McAuliffe’s First Podcast McAuliffe Matters!

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McAuliffe Matters #3

Hi Everyone,

I’m excited to share a new podcast. This week we’re chatting with Ann and Manuela. Have fun listening!

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Spring Break arrives at McAuliffe

Hi Everyone,

I came across this quote the other day and it stuck with me:

“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.”
• John Gardner

As much as we would like to plan and roll out our, and our children’s, lives in an exact and specific way, it just doesn’t happen that way. Life is full of twists and turns and backing up and moving forward and sideways and up and down at times. It really is like drawing without an eraser!

I’m happy to announce that we have another podcast available this week with two very special guests. Anne and Manuela made time to sit down and share a bit about their lives and their roles in the McAuliffe community.

Spring break comes a bit later in the year for us than usual and at just the right time!

Enjoy the week off, make time for your family and friends and make some time for yourself as well. Get out that pencil and keep drawing!

Have a wonderful vacation!


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McAuliffe Matters Podcast #2

As an element of our work around belonging at McAuliffe, it seems fitting to invite community members in to share about their experience at our school. Today we are very fortunate to have our two  vice presidents of External Communication join us. As always, any errors or bloopers are my fault…I still claim the “new guy” to podcasting and any successes are due to my wonderful guests and my superhero support team Lynne and Eli.

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Marrying Research and Practice at McAuliffe School

Hi Everyone,

In my last newsletter, I wrote about the differences between fitting in and belonging and the challenge that we, as a community, are faced with in building a caring, warm, and accepting environment that supports student differences and empowers their voice.

Earlier this week, Bonnie Kuo recommended that I listen to a podcast entitled Kinder-Gardening. The host interviewed Alison Gopnik a psychology and philosophy professor at Cal who wrote, The Gardner and the Carpenter. *You can listen to the podcast here .

Alison had a number of compelling things to say about parenting…and the history of parenting, two comments stood out. First, around 22:50 she mentions that young children learn through play. We recognize and wholeheartedly agree with this statement. She then dropped a powerful statement and said that older kids learn best through apprenticeships. And I think this deserves some further research on our part. It is unclear what age she is referring to for apprenticeships, so I’ll read her book and get back to you shortly.

Earlier this week, David Patton stopped by to share the NY Times article, ‘Bringing in Risk’ to Build Resilience. If you haven’t already read it, it’s worth a few minutes of your time and I’ve attached a link to the article here ( ). It may amuse you to look at the pictures because I immediately noticed similarities between these “new” practices in England, Australia, and Canada that have long been a part of student experience. “The shift to seeing some benefit in risk, advocates say, signals the end of a decades-long drift toward overprotecting children.”

What is even more interesting to me is how this article aligns so nicely with the podcast. As Alison shares, “I think the science suggests that being a caregiver for human beings is…much more about providing a protected space in which unexpected things can happen than it is like shaping a child into a particular [king? Should this be kind?] of desirable adult.”

In addition to supporting students with risk taking in the classroom and on campus, it was interesting to watch students who chose to participate in today’s walkout for 17 minutes. What began as a conversation in the 8th grade, grew into in class conversations, led by the 8th grade students. They differentiated the topics depending on the age of the kids, and covered topics from honoring the 17 students who were killed to creating safe school environments for everyone.

Some students chose to leave their classrooms and walk around the block in a peaceful act of civil disobedience, while others decided to stay. Parents and teachers were on hand to support the students and ensure that they were safe. And across the board all students voices were heard and honored both by the adults and students.

Frankly, this is one of the many reasons why I am so grateful to be part of our community. We endeavor to provide a safe space for students to explore and try new things, behaviors and ideas that fosters creativity and supports difference. This in and of itself is risky and consistent with what we believe in giving our students every opportunity to grow and learn so it’s nice to hear that our practice has the added benefit of furthering resilience in children. And hopefully sends a message that they are important and that they can make a difference.

— See a problem. Do something about it.

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Fitting In vs Belonging

Hi Everyone,

Welcome back!

I hope you enjoyed a long and restful break with your family. We’ve only been back a few days and yet vacation seems like a distant memory!

Fitting in vs. Belonging
Last weekend, I had a conversation with a few friends around the difference between fitting in and belonging. What made the conversation powerful was that the more we talked, the deeper we found ourselves diving into the nuances of what this means and what the implications are for school, home, and work. It started with his son’s experience in high school.

Consider this: Have you ever fit in somewhere and felt like you didn’t belong? Have you ever worked to fit in just so that you could feel like you belong? What was the end result? When do you find yourself completely free from worry about how you present the real you? What were these experiences like for you?

Hmm…for me thinking back to high school, 4 years of varsity soccer – Fit in but didn’t belong. Club soccer – belonged. 4 years of band – belonged. Classes – mixed bag…in some classes I felt right at home while in others it was like walking on eggshells around the teacher (definitely fitting in). Cross country – belonged with those quirky kids! And today…many, many years later at McAuliffe…definitely belong.

Fitting in and belonging are part of our normal experience when interacting in social groups. It is particularly important for pre-teens and teenagers. They are busy working out who they are and where they fit in the world. They may try on new styles of clothing, explore different types of music and friendship groups, etc. But what I hope for all of our students is that they feel like they belong and are accepted for who they are here at McAuliffe.

Brene Brown has been studying this phenomenon for nearly twenty years. In 2012, she wrote an article on this for Oprah, “Belonging is not fitting in. In fact, fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I’ve discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them. Belonging is something else entirely—it’s showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are—love of gourd painting, intense fear of public speaking and all.

Many of us suffer from this split between who we are and who we present to the world in order to be accepted, (Take it from me: I’m an expert fitter-inner!) But we’re not letting ourselves be known, and this kind of incongruent living is soul-sucking.

The truth is: Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect. When we don’t have that, we shape-shift and turn into chameleons; we hustle for the worthiness we already possess.

I believe that we are incredibly fortunate to be in a school community that encourages students to explore and grow in a safe learning environment. We also foster the values of presenting an authentic version of ourselves, being open and honest about vulnerabilities and imperfections. At the same time, as a progressive school, I know that we can and should strive to be better about this??

I invite your thoughts and ideas on how we can continue to grow in the area of creating a learning environment where children feel safe to be themselves.

Have a wonderful weekend!


“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” Brene Brown Braving the Wilderness

Read more:

Reading Goal Update:
Some of your know that my birthday goal for this year is to read 47 books in 2018. If you didn’t know…surprise!! To help keep me accountable I will be providing periodic updates here. So far I’ve read: Finding Ultra, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Creativity, Inc., My Year of Running Dangerously, Murder on the Orient Express, Common Sense, The Alice Network, and The Radium Girls. Only 39 more to go!

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Reflections of the week…

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!!


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