THE COOPER SCHOOL BLOG

​The Cooper School is a private, independent, non-sectarian school that values the participation of families from diverse backgrounds. Founded in 2007, The Cooper School is a 501(c) 3 non-profit institution. The Cooper School offers an exceptional holistic education for children grades K-5. Academic excellence, stewardship of the environment, activity, and creativity are hallmarks of the Cooper School Curriculum.

An Interview with Grade 5 Teacher, Lauren Gould… November 15, 2017

What do you do at TCS and how long have you been here?

I teach 5th Grade at The Cooper School.  Last year, I was the Long-Term Substitute for the 5th Grade class from August to November!  In the Spring, I did the Little Einstein’s Science Club and this summer, I helped Miss Subhadra with Science Camp.  I love The Cooper School and I am so happy to be back.

What do you value about being at TCS?

I value the positive learning environment.  The students are engaged and motivated intrinsically by their love of learning.  The supportive faculty and TCS families make it a joyful workplace!

What’s something you’ve learned teaching or working here?

I learn something new from my students every day! Currently, we are entranced in our Wonders of the World presentations and the research of this project is so intriguing!

Which educator has influenced you the most in your life, and how?

My 2nd Grade teacher was my favorite teacher in Elementary School! She was the sweetest soul, had a cool reading nook and a calm demeanor.  She also convinced my mom to buy me a hamster!

What do you look forward to in your role here (lesson, section, topic, etc.) each year?

Fifth Grade is full of fun units and projects. I am really excited for the Science Fair and to see the creativity of the students and the inventive projects they will design!  

What is an example of your approach to dynamically balancing creative intelligence, self and social intelligence and academic mastery in your work at TCS?

I love integrating the arts into our curriculum.  Fifth Graders act out vocabulary words, design and draw tessellations in Math, and study artwork during Social Studies!

If you could live in a book, what book would it be?

I would definitely want to live in a Dr. Seuss book! I would love to ride around in the crazy cars and eat green eggs and ham!

What’s something this community might not know about you?

I taught French for several years while working on my master’s at College of Charleston.  As an undergraduate, I majored in Global Studies and minored in Art History.  I love infusing the arts into my classroom!

 

An Interview with Grade 1 Teacher, Lou Cherry… November 7, 2017

What do you do at The Cooper School and how long have you been here?

At The Cooper School, I teach First Grade with Marsha McCoy! Previously at TCS, I taught Kindergarten, Third Grade, Orton-Gillingham reading groups across grade levels, and worked in the office as our school’s Parent and Community Liaison. 

What do you value about being at TCS?

I value the professional development and growth offered at The Cooper School. As an educator, I continue learning by attending workshops, observing other teachers, reading books, or leading staff meetings. I feel enormously proud of my coworkers as we work together to grow into more polished educators. 

What’s something you’ve learned teaching here?

As a TCS teacher, I’ve enjoyed being a part of creating learning environments where students feel safe making mistakes, being the “boss of their learning”, access materials around the room independently, and asking for help from their teachers or peers. 

Which educator has influenced you the most in your life, and how?

My Fifth Grade teacher, Mrs. Kabis, was the most influential educator in my world! She was an animated teacher who had high expectations and cared about her students. She acted out vocabulary words. We created commercials instead of writing book reports. I remember she came to one of my soccer games on a weekend. During the talent show, she wore a sequin show dress and sang on roller skates! She was absolutely mesmerizing and a natural performer. She sparked a passion for learning in me as a young student. She was a huge influence in my decision to become an elementary school teacher. 

What do you look forward to in your role here (lesson, section, topic, etc.) each year?

I feel very fortunate to teach and work at The Cooper School. It’s a badge of honor. Each year, I look forward to professional growth, watching old students grow, younger siblings start in Kindergarten, and watching the imaginative playground games at recess. 

What is an example of your approach to dynamically balancing creative intelligence, self and social intelligence and academic mastery in your work at TCS?

I enjoy learning centers at TCS. Every grade participates in centers each week. It’s an engaging way for students to be “the boss of their learning”, to practice newly learned skills in game formats, to practice using manipulatives and tools, or to RTW (return to work) if they need extra time to complete an assignment. Students often work in partnerships or small groups to accomplish an end product during learning centers. 

If you could live in a book, what book would it be?

If I could live in a book, I would live in Toy Dance Party by Emily Jenkins. It’s full of friendships and adventures! 

What’s something this community might not know about you?

I have two sisters and grew up in a blended household as one of six kids! I have enormous respect for sibling relationships. I think brothers and sisters have a deep bond and support them in the classroom, in a birthday celebration circle, on the playground, and whenever possible. 

 

 

An Interview with Kindergarten Teacher, Erin Biddle… October 19, 2017

What do you do at The Cooper School and how long have you been here?

This is my 3rd year at TCS and I teach Kindergarten.

What do you value about being at TCS?

I value the fact that we are a team here.  We are always working together collaboratively across grade levels. Due to this, there is an abundance of mutual respect among the staff.

What’s something you’ve learned teaching here?

I’ve learned about the power of positivity and how working with others with the same educational beliefs and goals makes you a stronger teacher and a better person overall.    

Which educator has influenced you the most in your life, and how?

My 4th Grade teacher, Mr. Birmbaum, instilled a joy of learning in me and taught me that I could do anything!  He truly cared about his students and always made learning fun.  I will always remember him!

What do you look forward to in your role here (lesson, section, topic, etc.) each year?

I look forward to the connections and relationships I make with my students each year.  I love my students like they are my own children, and spending time with them brings me joy.

What is an example of your approach to dynamically balancing creative intelligence, self and social intelligence and academic mastery in your work at TCS?

Responsive Classroom training has changed my teaching by showing me the connection between academic success and social-emotional learning.  Responsive Classroom gave me many new strategies for supporting my students academically and socially, and taught me how to set high expectations for learning. 

If you could live in a book, what book would it be?

Little House On the Prairie, because growing up I always loved how simple life was back then. 

An Interview with Grade 3 Teacher, Subhadra Glassman: October 6, 2017

What do you do at TCS and how long have you been here?

This is my eighth year teaching at The Cooper School.  I have taught all grades except 5th.  This year I am in Grade 3.  I am also involved with curriculum development, and enjoy writing and honing various pieces of the curriculum.

What do you value about being at TCS?

I believe that a sense of community helps everyone to be their best selves.  TCS is a community on many levels.  From staff, to students, to families- we all support each other. 

What’s something you’ve learned teaching or working here?

Everything. I have been supported and coached into a strong and loving teacher.  I have learned that being in deep relationships with my students is the most important thing that I can do to be a successful TCS teacher.

Which educator has influenced you most in your life, and how?

Kate Shorter, the Founding Director of TCS, was a tremendous influence on me as a teacher.  She taught me how to be in control of a class while maintaining a calm and respectful tone.

What do you look forward to in your role here (lesson, section, topic, etc.) each year?

I love getting to know all of the new students at the beginning of the year and teaching siblings of students I have taught previously.  I also always enjoy gaining a deeper understanding of the curriculum, and teaching the big projects!

What is an example of your approach to dynamically balancing creative intelligence, self and social intelligence and academic mastery in your work at TCS?

I love how we teach Vocabulary at TCS.  Students receive new vocabulary words every two weeks.  During this two-week study, students are asked to interact with these words in a variety of ways.  They use the words in written sentences, they illustrate the words, they use their words in their daily lives, and they even act the words out through a dramatic interpretation! In this all-encompassing way, every student is able to represent the words in ways that make the most sense to them.

If you could live in a book, what book would it be?

Harry Potter, as long as I wasn’t a Muggle and I had some sort of magical powers.

What’s something this community might not know about you?

I grew up on a Hindu-based spiritual Ashram in Florida.  Subhadra is the name of a Hindu goddess.  Also, I went to The University of Florida and I am a HUGE Gators fan.

 

 

 

Back to School Night! February 8, 2017

I grew up in a family of educators. Therefore even as a young child, I knew I would be an elementary school teacher. I dreamed of teaching in my own classroom one day. I wanted to foster a love of learning by creating a classroom where students would feel free to take risks and accept challenges. My dream became a reality and I began teaching in public schools. I taught with very talented and well-educated instructors. Year after year, my classroom was packed (literally) with a wide range of creativity and brilliance. Through my accomplishments there, I had come to believe I was a seasoned and successful teacher. Many teachers would even consider this an ideal working environment.  And then I became a mother of a little girl who was nearing school age and my perspective on education changed abruptly.  It became impossible to look at education through any eyes other than that of a mother.

When you think about where your child is going to spend the majority of their time, the various influences on them daily, and the type of education they will receive you become very critical of the little details you never seemed to notice. The details began to concern me. I began searching for something more and while doing so I recognized my values as both a teacher and a parent. I realized I value tailor knit curriculum created to meet every individual need in the classroom.  I value teaching the noble traits of compassion, empathy, and inclusiveness. I value teaching practices that don’t just have a “one size fits all” model. I value when children’s talents are celebrated through artwork and presentations that demonstrate the depth of learning versus typical “I’m a super kid” award ceremonies. Many schools claim that this is an integral part of their approach, but until The Cooper School, without fail, it has always been lip service. The Cooper School actually puts what I value into practice every single day.

In August of 2015, I was lucky enough to join The Cooper School.  In a very short time I have become aware how fortunate I was to find TCS and how lucky our little community is to have each other. As a teacher, I am not only encouraged, but challenged to exceed my limits of creativity, communication, and education.  As a mother I get to watch my little girl thrive in a place that pushes her through individualized curriculum, encourages her to be unique, and insists on her being herself. In my mind, the best gift I can give her is knowing she is receiving the tools, confidence and enthusiasm to realize her potential.

 

Kelly Porter 

2nd Grade Teacher

Summer Camp 2017! February 6, 2017

Back by popular demand… TCS Summer Camp!
We are excited to announce the return of TCS summer camps! With the return of “Summer Fun” and the addition of new themes, this year’s camps are sure to be just as much (if not more!) fun than last year. Come have some summer fun with your friends at TCS!
 
There are 12 spots available per week. Spots fill up quickly, so sign up today!
Sign up here: 
https://squareup.com/store/thecooperschool

Why I Give to the TCS Annual Fund January 13, 2017

When my son told me that his “hope and dream” for the school year was to raise enough money to extend the school through 8th grade so that he could stay, I knew The Cooper School was a very special place. The community of creative exploration, support, and kindness has inspired a confidence and love of learning in Charlie that will prove invaluable throughout his life. We feel privileged to be a part of and support such a unique learning environment and are excited for what the future holds.

– Ashley Rini, Grade 2 Parent

Global Citizenship December 14, 2016

“Education must be not only a transmission of culture but also a provider of alternative views of the world and a strengthener of skills to explore them.” Jerome S. Bruner

 

Global citizenship is a way of thinking and living that recognizes that all of us in the world are interconnected and interdependent. Our community is not just our small school, town, or state, but can also be viewed through the wider lens of citizen of the world.  At The Cooper School, we believe that global citizenship is important. When you think of yourself as a global citizen, you develop a deep respect for others, no matter where they live. You are able to make decisions and form beliefs based on a clear understanding of how the world actually works, and the diversity that it includes.  Media, travel, migration, politics, economics, social media and telecommunications means that today we are linked to people of every continent every day.  We want to nurture thoughtful, flexible, prepared citizens that understand how to communicate and collaborate across cultures, and grow to contribute to the formation of a better world. 

 

We know that everything we do sends a message to our students. If we want to affirm beliefs about the equality of all human beings and the importance of treating everyone fairly and with respect, we need to ensure that our learning processes and relationships reinforce and reflect these values. Therefore, the concept of global citizenship softly permeates everything we do. It is behind the scenes of the continent and indigenous peoples studies that occur in each grade. It is brought to bear as our students learn how to greet each other in our three world languages. It can be heard as the choir learns Portuguese folk songs.  It is present as dumplings are shared for Chinese New Year and a galettes des rois is devoured. Of course, it is always deeply entrenched in our explicit teaching of social emotional concepts such as gratitude, wonder, joy, creativity, flexibility and compassion. 

 

One of our favorite ways to promote Global Citizenship is in December as we commence our study of Holiday Migrations. During this month, teachers present the migrations of many different holidays across time and place. We also choose a theme to connect the study. In years past we have focused on food, light, music, and gratitude. This year, we will focus on symbols as we learn about Winter Solstice, Chanukah, Christmas, St. Lucia Day, Kwanza, Tamkharit and Los Posadas. 

 

“Before you finish eating breakfast this morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Number Sense October 18, 2016

Each Wednesday afternoon, as we have for the past 5 years, teachers and I come together for a professional development staff meeting. Meeting topics are broad and varied. We have learned about brain development, brainstormed ways to increase content area literacy, discussed and determined how to encourage wonder and curiosity, created schedules to video tape ourselves teaching in order to hone our craft, and eaten a wide range of snacks. And that is just since August!
 
Last Wednesday we turned our attention to math and hunkered down to increase our understanding of number sense. Some studies indicate that a child’s initial understandings of numbers have long term consequences for their success in school. For example, a 2011 study determined that, “preschool children’s knowledge of mathematics predicts their later school success into elementary and even high school” (Clements and Sarama, 2011). In other words, early number sense matters, and it matters for a long time. 
 
So what is number sense?  At TCS, we accept the widely held definition of number sense as “intuition about numbers that has developed gradually as a result of exploration, visualizing them in a variety of contexts, and relating them in ways that are not limited by traditional algorithms” (Howden, 1989).
 
Number sense is not a unilateral relationship, instead it is a web of interconnected ideas. Over time, this web grows larger and larger. If children just learn basic facts in an isolated context, they will develop problems when numbers become larger and more complex, because they cannot connect these basic facts to other facts or number relationships.  In other words, memorization alone is not enough. Our knowledge has to mean something. 
 
So, can number sense be taught? The answer is yes, but in very specific ways. Every child can develop number sense, and some, in fact, have it intuitively.  For the children that don’t come by it naturally, our job is to systematically support that learning on an individual basis. The catch is that we can’t just stand in front of the room and tell them, “8 is less than 9” and expect them to understand it without context. This is why the concept of “skill and drill” doesn’t work long term, and certainly it doesn’t work at all if we move to it without doing anything else. Brownell and Chazal (1935) found that if we move to an emphasis on speed too soon it just encourages children to become faster at their informal approaches (i.e. counting on their fingers). In other words, they are just practicing their inefficient and occasionally inaccurate strategies.
 
The key is that they must learn it by doing. They learn by playing games, and watching the person that rolled the 9 on the dice move one more space than the person that rolled an 8. They learn it by pulling over a chair to the dinner table when a guest comes over. They learn it by counting out 9 grapes at snack time, giving one to a friend, and then counting again. Our job is to provide experiences for them to explore and then intentionally guide them into seeing relationships around numbers. This is guided discovery at its finest.
 
One of the relationships that is key to developing number sense is subitizing.Subitizing is instantly seeing “how many” and it derives from the Latin for “suddenly”.  Research suggests that even infants subitize on a basic level. For example, close your eyes and think of “seven”.  What did you see? When we did this in staff meeting we had a wide array of responses. I saw the word “seven”.  Anne Wil saw a group of 5 and 2. Kelly saw 2, 2, 2, and 1. Noah saw the numeral 7.  This picture in your head of a number is key to subitizing. We need to help children who, like me, don’t automatically create a picture of sets in their head of numbers. People who are able to subitize “just know” that 7 is actually
 
 

 

 
 
Or
 
  

 
 
This skill is so important, that students that cannot subitize really struggle to learn arithmetic processes. Interestingly, traditional textbooks like the ones used in non progressive schools often present information in ways that discourage subitizing!
 
At TCS we are deeply committed to creating time and space to explore this skill. At home, there are many things you can do to encourage subitizing.
 
1.     Have your child create a quick image arrangement of manipulatives (pennies, cheerios, cotton balls…)
2.     Arrange manipulatives into a visual image and have children quickly tell you “how many”. Challenge students to create an image that is “one more” or “two less”.
3.     Encourage children to estimate with arrangements that are too large to subitize exactly.
4.     For older children, create a geometric pattern with manipulatives, and have them use subitizing. For example, a square has 4 equal sides. This square has 2 dots on each side and 4 more in the corners so 12 dots total.
5.     Clap a rhythm and have children tell you how many claps you made.
6.     Download an app such as Pattern Sets from itunes
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pattern-sets/id415152649?mt=8
 

Why We Chose The Cooper School September 23, 2016

 
My husband and I have always agreed that our number one goal for our daughter’s education is to find a school that truly nurtured her love of learning. If she could graduate 5th grade, and not only still love to learn but also know how to learn (versus just memorizing info for tests), then, in our opinion, she would be set up to continue to be a happy, intellectually curious, successful person. 
 
Finding The Cooper School was truly serendipitous for us. We originally were looking to move to a better school district (we currently live in a failing one) so our daughter could go to a good public school. However, after the October 2015 flooding, our house was so damaged that it took 6 months of repairs in order to get it in living condition, much less sellable condition. By that time, it was spring of our daughter’s kindergarten year and we knew we needed to start looking at private schools (because of this delay with our house). We adventured on an exhaustive search of the private schools in our area. The Cooper School truly felt like home to us. Our daughter immediately loved the physical and emotional space that TCS provided.
 
It is obvious when you arrive that these educators are not only exceptional teachers, but that they incorporate relevant and current research into their teaching on an academic, emotional, social and psychological level. They truly make learning fun! I’m not kidding when I say that everyday when I pick her up, she’s literally bouncing into the car, eager to tell me about what she’s done that day. I love that TCS understands and reinforces that kids need to move their bodies as part of their learning process. Learning for all of us is better retained when we enjoy what we are involved in, right? I’ve talked with several parents whose children attend TCS, and we all agree, “I wish I could go there!”  I’m grateful that as a family, we can deeply engage in our daughter’s education while preserving flexibility for our family life.
 
As a parent and a psychotherapist, I am proud to be part of this 21st century, best practices approach to education that empowers children and nurtures their innate curiosity.  
                               – Solange Swafford, Grade 1 Parent

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