McAuliffe’s First Podcast McAuliffe Matters!

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Thanksgiving 2019

Hi Everyone,

It’s Friday. Sharing feasts, singing,IMG_1545 and happy faces abound. The leaves have turned from green to gold and orange and red and are falling from the trees.
With the holidays upon us it’s time to reflect on all the goodness in our lives. Rather than focus on the purchase and receiving gifts, I urge you to consider all the gifts that exist in your life right now: family, friends, career, drinkable water, clean air (except with the occasional fire) an abundance of fresh food, electricity…heat, a roof over our heads, a vehicle to transport our brood, a caring community and so much more.
Enjoy this week. Whether you are traveling or staying close to home, make time for those closest to you. Put away the tech. Let some of the stress of life go.
We look forward to seeing you and hearing your stories when you return from the break!

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To new adventures…

We’re moving quickly…It’s November and we’re three months into a new adventure. Whether your adventure includes the groundbreaking 2nd grade overnight trip, 3rd grades repeat command performance poetry night, 4/5s beach and Sacramento trips, or MS trips to PALI or Hidden Villa, the introduction of our new reading program, or trying out a new assessment tool, there are many different experiences happening on campus.
Overnights are no stranger to us and neither are all- and partial-day field trips. Each trip is designed to tie multiple academic and social-emotional needs into one, or a series of, outdoor learning experiences. One purpose of our trips is to reinforce the belief that learning takes place everywhere and that we are not confined by the walls of a classroom. Only our own imaginations limit us as to how we can apply the knowledge and skills we gain each day here at McAuliffe.
As we continue to roll out the Units of Study Reading program, we are learning a lot about the way our students are learning to read and access language. This is a really exciting time. As we become more adept at using the workshop teaching model, we continue to refine our ability to meet all student’s needs. The faculty hopes to bring Meghan, a Reading Workshop expert and trainer, to McAuliffe for two days of intensive training. At this point, grades K-5 are implementing the new reading program. Meghan’s time with us will focus on three elements:

  1. Aligning the curriculum to our philosophical approach to teaching and learning
  2. Integrating parent volunteers into our program in a meaningful and purposeful way
  3. Reviewing/introducing intervention strategies for students in need in grades K-5.

 I’ll be bringing this proposal to our Finance committee meeting this Tuesday. 



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Learning Day, Celebrations, and the long weekend.

Hi Everyone,
I hope that you are enjoying your three day weekend. This morning the faculty and I are reviewing the district’s Strategic Plan and how it connects with the work we are doing here. Later in the day we will focus on Readers Workshop and setting up a site specific training that better meets the needs of our students and is aligned with our philosophy.
We started the day with a reflection of our Halloween Carnival and parade. We love our community and yesterday’s events exemplified the joys of learning, creativity, celebrating one another and play. We hope you had a fantastic time!
Speaking of fantastic times, the entire staff wants to thank you for the wonderful Diwali luncheon that you hosted for us on Monday. The food was delicious and we were so grateful for the chance to connect and celebrate that you gave us. We often get caught up in the day to day energy of our classes and forget to pause and notice the good things that are right in front of us. This luncheon provided an opportunity for us to do just that. Like the happy sounds of yesterday’s event, the library (where staff ate) was filled with the happy sound of conversations and connections.
How appropriate for us to practice gratitude and celebrate as we move into November. Enjoy your weekend. Spend time with your family in ways that connect for you. And celebrate the good things in your world.

See you next week!
Rick and the faculty


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All Community Meeting

Afternoon on a Hill
I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.
I will look at cliffs and clouds
With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
And the grass rise.
And when lights begin to show
Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
And then start down!

Edna St. Vincent Millay

This week we were so fortunate to have Bonnie Hasson, Justine Saffir, and Jeanne Coleman Smith share the importance of Play, playing outdoors in engaging ways, unstructured time, stewardship, and the connections these have to brain research.
Bonnie and Justine shared that some of the immediate benefits of engaging in the outside world are: building core strength and muscles, reducing anxiety, increasing students’ focus, executive functioning, emotional regulation and fostering curiosity. I found boundary setting was also a valuable tip in the conversation. Especially the aha moment that starting with a smaller boundary offers an opportunity to expand them, while wide-open boundaries are much harder to rein in.

I was captivated by their description of the leaf pathway, and that regardless of whether we are comfortable in the great outdoors or feel completely out of our element, we can bring our own passions outdoors to great effect and benefit to our children.
I hope that we all rise to their call that we consider how to encourage kids to assess the situation and their risks…and come up with a plan to tackle it.

And as Jeanne reminded us, truly everything that we do here at McAuliffe is connected. Being able to smoothly transition between academic subjects found in texts, experimentation, and the world around us is fundamental to stewardship and making small and large scale shifts that will make our world a better place.

The connections that exist here are special. We embrace a similar philosophical approach to teaching and learning. We extol the value and benefits of adults working alongside children in this process and we model this on a daily basis. Beyond this immediate bond, our monthly class meetings, periodic grade-level gatherings, and our all-community meeting, along with the various and many school events, time spent aiding together and chaperoning the many outdoor learning experiences, give us the added benefit of developing adult friendships and a support structure to tackle the very confusing journey of parenting that we are all on.

Communities exist everywhere…work, home, neighborhood, families, sports, clubs, etc.  And each of us finds ourselves looped into more than one. What I find particularly exciting about our community is that we have an opportunity to do good in real and tangible ways. We can benefit the children here certainly. We also have a chance to change the world for the better. Manuela called on each of us to consider how we might make our campus a more engaging space for the students here. If you are interested in helping with our Think Outside Project or just getting more information, please reach out to her, me, any PFG Board member, your CC, or SSC class rep. Let’s embark on this new adventure together and see where it takes us!

With the weekend upon us, find a new space or an oldie but goodie, and make time for your family to engage in the outdoors. Explore, picnic, paint, create, build, climb, laugh, and play outside.

Have a wonderful weekend!




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Children are simply amazing.

Children are simply amazing. 

Like a field of wildflowers, pebbles on a riverbank, snowflakes in winter, or the stars in the sky, each child is unique. They grow…differently…at different speeds and in different ways. They are beautiful and wonderful and curious and joyful. They can be loud and boisterous and forgetful, push boundaries, say hurtful things and fight and be rough. They can ignore our rules, disregard our requests, draw on walls or draw on desks. And like us, children can also be sad and worried and lonely and scared in the wild world that we live in. 

Children are also resilient. Tupac Shakur wrote about a rose that grew from concrete. His song was about children growing up in the inner city where the odds are stacked against them and yet every so often someone makes it out. Most of our children do not have to face that level of adversity. They have caring parents and a community devoted to providing every opportunity for our children to be successful. That said, it is important to be mindful not to hover.  

No one wants to be a helicopter parent…or a snowplow parent. We don’t intend to micromanage our child from morning ‘til night; watching who they play with, how they play, identifying what needs to be fixed and fixing it. We know that clearing every obstacle out of our childrens’ path is simply impossible. And yet, at times, we will ALL, for various reasons attempt to do these things. The key is to recognize our own behavior, step back, take a breath, and realize that our love for our child(ren) and our support of them is what will foster their growth and development.

We don’t need to clear the way of all obstacles for our children to be successful or for them to be happy, in fact, overcoming obstacles fosters happiness in us. Think about a time when you had a gnarly project, or a really difficult relational issue and you were able to work through it. That internal reward, and the self-confidence you developed from tackling it, was powerful and we want our children to experience as many of these types of success as possible.

This doesn’t mean that we stand idly by and ignore our children in need. Instead, try to gauge when a guiding question or just being a sounding board can help them solve their challenge. There are times when you need to truly intervene and those times should be less and less frequent as your child grows. 

Challenge Success, a program out of Stanford, offers some additional tips on how we can  support our children. They strongly encourage us to spend family time together. 

Family time creates a sense of connection and belonging. Research shows that when kids are part of a family unit that spends time together, they are more likely to feel supported, safe, and loved unconditionally, as well as have increased self-esteem and better academic outcomes. 

Family Time Tips 

  • Strive to gather the family for 20–25 minutes at least 5 times per week (family meals, outings, and game/ movie nights all count). 
  • Unplug during meals, before bedtime, and during family activities. 
  • Build in time for family traditions and rituals. 
  • Involve kids in selecting, organizing, and doing family service projects or activities.

Some of us may be able to check off each of those boxes. If so, keep it up! Many of us, however, have not yet built this time into our lives at this frequency. And this is an opportunity for us. This weekend, have a conversation with your family about how this might look and when it would make the most sense for your family. In light of our theme for the year, Think Outside, you might even consider taking the family out for a hike or a picnic (both of these count as family time!) and have this convo while you’re outdoors. Set up a plan together and give it a try. It’s okay if it doesn’t quite work the way you plan. Be flexible with the focus on spending time together as a family, loving one another, and supporting your child’s growth.  I can’t wait to hear how it is going for you. What’s working. What needs to be improved. 

Have a great weekend! 



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Learning Day Overview

Hi Everyone, 

Tomorrow is our Learning Day. I’m grateful for this time on several levels. Many of our teachers will  participate in the Units of Study Reading training. This is a new reading program K-5 that is designed to support and engage all students at their level and develop them into thoughtful, fluent readers. 

Our Middle School team is evaluating options with science curricula and Maria will be working with the team on Inquiry By Design for the language arts program. 

The remaining faculty will tackle some of the challenges that we’ve experienced this year, explore ways to support one another while identifying specific areas of need that we can address as a faculty. We will also work out the logistics of our upcoming General Meeting. After we have addressed those items, we will focus on Units of Study Writing collaboration and scoring, Units of Study Reading (UOSR) lesson planning and toolkit creation, sharing of UOSR resources, and focus on our New Outdoor Space Conversation.

Last week in our PFG meeting and this week at both Finance and SSC, we continued our conversation around Think Outside. With a three day weekend ahead for students and gorgeous summer/fall weather, I hope that you and your family make time to explore the wide open, wild world that we live in. There are so many trails, picnic spots, parks, beaches, and back yards, right here in the bay area! If you were really ambitious, I’m fairly certain you could go out every weekend and find a different spot to explore…(*I don’t recommend exploring random backyards without gaining permission first! Lol!! Try the others though as often as possible!)  Whatever you do, have fun. Remember that life is fleeting and precious. We have only so many opportunities to enjoy our time with the ones we love so let’s commit to making the most of that. 

Have a wonderful weekend. I look forward to seeing you next week. 



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Think Outside

Another fun start to a new, amazing year. Yesterday was just as I’d hoped it would be: a warm welcome for our faculty, parents, and students. Okay…at 101+ maybe it was a little warmer than I’d envisioned but still the love and excitement in the air carried over from the morning and took us all the way to the day’s end. 

It was so nice to reconnect with a few of our families. If I missed you,  I want to take a moment to say welcome back! We are so glad that you are here! I hope that your holiday was filled with joy, relaxation, exploration, and happiness. 

Starting the year brings all kinds of excitement sprinkled with a few challenges. There is something to be said for a Monday start…more time to enjoy the summer, family, and friends…five full days of fun and learning…a smooth transition from the weekend to the school week. Still, we value having these two short (albeit intense) days for everyone to jump back in, remember old routines, build new ones, with the added bonus of two full days of rest after the kickoff to catch up. Most of us, students and adults alike, were a bit wiped out by the end of the day and rightly so. 

Last night, as I reflected on the day, I found myself hiding out because my daughter and her friends had taken over our living room and backyard. Ah…youth! They are each, in their own way, preparing for the start of college, and making the most of their time together. It’s fun to see how much they’ve grown over the years, to hear them discuss matters of importance, and mostly it is comforting to know that they have developed strong ties that will hopefully withstand the miles apart and the time between their next gathering. 

Tomorrow my daughter and I are heading to Boston College to get her situated.  I will be gone next week and will return on August 26th. It seems so strange that we are leaving for college because my memories of her first field hockey game, first choir concert, first tennis match, first time playing soccer (which by the way was hilarious! If you ever need a laugh go watch a bunch of 4 year olds playing soccer. LOL!) are all so vivid and fresh! All of those things seem like they just happened a short time ago and yet here we are. Time has a way of playing tricks on us like that. 

Transitions are interesting. We all know that our children grow and change month after month and year after year. But what occurred to me this week is that we too, as adults, are growing. That’s right. Even “old-timers” like us are changing and hitting new stages of development. Some of us are adjusting to the daily routine as kindergarten parents. Some of us are preparing to send our children off to high school. Some have lost family members or are helping those who have become sick. And apparently, another stage for adults is sending off your child(ren) to college. LOL!  

One reason that our community is special is that even though many of us are in different life stages, we are all learning and growing together. Our pace varies and yet we still celebrate one another’s victories and reach out to support each other when we fall. 

On another note, our theme for the year is Think Outside. We’re going to need your help with this and we’re excited about what we can accomplish together. More information to come!

Have a wonderful weekend!!


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