The Titan Talk blog gives the faculty and staff at St. Timothy's School a chance to post relevant information to our community. Feel free to leave comments or questions for our bloggers!
“That's when I feel most alive, when I'm helping people.” Paul Farmer
Ever since the beginning of the partnership between STS and St. Timothee’s School in Haiti, I had a strong desire to be part of it. It may have been a calling, or just me wanting to serve these beautiful people and see the land and school that I imagined.
Traveling up a long and winding, dirt road filled with people, we arrived to St. Timothee’s School. The staff greeted us with open arms, while the children’s faces expressed more curiosity and perhaps apprehension. Seeing it for the first time, gave me pause. The building is rudimentary and is not surrounded by much, but I had a feeling what was inside was going to change me forever.
The first day, our goal for the group of five was to observe and gain trust. Within no time, the children began to come up to us asking us questions in their beautiful Haitian Creole. The language barrier was there, but human interaction with gestures and facial expressions helped us begin to form a connection. Away from phones, cell service and any devices, we began to interact. Getting down on the level of the smaller children, we quickly found smiles, laughter and a people that are happy in a way that our society here has trouble finding.
Lisa Lowrance, Spanish Teacher, who has been on this trip before, squealed with delight when she saw the small, concrete building that serves as the school’s kitchen, which was built since her last trip. For some of us, we had no reference, but Lisa began to explain to us that on the last trip, the school had to cook their meals outside on an open coal fire. This new kitchen showed progress, which creates hope, and sometimes hope is all people have. After the last trip to St. Timothee’s in Haiti, the three teachers that went on the trip returned asking that we help provide at least two meals a week. It was wonderful to see that the meals were being provided due to our efforts. The meal of rice and beans that we served is sometimes the only meal these children get that day.
Still, much progress is to be made. The smaller children are in an outdoor classroom where wooden beams hold tarps that cover their wooden benches and makeshift desks. If there is inclement weather, they either pack inside with the other children, or just do not come to school that day. During the meals we served, there was a shortage of reusable plastic bowls and utensils. We had to reuse the bowls without water to wash them, and some children simply ate with their fingers and others just borrowed a spoon or fork from a friend. After witnessing this shortage, we decided to donate money we had for discretionary items for them to buy more bowls and utensils at the local market.
In addition to providing money for the utensils, we also took several suitcases full of supplies given by STS parents to donate to St. Timothee’s. On the second day, we presented these items to the head of the school and staff. The older students received red St. Timothy’s bags filled with pencils, composition notebooks, and pencil sharpeners. We also left them school supplies, soccer balls, air pumps for the balls and other donated items. The students and staff were very grateful, and the students clamored around to see the items. Playing games, assisting with a school activity, and in general watching the dynamics of our group interact with their staff and children gave me a sense of optimism and excitement. I feel this is the beginning of a long and wonderful bond and partnership that STS will have with this school.
When I left, it was with a sense of unfinished work. Knowing it might be some time before we see them again, I did feel heavy hearted and a bit helpless. Wishing I could stay to continue to serve as needed, I resolved to hopefully return. However, watching them kick a soccer ball instead of an old, plastic bottle means that every small chance we get to help, will be one that helps these children grow and learn. Being a part of St. Timothy’s School in Raleigh has meant working and having my children at a place where nurture and kindness abounds. The children of St. Timothee’s in Haiti exhibited such happiness, and care for one another, it confirmed for me that there aren’t that many differences between our students and their students. School is a safe place for learning and play. STS can help ensure this continues for not only their generation, but for many generations to follow, and I am beyond grateful to have been a part of such an experience.
For more on this trip, read Fourth Grade Teacher Kathryn Donohue's online travel journal.
From time to time, I'm asked to speak about the benefits of attending private or independent schools. Below are the three key points that I normally share... but first, two acknowledgements:
We support our public schools, too; the strength of our community and local economy is dependent upon their success. The Wake County Public School System has many talented, dedicated, hard-working teachers, leaders, and students who are our friends, neighbors, and family.
What is the difference between "independent" schools and "private" schools? Independent schools are non-public schools governed by an independent board of trustees. Private schools refers to non-public schools who might have some wider variations in their governing structure (including those governed by religious institutions and nonprofit or for-profit corporations).
Here are what I consider to be three benefits of a private/independent school education:
1. Autonomy, Predictability, Stability
Any parent who wants to better understand the rationale for a particular curriculum choice or policy, or to help improve/shape any policy, can simply come in and talk to the teacher or an administrator—there are no “higher ups in the system” or bureaucratic complexities that factor in. The private/independent school head of school has total operational authority for every aspect of student life, teaching and learning, admission, hiring, and school culture. This also means that private/independent schools experience little-to-no impact from partisan election shifts, policy debates, or state curriculum changes. Private/independent schools are remarkably stable places; a parent enrolling their child in first grade can reliably and comfortably predict the education they’ll experience many years later.
The Wake County Public School System is the largest in the state, the fifteenth largest in the country, and among the fastest growing. The public school population has tripled since 1980 and is expected to increase by 9,000 students by 2020 (http://www.wcpss.net/domain/100). Responding to this growth requires constant new construction, reliance on voters approving new bonds, regularly revisiting student assignment and busing protocols, and temporary classroom space. Private/independent schools fully control their own “growth destiny”, carefully maintaining school sizes to ensure that each student will always be individually known and cared for, without concern for reassignment, elections, lotteries, overcrowding, redistricting, or busing.
2. Teaching Excellence
One of the hallmarks of any private/independent school is its diverse and outstanding community of teachers. Every private/independent school is small enough to determine on its own what constitutes the “best teacher”- there is no need for a one-size-fits-all teacher qualification requirement. St. Timothy’s classes are taught by—among others—a former UNC professor, a former attorney, a successful entrepreneur, a professional musician, an off-Broadway actress, and a West Point graduate. Our head of school is a two-time valedictorian with a Georgetown graduate degree whose AP Government class was once named by College Board as the top in the nation... who discovered the private/independent school world when he was told he “lacked the proper credentials” to teach in public schools.
In a private/independent school, teachers have great autonomy, flexibility, and opportunities for creativity and innovation. They get to design special projects and whole classes according to their (and students’) interests and passions. Each school sets clear curriculum benchmarks and assessments to measure student growth, and uses nationally normed testing to ensure students compare favorably with their peers across the country. However, there is not an over-reliance on testing—teachers are not under pressure to “teach to the test.” This draws some of the most talented and creative educators to private/independent schools.
3. Transparency and Accountability
There are a number of high-quality regional and national agencies that accredit private/independent schools. Every five years, St. Timothy’s receives dual accreditation from AdvancED (the same body that accredits most colleges and universities) and the Southern Association of Independent Schools. Accreditation requires that a school meets key benchmarks for governance, legal compliance, financial oversight, and transparency. Most private/independent schools administer one annual standardized test (ERB CTP IV, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the Stanford Achievement Test) that compares each student’s performance with all students nationally to ensure appropriate skill acquisition and growth. Finally, because private/independent schools receive no taxpayer support, there is clear and unambiguous accountability to the tuition-paying parents—who must always remain certain of the school’s benefits in order to justify the financial sacrifices every family makes to pay tuition.
Josette Holland, STS Fifth Grade Literature and Grammar Teacher, recently gave the commencement address at Kents Hill School in central Maine. In her address, she shared words of wisdom from some of her STS fifth grade students, and we thought it was worth sharing with our STS community.
May 28, 2017
Good morning. Thank you Mr. McInerney, Mr. Chairman Edward Lane, distinguished faculty, proud parents, and honored graduates.
It’s good to be here with you on The Hill. You look beautiful, and you look ready. Your parents look happy, and they also look ready. You’ve done a lot of hard work, put in a lot of meaningful hours, and you’re ready to move on to summer. If you can forgive me for standing between you and your diploma, I have a few words to share.
You might be wondering who on earth I am. What with all these celebrities giving commencement addresses, and Joe Biden speaking last weekend down the road at Colby, you’re probably thinking “Wait now...WHO is our speaker?” Joe Biden is so charming, smiley, distinguished...whatever. I mean, I love Joe Biden as much as anyone, but oye--the crowds! The traffic! Route 17 couldn’t handle the traffic anyway. So who am I and why am I here. I’m here because I love Kents Hill; I worked here, made lifetime friends here, and even met my husband here. I grew up in Maine and I now live in Raleigh, North Carolina, and my life’s work is “school”. Teaching in some, leading in others; advocating for change, writing, and speaking up for kids has been what I do. I’ve taught in Africa, ushering children through the English language and introducing developmental psychology to nursing students.
It’s important for me that my children come to Maine regularly to visit my parents, and over the years through this travel experience I see how the Kents Hill spirit plays out in the different personalities of my children. For their whole lives, every summer I take all three of them on a series of flights from North Carolina that gets us up to Maine. My husband is usually needed at the hospital, so I fly solo with three kids. They are excellent travelers and have always been: quiet, helpful, and attentive. On one particularly stormy July afternoon many years ago, the four of us were flying through Laguardia up to Portland. If you know anything about flying through Laguardia in July is that a) traveling in July does not lessen the seriousness and sacredness of business travel for any New Yorker and b) you’re going to experience a life-threatening thunderstorm. It was in one of these particularly hairy storms that the Kents Hill spirit came out of each of the children, each in their own unique way. As the tiny puddle jumper bumped and jostled us, spilling everyone’s purse contents into the rolling aisles, the lights flickered and every button started blinking. As a mom, I was outwardly composing soothing rhymes and songs, but on the inside, I was writing our obituaries. Yet, it was amazing to see how each of my children reacted to what I was sure was the beginning of our end. Child #1, the 7-year old, cautiously kept his eyes out the window, giving me status updates. “The cumulous clouds look pretty big, mom. There goes some more lightning. We are almost through it.” He was the data-seeking care giver, the leader who keeps everyone informed of the situation. Know anyone like that? Then there was Child #2, the four year old, the servant leader, who deftly picked up all the nearby passenger’s items that kept spilling and bouncing in the aisles and returned everything to its proper owner “Here’s your New Yorker magazine. Here are your reading glasses. Here’s your shoe.” He’s my servant leader, helping others by literally picking up the pieces. Know anyone like that? Child #3, the two year old, had her own reaction. When we hit the largest bump in what I knew was soon to be our shortened lives, she put her hands up and yelled “AWWWWW YEEEEEAH!” and just like that, the small cabin full of nervous business travelers started giggling. She’s my sunny-side-up, full of joy kind of leader that everyone, including me, is going to want to follow. Know anyone like that?
But today, class of 2017, I am here to celebrate YOU and your Kents Hill spirit. I was asked to speak with you perhaps because the school knew that this particular class, with all its talent and drive and humor and friendship, needed a speaker who knows that you are a special group. Maybe the school knows that you need a speaker who won’t drag you into her own political agenda but rather will focus on you and your strengths on this very special day. I am not sure but for whatever reason, I’m here. You’re here. Let’s talk.
Lately, I’ve been hanging out with 5th graders. My fifth graders know a lot about you, class of 2017. Not in a creepy way, but in an admiring way. They see Kents Hill posters in my classroom and I read articles to them about you in the news letters. I show them your artwork, they see your huge smiles and how you love your new dining commons. They know how, when the sky is just right, students can see Mount Washington, and when the sun sets bright orange amidst the trees in October, the campus looks magical but that the real magic comes from the feeling of community here, where each student is met with unconditional regard. They hang on my every word when I tell them about my trips up here four times a year for board meetings. You are like movie stars to them.
It wasn’t too long ago that you were in 5th grade. Parents--can’t you just picture your child when he or she was in 5th grade? Tiny! Spirited! Goofy! The year was 2010; Kesha was tick-tocking (you know you had it on your iTouch). Mark Zuckerberg was The Person of the Year for inventing this thing called The Facebook, and Canada won the gold medal in hockey. IPads were rolled out. Girls, you were probably wearing pigtails and shirts with glitter on them. Boys, you were probably just starting to pick out your own clothes and you thought that wearing all your orange clothes at once looked really cool. All of you still snuggled with your parents.
But, oh, even then as a 5th grader, you were wise. Ten years old meant 10 thousand watts of energy. Your confidence was sky high--you could do ANYTHING. Fifth grade happens before the world can get to us and tell us that we can’t do things: that we’re not smart enough, that we’re not from the right part of town, or that we are not strong enough. In fifth grade, ambitions are facts. You probably wanted to be professional football players, pop stars, astronauts, race car drivers, or the President of the United States. The world was a great place. In 5th grade, political cynicism hadn’t reached your little ears.
My fifth graders are at that same confidence peak, where their voices are loud and proud, and their hearts are wide open to the world. The other day, I asked them to give you their best wishes, and perhaps offer you some advice for your journey. What poured out of them was comical, thoughtful, and remarkably insightful. I’ve chosen four pieces of advice to pass along to you today.
Kennedy is a bubbly musician whose pigtails flip around when she laughs. She wants you to always remember to take care of the little guys. Some of you might still think of yourselves as ‘the little guy.’ I’m here to tell you that as of today, you are no longer the little guy. Your presence lifts children. If you look a little person in the eye, you’ve just acknowledged her as a human being, you’ve just taken her seriously or you’ve just given him a voice. The reverend Daniel Heishman wrote that the most important pivot point for a young person is when she realizes that she matters, that her voice matters, and that she is not invisible. Did someone ever do that for you? I’ll bet they did and you know exactly who that person is. So when you take care of the little ones, you’re helping to create a generation of people who will remember you and, in turn, make the world a better place. Do this on an everyday level (for example, if you see a lemonade stand and there’s a kid running it, stop. Buy some lemonade) or as a hobby (mentor a middle school student when you’re in college) or on a life-changing level (you could build a dining commons for the school that you love).
Next I heard from Mya, a quiet, strong, peaceful girl who writes: be nice to your teachers. Not so hard at Kents Hill, where your teachers live, eat, play, dance, and laugh with you. I can only hope that your future is filled with professors and teachers as inspirational as they were here on The Hill. But in the future it might not be so clear who your teachers are. It is likely that you will encounter people who you might not recognize right away as your teacher. Your roommate, a maintenance worker at your school, the classmate who fixes your computer at midnight when it breaks….all theses people might not have the label ‘teacher’ but if you listen just right, you can learn valuable lessons just the same. Lessons about life, about your place in it….and you might find a connection that you can come back to one day. So...be nice to people; be nice to your teachers.
Connery is strong, athletic, and smart. He’s quiet and respectful; he’d rather listen than talk. In fact, he would rather run and chase a ball more than anything. He says “Trust your gut.” That’s it.
Moving right along...Hailey is a ballet dancer who twirls into class. She has a big laugh and she’s a leader. She says: when you get rain, look for rainbows. While I think she might actually mean for you to go outside and look for rainbows (“they’re so pretty!”) and that she might secretly believe that you might find a unicorn on the other side, it could be that she means that you should try to find the silver lining when life seems tough. For example, take friendship, your class theme. You’ve lived into it for the last four years. Leaving the Hill today, it won’t ever be as easy as it’s been to see your friends. Yes, you can Facetime each other, but I’m talking about the stick your head down the hall and yell “who’s hungry?!” kind of see-your-friends. The kind of messy hair, no make up, Saturday morning kind of time when you actually see, hear, touch and absorb your friends. Friends with whom you can hang out without anything to do, to be lazy together, to pig-pile on each other, and to laugh together. Kents Hill gave you that space. For those of you who spent your time hanging out in Sampson, Jacobs, Davis, Reed or Wesleyan, or who have spent countless hours in the art space with a friend or in the bookstore or on the ski hill freezing your buns off, you know what I mean; you are leaving a time in which the ease of friendship is greatest. And today, you’re leaving. Cormac Mcarthy says, “some events divide your lives into the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ ”. So, when you say goodbye today to your kindred spirits and you enter into your ‘after’, it might seem heart wrenching. It’ll feel like rain. Remember that Hailey said to LOOK for the rainbow. She didn’t say “the rainbow will fall in your lap”. Perhaps she means that you need to find it yourself. Being positive is an active choice; it takes work and it’s not always easy or apparent where to begin. Maybe you start with the simple realization: you are lucky to have such good friends to miss (says Winnie the Pooh). Or if you can’t find the rainbow after a healthy amount of looking….make it. Make plans. Plan to see each other and stick to it. Come back to The Hill. Meet up with each other in your home countries and in your home towns. Travel together. Take a road trip and visit each other in college. Go to each others’ big life events. Seeing friends is like nourishing your soul resume, and you’ll never regret it. So if you get rain, look for the rainbow; if you can’t find a rainbow, make one.
Tons of advice poured in for you from my class. Each fifth grader gave you a piece of advice--much of it had to do with not dropping your fidget spinners in the dirt, with eating balanced meals, how to tie your shoes under pressure, how not to get lost (and other such practical advice) and so I’ve had to save it for later. In a wonderful balance of life, you, also have taken some time to give me some advice for me to take back to them. You, too, have learned a thing or two here, and I’ll return to North Carolina and share your wisdom. They’ll be waiting for me Tuesday morning. Here’s what some of you shared about what you’ve learned during your time on The Hill:
Ellie Keeley, a four-year senior, the daughter of a teacher, says “Stop wanting to grow up because it'll happen faster than you think. Embrace your innocence and desire to learn. ” Ellie, being a faculty child wasn’t always easy. You had to share your parents with a whole student body. I’m proud of you for being so wise and sharing what you’ve learned. Hanging out with older kids sometimes makes you want to act older, but thank you for pointing out that all good things come in time.
Anicia Gillespie, a four-year senior says “Nothing is the end of the world. You might think that what is now defines what you will be, but it changes, so be open to growth.” Anicia, your advice tells me that you take lessons from the good and the bad. It tells me that, even though things seem tough, that you are acutely aware that burning toast is one thing but burning bridges is another, and if we can keep our connections to the people who love us and if we can forgive each other and ourselves for our mistakes, nothing is the end of the world. You’ve said that our mistakes are not what define us. You, my dear, are right. If we are open to the growth afforded to us in reconciliation, our bridges grow stronger than ever. Anicia, Wellesley is lucky to have such a bright, wise person headed their way, and your bridge back to Kents Hill will always be here. We are all grateful to count you as one of our own.
Drew Blackstone, a young man whose time here was short but whose impact will last long into the future, says “Don’t do stupid things!” That’s it. Drew, well said. I suppose when you’re on the mountain bike you have to make hundreds of quick decision all the time, yes? Your wisdom comes hard fought, I’m sure. Just like my little quiet Connery, you understand that your gut is another word for wisdom. The kind that Shel Silverstein wrote about when he wrote
There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
"I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong."
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What's right for you--just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.”
Drew, your wisdom will help these kids with both the long term decisions that are so difficult for kids, but also for the short-term, spur of the moment decisions that could ultimately save their lives. I know that my little Connery will savor your brief but impactful words.
Nolan Smith a four-year senior from Massachusetts says “When you are a 5th grader if you had the “sick” shoes you were cool. When you are a senior you care less about what people think of you.” Likewise Isabel Charland, a 4 year senior from Maine says “Try your hardest not to worry about what other people think. Just be yourself, I promise that you will be a lot happier. The people who accept you for who you are are the people that matter most.” Nolan and Isabel, it only took you a short time to learn what many adults in the world have yet to learn. That it’s what’s on the inside that counts, that the people who criticize your appearance or tell you you’re not measuring up (or down) don’t really matter because they are the people who always need someone to put down. You two are among a class who knows that it’s what you do that matters. Kindness is an action, and kindness is true strength. That’s what matters. Nolan and Isabel, keep being strong, and keep insisting on what matters most.
Santa Takahashi, a four-year senior who like many of you, showed courage and independence when he came from far, far away to a tiny school on a hill in the middle of Maine, says “Be respectful to your parents.” All the times that your parents sat in the recital hall, listening to your music, or all the times your parents sat on the sidelines praying that you catch the ball, or the mornings that they woke up at 5:00 to take you to the rink...this is not ordinary. This is, in fact, extraordinary. Your parents spent all that time there not because they like the GAME….they spent the time there because they love YOU. So be gentle with them today because today is a transition day for your parents, too. An end of an era for them. Your high school days are over for them, too, and your new grown-up parent-child relationship is about to begin. In grown up child-parent relationships, of course y’all love each other, but it’s important to work on being LIKEABLE, even with your parents. Santa, every parent seated here today thanks you for saying that.
Michael McCarthy a post-graduate from New York says “As much as time seems to be moving slowly, enjoy it. Time flies, and although it may be tough, embrace the difficult times, because when the day comes for graduation, you realize that all those times--that’s what made you the person you are today standing on this stage.” Michael, your kind words are as strong and graceful as you are on the football field. You chose to spend a PG year on The Hill, which was a forward thinking, long-term decision. It is just one of your many experiences which are going to be put together into your very own Michael-mosaic and that will make you an even more wonderful adult.
And finally, the words of Katie Sprague. Katie, you’ve lead this class this year as Senior class president, and I can see why. Your advice sums it up, embodies the Kents Hill values, and will stay with my 5th graders for a long time. You said “You won’t believe me now, but years in school go by so quickly. Be sure to smile, get off your phone and spend time experiencing real life, do what makes you happy, spend time with people you love, be kind to your parents and teachers, learn as much as you can, and most of all, enjoy it.” Katie, the people sitting here believe you. Munro Leaf said “Wherever you go with a smile and a wish to like people, you’re going to find someone who is glad you’re there.” When you’re at Wake Forest next year, you are going to make such a difference. You’ll take your Kents Hill values to Winston-Salem. I’m not far down the road (I’ll be your stop on the way to the beach!). But I’m also there if you ever need me.
So, Class of 2017, thank you. Thank you for inspiring little kids down in North Carolina. Thank you for taking care of each other with your words and with your actions. Thank you for being ALL KINDS of leaders, whether you’re the leader that serves, that connects, or that makes everyone laugh with your joy of life. You’ve made your mark on this old, wise school, and your story is part of us now.
I’ll close with a prayer from the Reverend William Sloan Coffin that I say to my students at the end of the year. This prayer reminds me of YOU, what you’ve done on The Hill, and what you are about to do with your beautiful lives:
May God give us the grace never to sell ourselves short, the grace to risk something big for something good, and the grace to know that the world is now too dangerous for anything but the truth and too small for anything but love.
The art of reading to and with your children is sometimes a lost art in this day and age. With the rise of technology, students are often interested in reading as quickly as possible so they can move on to posting photos to their Instagram accounts or to creating Musical.ly videos to share with friends. However, students can gain much from reading to and with their parents or other expert readers at home throughout the week. Below is just a short list of some of the benefits of reading aloud together at any age.
Children can hear proper expression, prosody and fluency.
Beginning and intermediate readers need to hear proper reading modeled for them. When children read at home with older siblings, parents or grandparents, they are afforded the opportunity to hear from expert readers. They can hear how you stop appropriately at end punctuation. They can hear how you create rise and fall in your voice. They can hear how you stress certain syllables within words. They can hear how you add happiness, sadness or excitement in your tone when the narrator calls for these things. Modeling expression, prosody, and fluency for a child is always important, as these are critical components to creating an expert reader. Furthermore, these components also help build and strengthen comprehension skills.
Children can follow along with you in the book, and can continue to create a link between the letter symbols and letter sounds.
Understanding the various sounds vowels, vowel teams, and letter blends make can be challenging for any reader, but especially a reader who is just beginning to hone their craft. When reading together at home, it is important to have your child look at the book and track along with you. By doing so, the child is both seeing the letters and words on the page at the same time s/he is hearing the sounds you are making. While following along with you, s/he is strengthening the link between the sounds and symbols on the page. A child listening while following the text is as effective as a child reading a text independently. Furthermore, s/he is able to see how you break apart multisyllabic words and how you link sounds to the different pieces of the word on the page. This is a skill that becomes increasingly important as a reader becomes more and more advanced, encountering larger and more unfamiliar words with greater frequency.
Parents and children can work together to strengthen comprehension.
One of the greatest reading shifts that occurs is the shift from learning to read to reading to learn. No longer is the main focus on decoding the words and letters, but also on deepening a child’s understanding of what those words are saying. When reading together, parents can help question children about the story along the way to gauge their understanding of the text. (Lexile.com has a number of great questions you can explore and use when reading with your children. Moreover, many authors will also post discussion questions related to their novels to their websites.) If a child is lacking understanding at certain points in the book, parents can model quality reading strategies a child can add to his or her reading tool belt. If a child forgets important information or does not remember important information, parents can remind him to re-read. Moreover, parents can help ensure children summarize information along the way to keep information fresh in their minds. Finally, parents can even encourage the child to jot notes of important information along the way so that the next time you read together, the child can review the notes and have an immediate reminder as to what just happened in the plot. Not only can a parent model how to best read, but a parent can also model how to best understand.
Books allow parents and children to more easily access important societal themes that are relatable to a child’s everyday life.
Today’s books access many topics and themes in our everyday world; friendship, bullying, peer pressure, and self-confidence are just a few themes that come up repeatedly in fiction. Reading is an incredible way to follow a character’s journey and discuss both the actions and ideas of the text in a less personal way to a child. While it is always important to know the daily happenings in a child’s life, a book with relatable themes may open the door to more open and honest discussions at home.
If life gets in the way, there are some great online reading tools that can still help with expression, prosody and fluency.
Today’s world is a busy place, and there may not always be time to read and discuss reading together. If this is the case, Storia by Scholastic, which St. Timothy’s has a subscription to, has a “Read to Me” feature on many of their online books and articles. Audible.com, powered by Amazon, is an incredible source for over 180,000 books on tape. They offer a free 30-day trial, and have a minimal monthly fee should you end up really liking it. Finally, Storyline Online (storylineonline.net) is a great website full of famous actors and actresses reading children’s books aloud.
Over the summer, try to find some time to grab a blanket and a book, and do some reading outdoors together!
The interactive flat screen has been a wonderful and exciting addition to our second grade classroom. Over the past few weeks, I have noticed more than just excitement to learn. My students have a reignited passion for participating in lessons and learning new information. I contribute this passion to the recent integration of technology. Allowing students to use this technology has provided my class with more opportunities to take ownership of their learning. Just recently, we completed a spelling lesson in which students taught the class spelling rules and helped their peers understand vocabulary. In addition to this, having an interactive flat screen in the room has allowed our class to reach an infinite number of resources and manipulatives. Recently my math class has been using a tool called the number machine. This tool helps students create number sense, compare numbers, and extend their understanding by leveling the activity as they go. This resource would never be possible without this technology.
In second grade we complete a presidents project each year. Thanks to the interactive flat screens, we were able to reinvent the project this year using technology. Each second grader used a chrome book to research their president. To aid in the research process, we used the interactive flat screen to model good and safe research skills. Along with this, we were able to turn our flat screens into a “green screen”. This green screen allowed the children to look like they were standing in front of the White House! We are having so much fun in second grade integrating technology!
It is not unusual for children to resist homework with a little whining, complaining, or bargaining from time to time, but what if homework becomes a consistent battle each night?
You are not alone if you find yourself consoling a tearful, frustrated child who struggles to begin or complete homework. Identifying the problem that is causing your child to resist homework is the key.
Consider the following when trying to identify the root of your child’s homework battle:
Is my child too tired or too wound up when trying to do homework?
Some students may be exhausted after school and in need of some down time. Others may need time to run around and let loose for a bit after school. Think about your child’s afternoon and evening schedule. Does your child have adequate time to recharge before beginning homework? Maybe your child needs some time to relax, eat a snack or play outside first. Identifying your child’s means of recharging, and providing time to do so, could make things a little easier when the time comes to begin homework.
Is your child overscheduled?
Is your child involved in too many after school activities? Does this contribute to a hectic schedule that changes from one day to the next? Asking children to fit in homework before or after an activity may be preventing them from attempting homework when they are at their best. Too many activities may leave your child feeling tired or craving some unstructured, down time. There are numerous benefits to extra-curricular activities, so I am not suggesting that children give up all activities. Instead, evaluate your child’s current schedule and consider whether a change might help your child complete homework more successfully.
If activities or other daily tasks prevent your child from having a consistent routine after school, it may be helpful for you and your child to create a visual schedule for the week. Allowing your child to have some say in when certain tasks will take place may provide the buy-in needed to make homework less of a struggle.
Is your child struggling with the academic work?
This is perhaps the most important question to consider. Daily tears or refusal to begin homework could be a sign that your child is finding the academic work to be too difficult. If you suspect that this might be the case, contact your child’s teacher for support.
What if nothing is working?
Some families become stuck in the homework battle and need more of a change than parents alone can provide. If you feel that your relationship with your child is negatively impacted by homework struggles, asking an “outsider” for support may be the answer.
Asking your child’s teacher for support is a great place to start. Teachers are happy to be the “bad guy” in these situations. Ask the teacher to help set at-home homework expectations with your child. Sometimes knowing that a teacher will be checking in with parents about homework is enough to get things back on track.
Hiring a homework coach or tutor may also be helpful. In many cases, children will shed tears or argue with a parent (because they feel safe and loved by you) when they would not do so with another adult. Taking yourself out of the homework equation may help to alleviate the issue.
When all else fails, seek help from others. Do not hesitate to reach out to teachers, administrators, or other outside professionals. In the end, it is important to remember that you do not have to fight the homework battle alone.
This is a blog section dedicated to the wonderful children in your life. It is designed to be read and enjoyed with your child. Taking the time to write poetry may inspire your child to be a better writer and perhaps even publish their own work at some point. I have written a short biography which includes my own love of poetry and how it all started.
My Own Poetry Biography…
I fell in love with poetry when I was a toddler/young child. I remember sitting in a circle with my brothers listening to my mother read. Yes, it often started with a story that had some sort of biblical or moral ending. However, she would read the poetry to follow. Those cozy times, all snuggled together and warm, made me happy. I have never forgotten that feeling.
Later, I endeavoured to study poetry with a greater academic goal. I wanted to be creative and inspire others. I want our St. Timothy’s students to be able to enjoy the creative process that poetry brings. I spent some time really looking at the different forms of poetry and tried to help my students get excited about writing it. In this article, we will look at the form of poetry entitled the Haiku.
A Haiku is simply a Japanese poem three lines in length. It is formed around a topic that meets certain syllables on each line but does not have to rhyme. The first line, along with the third line contains only five syllables. This middle or second line contains seven syllables. So that is it, we can all try it….5/7/5, and we are finished.
I will share below some of the sixth grade Haikus that were written about the fall. However, if you want to write one, send it to me. We will publish the best on our blog in the future.
Red Orange Yellow
Leaves are gracefully falling
Fall is in the air
The fall is chilly
I like to play with Marshall
The leaves change color
(Jack really loves his dog, Marshall.)
Cool crisp air blowing
Everything is colorful
Fall is here at last
In early December, the third graders at St. Timothy’s School visited the North Carolina Museum of Art, a field trip to cap off their first semester of learning about the history of the United States through the arts. The excitement was palpable as we climbed off the school buses and waited by the big statue in the courtyard to wait for our docents - we were going to actually see the works of art we’d only seen on a projector through a computer screen. For the past two months, students had studied different pieces of art and how they connected to the people, events, and places they study in social studies class. Paintings such as “Forward” by Jacob Lawrence and “American Landscape with Revolutionary Heroes” by Roger Brown brought to life studied and soon-to-be studied historical chapters such as the Underground Railroad and the Revolutionary War. It is my favorite field trip of the year and I am always impressed by how much students remember about each painting or work of art they’ve learned about, and their careful observations and insights into the history itself and techniques of the artists.
Art history is not usually a subject associated with third graders, but our students participate in a unique social studies curriculum that combines the history of the United States from the Native Americans through the Civil War with learning about these eras through the arts. We study works of art that show the feelings, thinking, people, and events that shaped our country - paintings, sculptures, drawings, pottery, weaving, and many other art forms that reflect the history of our nation. Taught partly in our homeroom social studies classes by the third grade teachers and partly by our lower school art teacher, Laura Bierer, this curriculum is a special collaboration between teachers and integration across subjects. In addition to learning about the works of art and the historical events they reflect, students are also given a blank sketchbook to practice the artistic techniques they study, such as realism and portraiture, with their own drawings. Students complete ten drawings, each one connected to a work of art they study. They drew their own Native American houses with symbolism and created a portrait of their own family much like the portrait of “Sir William Pepperell and His Family” they saw first-hand at the NCMA.It can be a challenge to bring history to life for students in a way that engages them in more than just memorization of facts and dates. Art from the past holds clues to what life was like in the past, and the integration of art in the study of history provides another perspective on people, places, and events. Our goal is to use art to help students start to understand the history of our country in a way that helps them see it and connect to the people who lived through it.
The purpose of homework is to provide students with an opportunity to practice skills and demonstrate understanding of concepts without the support of others. With that said, most students need some support to learn how to DO homework, which includes following a schedule, managing time and developing study habits that allow students to be more independent in completing assignments. So, how do we do this and how much do we help?
Establishing a Routine
Students typically do best with a predictable schedule and consistent routine. Setting aside a specific time and space in which your child can complete homework is important. Each child is different and what works well for one child may not work well for others. Some children may work well at the kitchen table, away from the distraction of TV and toys, but close enough for you to keep your eye on them. Others may work well in a quiet, separate space, like a desk in a separate room. Some students may prefer to come home and finish homework right away, while others may need a snack or a chance to run around and play first. If your child is struggling to begin or complete homework, take a few days to monitor when and where your child is doing homework. Are there lots of distractions in the room? Does your child seem full of energy or tired at the time? Adjusting the homework routine may help your child to be more successful. If you have made adjustments and your child is still struggling to complete homework, inform your child's teacher so you can work together to come up with a plan.
How Much Do I Help?
If a student is struggling with understanding the directions of the assignment, parents should certainly help to read the directions and clarify questions. If questions become excessive or parents are unable to explain the assignment or skills needed, parents (or the student in middle school) should reach out to the teacher for support.
If you feel compelled to check over your child's homework for accuracy, I recommend that you mark problems or questions that are incorrect, but allow your child to attempt to find the errors and correct them independently. This strategy should only be used when there are just a few mistakes. If there are several errors, marking each one may lead to greater frustration or fear of failure. In these cases, it may be more beneficial to leave the errors, but make the teacher aware of your child's difficulty with the homework so extra review can be provided by the teacher.
Allowing your child to work as independently as possible on homework helps teachers to better monitor student progress, identify areas of mastery and areas for review. If you are working on a specific homework assignment with your child and he/she requires significant support from you to complete the task, it is important to let your child's teacher know. If teachers are unaware that parents have provided support, they may get a false sense of mastery and may be unaware of the student’s struggles.
In some cases (probably more often than you think), homework can become a very frustrating and negative experience at home. Various factors can contribute to this, but regardless of the cause, when this occurs it is important for parents to seek support from teachers. For more information on this, keep an eye out for my upcoming blog, What to Do When Homework Becomes a Battle!
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