Archive for February, 2016

Improving the Writing Process, Part 2

This is the second post in a series on tools that GRACE teachers use to improve the process, content, and quality of our students’ writing. To read the first post see Improving the Writing Process.

Turnitin is a tool to help students learn to correctly use and cite others’ ideas. Many students do not grasp the difference between plagiarizing and relying too much on the writing of the authors they research.  One is dishonest; the other is poor paraphrasing.  Paraphrasing is a complicated skill. Turnitin walks students through the process of comparing their words with the original source, allowing them to see exactly where they used another’s exact words, where they paraphrased, and where they are expressing their own ideas  Turnitin permits students to submit preliminary drafts and check their writing before final submission. For both original and non-original work, students confidently learn to present ideas and avoid serious reactive penalties for mishandling or misrepresenting work.

“Turnitin provides feedback to students on their use of source material with the world’s largest content comparison database and highlights original writing and proper citation (Turnitin Website).”

Besides noting plagiarism, Turnitin also points out phrasing in papers that is commonly found in published works. In this case, a student may not have plagiarized, but is using unoriginal words and phrases resulting in mediocre writing. Teachers can engage in proactive conversations and instruction with students about word choice, assisting them in developing an exceptional personal writing style.

In the hands of GRACE teachers, Turnitin is a powerful tool enabling our students to learn important lessons about proper research protocol, to become strong writers, and to be prepared to write in college and corporate business environment.

School Email Addresses for 5th Graders

This blog post is by Tomeka Hartsfield, our TK-6th Technology Teacher and Integration Specialist. As part of our digital citizenship curriculum, she shares her thoughts on student email addresses and preparing students to responsibly use email.

During the 2nd semester, GRACE introduced the 5th graders to email. Students learned email etiquette in the weeks prior to receiving their email. Email has become the primary form of communication, so we should start teaching our students early how to be good stewards of email. Email capability is our first step in accessing Google Apps (including Google Docs & Google Slides), which students will use throughout their time at GRACE. To get a GRACE email account, students have to pass an email quiz and sign an email policy agreement. Their parents also sign the policy. Some of the expectations in the email policy are:

  • Students must follow all of the E4 policies. [Note: E4 is our technology initiative.]
  • Students should never give out personal information in an email.
  • Students should always apply the rules of etiquette in every email.
  • Students should always report any malicious acts such as cyber bullying, threatening messages, or other offensive messages immediately to an adult.
  • Students should choose words carefully when communicating.
  • Students should remember “know your audience” and use appropriate tone and format.

GRACE is equipping our students early to be prepared for life in the 21st century!

Why I Love What I Do

Ok, that’s a misleading title because there are many reasons I (Laura) love what I do, but here’s one of them:

It’s a great time to be at GRACE. The new 3D printer is here and already teachers are planning projects to use it. We’re thinking more and more about exciting, engaging real-world learning, especially with project-/problem-/challenge-based learning (and yes, if you’re confused about the difference between all of those, it is confusing. That’s a blog post for another day). Teachers and students are being bold and willing to fail in the search for deeper learning, which means more authenticity, passion, and grit.

I’ll be honest: not every day feels like this. Some days I hear about websites not working, or tools that used to be free but now cost $50/student (ok, that’s an exaggeration but you know what I mean), or teachers or students discouraged by trying something and it just didn’t work the way we wanted it to work. That’s life; those things happen. Sometimes when you step out on a limb willing to fail, you fail.

But some days are like today, and I’m thankful for that. It’s a good reminder that this work that I do–being a Technology Coach–is not only meaningful, it’s fun.

Your Cache: I Need to Clear What?

Note from Laura: Anthony, our TK-6 IT Specialist, wrote this post on what happens when you clear your cache.

Most people think that deleting their cache is a way to speed up their internet or get rid of junk on their browser, but that is not the case. (Note from Laura: This is exactly what I thought.) To help with speed as you browse, your browser builds a cache. Cache is a way of holding information from pages that you have previously displayed by using space on your hard disk. This helps your browser pull up pages faster because you are able to get to your hard drive faster than pulling up a website.

The trouble is, images and information change on web pages, and it’s hard to predict how often the web page will change. When you are having difficulty accessing a web page, it may be because there is image confusion or obsolete information between your cached version of the page and the new version. Deleting your cache may help solve the problem since this gets rid of the saved copy of the web page.

There are different ways to get rid of cache. Each browser has a different way of deleting the cache. There are key commands to get rid of it also, depending on which computer you are using (PC, Mac, etc).

To make it short, cache is just a way to get back to the information you found earlier with little delay (and much less delay than the first time you visited a website or page). I hope this gives you a different perspective of why the cache is needed and the reason for deleting it when needed.

Improving the Writing Process

At GRACE, we believe strong written expression is foundational for lifelong educational and vocational goals. No tool replaces active development that comes from a one-on-one student and teacher interaction, but we have found a partner in that process. Our teachers agree with the vision cast by this tool’s developers: “NC Write is designed to function as the teacher’s partner so that students can practice their writing skills and grow into proficient writers. The features work in conjunction with teachers to provide students unlimited opportunities to submit essays, receive feedback, and revise and edit drafts (NCWrite website).” NC Write allows students to review, build, and hone skills in a more personalized manner while still allowing for the expertise offered by the classroom teacher.

Writing is an important skill across the curriculum, and NC Write helps address this. Non-English teachers can improve the quality of final drafts by requiring revisions of research papers on NC Write. NC Write empowers all teachers to help teach writing.

A key feature of NC Write is students’ ability to submit multiple drafts.  NC Write analyzes each draft and gives personalized suggestions and tutorials for improvement. After making edits, students submit a new draft and receive new suggestions.  Since implementing this program in August, GRACE students have submitted 4,925 essay drafts to NC Write and spent over 23 hours learning from the interactive tutorials. In the same timeframe, students’ average scores on written work have increased.  NC Write has become a powerful learning partner for our teachers and students.

College Counseling at GRACE

College counselor, Lynne Hawkes, is a wonderful addition to our staff and is instrumental in setting our students up for success as they prepare for, communicate with, and eventually attend college. Mrs. Hawkes oversees the college preparatory process at GRACE which includes facilitating the Naviance Family Connection program and working with Junior Seminar and College Writing classes. Mrs. Hawkes conducts information meetings for students and parents of each grade in the high school, hosts a monthly College Connections Coffee and is available to meet with students and parents by appointment.

“I am honored and grateful to have joined the GRACE community as the Director of College Counseling. I plan to come alongside students and their families throughout the college admission process, providing them with tools, resources, and support to discover the colleges and universities that best fit their passions, skills and aspirations. I desire to instill peace in what can be a stressful time by focusing on the truth that the Lord is faithful and true, and He has uniquely gifted each student to participate in His good and sovereign plan.”

Naviance Family Connection

The Counseling department is introducing Family Connection, a comprehensive college and career readiness software application that GRACE has purchased for our students and parents to use in the college and career search process. Prior to spring break, each high school student and parent will receive information to access Family Connection. Additionally, Family Connection is linked with Naviance, a service that tracks and analyzes data about our students’ college and career plans, providing up-to-date information specific to our school. Naviance Family Connection allows students to:

  • Organize the planning and advising process with online surveys, a resume building tool, and the ability to manage timelines and deadlines for college and career decisions
  • Complete plans for high school graduation and/or college entrance requirements.
  • Research colleges by comparing GPA, standardized test scores, and other statistics
  • Research hundreds of careers and career clusters
  • Participate in career assessments to find out the college major that is aligned with their career choices.
  • Evaluate colleges by comparing majors, student activities, and athletics offered at each college selected
  • Create goals and to-do lists and complete tasks assigned to the students by the school to better prepare themselves for future college and career goals.

Junior Seminar

Junior Seminar, a required class* for all 11th grade students, provides valuable infrastructure to the college planning process.  Mrs. Hawkes coordinates this class with GRACE faculty members and facilitates the diverse elements that give our students the opportunity to think critically about the next step in their education. Students enrolled in Junior Seminar:

  • Meet college admissions representatives and learn about different colleges
  • Listen to adults share about their diverse career choices and life stories
  • Prepare for standardized testing
  • Develop interview skills for college admissions, jobs, and scholarships
  • Prepare resumes
  • Acquire recommendation letters

* students with differentiated schedules are not guaranteed placement in Junior Seminar

Senior Seminar

College Writing, a required class* for all 12th grade students, allows students to spend the first quarter of their senior year moving the college application process forward. During this class, students have access to a GRACE English teacher who helps with ideas and editing for college application and scholarship essays. After the first quarter, students are introduced to college-level writing projects and a variety of research-based writing required in college. On-going research is used to keep the course’s focus relevant and prepare all students appropriately for future educational experiences. For their last quarter, the seniors focus on skills required for the adult life including finance, business communication, thank you notes, and graduation protocol.

* students with differentiated schedules are not guaranteed placement in College Writing

School Profile

The 2016-2017 GRACE School Profile is a document that is sent to colleges and universities with a student’s transcript to introduce the admissions department to our school. It is updated each year.

Greetings from the New Head of School

Hi, my name is Eric Bradley.  Over the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to get to know the leadership team at GRACE Christian School.  Recently, the Board of Trustees extended to me the offer to serve as the next Head of School.  I see this opportunity as a tremendous blessing, and it’s an offer that I accepted readily, excitedly and enthusiastically.

I have spent the last 19 years of my life serving in Christian education. I served my first nine years at Charlotte Christian School in North Carolina; for the past decade I have served as the Head of High School at Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw, Georgia, which is located outside of Atlanta.

It is my belief that every student is given unique gifts and talents and it is our opportunity as Christian educators to teach them to maximize these gifts and talents to the glory of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  This has been the mission and vision for GRACE Christian School since its inception and I believe I can help the school move forward as together we make GRACE Christian School the best Christian school in the southeast.

My wife, Amy, and our children, Amelia, Thomas, & Audrey, look forward to making the transition to GRACE Christian School, making our home in North Carolina, and seeing what God has in store for us in the future.  Thank you.

GRACE Announces New Head of School

We are excited to announce that Mr. Eric Bradley has accepted an offer from the Board of Trustees to become the next Head of School for GRACE Christian School, beginning July 1, 2016.  Eric has spent the last ten years as the Head of High School at Mount Paran Christian School, a TK–12 college-preparatory school in Kennesaw, Georgia.

In May of 2015, the GRACE Board of Trustees established a Search Committee to guide the process of seeking God’s will and guidance in the search for our next Head of School. The committee commenced a national search, researched and evaluated numerous qualified candidates, and narrowed the results to a short list of candidates in December. This process included an extensive and thorough evaluation of each candidate in partnership with our search consultants, Laura Coverstone and Ed Poff of SIMA International, to determine the candidate who best fit the needs of GRACE, both now and in the future.  After multiple phone and on-site interviews with the Search Committee and the Board, and after intentional deliberation and prayer, both the Search Committee and the Board unanimously supported the recommendation of Mr. Bradley for Head of School.  We are certain that God provided Eric with the experiences, talents, and leadership abilities to insure we stay consistent to our mission and vision with excellence and in partnership with our families.

Eric Bradley has been in leadership roles in Christian education for nearly twenty years.  At Mount Paran Christian School, Mr. Bradley has been influential as both a teacher and as the Head of the High School. While at Mount Paran, Eric was instrumental in leading a number of major advancements for the high school, resulting in growth of their Advanced Placement® offerings, developing an engineering program and college counseling department, and increasing high school enrollment and retention rates.   Prior to joining Mount Paran, Eric served nine years at Charlotte Christian School in Charlotte, North Carolina, where his roles spanned that of History Teacher, Spiritual Life Director, and Assistant Principal. Eric and his wife, Amy, have been married for 16 years and have three children – Amelia (13), Thomas (9), and Audrey (7).

We want to thank all members of the GRACE community who participated in this process in a number of ways, and specifically for the continuous prayers that were crucial to the outcome.  A special thanks to members of our Search Committee for the countless hours sacrificed over the last nine months in service to GRACE.  The committee was comprised of members of the Executive Leadership Team, including Mandy Gill, Alex Sossaman, Julia Taylor, Kathie Thompson, and Isaiah Whelpley, and Board members JB Baker (Search Chair), Kyle Brown, Greg Burton, Darrel Hegar, Jamie Null, and Zac Walker.

We believe that Eric Bradley has the strong leadership, administrative and educational skills, personal faith, and passion for Christian education that will benefit GRACE Christian School, our students, teachers and families.  We look forward to working with Eric in fulfilling our mission as a loving community that spiritually and academically equips, challenges, and inspires students to impact their world for Christ, as well as supporting our vision of grounding our students in the word of God and challenging them to achieve academic excellence as they prepare to use their gifts and abilities to follow God’s plan for their lives.  Eric is excited to get started with the work of advancing GRACE. We are delighted with this outcome and hope that you will join us in welcoming the Bradleys to the GRACE community.