most necessary and that will yield the most fruit. At the same time, she says, “there’s a big learning curve, and I am still finding my voice as a counselor. There’s a lot of wonderful things, but it’s also challenging, so I’ve been making connections with other school counselors in the area and asking questions about general policy and what resources they use.”

She is on campus Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and sees each classroom (elementary and up) twice a month. Character-building lessons differ and are based on developmental age.

Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade

For this age group, Mrs. Hope does a 45-minute character-building lesson based on the Positive Action curriculum, whose premise is that positive actions make us feel better about ourselves and brighten our lives, which leads to making more positive choices. “It’s all about how positive actions make you feel better as a person. When you feel better, you radiate goodness, and then you’re making other things better—a ripple effect,” she said. She uses puppet animals with the kindergarten students, and a system of adding the names of students spotted making positive actions on a special elephant hanging on the wall for all to see for the second- and third-grade students. She says this is helping all students notice more and more good things happening around them.

“For K through 3, the whole month of November was about communication,” she explained. “We started with nonverbal communication and body language. We practiced how it’s important to look in the eyes of the person you’re talking to, and we also talked about active listening versus passive listening. When somebody asks you something, you don’t immediately change the subject to talk about yourself; you listen and then you make a follow-up comment.”

4th Through 6th Grades

Although Mrs. Hope started this group out with Positive Actions, she found the need to adapt and adjust for this spectrum of ages. So she polled them on what kinds of things they might enjoy exploring. Relationships and other social aspects are historically challenging areas for this age group, so Mrs. Hope has been talking with them about peer influences and otherwise tailoring her monthly themes to what their needs are.

“They need a lot of support with self-control, so I’m trying to work in partnership with the teachers to make plans for individual students,” she said.

7th and 8th Grades

For middle schoolers, Mrs. Hope is using the Habitudes® curriculum that the counselor at Friends School recommended. “It involves lessons centered around the core values of self-discipline, motivation, and responsibility,” she explained, to cultivate leaders and “[equip] them to navigate through life’s challenges and opportunities”. Mrs. Hope says TNCS 7th- and 8th-graders are loving it!

“Habitudes has challenged our middle schoolers to slow down and think about the qualities that make great leaders. Last month we focused on perspective taking,” she said. This month, we are jumping into responding with empathy, both with ourselves and others.”

Advisory has a place here, too.

Small-Group Sessions

In between classroom-session weeks during the first two school quarters, Mrs. Hope also holds small-group sessions during lunch for 4th- through 8th-graders. Students join these groups based on their individual needs, such as managing anxiety, building self-esteem, or managing grief and loss.

Every other week we do a ‘lunch bunch’ depending on their needs, so I surveyed students about what areas they feel they need support in and how they rank their mental health. That’s a big focus right now, just giving them the space to work on their mental health because I think a lot of them are struggling with it. So, for example, in the managing anxiety group, we talk about irrational thoughts and how they snowball. We think our thoughts are reality, but I’m trying to work with them on just because you think something, doesn’t mean that’s what is true.

In quarters three and four, she’ll hold small-group sessions for the younger TNCS students in building north. Their needs are much different, given their developmental stage.

One-on-One Counseling

As her time spent with students is fairly intensive, Mrs. Hope has picked up on some issues. “I have become aware that many of our middle schoolers are struggling with their mental health,” she said. Mental health issues are all-too common in this age group, but the last 2 years have only increased the incidence:

Poor mental health impacts all areas of a child’s life, ranging from academic success to feelings of self-worth to healthy peer interactions. The last two years have been particularly hard on our children as they journey through adolescence. Scary statistics show that between February and March 2021 alone, the number of emergency room visits increased by 50.6% for presumed suicide attempts among youth in comparison to 2019. At the moment, I am working on improving the mental health of our students.

In addition to having one-on-one conversations with students, Mrs. Hope might also make health referrals to outside therapists for those who could benefit.

Social and Emotional Learning

The structure Mrs. Hope has created for reaching all TNCS students in various ways is very well thought out and executed, but how is she putting all of this into practice?

Suffice to say, she has been busy. She created a social-emotional learning (SEL) calendar for every grade level with monthly themed topics, for example. This month, because it’s a short one, we are doing gratitude across the board,” she explained. “It’s going to look different in each classroom. For 7th and 8th grade, it’s looking at the physical, mental, social, and spiritual effects of gratitude on the body (see the slide show they’ve been studying from here). With younger kids, it’s exploring the power of saying, ‘thank you’. Teachers are implementing these conversations in their morning circle time, core classes, hallway transitions, lunch, and so on, all across the board.” Mrs. Hope is trying to make it easy for teachers to implement and reinforce these mini-lessons anywhere. “The message that I’m conveying twice a month has to be reiterated by teachers, who are with their students 85% of the time, or else it’s not going to stick.” Younger students work on things like respecting physical space.

Social Media

In the 7th- and 8th-grade classroom, discussions about social media have been foremost. “As you may know,” wrote Mrs. Hope in an email to parents, “there is a worrying correlation between screen time and depressive symptoms, particularly amongst teens. Ms. Sussman and I are spending the month of November discussing all things social media with your children—the pros, the cons, and the in betweens. We would love your partnership in this conversation and in your attention to your child’s weekly screen time.”

After watching a TEDx talk by a social media expert, Bailey Parnell, students shared that they appreciated how honest and realistic she was, particularly about how important social media is many peoples’ lives and how it all comes down to how it’s used. “Learning about and talking about these topics allows us to make informed and intentional decisions. Parnell called this, ‘practicing safe social,’ which, yes, a few students chuckled at,” said Mrs. Hope.

After they took the ISEE exam in mid November, middle schoolers watched The Social Dilemma, a “documentary that explores the relationship between technology and human behavior and will prompt more discussion and reflection about student usage,” said Mrs. Hope. (You can read more here about the film.)

So, they have been talking about the effects of addictive behaviors and how unplugging from time to time is so important. Homeroom teacher Gab Sussman has been all for it, saying, “Mrs. Hope has assigned our class to learn more about and discuss the roles of social media in our lives. This week, we watched some videos that touched upon a few important topics, such as how social media affects our friendships, both positively and negatively, and how social media can portray and influence falsehoods about our lives. I appreciate the opportunity to be having these important conversations within our Homeroom!”

To demonstrate the rewards of de-screening, Mrs. Hope came up with the idea of monthly nature days; read about the very first below.

Gender Inclusivity

As TNCS has aged up and developed a true middle school, the needs of these older students have also grown. Even so, TNCS has always fostered an environment of inclusivity. “TNCS students embrace this inclusivity, especially around the evolving topic of gender identity,” said Head of School Tad Jacks in a letter* to parents.

In a separate email to parents, Mrs. Hope wrote:

In my role as the school counselor, I will be delivering developmentally appropriate health lessons that are inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Research notes that there is a direct correlation between a student’s sense of belonging and their academic achievement. In fact, ‘many students may be more likely to prosper academically in settings with more collaborative modes of learning that acknowledge students’ personal experiences’ (Kaplan and Miller 2007). As a result, it is vital for educators to carve out spaces where students feel seen and supported as their most authentic selves.

So, when she’s not with students, she has been working on writing TNCS’s gender-inclusive policies for the last 3 months. “We’ve been talking to other schools and looking at research and trying to develop policies that are very supportive of all of our students and also respecting their privacy. The 7th and 8th grade are definitely keeping me on my toes!”

The first gender-identity lesson for middle schoolers took place in November. “We explored how gender exists on a spectrum, clarified terms such as ‘gender expression’ and ‘gender identity’ and unpacked how to support each other by using correct pronouns. Many students were already educated and comfortable with this topic,” she said. Students were very engaged, respectful and asked supportive questions. I am very proud of the dialogue that emerged from this discussion.”

At the end of the lesson, they could complete a form for their teachers that shared more about their gender identity and pronouns if they chose.

The resources they used to launch their gender identity and gender inclusive discussions were amaze.org, GLSEN, and the Genderbread Person v4.0, “a teaching tool for breaking the big concept of gender down into bite-sized, digestible pieces.”

*Read Mr. Jack’s full letter here.

Pen Pals

The 3rd- through 5th-grade groups are partnering with the United states Postal Service to do a pen pal project. “They place you with classrooms in different regions of America, and you get a pen pal for the rest of the year. Then they actually coordinate a zoom visit with the homeroom classes so everyone can see what their pen pals look like,” said Mrs. Hope.

Students will write four total letters beginning in January. The idea is to learn about a child who has grown up in a different area of the country and build rapport, which is why it falls under SEL, but this neat project also weaves in academics by honing letter-writing skills and how to have a conversation and ask interesting questions.

Schoolwide SEL Initiatives

As mentioned in the introduction, Mrs. Hope and Mrs. DuPrau have partnered on several initiatives to increase students’ day-to-day happiness. They held the Blue Out anti-bullying awareness day, for example, for which the entire school dressed head to toe in blue. A spirit award was handed out to the “bluest” class, which was Ms. Weiskopf’s 2nd- and 3rd-graders, and they were treated to ice cream. A subsequent spirit week took place during American Education Week during which classes again competed for who could show the most school spirit.

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The dynamic duo will also be working with the TNCS Parent Council on recognizing our teachers and all-around making it fun to be at school.

Cuddles and Crafts

And now, you get a sneak peek into an upcoming SEL initiative that TNCS students will be absolutely bananas over. Mrs. Hope found Pets on Wheels, a nonprofit that brings therapy dogs to folks in need of a little cuddle, and came up with the idea of Cuddles and Crafts for TNCS students. “We’ll do a mindfulness craft for 45 minutes or so and then we’ll have the dogs come through the classrooms for a little bit of self-care, mental health positivity . . . just taking a breather and having some fun,” she said.

TNCS students always beg for projects that involve animals, so this should be quite the hit. Pictures to come!

Unplugging and Getting Out and About

You might be noticing the emphasis on fun, and there’s good reason for that. As Mrs. Hope puts it, “This is our first smooth full year back, and I’m seeing a lot of SEL issues popping up like at recess—simple communication and relationship issues. So to wind out quarter 2, she is developing ways “to focus on reconnecting with ourselves.” This means getting off campus and getting off screens!

Reflection Day

As a way of reconnecting with themselves and improving their mental health, middle schoolers participated in the first-ever Reflection Day as a homeroom. This involved spending the day on a local hiking trail, relaxing in nature, and carving out time for self care.

Mrs. Hope had been talking to students about putting phones away and the healing power of nature—how good it is for our bodies and our minds. She hopes for this to be a quarterly event, and the first one was a huge hit. Students throughly enjoyed their hike to Annapolis Rock. “It was a bit chilly,” said Mrs. Hope, “but students said multiple times how nice it was to unplug and talk to each other. They appreciated having the face masks off, too. It’s so nice to see someone’s whole face and expression.”

They hiked 5.87 miles, and students were utterly in awe of the views. “We got to make some wonderful memories together as a class,” said Mrs. Hope. “They are already keeping me on my toes and asking what hike we are doing next!”

What was Ms. Sussman’s take? “Our unplugged hike along the Appalachian Trail on Monday was absolutely amazing! A major shoutout to Mrs. Hope for dreaming up and organizing this trip for us. It felt so special to be out in nature for the day together as a homeroom. We certainly missed the students who couldn’t make it, and look forward to future opportunities to spend quality time outside of the classroom with each other.”

She plans a smaller hike in Patapsco State Park with the 4th- through 6th-graders and is hoping to partner with Living Classrooms to implement an off-campus day for the K through 3rd-graders.

Mini Trips off Campus

To keep spirits up, Mrs. Hope and TNCS teachers are finding all kinds of ways to insert rewarding mini excursions throughout the school day. As a reward for taking the grueling ISEE exam, for example, middle schoolers walked to BOP Pizza for a class field trip and some lunch. Mrs, Hope said they displayed hard work and determination throughout this tough test.

Mrs. Hope’s advisory group asked about grabbing a bagel and cup of cocoa for breakfast. They decided to make it a regular thing and will visit a neighboring shop like Pitango or the Daily Grind each first Thursday of the month.

The K through 3rd group will take a walking trip to Kilwins for a treat next week. “We’re working really closely to create opportunities for the kids to just get out of classroom and build community,” said Mrs. Hope.

Edit 12/7/21: Photos from the Kilwins trip!

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And the older kids!

 

Girls on the Run

From the beginning of the school year, female TNCS students had the option of participating in Girls on the Run (3rd through 5th grades) or Hearts and Soles (6th through 8th grades), a twice weekly running program that culminated on Sunday, December 5th with a 5K race. According to their website, GOTR’s mission is “to inspire all girls to build confidence and make intentional decisions, while fostering care and compassion for self and others. Trained coaches use physical activity and dynamic discussions to build social, emotional and physical skills in every girl while encouraging healthy habits for life.”

TNCS students fell in love with the program, which Mrs. Hope credits their amazing coaches for—huge thanks to TNCS mom Debbie Casanova for coaching the younger girls and Gab Sussman and Nameeta Sharma for coaching the older ones! Although it’s sad to see the end of this truly inspirational program, you can bet it’ll be back next year!

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It’s clear that Mrs. Hope is energized and committed to optimizing the mental health of TNCS students. “My philosophy with our counseling program is to focus on the mental health of our children and to put a big emphasis on positivity and gratitude and things that lift them up, because there’s so much that’s happening right now in the world,” she said.

Adriana DuPrau: TNCS’s Dean of Students on Service-Learning, Fundraising, Community-Building, and the All-New Advisory Board!

Adriana DuPrau has been an integral member of The New Century School since its inception. She was one of the original teachers, a role she held for several years, then became the Curriculum Director for a few years, and is now embracing her brand-new position as Dean of Students. When we say “embracing,” we really mean it. Mrs. DuPrau is shaking up the 2021–2022 school year in ways never before seen at TNCS!

In just the first couple of months of school, Mrs. DuPrau has initiated several service-learning, fundraising, and community-building projects, and she has also been an important member of the all-new Advisory Board (along with TNCS Head of School Tad Jacks, Student Counselor Daphnee Hope, and other faculty members). Here is an overview of what’s been happening!

Service-Learning Projects

Service-learning is annually a big deal at TNCS, but Mrs. DuPrau approached it a bit differently this time around. “I met with all the K–8 classes and found out what their interested in,” she explained. “Animals are definitely at the top of the list!

BARCS

I wanted to do something related to what their wishes are because I feel like when they get to make the choices, they are that much more involved.” They decided to go with BARCS (The Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter), who compiled a wishlist of items so that our TNCS community can help support these wonderful animals in need.

This service-learning initiative will continue for the entire month of November, and items can be dropped off directly at TNCS. “We thought abut donating through Amazon, but then I thought, there’s something really special about like holding on to the item that you’re going to donate and walking into the school and putting it in a bin versus just ordering something and never really getting the actual item,” said Mrs. DuPrau. Students can drop off their items in bins placed by the front desk. The TNCS Student Council will help handle all the items, which will be delivered to BARCS on Tuesday, November 30th. (Wait, what TNCS Student Council? Keep reading!)

Puerto Rico

Although details are still being hashed out, the annual middle school capstone service-learning trip will be to Puerto Rico this February. COVID-19 continues to complicate and sometimes thwart big plans, but TNCS family the Waylands were instrumental in making this happen. Mrs. DuPrau and Mrs. Hope will chaperone, and everyone is excited about undertaking a service project in a tropical locale where they can also practice their Spanish-speaking skills and foster independence!

Other Service-Learning Projects

Smaller but no less important initiatives are happening all over TNCS. The Kindergarteners and 1st-graders are writing letters to veterans and walking them to the post office to mail them, which includes all kinds of incidental opportunities for learning, and Mrs. DuPrau also hopes to find a way to have TNCS students donate leftover Halloween candy to send to troops overseas. This aligns well with TNCS’s sugar-free mandate, and parents will appreciate the chance to get rid of some of it!

The TNCS Parent Council is also in the planning stages of some initiatives like the annual Adopt-A-Family for the holidays, the Coat and Warm Clothing Drive for Wolfe St. Academy that has taken place over the last few years, and hygiene boxes around MLK Day. We’ll dig deeper into all things Parent Council–related in a separate post.

Fundraising Initiatives

Related to at least one service-learning project—Puerto Rico—the TNCS student body needs to raise some funds!

TNCS School Store!

For the first time ever, TNCS students opened a pop-up school store happening on Fridays (weather permitting). See our Facebook event for more!

The grand opening last month was a huge success,
and you’ve got plenty more chances to shop ’til you drop on successive Fridays throughout the fall and winter.

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Breakfast with Blacksauce Kitchen!

TNCS dad and restauranteur Damian Mosely once again donated his valuable time and his delicious homemade Blacksauce Kitchen biscuits to help raise funds for the big trip. Mrs. DuPrau says this will really help bring down the cost of flying to Puerto Rico, and she also locked in a great group rate. So thank you, Blacksauce, and thank you Southwest!

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Community-Building Initiatives

The internal community building Mrs. DuPrau has engendered so far this year is off the charts.

Student Council

in yet another first at TNCS, this year saw the creation of an official Student Council. Students voted today for President and Vice President, after candidates built their campaigns throughout the month of October, culminating with presenting their speeches on Monday, November 1st and debating their opponents on Wednesday the 3rd. We are pleased to salute Indigo Mosely as President and Schonbeck Glazer as her trusty VP.

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Spirit Days

Mrs. DuPrau has held several Spirit Days this year, with good reason. She has sensed some lingering social and emotional issues from the recent pandemic and felt that injecting some extra fun into the school day would lift everyone’s “spirits”! “After our COVID year last year of hybrid learning, it seems like some students are still struggling with their social connections.” she said

Good Neighbor Day was the first Spirit Day of the school year. “It was so much fun to see everybody in their TNCS shirts outside smiling and laughing and taking pictures together,” said Mrs. DuPrau. The race was on to see who demonstrated the most school spirit both on campus and as a good neighbor!

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“I worked with all the homeroom teachers to get kids out of the classroom and off of campus with mini field trips, such as to go get a pretzel and lemonade for Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Longchamps birthday or buying plants at Fell’s Point Cultivated Creations for lessons in genetics for science class. I want students to get time together outside of the class so they can work on their relationships by doing fun things,” she said.

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TNCS students are also going to ethnic restaurants and ordering food in the language spoken there. They went to an El Salvadoran restaurant during Hispanic Heritage Month, and on Thursday, November 4th, TNCS middle school students went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered their lunch in Chinese. “The Chinese owner of the restaurant was so impressed by our students’ good manners and amazing Chinese,” said Li Laoshi. “Also, our students really enjoyed their yummy Chinese lunch and learned a lot from this field trip. You should feel so proud of your child!”

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Anti-Bullying Campaign

Hand in hand with building community, Mrs. DuPrau and Mrs. Hope held a Blue Out day to address bullying. Everyone, and we mean everyone, wore blue to school that day in solidarity. “I got a chance to kind of get into each class and do a fun restorative circle as well as a follow-up activity. Each student created a puzzle piece, which were then hung up in their classrooms to show that they are all part of the puzzle. We all fit,” explained Mrs. DuPrau.

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The class with the most blue—Ms. Weiskopf’s 2nd- and 3rd-graders—won bragging rights!

American Education Week

Finally, American Education Week happens the week of November 15th through 18th, and Mrs. DuPrau is working hard to get everyone excited about that. “We’re going to hold an assembly that gets us all together. I want the assembly to be super fun, and I want to jump into our core values, but I mainly want us to also work on building our school spirit—singing songs and fun things like that,” she said.

Creating a TNCS cookbook is planned for this week also. The cookbook will be full of international recipes to celebrate all of our diverse cultures and backgrounds and available for purchase online.

Let’s make school fun. We want to make school a place that children want to come to, that makes them feel special. Of course academics are important, but it’s also important that we feel like we’re a family, that we feel comfortable and not overly stressed, and we can let our hair down a little bit. So I’m hoping that spirit days and assemblies and off-campus field trips are helping build that community feel.

Advisory Program

And, finally, the new Advisory Program has been doing wonders for TNCS students. Mr. Jacks and Mrs. Hope work mostly with the 8th-graders, Lori Gorbey works with mostly 7th-graders, Ms. Sussman works with a group of 6th- and 7th-graders, Mrs. DuPrau works with a group of 5th- and 6th-grades, and Mrs. Sharma and Mr. Brosius work grades 4 and 5.

In an email, Mrs. Hope described what this program is all about. Advisory is a program in which students meet regularly with a caring faculty member during a scheduled period in the school day. The underlying goal of advisory programs is to provide each student with consistent support and guidance from a member of the school staff. This adult, called the advisor, advocates for their group of students and runs the day-to-day activities of the advisory program. These activities range from the implementation of a curriculum to facilitation of a discussion to the distribution of important school information.

Perhaps the most talked-about benefits of an advisory program are the positive relationships that are created. Advisories help to build a sense of community in schools, which is important for preventing alienation. Furthermore, studies have shown that students’ educational success is based on academic as well as social support.

“We all do different things with our groups since our groups are all so different,” explained Mrs. DuPrau. Mrs. Sharma’s advisory meeting, for example, focuses on wellness and social relationships through dialogue and game-playing.

Mr. Brosius’s meeting encourages role-playing to think more critically about character traits. They built an imaginary village where each student adopted a different role. They discuss why they chose the roles while trying to relate this to goals in their own lives. When things get a little too rambunctious, he leads the group in light yoga to re-center them.

Mrs. DuPrau has an all-female advisory group. She introduced journaling as a way for her students to understand their emotions and how to gain control of them.  They do restorative circles to get to know each another on a deeper level. They also decorated their lockers with inspirational pictures and quotes. They also spend time in the all-new Harmony Room in Building North to relieve stress.

Ms. Sussman’s group is building trust through conversation and art. They use a deck of affirmation cards throughout the week to share their more reflective sides. They will also work on creative activities that will allow them to better appreciate each other’s uniqueness.

Ms. Gorbey’s group spent the first couple of weeks of school participating in open-ended circle time and playing games like Uno or Get-To-Know-You Bingo. During “Mindful Mondays,” students discuss their goals for the week. On “Words of Affirmation Wednesday,” students learn to confront their weaknesses and share how they can turn them into strengths.

Mr. Jacks and Mrs. Hope guide the 8th-graders through their final year at TNCS and get them ready for the transition to high school. These students have attended school with each other for several years and, as a result, have created warm and trusting relationships. As teenagers, they often want to talk about their feelings regarding ongoing issues in the world.

Stay tuned for further updates on this truly wonderful and important program.


After an undeniably tumultuous period for the world, Mrs. DuPrau and everyone at TNCS are making sure TNCS students continue to thrive in all ways, including academically, socially, and emotionally. The TNCS community is beyond grateful for this very special care.

Your Parent Guide to i-Ready, TNCS’s Math and Reading Platform!

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.”

i-Ready Resources

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.

View Resource

View Resource

Next, download these “Fridge Tips” to make sure you are supporting your student in ways that will serve them best in their distance learning endeavors and ensure their digital readiness.

Finally, a host of technical support as well as resources for how you can track your child’s progress at home and how your child’s placement is determined are available at these links:


See? With just a few clicks, you are ready for i-Ready!

Check-In with TNCS Curriculum Coordinator Adriana DuPrau: The 2020 Edition!

Through all of the pandemic-associated upheaval we’ve seen in 2020, The New Century School has stayed true to its mission to challenge students to realize their richest individual potential through progressive, multilingual education and meaningful participation in the world community.

That has been no small feat. TNCS administration, staff, and faculty rallied together and found innovative ways to keep TNCS open and its students flourishing. Many of those ways happen behind the scenes but are no less vital to TNCS’s success. One of these behind-the-scenes heroes is TNCS Curriculum Coordinator Adriana DuPrau, who has held this position since 2017. Although a lot has changed since then and also since we last checked in with her in early 2019, Mrs. DuPrau still describes her primary role as two-fold: teacher-facing and student-facing. However, this year she has also taken on a bit more of a parent-facing role as well.

Curriculum Coordinating: Teacher-Facing

Mrs. DuPrau acts as a communication liaison between TNCS teachers and Head of School Señora Duncan, filtering teacher requests and untangles snags they might be experiencing to allow them to focus on their day-to-day teaching. “The majority of my time is still working one-on-one with teachers, either coaching them, or figuring how to make their schedules work, or setting up virtual classrooms,” she explained. Speaking of the virtual classrooms, that’s obviously one of the biggest changes this year. “Teachers are working both virtually and in person, which is stressful for them. I can provide an outlet for them to talk it out.” She validates their feelings but also keeps the conversations constructive by steering them toward finding solutions.

She spent the beginning of the year making sure teachers had the curriculum that they need. She researches all of the offerings out there and tries them out to see if a certain program is a good fit. One example is Word Voyage Vocabulary Builder that is designed to help students in Grades 4 and up build and strengthen their vocabulary. Another is Discovery Education, that enhances global studies and science lessons. In past years, watching the webinars and speaking to the company representatives was something of a shared task between Mrs. DuPrau and the teachers, whereas this year, she took on the responsibility of onboarding these new programs to save teachers’ some time. For their part, they were happy to let Mrs. DuPrau make those decisions this year, even though normally their input is such an important part of the process.

Even with all of the advance vetting she does, adopting something new can still be difficult for teachers. “I’m learning that teachers are already so stretched this year that tacking on new information almost seems like dumping. I’m finding that it’s just a different year in general.”

Another new aspect of the curriculum this year is the social justice component, which everyone is excited about. “I’m finding resources to use and organizing them. I’m taking a really fun course to keep my teaching certification up-to-date, where I’m actually able to learn about these new tools and figure out ways to help the teachers without overwhelming them,” said Mrs. DuPrau.

“I also still try to be in the classrooms,” she said. “Not as frequently as I have in the past because I’m trying not to mix in too much with the cohorts, but I’ll jump in on a zoom meeting or be there in the classroom. We have some new teachers, and I want to be present to see in person what’s happening. In this new learning environment, if I want to be able to make suggestions and advocate for teachers, I actually need to see the difficulties, not just hear about them.”

Curriculum Coordinating: Student-Facing

TNCS students, too, are feeling the stress inherent in pandemic-influenced academic life. By and large, though, those resilient youngsters have adapted remarkably well to all of the changes thrown at them. After some initial student hiccups at the beginning of the year, such as with technology, Mrs. DuPrau has lately been able to concentrate on her real passion–working with students who need extra support. “Whether it be giving them more work or figuring out how to help them keep up, I try to help with all dimensions of student life. How can we work with these kids to make sure they are getting what they need?”

One way she has always helped outgoing 8th-graders is by researching schools—going to information nights or signing up for admissions tests—and ensuring that students make all of the associated deadlines. She also spearheaded creating a virtual hangout for them to share their experiences of applying to high school.

As part of what she calls “student life,” the school store is also up and running, and Mrs. DuPrau says she felt that getting more Spirit Days on the calendar would be a boost for students. (TNCS has t-shirts and accessories on sale for our students, teachers, and families at this link!) Such community events are wonderful ways to maintain student engagement, as are the invitations for safe, on-campus activities for virtual learners to optionally participate in and spend some time in person with their cohort.

Another brand-new initiative Mrs. DuPrau just launched is the K–8 Community Classroom, where all sorts of fun things will take place (via the Google Classroom platform), including a Thanksgiving recipe exchange. The recipes shared here may even be compiled in a TNCS cookbook—stay tuned for more updates on that.

The recipe exchange is intended to bring some holiday fun for students to share with their families, but the forum will offer ongoing community-building activities designed to engage all students.

Curriculum Coordinating: Parent-Facing

As mentioned, somewhat of a new role Mrs. DuPrau has adopted this year is acting as a messenger between parents and teachers, sitting in on meetings, for example, and again always trying to be solution based.

“Parents are also feeling stressed and that stress comes in to play in the way they are feeling about how everything’s going,” said Mrs. DuPrau. Normally trivial problems like a technical glitch can bother us to a different degree. “So, in general, I try to keep everybody positive and looking for the good and making sure everyone’s flexible.”

Bringing It Home

With all of the work Mrs. DuPrau does to support TNCS teachers, students, and families, it’s easy to forget that she, too, has a life! This school year has presented challenges for her also. “I think the biggest challenge for me honestly has just been trying to keep everybody’s morale up,” she said. She finds little ways to provide “pick-me-ups” like passing out Halloween candy to teachers (shhhh . . . our little secret) or offering to cover classes. Having been a teacher for many years, she can certainly sympathize with the difficulties they face during this year of hybrid teaching, but she strongly believes that a solution-based attitude is necessary. Again, though, that’s in itself pressure. “My biggest challenge this year has been trying to keep everybody’s spirits up.” Mrs. DuPrau says her husband and dark chocolate provide the pick-me-ups she needs. A “good morning” would also do wonders to start her day off on the right foot!

Mrs. DuPrau sees the education-during-a-pandemic situation from multiple perspectives. She is sympathetic to teachers (some of whom are understandably concerned about returning to school after the Thanksgiving holiday, when students may have traveled or been exposed to more people than usual), as mentioned, but she also thinks TNCS is overall very lucky to be open. Her husband, who is a teacher, would love to be seeing his students in person, but is instead teaching from home and has a 3rd-grader simultaneously learning form home. Here again, she is also extremely sympathetic to overworked parents in similar situations.

“We’re all on the same team,” said Mrs. DuPrau. “We continue to find new ways to celebrate the TNCS community as we look to the future.”

TNCS Admissions 2020: The Name of the Game is Flexibility, Authenticity, and Patience!

The New Century School welcomed Suzannah Hopkins to take over as Admissions Director for the 2019–2020 school year . . .  and then the pandemic hit. Despite having only a few months under her belt as TNCS Admissions Director before schools were ordered to close down, Ms. Hopkins has managed to continue her work from her dining room table—including, believe it or not, introducing TNCS to new prospective families!

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But it’s certainly not easy. “It has been a challenge to sell the school, especially since we are wearing even more hats. The common saying among Admissions Directors is,” said Ms. Hopkins, “if we can get them on campus, they’re sold. But I can’t do that! That’s the rub for independent schools right now.”

Making Connections

So how does one showcase a school that can’t operate as a brick-and-mortar enterprise? That’s where TNCS Virtual School comes in to help tell the story. “That’s how people see who we are and what we’re all about,” explained Ms. Hopkins. “I also think that pivoting in our social media is allowing me to direct prospective families to our Facebook page and Immersed to show them virtually since we can’t do it in person. I only have a small window to provide a sense of what the school culture is about, so the social media becomes even more important. I am grateful to our team including Karin Cintron, who did not miss a beat pivoting with me to change our social media focus and creating resource pages on our website such as the new Support for Prospective Parents page.” In addition, the entire brochure package is also now on the website as a pdf.

Other aspects of admissions also needed to be adjusted, such as with the process for prospective students themselves:

We can’t do a shadow visit, so with rising 2nd through 8th graders, I’ll do student and parent interviews, separately or together, but definitely making sure I get to talk to the student. For the younger ones, we’re doing parent interviews, but I’ve been encouraging parents to make sure I have a sighting of the child or even just hear him or her in the background to get a sense of the family dynamic. That part is tricky, though, because kids are so different at home than they are at school, so you’re sort of getting their most comfortable self, and sometimes that can be pretty funny.

Ms. Hopkins says she relies a lot on Zoom these days, as do many of us, and values the ability to be able to connect with people, even if it can’t be in person. “I get so excited to get on a Zoom call and see some new faces,” she said. “Families seem to be feeling the same in terms of enjoying talking to somebody new or outside their own households. I start every call with, ‘How are you doing? How’s it going over at your house?’ Everyone wants to know that someone is thinking about them and feeling a sense of connection. Periodically, I’ll see a child enter the scene, and it’s the same on my end. Anything goes, and it’s all good! The mantra for virtual admissions is flexibility, authenticity, and a whole lot of patience.”

Her efforts to make connections are paying off, and prospective families with students of all ages have been reaching out for information. “Amazingly enough, we’ve gotten signed contracts even though the families don’t get to walk through the halls and hear our students and teachers interacting,” she said. In some ways, this is perhaps not so surprising as parents come to terms with realizing that we have to be ready for whatever the fall is going to look like. Schools in Maryland will not reopen this school year, and options may not be as abundant as they once were.

TNCS on the other hand, moved quickly to get up and running virtually, and has now hit a rhythm with it that seems to work for everyone. I give our faculty and administration a lot of credit for that. With so much uncertainty regarding how schools will reopen, I’m so in awe that we are trying to think of every possible scenario. It’s a whole lot of work to do that and figure out these contingencies. How can we split up this room to maintain smaller groups, for example? Do we have preschool on campus and elementary and middle stay virtual for now? Do we implement A and B days? For now, we’re all in the dark and watching the news together.

Virtual Discover TNCS Events

In addition to operating classrooms virtually, TNCS is offering Virtual Admissions Events. The first took place in April, and a second will take place Wednesday, May 20th from 10:00 am–11:00 am.

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“The fact that we’re doing virtual open houses is awesome,” said Ms. Hopkins. “We basically took the in-person event that I did in January and turned it into a Zoom event with updated slides and additions for virtual school. Josh Birenbaum gave the parent perspective, and we had nine prospective families in attendance.” One advantage to doing the event virtually is that people were able to ask questions via chat. One family is now enrolled, and a few others are “in the funnel,” as they say in admissions speak.

This month’s event will take a slightly different format: The first half will be admissions in general, and the second will be about summer camp.

Summer Camp?

Yes, TNCS Virtual Summer Camp will be a thing! TNCS Aftercare and Summer Camp Director Hannah Brown will handle that portion, with support from Paula Kupersanin and Adriana DuPrau, who are helping to create summer curricula. “It’s been a challenge running our aftercare program from home and preparing for summer camp, under uncertain circumstances,” said Ms. Brown. “But, it has been an opportunity for creative problem-solving, and I’m really proud of what the team has come up with so far.” They are currently working on virtual offerings for K through 8th-grade students. “I think that’s where the demand will be this summer. We’re looking at academic enrichment mornings in math and ELA, and then the afternoons will be geared toward social–emotional learning with specialty camps, like art and physical activity.”

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The actual offerings and the final schedule will be available on the TNCS website soon, thanks to the invaluable work by Karin Cintron to get that and registration up and running. “I’m really excited to get the word out to parents,” said Ms. Brown. “We don’t yet have a sense of how many people will register,” she continued.

Right now it’s really a balancing act for families. We want our students to have a high level of readiness for the fall, but what’s especially important to me is for them to have a sense of connectedness this summer and get some social interaction, even if it is remotely. And we really want the experience to be fun, too, whether it’s an academic enrichment or a specialty camp. Every kid’s threshold for how much virtual interaction they can profit from is different. In that spirit, we’re parsing out the day so families can do as much or as little as they need.

What We’re Grateful For

“It’s such a scary time for admissions. The job of an admissions officer is to get students into a school so there are students to teach. Hearing about schools teetering or even having to close is so sad,” said Ms. Hopkins, but she’s not one to end on anything but a positive note. “I’m so grateful that Co-Executive Directors Roberta Faux and Jennifer Lawner are doing everything they can to make sure we’re thriving. Admissions is challenging, but the fact that we’re still getting interest from families and getting them through the pipeline makes me really happy. People are talking about us, and our name is getting out there.”

Then there’s the fact that the fundamental part of her job is still intact—more or less. “My favorite part of my job is getting to meet families and students, and I don’t get to do that in the same way now. I like to be with people—I like to talk and connect. That’s why I like admissions so much.”

Finally, there’s you, TNCS community. “We have such loyal families who have been really supportive during this time; I think it makes all the difference,” said Ms. Hopkins. “I want to thank our current families, and I also want to thank new families for entrusting their children’s futures to us. I really am so grateful for that.”


Visit Virtual Discover TNCS to register and tell your friends!