On Teaching

Mary Cole

“I’ve had the honor of attending Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Summer Institute for four years. TCRWP taught me how to use state-of-the-art tools and methods for teaching reading and writing and how to use performance-based assessments and learning progressions to accelerate growth with my students. They also taught me how to have literacy-rich instruction in other areas of curriculum. TCRWP is always incorporating new brain science research strategies into the way the world teaches reading and writing, and it has been a continual source of professional development and renewal that has guided my teaching of the reading and writing process in the Lower School as I target students across the developmental age span of ages 4 through 12. I have particularly enjoyed being able to attend the summer institute with other Tarrier educators. Doing so allows us to plan how we want to implement our new learning into our classrooms and better support our students. Bringing those lessons back to campus, I’ve participated in rich conversations and discussions on the Curriculum Committee and in the English department as well as in our divisions. Guided by Rachel Rippl and Patti Crouch-Cook, we developed meaningful skills and benchmarks across our curriculum from junior kindergarten through 12th grade in both reading and writing. I will always be thankful for all of the support and resources that I need to be a successful teacher. I am also grateful to all of the exceptional teachers at CWA for helping me to grow as a reading and writing teacher into an educator of which I can be proud.” – Mary Cole, Lower School learning specialist

Richard Kalustian

“I stumbled into teaching Middle School, almost by accident, more than 40 years ago, but soon discovered I was right where I belonged. Contrary to the widespread stereotype, I found Middle School students to be intensely curious, proud but vulnerable, genuinely affectionate, and downright funny. Our Charles Wright students are no exception, with the added bonus that they share a special sense of trust and camaraderie with their teachers and the other adults in the Tarrier community. One exciting aspect of Middle School math is that so much of the learning is collaborative and conversational, with students pairing up or working in groups to practice new skills from our lessons. Sometimes a neighbor’s reframing of the teacher’s model will be just the click a student needs. I always find that students who can explain concepts to others gain a firmer mastery over those concepts. Plus, it’s always a treat to hear students communicate their processes of thinking. I love listening to conversations at Knowledge Bowl practices and tournaments, as teams stage quiet, intense debates, seeking consensus in the 15 seconds between buzzing in and giving their answer.” – Richard Kalustian, Middle School math teacher

Dr. Lily Cui

“Developing electives has been a labor of love from the start, and I think those origins will be immediately apparent to students. The initial spitballing stage—coming up with as many course ideas as possible—was absurdly fun and gave all of us in the English department license to consider our depth and breadth of knowledge and interests. At the same time, we were also motivated by an awareness that our students needed and were capable of more than they were currently being offered. With classes like British monsters, creative writing, and race and literature, students will have the chance not only to pursue their own passions, but also to identify questions they didn’t know they wanted to ask and examine preconceptions they never realized they held. What connects all of our electives is the desire to make the leap beyond the classroom, to show that literary studies isn’t a hermetic activity but a practice that weaves together thinking and living. I became very invested in my elective proposals (race and literature, film studies, gender and literature, and postcolonial literature) after class discussions of topics that students felt deeply and urgently about. When students began creating clubs and insisting on staying after class to keep talking about the questions that our readings raised—questions that in many cases affected their everyday lives—I realized there was an untapped need that I could address in a structured rather than an ad-hoc way. As I fine-tuned these syllabi over the summer, this dual obligation haunted me: How do I strike a balance between acknowledging the urgency and relevance of what’s happening in the world and reining in the impulse to include everything so that the course has a coherent center? Being able to grapple with this question at all feels like a luxurious position to be in, and I suspect getting into the classroom with my students will, as always, help clarify these priorities.” – Dr. Lily Cui, Upper School English teacher