Happy Friday everyone!
This week I took some time to reflect on the institute that Alicia, Susan and I are participating in. I puzzled over the name of our institute for a short while. NIPEN…National Institute of the Progressive Education Network…wouldn’t it be NIotPEN? That doesn’t have a great ring to it…Why not PENI?? PENI just rolls off the tongue…Ultimately I landed on the realization that regardless of the name, this experience is something special and wonderful, and I am truly grateful to be a part of this group of 24 educators working toward improving educational experiences for children.
Each of us left the first session with a task, a Call To Action (CTA). We have three taking place at McAuliffe. In an upcoming podcast, Alicia, Susan, and I will describe our CTAs, how we came to select these projects and what that means for McAuliffe.
I believe that I shared this earlier and that it’s worth reiterating that a common element that occurred at every progressive school that I have visited and observed: a sense of coming home.
My reflection reminded me of this past Tuesday. I stopped amidst the hustle and bustle and spent time soaking in a part of what makes McAuliffe special. The bell had rung and students trickled out from class. What caught my attention was a joyful noise. It was a blend of adult and children laughing, talking, playing. Some were leaving. Others were in the middle of a game or in the middle of a conversation. It was casual and familiar and something that I hope for every child and parent.
If you haven’t seen our middle school play check it out tonight! It is AWESOME!!!! I was blown away by the complexity of their performances and the way that the thespians embraced their characters! The PAC was transformed and the audience was transported to Ancient Greece. There was drama, comedy, and some downright spookiness! Come and be amazed!
As we move into the second month of the year I am grateful to be part of a community of friends working together. As with any relationship, friendships take work…and are worth it. The work that you do here, builds our community, enhances the learning experiences of all of our children, and has the ancillary benefit of developing lifelong friendships for you and your family.
Next week is Valentine’s Day so have fun with that! Enjoy the weekend ahead. Play, laugh, spend time observing the family dynamic and finding the things that make your family unique and special and wonderful. When you see them; share them with your family. I’m excited to try this too!!
We started off with a visit from a group of teachers from Myanmar seeking a better understanding of progressive education and Dale Jones who was hosting the teachers and is next week’s guest speaker. Alicia led the tour and was excited to learn from them too. One thing that we are going to explore is giving teachers time to visit their colleagues’ classrooms. We offer many varied strengths and it makes sense to learn from one another.
Superintendent visits McAuliffe
On Tuesday, our Superintendent, Dr. Craig Baker, joined us for the afternoon. We started with a brown bag session with parents, followed it up with a tour of our campus where we visited all of our classrooms, and then wrapped up the afternoon with a staff meet and greet.
One of the things that I have really appreciated about our conversations is his constant attention on what is best for students. He has a mind for the budget and has been clear about where we are fiscally and has revenue generating ideas. He is also already focused on being proactive and collaborative with parents, teachers, and administrators. These are exciting and needed, but it is his mindset around students and what is best for them that resonates so powerfully with me and many of the parents and teachers I spoke with after our conversations.
Field trips and class news updates coming your way!
Some of our students are at Astro Camp this week while others travelled to San Juan Bautista and Monterey Historic Park. And that reminds me! At our emergency PFG meeting last week, the parents agreed to share stories from our classes every other newsletter. This begins next week and we are all excited to hear about the many learning experiences taking place around campus! Stay tuned!
All Community Meeting This Tuesday November 14 at 7-9pm
This is an important time for us to come together and learn new ideas and discuss critical issues. While we are all committed to attending this annual event, it’s important to know that your participation in this meeting benefits everyone in the community as we all learn and grow together as friends and parents!
This year we have a very special guest speaker and his topic is “Parenting for Optimal Child Wellness”.
Our talk will look at how parenting affects the emotional health of our children, and will include strategies for improving your child’s “wellness” in the face of increasing societal stress. There will be plenty of opportunities for dialogue with the presenter and your fellow audience members.
ABOUT OUR PRESENTER:
Our special guest presenter is none other than Dale Jones. Dale is a leader in the progressive education movement, long-time educator, and former principal of and parent at McAuliffe School.
“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real.” – Richard Louv
Happy Friday Everyone!
It was refreshing to wake up to rain this morning and with fire conditions across the bay area, it couldn’t have come at a better time! Our hearts go out to our family, friends, and our neighbors who have been displaced or impacted by the fires.
Thank you to everyone who is reaching out and helping those in need. You are making the world a better place.
On Wednesday, Katie, Sue, and I went to the Commonwealth Club’s presentation of the Hybrid Mind by Richard Louv. He offered a compelling discussion about the importance of finding balance between the use of electronics and technology and being outdoors in nature. Richard’s talk resonates with our schoolwide focus Health and Wellness.
The three areas he targeted were:
- Create a hybrid mind.
As technology becomes increasingly accessible, how do we balance the 24/7 always on, always connected lifestyle with the idea of being outdoors and developing an appreciation for the natural world? Richard embraced the idea of inclusion and encouraged us to seek a balance for ourselves and especially for young children. How do we foster this in our own lives and how do we model it for our children?
- Support and create bridges to nature for young people.
Dr. Stephen Kellert states, “Play in nature, particularly during the critical period of middle childhood, appears to be an especially important time for developing the capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and emotional and intellectual development…” “Unstructured free play in the out-of-doors brings a host of benefits to children — from being smarter to more cooperative to healthier overall.”
Richard cited example after example of schools that were reducing or canceling recess in favor of more “academic” time. He described schools that eliminated music and/or PE and extended the school day while reducing students’ time outside.
*Interesting factoid – In the United States, prison inmates get more time outside (2 hours/day) than children do (1-1:15 hours) during the day.
Richard also shared a number of the impacts of nature on children and his findings are consistent with what we have seen at McAuliffe:
- Creativity, physical competence, social skills, environmental knowledge, confidence, and problem-solving ability are among those benefits to children’s development.
- It also leads to enhanced cooperation and conflict resolution skills; gains in self esteem; gains in positive environmental behavior; and gains in problem-solving, motivation to learn, as well as having positive impact on their personal, intellectual development.
- Outdoor education leads to persisting benefits for children even years after the event.
- Become leaders in the new nature movement.
Finally, Richard challenged the audience to become leaders in a counter culture. He spoke specifically to tech industry leaders and then encouraged all of us to stand up for a balance in technology and nature.
On many levels, McAuliffe has been on this path since we were founded. We have always embraced the notion that learning happens everywhere and “Classrooms without Walls” describes our daily practice. At the same time, as a progressive school, we can be better than we are now. And that all of us working together as a village can make this happen.
What can we do here at McAuliffe to be leaders in the counter culture that embraces the importance of nature along the electronic/technological world?
What can we do at home to foster this in our own lives and the lives of our families?
Ok problem solvers! Now’s our chance! Let’s hear your ideas and let’s make this happen!
Braving the Wilderness.
A few people asked what I’m reading these days. I haven’t read as much as I’d like, so that served to help me kick it up a notch. This week I read Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness. Her book focuses on the search for “True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone”.
As many of you know, I am a huge supporter of Brené’s work on shame, empathy, vulnerability, and courage. I particularly like that, as a grounded theory researcher, she “develops theories based on people’s lived experiences rather than proving or disproving existing theories.”
She describes true belonging as “only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance.” What’s particularly compelling about this is the role that social media plays
for adults and children in creating a less than authentic experience of our lives.
In upcoming letters, I’ll explore this a bit more. I’ll also return to Rox Zander’s work, The Art of Possibility, that I shared about in August. For now, I’d like to pull back the curtain to reveal what happened at our Learning Day last Friday.
Last week’s Learning Day was considered by staff as generally one of the best we’ve had in the last few years. We felt this way because we made time to discuss major and minor issues that we were faced with in a conversational and reflective manner. We kicked off the meeting with Ann and Christine sharing the PFG Parent Portal. We then spent the morning discussing issues like the need for space for our middle school, updates on our school-wide wellness theme, and including the Units of Study writing program in our integrated curriculum in a way that is consistent with our philosophy. We coordinated schedules for families with siblings for our upcoming conferences, talked about Info Night, Playground Supervision, and refined our plan for the upcoming November PFG meeting (Look for more on this shortly. Suffice it to say we are ALL very excited about this special meeting!)
We then wrapped up the day with grade level collaboration to reflect on upcoming our students’ learning experiences and refine our curriculum for the next few months.
Have a wonderful weekend…and Go Bears!
So many of us long to be part of something real. But we’ll need to risk discomfort and criticism and show the world our real selves first, says vulnerability researcher Brené Brown. True belonging. I don’t know exactly what it is about the combination of those two words, but I do know that when I…
I hear and I forget
I see and I remember
I do and I understand
— K’ung Fu-tse
School is off to a great start! I’ve really enjoyed seeing you on campus and at class meetings and can tell that we are going to have a wonderful year ahead.
This past week, I spent time with several of our students. We went for walks, talked under the trees, played on the playground, and chatted at lunch tables. This is a great reminder for me, that the work we do with children is only a small albeit important part in their entire growth and development. I love that we seek to support children beyond traditional academics and foster a social emotional curriculum that encourages our children to explore and grow understanding that this happens at different speeds for each person.
As we continue to focus on health and wellness, consider making the most of the weekend ahead. Spend time with family and loved ones. Take a break from the crazy work life we lead and breathe. Get up early. Go for a hike. Get out of doors.
Consider a way to make the world a better place in the week ahead. What could you do today, tomorrow, or next week?
Come up with 3 things that you can do to make the world a better place. Here are a few easy starters. Take them if you like or come up with your own. And try them! Share the results with a loved one.
- Pay for someone else’s coffee.
- Smile and say hi to 10 people.
- Let someone merge ahead of you.
- Write a letter (actual letter) to someone that has done something kind for you and tell them thank you.
- These are just samples…make your own path!
McAuliffe Parent challenge: For those of you ready to try it.
We often fear that our children are becoming too immersed, too dependent on technology. They’d rather spend time in front of a screen than outside running and playing. Are you frequently answering texts and messages on your phone, or tablet, or computer, when they are around? Do you find yourself distracted during conversation by the ping of your phone?
Your children love you more than anything in this world. They are wonderful scientists and they are natural born observers. They study you and they will pick up your good habits…and your bad ones.
Instead of setting a limit in minutes on tech, consider setting a block of time that you will all be able to spend time on tech. And then allow yourselves time to be tech free during the weekend.
Have a wonderful weekend!