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 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

Head of School – Recently I was made aware of an alarming statistic September 9, 2016

In the US, one student drops out of school every 12 seconds. Why? As a country, what are we doing wrong, and how can we do better? In a study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 47% of high school dropouts left because they “were bored with school.” Student disengagement is creating a crisis among our students. Even though this statistic may not directly affect our own elementary school students, it started to make me wonder: Are we doing enough at TCS to create engaged and passionate learners? If we believe that elementary schools offer the foundation for success, are we creating a strong enough one? 

As I pondered this, I was led to the work of Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski. Authors of Leaving to Learn, Washor also co-founded Big Picture Learning. This educational initiative in Rhode Island led to a school redesign model which now includes over 65 schools in the United States, and many more around the world. They have created 10 expectations that students want from their schools.

I was struck by how this work captures much of what makes learning “stick” and feel joyful at progressive schools such as The Cooper School. A standardized, one-size-fits-all, traditional approach to learning doesn’t reflect how children (or adults) learn best. At The Cooper School, we take these expectations seriously each and every day.  Below you will find the top 4 expectations that I believe are critical to the work we do here.

  • Relationships – I know my students as individuals. I know their individual interests and talents, and they do not feel like just a face in the crowd.

One of the hallmarks of The Cooper School, and progressive education in general, is this relational piece. We believe that children learn best in relationship, with each other and with their teacher. By design TCS teachers are in deep relationships with their students. In fact, it is one of the reasons students call their teachers by their first names! Teachers are seen as the lead learner in the classroom, a guide. By using first names, the sense of being partners in learning is fostered. Not only are these relationships delightful to engage in and witness, they matter academically. Multiple studies have shown that positive teacher-student relationships have been shown to support students’ adjustment to school, contribute to their social skills, promote academic performance and foster students’ resiliency in academic performance. At The Cooper School, we know relationships matter, and we make time to foster those relationships each and every day.

  • Relevance – Is my class just a series of hoops to jump through? Am I helping my students understand how learning contributes to the community and the world?

Parents, have you ever had your child ask you why they have to do something? Well, research tells us the “why” matters! This makes sense, right? As adults, we are more engaged, more present, when what we are doing actually has real world applications – when it makes sense and is meaningful. Kids are no different. The benefits of relevance are rooted deep in brain research. Relevant, meaningful activities that both engage students emotionally and connect with what they already know, help build neural connections and long-term memory storage.  Students have to connect to the material in deep ways in order to engage and remember. This is precisely why paper pushing and busy work is not only boring, but it doesn’t create long lasting learning. Here at TCS, we give students the opportunity to explore and apply relevant, real world work. Students map and plan, collaborate and design, fail and try again, all in ways that make sense to their own, meaningful interpretation of the world they inhabit. In these ways, they both learn and remember.

  • Play – Do my students have opportunities to explore, make mistakes, create, tinker, guess and innovate?

We all can agree that play is how the very youngest children learn. But somehow, in many schools the time and space for play is eliminated by First Grade. Teacher led, lecture format instruction has replaced play in many traditional classrooms across the country. At TCS, we know that when you eliminate play from your classroom, you eliminate opportunities for innovation and growth, both academically and socially. Plus, isn’t joy in discovery what is should be about? Play at TCS can take two forms. First is when children are given ample time to carry their own ideas into play—with assistance from teachers as needed. For example, last year, as Grade 2 students were deep in their Bird Study, playground play was transformed.  Second Graders became a family of birds at recess. They would gather wood chips and materials around them to intricately create their nest. The “clutch” was often seen in the nest, while the mama bird searched for food. Little “hatchlings” could be seen spreading their wings and learning to fly. It was magical and all inspired by what they were learning in the classroom. Play at its finest. 

The other type of play is when the teachers enrich content in experiential ways, using hands on activities and exploration. This may not be delineated by your student as “play” but, in fact, play is at the heart of it.  Student’s play and teacher’s content should go hand in hand. As adults, these children will be expected to create, to problem solve, to negotiate, to socially navigate what others say and mean, and to follow through to completion something of their own initiation. This is what play allows. At TCS we create space in both time and environment for this most important work of children.

  • Challenge – Do my students understand real world standards of quality of work? Are they being held to meaningful standards of excellence?

Ah, academic rigor. We say we want our students to be “challenged” but what do we really mean? One common misconception of progressive schooling is that it is laissez faire, steeped in hippie idealism. Certainly, I understand the marketing ploy of “if it is not hard, it can’t be working.” In fact, I recently read an article about the “Listerine Theory” of education, which was based on an ad campaign run by Listerine. In effect this ad proposed that because Listerine tastes bad it must really work!  The converse being implied is that if it is fun and engaging, it can’t be educational. Our students are so darn happy, they can’t actually be challenged academically, can they? In fact, by definition progressive education is rigorous and challenging. Constructing your own learning, having your academic needs individualized, and designing your own academic goals within a discipline are far more challenging in their nature than a series of rote worksheets or flashcards.

At The Cooper School, teachers are assessing their students daily and planning with administration weekly in order to make decisions about the direction that a student’s learning is going.  This may mean that one student needs to be presented with more challenging work, or this may mean that a group of students needs some more focused instruction with a specific skill. By individualizing instruction, we can make sure each and every child is challenged appropriately. Every day, every discipline, every student.

Curriculum Night! September 7, 2016

Please join the TCS teachers and administrators on Thursday, September 29 from 5:30pm-6:30pm for Curriculum Night.  This is a night where parents will learn all about the fantastic and engaging curriculum that their children will experience this school year.  Parents will participate in a teacher led Morning Meeting and have time to browse their child’s classroom.  Students do not attend this event.  

Welcome Back! August 10, 2016

COOPERGRAM

COPYRIGHT ©2017

SITEMAP
The Cooper School