Learning beyond the walls of the classroom…

Hi Everyone,

Welcome back! I hope that your spring break was rewarding and relaxing. For the students in Mary’s and Fran’s classes it was a time to pack and prep for their upcoming Gold Country Trip.

On Wednesday I drove up to Sacramento and spent time with them. It was an amazing and full day in our state capitol! I caught up with them just as they were preparing to enter Sutter’s Fort. This was the first time our 4/5 classes have returned to the capitol in close to a decade.

It was an interesting blast from the past to find a 19th century building standing in the middle of downtown, 21st century Sacramento. Sutter’s Fort was built as a Mexican settlement by John Sutter. But did you know that he was originally from Germany, travelled around the world ending up in California, and became a Mexican citizen in 1840 to receive the land grant and build the fort?

After our engaging tour, the two classes travelled to the state capitol where we had lunch, and they were given a personal tour of the building by Fran’s brother who used to work there and the students met with Assemblymember Evan Low. Last but not least, they headed on to the Railroad Museum. Talk about a packed schedule!!

These overnight and daytime field trips are a vital part of our instructional program and research supports the tremendous value of these experiences for students.

According to a study from the University of Arkansas field trips, “contribute to the development of students into civilized young men and women… [who] have stronger critical-thinking skills, exhibit increased historical empathy, display higher levels of tolerance, and have a greater taste for consuming art and culture.” Another study from RAFT, found that “Teachers who conduct hands-on learning activities on a weekly basis out-perform their peers by more than 70% of a grade level in math and 40% of a grade level in science.”

It’s exciting that we continue to look for ways to deepen and explore our student experiences from year to year. This also presents a real challenge because there are so many powerful and engaging places right here in California for students to visit that connect to science, math, history, language arts, fine arts, and the lives of our students. We can’t see them all so our teachers take a thoughtful approach to seeing what best connects with their class at that time.

Welcome back!

Rick

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Spring Break newsletter for 2016!

Hi Everyone,

I’d like to start with a conversation that I had with one of our alumni parents and ongoing volunteer. Many of you know Howard as part of the dynamic Steve and Howard show. They have subbed in every grade and in  many of our classrooms over the years.

Howard stopped by today to share how impressed and special he felt our art education program is.  He felt that Andrew’s recent play is an example of excellence at our school. He cited an experience during the dress rehearsal. A student had a misstep during a dance number. She was upset and unable to continue that number. A short time after the actors left the stage, they returned for another routine and that actor was amazing!

It occurred to him, “What will she be like as an adult?” She demonstrated such resilience and strength of character and did it with flourish! Another student told Howard that they had helped her get over the prior incident. The fact that we provide students with the opportunity to raise one another up and support each other is an invaluable skill set that isn’t easily measured by test scores and yet is critical in the rapidly changing world in which we live. The idea that we honor students and adults where they are, presuming positive intent and looking for the best in one another is something that is hard to find in today’s society.

We all make mistakes. (As parents, it seems that we make more than most and many of us are amazed at the ability of our parents to deal with the challenges of child rearing.) We all fall down. And yet at McAuliffe we encourage everyone to lend a hand. We extend the presumption of positive intent to everyone. This is a subtle and powerful thing.

Here we provide children and adults with an opportunity to pursue their passion in a wide range of activities and projects and this experience is incredibly valuable.  Can we do better? Absolutely. We all can. Students and adults experience problem solving, conflict resolution, thinking outside the box, speaking one’s mind, critical thinking, interacting with one another in positive and supportive ways so that we all continue to grow and learn combined with engaging academics. We expect the students and adults in our community to make mistakes, to learn from them, and to help each other along the way.

Our students learn to question the world around them in a way that enables them to make sense of it for them. We expect this from them. We are not looking for compliant, rule followers, but curious individuals who look at the world in different ways who are empowered to ask “Why?”.  We expect individually and collectively our students will make this planet a better place now and in the future. It’s why we chose this school… this community… and we all, each and every one of us, chose to be here.  

As we move into the break, I encourage each of you to take time to reflect on your experience here at McAuliffe. Consider the good, the bad, and why you made the decision to join our community in the first place. What is one thing you might try or do to make our community a better place? Make it a family conversation. Each of us is an integral part of McAuliffe School. No one is more important than the other. Each of us makes this school an amazing place for children and for one another.

Have a wonderful time with family and friends. We’ll see you back on April 18th.

 

Rick

(Here’s the link to the article

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Happy Square Root Day!

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April 4, 2016 · 4:19 pm

Why Denise Pope?

 

At the end of last year, the faculty began thinking about our all school community meeting and our needs as a community. In light of the continued transition to Common Core State Standards, school-wide modernization, and implementing new district curricula, we determined that a focus on work/life/school balance would be highly beneficial for everyone in the community.

The theme carried us late into spring and into the new school year. We wanted someone that resonated with our community and would provide new ideas and perspectives on teaching and learning. We reviewed numerous experts in the field, and found that Denise met our need and supported her findings with research as a practitioner and academic.

It was probably more than a happy coincidence that she and Madeline Levine, who joined us two years ago, work together. They are both strong child advocates and have worked tirelessly for years to support parents and educators in this endeavor both on the local and national levels.

And Denise was amazing! She spoke from the heart and with conviction backed up by research and reflection. I’ve spoken to several people last night and today about their take away, and EVERYONE walked away with something.

The challenges that I am going to work on are no tech in the bedroom for my daughter…and that means I need to model the same behavior.…I’m also going to work to create more regular daily family time that doesn’t focus on school.

How about you? What was one takeaway that you would like to try in the coming weeks? Share it with a close friend. And support one another with the challenge!

Have a wonderful weekend!
Rick

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Pale Blue Dot

May not mean that much to some…but to us… it’s everything and everyone that we know and have known…’the only world known so far to harbor life…’ we are on our own to help one another. What will we this mean for us in our lifetime?

 

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Tours and Info Nights for prospective parents…Check!

Over the last three weeks, our faculty had the opportunity to meet with prospective parents and we were excited at how much interest they showed, and how thoughtful their questions were. I attribute much of the large turnout to the wonderful parents and faculty who engaged our prospective parents during the tours earlier this year.

Making time to guide visitors around McAuliffe isn’t easy. Frankly, time is such a rare commodity that I wish there was a way to fabricate it.  Instead we, as parents and educators, have to manage the precious resource as carefully as possible which means making hard decisions as we prioritize our day.

Tours can also be challenging for guides because standing in front of a group of strangers and sharing something that is important to you and your child(ren) can be a bit scary. Fortunately, for us, the PFG provides lots of support for new and returning tour guides and lots of opportunities to grow and learn.

JK Rowling nailed it when she wrote, “Help will always be given… [at McAuliffe] to those who ask for it.” (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).  And the beautiful thing is it’s equally true for adults and children in our community. It’s equally wonderful that help comes in various forms from all of our community members. 

This past Tuesday was our last official Information Night. Both of our evening events for prospective parents were well attended and we look forward to the new class of McAuliffe families joining our community. The faculty and I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to all of our tour volunteers for their guidance and support and kind heartedness.

Next Friday, February 5, we will have a Learning Day for the staff. Our learning day will focus on Writers Workshop, our math curriculum, and our upcoming community wide meeting with Denise Pope.

In the upcoming newsletters look for more information on our science program, meeting children where they are and the importance of developmentally appropriate learning opportunities, and the value of Conflict Resolution.

Have a great weekend!


Rick

 

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Hello 2016…

Hi Everyone,

 

Welcome back! This year’s holiday seemed just right for me. Don’t get me wrong, another few weeks to explore the snowy slopes or hike new trails would have been exciting and wonderful, but I was looking forward to kicking off the new year here at McAuliffe and I’m glad to be back.  I hope the break afforded you time with the most important people in your lives and that whatever it was you did, wherever you went, that you learned something new and celebrated the love of family and friends.

I love the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” Many ascribe its origins to Africa but pinpointing the exact origin has proven difficult with some believing that it may have origins in Native American tribes. The debate about it’s actual origin makes sense because many thoughtful, caring communities throughout history have come to this understanding. That we each have strengths and weaknesses and that together, when we acknowledge this and support one another, we are a stronger, more skilled, more caring, more productive place…a better place.

 

The beautiful thing about our village is that we are all part of it…children, parents, staff, faculty. Each of us has a role to play here at McAuliffe and in life and those roles will change from time to time.

 

One of the incredible things about this is that our role is somewhat mysterious. We cannot know with absolute certainty the outcome of our actions and yet it is my hope, for those around us and those who come after us, that our actions leave behind an echo of belief in a better world and that all human beings are special, amazing, and important.

 

The new year is upon us and the question is, “What will you do with it?” This is a question for all of us. How might you make the world a better place? Think small. Think big. The opportunities are all around you. Some may be obscured from view…right now…but they are there waiting for you.

 

Last month I asked you a few questions. As a follow up to it, here is an opportunity to share the answers to a few of those questions:

  1. What was your favorite thing you did as a family in 2015?
  2. What’s one thing you would like to do or focus on as a family in 2016?
  3. What was the best book you read this year?

 

 

Welcome back!

Rick

 

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