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I recently had the opportunity to attend Ron Clark Academy’s professional development training with some fellow NCS teachers. In many ways, the experience is simply indescribable. However, after being asked to share about this amazing experience, I decided to try my best.
The Ron Clark Academy is a non-profit middle school in Atlanta, Georgia where students come from a wide range of economic backgrounds. This school is performing at such a high level of academic rigor and student engagement that it is revered among many educators. Possibly the most successful piece of RCA’s intentional and revolutionary style is the sense of community held between their students, faculty, and parents.
Walking into the building is similar to visiting Disney World for the first time. The excitement and magic are tangible not only between the incoming teachers but also among the students who welcome you at the doors. Loud music plays as you walk in on a red carpet, and students greet you while they dance around together; always with a smile and a firm handshake. They help you get through their “Harry Potter” themed building while asking pertinent and personal questions about your life. There were many times I forgot that I was speaking to fifth and sixth-grade students instead of seasoned conversationalists and professional adults.
I could go on and on about the “experience”, but what I truly seek to focus on and pursue is how these methods can be brought into my own classroom and into our beautiful community that is already present at Nashville Christian School. We might not have a fire-breathing dragon in the auditorium or a two-story slide in our entryway, but there are so many incredible ways we can bring magical and intangible items with us into our classes.
Change always starts at the top with teachers who are excited and passionate about teaching. This is the reason the RCA students were happy and excited - their teachers started the trend! My goal is to be more intentional with my students about raising the bar academically and giving them challenges that create grit along with their learning. I want to encourage and cultivate social skills from making eye contact, to speaking directly and listening actively. I desire to have conversations with my students that go past the surface level and move into deeper concepts. I will choose to engage my kids through movement, discussion, and creativity to help them achieve more. I want to create a bigger sense of belonging for every child, not only in my class but also within the school building.
This experience will stay with me long after the school year ends, and I hope it will continue to change the way I approach teaching for years to come.
With bullying, school shootings and teen suicide on the rise, NCS senior Tollie Boone was inspired to create this powerful spoken word and song in response – Only Yesterday.
"When I started writing this, it was just a short little poem that I really thought nothing about. It was just something to get off my brain to help me fall asleep. After I finished writing, I realized that this world isn’t as safe as it was when I was younger. I used to be able to go outside and not have to worry if someone was going to hurt me. Now in today’s society, we have to increase security and make rules more strict. Keeping people out only invites more problems in. The only way we can help someone is if we ask. We can’t keep ignoring one another thinking that one day we will say something to them. That 'one day' we have now might not always be there. Galatians 6:10 says, 'Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people…'"
These pictures are from our bridge-building activity in 3rd grade. We read a story called Pop’s Bridge, told from the point of view of a child whose father was a skywalker building the Golden Gate Bridge. The child has a change in mindset when he realizes ALL the workers on the bridge were important and necessary.
Before we build our bridges, we study other bridges, paying close attention to design. Each child draws an idea after learning who is on his or her team. Each team chooses a design to build, and they build it with 100 toothpicks and 50 gumdrops. Today we tested our ability to work as a team for a common purpose. We will test our bridge designs for strength and stability on Monday.
Act well your part; therein lies all the honor. This quote from Alexander Pope is the motto of the International Thespian Society. The ITS group at each school is called a troupe and is usually led by the theater teacher. Students are inducted into this theater honor society based on points earned in a variety of areas including technical theater, production, and performance. Nashville Christian School has both a Junior Thespian Troupe for 6th-8th grade students and a High School Troupe for 9th-12th grade students. Induction qualifications for the junior troupe are 50 points, while 100 points must be earned for induction into the International High School troupe.
Students are recognized for theatrical achievements and also earn scholar recognition for maintaining high GPA’s during their stage productions. Here at NCS it is not unusual for our thespian students to be on the honor roll and president’s list! We have had a few seniors graduate with the highest honors offered by the ITS. Jack Forte (2018) and Laura Pickard (2016) both graduated as International Honor Thespian Vice President's List Scholars. Joey Hendricks, Hendrick Shelton, and Maggie Shivers all graduated in 2016 as National Honor Thespian Vice President's List Scholars. The time it takes to reach these levels of excellence means that the thespian troupe members spend a lot of time together. Senior Tollie Boone says, “The thespian club at NCS has given me a group of people that I consider my family. They have helped me overcome many obstacles in my life and also helped me become more confident in myself. I can always count on my thespian family to have my back through everything.”
Tollie is a great person to speak to about the troupe. Last year, she became our first student to reach the level of International Honor Thespian during her junior year. She earned this honor while maintaining a scholar level GPA, playing basketball and being a hydration engineer for the football team! Her passion for performing and love for technical theater have combined to keep her involved in nearly every performance on the NCS stage. Tollie started her theater career with minor roles such as a munchkin in Wizard of Oz, but grew to lead shows as James in James and the Giant Peach and Adelaide in Guys and Dolls! Most recently she was seen as Kyler in Bring it On!. What many people don’t know is that Tollie is an exceptional lighting designer and brings her expertise to almost all of the shows that are produced at NCS. She plots and programs the lighting for every scene in each production.
When asked about her reaction to achieving this level of recognition as a junior, she replied, “I was super happy. Being the first junior to achieve that as well made it even more special. It took so much time and dedication to the theater department performing and helping backstage but it paid off.“ Tollie spent a week this summer with fellow thespians Helina Butler, Taylor Dahl, Michael Dubois, and Megan Parker training in Princeton, New Jersey at the New Beginnings workshop with Peter Sklar. That experience culminated in a showcase where they performed monologues on stage at the Orpheum theater in New York. Tollie and Taylor will be returning for another intensive session over the Christmas and New Year’s break. Tollie plans to major in theater in college.
NCS is proud of both our current thespians and aspiring actors and their work on and off the stage. As each of them strives to follow the path God sets before them, we know that they will continue to use the talents He has given them to glorify Him. Make sure to catch this year’s performances and support the fabulous young people that make up the Fine Arts program at Nashville Christian School.