An elementary-only independent school located in Atlanta, serving children ages three through Sixth Grade since 1951.

Teacher Feature: Julia Kuipers

A Tangent Towards Growth

By Julia Kuipers, World Languages Teacher
 
How often in team meetings do we find ourselves on a brief tangent, an unexpected turn in a conversation that is sometimes distracting while other times lead to a helpful insight? A year ago, it seemed my career was taking a tangent, diverging from World Languages to the base classroom. I felt like a kid on his or her first day in Spanish class. The classroom was familiar, yet everything I heard was in an obscure language. Number Talks? Lucy Calkins? Running records? I was in the classroom but not the classroom I was comfortable in.
 
During the year, I found myself leaning into something very different and very stimulating. With guidance from the Sixth Grade lead teachers, I tried my hand at teaching in the four academic classes. Lesson planning became an artistic process of learning, creating, and risk-taking. In my excitement for new subject areas, my mind continued to drift to World Languages. How did this all translate?
 
This reflection harkens back to a pre-planning presentation from [Upper Elementary Division Head] Maryellen Berry a few years back about perspectives. I remember her talking about zooming in and zooming out. Perhaps the TTT segment “WHAT IS THAT?” comes to mind. I spent a year zooming out and looking at children with a new lens. I sat in on parent-sharing conversations and graduation practice. I dabbled in new curriculum, Opera rehearsals, and field trips. A year later, I’m zooming back in, making a b-line to language instruction, while seeing the big picture of Sixth Grade life.
 
So, how did this translate? Like a Number Talk, I look for flexibility and creativity in language production. The Lucy Calkins mini-lesson architecture informs writing and grammar lessons. The World Languages team uses benchmark assessments, similar to a running record, to track growth in language production over time.
 
At the time, I could not see how spending a year in the base classroom might better prepare me for language education. Now I cannot help but wonder what other tangents I might take to new areas of growth.
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