The Art of Communication

It is right and good that high school students want increasing independence from their parents. They’re learning to take responsibility for their own work, their own choices, their own commitments. In exchange, many parents are happy to grant them increasing freedom and space. But most parents still really want to be connected, to know what’s happening at the school where their children spend more waking hours than they do at home. Here’s the rub: high school students are not always so big on sharing the details.

“How was school?”


“What did y’all do today?”

“Nothing much.”

This is just not true. They did a lot. But this conversational cul de sac is not going to get you there.

The Weekly Update

Enter the TNS Weekly Update. From the very first week of The New School’s existence, Peter Lefkowicz, the Head of School, has been sending out a Friday letter to parents with the highlights of the week and–even more importantly–a list of provocative questions that the detail-starved parent might try out on their high school student.  It’s rich with information. It’s often wry and parents look forward to it. 

Here is one recent letter:

Hello TNS Families,

Here’s your TNS Update for the past week:

In 9th Grade Humanities, students continued our deep dive into the Bill of Rights. So rest assured, they now know what to do if the police come to the door and ask if they can come in and look around. Next week, they will be adding to and polishing their essays onThe Hunger Games.

10th/11th Grade Humanities students tried to get a grip on the complexities of the French and Indian War, as we hurtle toward the American Revolution. They also began supplementing their earlier work explicating a scene from The Circle. They’ll bring drafts to school on Monday, at which point their essays will go through another round of peer evaluation and revision. Our next work, which we will begin in about a week’s time, isNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. 

In Physics this week, students conducted a small traffic study to analyze the velocity of the cars traveling on DeKalb Avenue. They were able to practice using some of the equations they have learned as well as data collection, interpretation, and presentation. We also began investigating objects in free fall. Next week, we will continue to study objects in acceleration. 

Chemistry students began their study of the atom by researching and presenting on scientists who contributed to our modern atomic theory and their discoveries. We began to dissect the periodic table and learned a few equations to calculate the amount of a particular element in compound. Next week, Chemistry students will take their first Unit Exam on Monday, September 21. They were given access to a study guide for their exam this past Tuesday, along with a few optional practice problems in their books to prepare.

In Spanish I/II this week, students translated their “Teach Me Something” scripts into Spanish and practiced reciting them orally. They also practiced the rules for accents and verbal emphasis. In Spanish III/IV, students completed additional drafts of their “Teach Me Something” drafts, which they will be finalizing over the weekend. They also learned how to link demonstrative pronouns with imperative verbs to make compound verbs. This weekend, students who didn’t do so in class need to complete the assigned exercises in their Realidades textbook and should remember to bring their textbook with them next week.

In 9th Grade Projects, students conducted secondary research for their Project 15 topics online and in person. After a tutorial on sending professional emails, each student contacted an expert on their topic via email or phone. The class had a lively discussion about how to find credible sources, including how to evaluate currency, accuracy, and reliability of online sources. For homework, students need to complete their two Google Docs about background research (one about online research and one about offline research).

Students in 10th/11th Grade Projects began to work on two final products for the Water Project. Working singly or in pairs, students will produce a 30-60 second video to enter in the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District’s annual high school video contest. Students will also each make an Exhibition piece based on an issue related to Metro Atlanta water that they find interesting. Detailed Calendars for both of these projects are due Tuesday. Special thanks to the TNS parent who visited us on Wednesday afternoon to talk about the Clean Water Act and his years of work with the EPA.

Pre-Calculus students tackled some quadratic based word problems, and finished off their review of quadratic functions, inequalities, and advanced expressions to prepare for a (mostly recap) test next Tuesday. Math 2-3 students dug further into some applied geometry problems combining circle proportions and triangle properties. Math 1-2students finished pitching their Class Data Projects and raced through some Algebra 1 (mostly) recap topics.

In Design class students paid respects to September 11 as it is understood and conveyed in images (for the students) rather than experience (for us adults) and considered how we know things that happened simply by what we see. We’ve also been using needles and bookbinding thread this week to make pamphlet stitch books. You might want to ask your student how the bookmaking is going over the weekend. We’re also getting better at drawing this week – we jumped from rendering line to rendering value (adding tone) so our drawings are starting to look a bit more realistic. 18 teenagers used needles, knives, and strait-edges this week and I’m happy to report no injuries, only some good looking, hand-made books. Next week, we’re headed to the Museum of Papermaking at Georgia Tech!

Drama students finished the week with their first-round performance project, the duet scenes. TNS Faculty served as the audience. Jeff was pleased with individual efforts, and proud of them for pulling together. We have the makings of an Ensemble! Next week, students begin working on their second-round performance projects – supernatural and ghostly stories, to be presented Oct. 30th. Also, with each performance project, a written reflection comes due. Students will get some guiding questions on Monday.

Our speaker this week was Matt Arnett, arts community leader and Grocery on Home founder, who talked about finding your passion, and the importance of hospitality and curiosity, and took our students on a Southern music and culture journey from Ben Sollee to Lonnie Holly.

Quiz time?

  • Ask your 9th grade student to explain the design for testing velocity that their group came up with and their findings.
  • See if your Design Student can explain what it means to ‘posterize’ an image.
  • Ask your 9th grader about what kind messages they think they could get away with having on their t-shirts if they attended public school.
  • Have your Drama student tell you how their performance went!
  • Ask your 10th/11th grader why the French and Indian War is so poorly named.

Enjoy the weekend!


Greasing the wheels of conversation

Parents have told us how much this update helps them. The normally laconic teenager can get suddenly animated when you land on the right question. No guarantees, but most parents benefit from a head start.

The Parent-Teacher partnership

At its best, the parent-teacher connection is a great partnership. We look with different lenses and we see different things. Sharing those insights across the weeks and years of high school means that we are all better able to walk alongside as kids figure out who they are and launch themselves into the world.