Getting back to basics

October 5th marked the third anniversary of Steve Jobs passing.  One tech ezine ran this video and I felt compelled to share it with you.

Ken Segall and Rob Siltanen are credited with writing “The Crazy Ones”… And Craig Tanimoto came up with the “Think Different” slogan.  The commercial pulls from some of the most influential people in the past century and Steve connected personally contacted with the families and foundations of those who are portrayed.

In this video, I love that he calls his colleagues back to basics and challenges them to focus on their core values.

Rather than chasing after the greatness of others, or trying to explain why we are better, I’m reminded to hone in our own core values. Like Steve did with Apple, my goal is to share McAuliffe with others in a way that captures the love of learning, exploration, opportunities for growth, and personal empowerment. It is also my goal to support our faculty,  staff and parents as we provide those incredible opportunities for our students.

This year we continue down this path having completed the advanced course for Responsive Classroom and started the first of five Writers Workshop seminars. Our next learning day is October 24th. This will be the second Writers Workshop training for your teachers. We continue to explore the ways in which children learn best and apply these strategies in our classes every chance we get.

October is here and Halloween is right around the corner. Next week we have a meeting coming up around ideas that can enhance our learning community.

This summer, we will undergo major campus renovations. In the coming months, I’ll also be sharing how your bond dollars will be used at McAuliffe.

Let’s continue to embrace change and learning both in and outside of the classroom.

Thinking Different….allowing ourselves to be the “Crazy Ones”… To think and live and play outside the box… Sounds like a good idea.

Thanks Steve for your vision, passion, drive and energy! Thanks Rob, Craig, Ken, and Lee for your creative energy!

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How much homework is too much? What do we value most?

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Teaching Children Empathy

This is a great article resulting from research at Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project. I’m delighted to see that Ashoka is playing a role in the conversation around empathy. My only thought on the 5 recommendations is that #3 should be placed at #5 because practice (for adults and kids) is imperative at all levels of supporting and developing empathy.

Reflection: This ties in to my post on Steve Jobs because of the focus on what we value most and what we are communicating to our children.

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August News 2014

A warm wind blows if…

Last night we had a record number of parent meetings. In fact, with the exception of our annual mandatory parent meeting (which is coming up next month on September 30, 7-9pm) we had the most parent meetings in one night. Nine classes were meeting all over campus. It was fun to see so many new and returning faces! Good food, warm laughter, engaging conversations all lead to a great community. It’s really as simple…and complex…as that. 

If you weren’t able to attend your class meeting earlier, please be sure that you are there for the rest of the meetings. They are so important for you, your child, and all of the children in class. Each meeting, we cover many topics from aiding, curriculum, field trips, parenting, and what to expect with your child. When you are there, it increases your understanding of what is happening in the classroom, what to expect in the month ahead, and it helps us all build the community. Your voice and your presence are important. 

On that note, I wanted to comment on one of the most hilarious parent class meetings, I’ve attended in some time.  Sarah’s class kicked off with some snacks and conversations. When I entered the room they were transitioning to an activity, “A warm wind blows if“… Many of you have played it before. It started off calm and reserved. Lots of “Hi’s” and smiles. But something happened about 5 minutes in. Laughter increased…and so did the speed people moved from one chair to the next. In no time at all grown adults were running…and when I say running, I mean sprinting across the classroom! Diving into chairs! And yes even bumping into one another as they jostled for a seat…and I believe at least one person ended up on the floor…It was hilarious!  In the spirit of our focus on writing, E.E. Cummings once said, “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” Clearly we don’t like wasting days at McAuliffe!


What is Responsive Classroom? 

In a nutshell, “Responsive Classroom (RC) is an evidence-based approach to elementary education that is associated with greater teacher effectiveness, higher student achievement, and improved school climate.” (Responsive Classroom Advanced Course, Effective Management Resource Book, p1 (c) 2014. )

The McAuliffe faculty selected the RC approach because it is aligned with our philosophy and incorporates a developmentally appropriate approach to teaching and learning. In fact, Chip Wood, author of Yard Sticks, was instrumental in the development of Responsive Classroom. 

“The Responsive Classroom approach integrates three areas. [Take a look for yourself to see if the pillars of RC are aligned with our program ]

  • Engaging Academics: Teachers create learning tasks that are active, interactive, appropriately challenging, purposeful, and connected to students’ interests. 
  • Effective Management: Teachers create a calm, orderly environment that promotes autonomy and allows students to focus on learning. 
  • Positive Community: Teachers nurture a sense of belonging, significance, and emotional safety in the classroom. Students feel comfortable taking risks and working with a variety of peers.” (ibid)

In truth, we have been engaged in this work for more than four decades. Many of our teachers attained “expert” status in these areas long before the first Responsive Classroom trainer set foot on our campus (6 years ago). At the same time, one of the incredible things about our school and our community is the deep understanding that we all continue to grow and learn. 

Responsive Classroom gives us tools to help hone our practice. It provides us with additional resources for engaging students and building community. One example of this is the seamless integration of academic content into our Class Meetings. This fosters continued student inquiry, academic engagement, and community building. It also increases the range of learning opportunities for students.  


Where might we learn more about Responsive Classroom?

Here is a link to their website that includes several informational videos about the program:

But you don’t have to go further than your class meeting to experience it first hand! Last night, I stopped by 6 class meetings, each of them began with an activity to break the ice and welcome you (or welcome you back) to the classroom. Getting to know one another and learning to work with one another in a safe environment is a key element of Responsive Classroom and our program at McAuliffe.  


Sharing RC with the district:

This morning I led a quote activity with many of the administrators in Cupertino Union School District. 

  • With 5 quotes posted around the room, the administrators were asked to find one that resonated most with them and move to that part of the room. Once they arrived at the quote, they were to share in their group what drew them to the quote. 
  • Sound familiar? We do this at McAuliffe all the time! 
  • It was fun and great to see and hear so many people share why quotes resonated with them. Everyone benefits from time to talk and get to know one another! 
  • After they shared out, I suggested a few options that would allow the inclusion of academic components. 


More about Responsive Classroom…

In the weeks and months ahead we will continue to share what we are learning and applying from Responsive Classroom. If you have specific questions, please don’t hesitate to ask your child’s teacher, send me an email, or leave me a note. 




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ASCD and Yong Zhao: No Connection Between Test Scores and Economic Productivity


I’m glad that Jong Zhao has discerned patterns to help lift the fog off of some myths in education. This is particularly valuable as the trend to increase testing frequency in classrooms, in an effort to improve learning, continues at a staggering pace.

I believe that the most of the fast pace changes to “save” our children are the result of well intended, caring individuals reacting to the media or hearing that neighboring districts are employing successful “best” practices. Unfortunately, caring and well intended doesn’t always result in practices that are best for kids. Sometimes it’s easier to jump on the bandwagon rather than stand in inquiry, identify and acknowledge what is working; and then, collaboratively tackle the areas needing the most improvement.

I’m reminded of John Medina’s reaction to the varied, untested, and unproven (yet touted as Best Practices in Brain Research) educational applications of brain research.


Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

The ASCD published an eye-popping chart showing that NAEP long-term trend test scores for 17-year-olds were flat from 1971-2012. At the same time, economic productivity soared by 375%, and gross domestic product grew by 100%.

What do you make of that?

I have pointed out repeatedly that our students have never excelled on international tests. On the first international test in 1964, our students came in last of 12 nations. Yet as I explain in my book “Reign of Error,” over the next half-century we outperformed the other 11 nations who had higher test scores.

What do you make of that?

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Jo Boaler on the Common Core and a multidimensional approach to math

This morning, the principal of Miller Middle School, Steve Burrell, shared Jo’s video with me. Jo is a professor at Stanford and has most recently offered engaging MOOCs on math instruction.

At 20 minutes, it’s is a bit longer than the usual TED talk or video’s I would normally post, but Jo presents an interesting understanding of teaching and learning mathematics.

Here’s the video:

Multidimensional Math:
Around 10:44 she talks about the importance of multidimensional math as opposed to one-dimensional approaches to math.

Her definition of multidimensional math includes:

  • Asking Questions
  • Forming Models
  • Reasoning
  • Communicating
  • Connecting Ideas

Slow Down and Dig In:
At 17:50 She posits that we need more depth in mathematical study with less emphasis on speed. As a society, we have grown to believe that those that solve math problems quickly are smarter and more capable than those that are slow to do the same work. Research doesn’t concur and neither do some of our most outstanding mathematicians.

“…rapidity doesn’t have a precise relation to intelligence. What is important is to deeply understand things and their relations to each other. This is where intelligence lies. The fact of being quick or slow isn’t relevant.”

Laurent Schwartz, Fields Medal winner, ‘A Mathematician Grappling with his Century”

**And last but not least…for the connection to Robin Williams… “Anyone know what the Fields Medal is? It’s a really big deal. It’s like the Nobel Prize for math, except they only give it out once every four years. It’s a great thing. It’s an amazing honor. Okay, everybody, that’s it for today. Thanks and … .we’ll see you Monday? We’ll be talking about Freud, and why he did enough cocaine to kill a small horse. Thank you.” (Williams playing Sean in Good Will Hunting 34:00)

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…the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse…

It occurs to me that some of what I love about teaching and learning, I saw personified on film. Tom Shulman’s words were brought to life, by Robin Williams, through the character John Keating. Their Dead Poets Society challenged me to take look at teaching differently, to expand learning beyond the classroom; to look for deeper meaning and to ask why.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

And this year, as I consider what my verse may be, what shape my contribution will take place, I will consider Rainer’s advice and remain in inquiry. 

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.
…live in the question.”

Rainer Maria Rilke – Letters to a Young Poet

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