Adriana Duprau Becomes Curriculum Coordinator at TNCS!

With the commencement of the 2017–2018 academic school year, The New Century School scaled some exciting new heights. To name just two, the inaugural 7th-grade class made its debut, and the student body en masse has grown to more than 200 children. These milestones are impressive, certainly, but are also not without accompanying challenges. How does one small school accommodate an age range from 2 to 12 years? How do teachers keep all students engaged in mixed-age classrooms? With such a well-rounded curriculum, how is continuity of instructional approach maintained across so many diverse subject areas?

Enter Adriana Duprau, TNCS’s new Curriculum Coordinator (also known as Curriculum Specialist). Mrs. Duprau is already known to many among the TNCS community—in fact, there’s a very strong chance that she has taught your child in her classroom at some point, considering that she has been at TNCS since it first opened back in 2010. Being so familiar with TNCS operations, she was the natural choice to take on this new role, which, in brief, entails supporting teachers and giving them constructive feedback on how they are implementing the curriculum. Interestingly, however, she came into the role less because someone was actively being sought and more so because she was already the go-to when an instructor needed strategies for example, for differentiating lessons. In Mrs. Duprau’s case, as you’ll see, this support extends to students as well.

Job Description

She spends about 80% of her time in the classroom so she can see firsthand what teachers are doing. She makes sure, for example, that lessons are being appropriately differentiated to accommodate the varying skill student levels in each classroom. At the same time, she wants to see that students are being challenged. On a macro level, another thing she looks for is that students are transitioning smoothly among divisions (e.g., pre-primary to primary, primary to kindergarten, elementary to middle school).

These are tasks that Head of School Alicia Danyali has handled in the past, but as the school grows, it became clear that a dedicated role was needed so that Mrs. Danyali can devote her time to running the school.

Sometimes school teachers can feel overwhelmed. Mrs. Duprau is there to “close the loop,” as she puts it. “What are their challenges; what are things that I can help with?” she asks herself, to provide an extra resource to the teachers. In some ways, it’s also a means of quality assurance. “If teachers are having a hard time, how can I offer support? Or, they may be having a hard time with a particular student—what can we do to come up with solutions?” she explains. “Having an objective observer who can stand back and take notes can be very revealing in these situations,” she continued, “and together we can problem solve and brainstorm the best approaches to addressing the challenges.”

Mrs. Duprau also plays a big part in helping Mrs. Danyali with professional development outside of the classroom, such as by demonstrating lessons during PD days and doing trainings.

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Curriculum Coordinator Adriana Duprau

Although she has embraced this support role, taking on a new position also can come with challenges. For Mrs. Duprau, the one thing she most worried about was not having her own classroom. “But, as it turns out, I spend most of my time in classrooms, so I’m really excited that I still get to have that time with students and with other teachers,” she said. And, although she has found herself so far spending most of her time in elementary and middle school classrooms, she nevertheless has had to get to know all 200+ students on a first-name basis . . . now that’s a challenge!

However, the biggest challenge she has found so far is having her suggestions go unheeded, whether inadvertently or from an unwillingness to take feedback, although Mrs. Duprau anticipates that this will probably dissipate as teachers acclimate to the idea of having a curriculum specialist and get used to accepting support.

Job Goals

She says her main goals, at least initially, are to make sure that teachers feel supported and know what should be taking place inside their classrooms. For example, programs like Reading A–Z might be new to a instructor, so Mrs. Duprau guides him or her through implementation. Again, her experience—not to mention her particular area of expertise—come in very handy here. She also sets up technology in classrooms so that appropriate ages all have access to SuccessMaker, a stalwart in the TNCS math program. All this, says Mrs. Duprau, because “we want to make sure we see growth in the students. This will give us a ‘closer look’ at the kids.”

She then uses the data she gathers to close any would-be gaps, such as finding ways to help former Montessori students matriculate into the non–classic Montessori Kindergarten classroom, or, conversely, introducing students who did not come up through the TNCS primary ranks to the “Montessori feel” of the K classroom. The Kindergarten group, by the way, is the largest it has ever been, so this is an area of keen interest. Moreover, Kindergarten can comprise a wide variety of skill levels, from students who are not yet reading and writing to students already completely comfortable with chapter books. Helping teachers set up their Daily 5 stations, for example, can go a long way to successful classroom management in this heterogenous setting. This has given her ideas for how to manage next year’s K transition: “A goal for us is to figure out what objectives the primary kids should end this school year before ‘going up’ so that they are prepared and can thrive in the more structured environment,” she explained.

Incidentally, in her tenure at TNCS, Mrs. Duprau has always had children of this age in her classroom, but now she says, “having my own kindergartener at home and seeing where he is developmentally has taught me even more about this age than having been a kindergarten teacher for so long.” So now, she can bring a dual perspective to the support she offers current TNCS K teachers—that of the seasoned teacher as well as the parent.

“I also get to spend a lot of time in other subject areas,” she explains. Chinese, music, and art, for example, are not classes she would have been a part of as a teacher. Now she observes how those are going to make sure all aspects of the curriculum hang together in a cohesive way and that instructors are meshing well. “One thing I saw was that having all of one division participating in a specials class together made the class too big. Being able to be there and see what’s unfolding and offer potential solutions has been very useful. We are now splitting the groups and adapting schedules to make sure that students and instructors are getting what they need.”

Another goal is to firmly establish units of study (e.g., in Global Studies and Science) that rotate on a 3-year basis so that students are all getting the full breadth of each discipline. The information is taught at differentiated levels, and she envisions gathering all of these lessons together in a master curriculum.

Reflections

“Although I really miss having my own classroom,” says Mrs. Duprau, I am really enjoying this new position, and I think it’s very beneficial to the school. “There are aspects of the role that I am continuing to grow in, because I have never held a job quite like this one before—I now work as much with adults as I do with kids!” She finds the position perfect for her current situation, with two young children at home to care for, and she is also learning a tremendous amount about teaching from this new vantage point.

“My primary objective is to be helpful and to facilitate smooth operations,” she said. “My interest was sparked when I would help other teachers who were unfamiliar with the mixed-age and mixed-language approach, and I found that I loved that interaction. I broached the idea of having a curriculum specialist in some capacity at TNCS, and the administration agreed immediately.” She learned her superb classroom management skills both as a Baltimore City public school teacher and by her first mixed-age experience at TNCS.

If she ever does return to the classroom, she says she is considering trying an older cohort to see what that would be like. In the meantime, Curriculum Coordinator suits her just fine!

 

 

 

 

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

Well folks, another school year at The New Century School has just ended. Immersed finds this news bittersweet—grateful for all the good times, learning, friendships, and memories it gave us, but also wistful that it’s over. Sniff.

To cheer ourselves up, let’s take a look at all the special ways TNCS teachers and staff made the end of the school year one big, happy celebration. Overseeing each event with warmth and grace was Head of School Alicia Danyali.

Primary Field Day

Although the scheduled Elementary Field Day got rained out, TNCS Primary students dodged the weather a week before school let out and had a . . . “field day” in Patterson Park! Primary teachers Maria Mosby, Catherine Lawson, Lisa Reynolds, and Martellies Warren pulled out all the stops, with games, snacks, and even a special guest performance by former TNCS Primary teacher, Ms. Laz! (Read more about Ms. Lazarony’s alter ego as Planet Uptune songwriter and vocalist here!)

There were beads, balls, bubbles, balloons, badminton, and bats—and that’s just the b’s! Frisbees, kites, and even baby ducks were also on hand to make this event the perfect send-off for the 3- to 5-year old set. See for yourself in this slide show that will make you wish you were a kid again.

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All-School Picnic

Next up was the chance for parents to join their kids during the annual TNCS outdoor picnic lunch. Initially rained out, the weather cooperated beautifully on Monday, and the playground was full to capacity of happy TNCS community members. Mrs. Duprau brought along a special new guest (and future TNCS enrollee), and Mr. Warren once again got mauled by his adoring fans. (But seemed to be okay with that ;).)

Grade 5 Graduation Ceremony

The following day saw a truly momentous occasion unfolding, not to mention a huge TNCS first. The oldest cohort of TNCS students graduated out of the Elementary program. You can read on their faces the many emotions this inspired. From pensive to elated to quite somber, they are clearly aware of the significance of graduating. This event not only means that this group, whom we have watched grow and mature into fine young ladies and gentlemen over the years under the expert tutelage of Elementary teachers Dan McGonigal and Kiley Stasch, will embark on a whole new scholastic phase—Middle School—but also that TNCS itself has grown and will embark on its own Middle School journey. These are wonderful tidings . . . notwithstanding their undeniable poignancy. Such great things lie ahead.

Kindergarten/Grade 1 End-of-Year Celebration

On the penultimate day of school, another graduation ceremony of sorts transpired. What started as a low-key, in-classroom potluck brunch grew into a full-on TNCS event, courtesy of K/1st teachers Teresa Jacoby and Manuel Caceres. They even had the kids collaborate on a “quilt” of self-portraits that will grace the halls of TNCS in perpetuity.

The Kindergarteners were awarded diplomas to signal their imminent passage grade-school status.

And the first-graders passed on some pearls of wisdom to their junior counterparts to ease their transition to the Big Time.

So thanks for the memories TNCS . . . and for making school such a positive experience for students and their families. What a profound gift this is. Other than being able to share these memories, the only other thing that makes closing out the school year bearable is knowing we’ll be back for 2016–2017 to share more great times :)!

 

TNCS Elementary Students Inform through Writing

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Lower elementary students are also given regular writing sessions. This student gets right down to it!

Although The New Century School was abuzz in March with all things STEM Fair related, Language Arts hardly suffered! Amidst the science- and engineering-oriented preparations, projects, and presentations, TNCS upper elementary students were busily working on their Informational Writing pieces.

Language Arts teacher Adriana DuPrau follows the renowned Lucy Calkins writing curriculum, as recently detailed in “State-of-the-Science Elementary Writing Instruction at TNCS.” For this phase of the curriculum, Mrs. Duprau challenged her students to choose a topic they wanted to educate others about and then to elaborate on the topic in a 1- to 2-page cohesive document. They worked on their pieces in “writing workshops.” During most of this time, students wrote independently, with Mrs. DuPrau conferring and guiding as needed. What emerges during these workshops becomes a “mini-lesson,” in which the teacher offers strategies for writing that the student will be able to apply in other writing contexts and in this way continuously cultivate effective writing and communication skills.

“Topics ranged from the Baltimore Ravens to immigrant families,” said Mrs. DuPrau. Her students also presented their pieces to the rest of the class, giving them some important practice in the art of public speaking and boosting their self-confidence in the bargain. (See a slide show of these wonderfully self-possessed presenters below.) Also of note is that the students provided an accompanying illustration, which served both to help convey the idea they were elaborating on as well as to make the topic richer for their own exploration of it. Arts integration has been receiving lots of media attention recently, but this innovative approach to education is nothing new to TNCS!

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Also just in time for the STEM Fair! There was lots of seed planting and nurturing going on at TNCS this spring!

Informational Writing is the age-appropriate curriculum for 3rd- through 5th-graders, but all TNCS elementary students are given writing instruction and ample opportunities to express themselves in writing, right down to kindergarteners. Teresa Jacoby’s K/1st students, for example, also participated in a writing project that took the form of a How-To. Students were asked to explain in stepwise fashion how to approach a given task, such as making a PB&J or planting a seed. These writing pieces, too, were accompanied by illustrations.

Writing in the classroom is an integral part of learning, helping students to communicate effectively; to review and remember recently learned content; to be creative and explore a topic deeply; and to better understand their experiences and, by extension, themselves. Write on, TNCS elementary students! We eagerly await all that you have to express!

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TNCS Lower Elementary Goes Around the World in 80 Days

Global studies is always an important theme in Ms. DuPrau's classroom.

Global studies is always an important theme in Ms. DuPrau’s classroom.

All while never leaving the classroom! The New Century School lower elementary teacher Adriana DuPrau designed a project to stimulate her 1st-graders and expand their horizons—passports to circumnavigate the globe! They created passport books to prepare for their global “travel” beginning the first week of the 2014 school year. In less than 3 months, the class visited six of the world’s seven continents, missing only South America. (It really was just about 80 days, just like in the original 1873 Jules Verne adventure novel. No hot air balloons, though.) To launch this fantastic and inspired undertaking, Southwest Air pilot and TNCS dad “Captain Marc” visited the class to talk about air travel, time zones, airplanes in general, and airplane safety. Each child then got a Southwest travel pack with pretzels, activities, and even a pair of wings to pin on their lapels! Ms. DuPrau says, “the kids were so excited and asked Captain Marc lots of very good questions, like ‘how do airplanes fly?'” Captain Marc managed to fly above that one.

Having gotten their passports in order and received their wings, the kids were ready to set out. Oops! One more thing. Before exploring each new country, the students profile a day in the life of a first-grader from that country to compare and contrast it to their own lives. Africa was their first destination, Kenya, to be exact. The students had learned that classrooms in Kenya comprise as many as 60 students—quite a difference from what they are used to!  Two guests spoke about this exotic country. One class mom lived there for a year and brought in lots of pictures and taught the kids to carry things on their heads, just like the Kenyans do. She also talked about climate, geography, culture, cuisine, and the native animals. The other guest spoke about his experience growing up on a giraffe farm, such as awaking in the mornings to see a giraffe poking its head through the window of a bedroom conveniently located on an upper floor. The kids were utterly enchanted!

From Kenya, the class traveled on to Switzerland, escorted by another class dad who once lived there. Before moving on to a new country, however, says Ms. DuPrau, students color the flag of the country they just visited and will compile these in a special flag book. Skiing, chocolate, and watches were the highlights of the iPad presentation on Switzerland. The kids were very interested in Swiss culture, and they especially loved hearing about the extensive rail transportation system. Swiss money was another object of fascination, and from here the kids began collecting currency from each new place.

With Chinese New Year looming, the class went on to China, with presentations by Wen Laoshi and Xie Laoshi as well as by Ms. DuPrau herself. The class had learned that first-graders in China have much longer school days and felt pretty lucky by comparison. They delved into holidays and cooked Chinese dumplings together as part of their cultural exploration of China.

All aboard for India! Next, “Ms. J.” (TNCS aftercare teacher) came in to take the kids to her native India. Ms. J. focused on music, cuisine, religion, and traditional clothing. She also sang a classical Bharatanatyam South Indian song, which is her special talent, and passed out honey and fennel pastries—“the kids loved them!” They washed it all down with mango juice, which was another wonderful new treat.

A quick stop in California represented the class’s North American visit, and a class grandmother came in to present this one. She created an interactive map that the kids could place stickers on after hearing about a particular part of California’s geography (e.g., mountains, desert, beaches, etc.).

From the west coast of the United States, the class returned to Africa with another member of TNCS staff who came to us from Ethiopia. This presentation took a slightly different tack. Ms. Kipnesh first prepared a written overview of her country. We learned that Ethiopia has a very temperate climate, ranging from 50°–70° and that it’s the second most populous country in Africa, after Nigeria, comprising over 80 nationalities within its narrow borders! It has several other important distinctions as well, we learned, being the only African country to resist colonization and having maintained its independence for more than 3,000 years! It’s also where a very early human ancestor was discovered—“Lucy“, an Australopithecus afarensis, is about 3.2 million years old. For the presentation itself, the first-graders trooped down to the TNCS kitchen where they got to watch Ms. Kipnesh in action, preparing an authentic Ethiopian dish, while teaching a few words in her native language and donning Ethiopian fancy dress, called habesha kemis. During the preparation of Ethiopia’s national dish, enjera (also injera) be doro wot, Chef Emma helped out by explaining how Ms. Kipnesh made the dish step by step and providing other useful information about Ethiopian cuisine. This highly nutritious and delicious dish traditionally is made with chicken and eggs, cabbage, and cheese, but TNCS students got a lentil substitute for the chicken and eggs.

Back to Asia! Saudi Arabia was the next stop, which a class mom originally from that country spoke about. She brought in headdresses for the boys to wear and showed traditional women’s garb. She made a big poster detailing the climate, the geography, and the animals living there. Did you know that Saudi Arabia is one of just a few native camel habitats? The fun didn’t stop humped beasts, however—fig cupcakes were next! We have it on good authority (i.e., Ms. DuPrau) that these cupcakes were the best anyone had ever eaten.

Next they headed west back to Europe. (This was a zig-zagging journey of necessity.) A British class dad presented Wales and Scotland to the class. Rugby and biscuits were a big part of this talk, natch. Wales is notable for having one of the world’s longest place names. (Serendipitously, the class was able to visit the place with the longest name before their journey’s end.) Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch and its surrounds were full of interesting facts, even if no one was able to pronounce what sounds those 58 letters combine to produce. If you have given up and the suspense is killing you, click here!

And on back to Asia for a Skype visit to former class assistant teacher Ms. Chae in Korea! This trip wasn’t as strictly educational—the kids were just eager to catch up with their dear friend! However, they did learn about the Korean flag, the cuisine, and traditional Korean clothing in between the flurry of news exchanges!

Veering southeast, the class finished up with a trip to Thailand. The kids learned about Thailand’s tropical monsoon climate, why elephants are immensely important, and that rambutans and mangosteens taste sublime but that durian is extremely off-putting to the foreign nose! They also learned how to properly wai their ajarns. Finally, it is Bangkok that actually has the distinction of having the world’s longest place name. With 163 Thai letters without spaces, “กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์” (or, Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit) translates to “The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (unlike Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.” Who knew? Click here for audio pronunciation.

It goes without saying that our now seasoned world travelers enjoyed themselves tremendously and learned scads of information about each country but also broadened their mental vistas. Volunteer speakers also benefited greatly by sharing their cultures or reliving once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ms. DuPrau, this was a truly wonderful class project, combining the best elements of learning—discovery, interactivity, and real life. Wherever you take TNCS elementary students next along their scholastic journey, the destination will be well worth the visit!