A brand new year!

Hi Everyone,

Welcome back to a new year at McAuliffe. It’s been wonderful seeing so many familiar faces and meeting our new families. Over the last two weeks, I’ve spent time in each classroom and visited several class meetings and I have to say that the classes look fantastic! There’s a tremendous amount of positive energy and we are already engaging in learning and our school-wide Community focused unit of study! This year promises to be filled with great experiences for all of us.

Last night, I went out on a limb and invited parents in several class meetings to ask me any question that came to mind. Here are a few that came up:

  • Do you ever go off roading in your Jeep?
  • Who will you root for at the 49er v. Packer game tonight?
  • When did I first become a Harry Potter fan?
  • How do I magically show up at just the right time?

I’ll be sharing those answers on my blog next week…and will periodically open up questions in a “Ask Any Question” to our parent and student community.

We still have some things to be done to wrap up this round of modernization and a few repairs of things that were installed last year and those are really par for the course. More updates on this to come…

At the start of each year, I visit each class to talk about our expectations for ensuring that all students have a safe and engaging learning experience.  We discuss the importance of being kind to oneself and to others, having fun, speaking kindly, being helpful and responsible, and helping one another learn. I’ve met with just over half of our classes so far and the conversations have been excellent!

Last but not least:

  • Enjoy the year ahead. Time always seems to speed up in August and again in May/June. Breathe.
  • Make time in your day to spend with your children. They grow up so fast and this is our time to celebrate them.
  • Ask questions. We are learning together at McAuliffe and asking questions accomplishes two things. One, we’re able to gain clarity on topics that are unclear to us, and we are modeling for our children that asking questions is not only okay, but completely appropriate in the world we live in.
  • Make McAuliffe a better place for everyone. All of your children will benefit from this.

Cheers!

Rick

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Welcome to McAuliffe School for the 2016-17 year!

“A minute goes by so fearfully quick.  You might as well try to stop a Bandersnatch!
– Lewis Carrol”

Hi Everyone!

I hope your summer was full of goodness and joy! Tomorrow is our first day of school. Welcome back to all our returning families. We’ve missed you! Welcome to families newly joining us! We look forward to getting to know you better! To all of you, we can’t wait to hear your stories of summer vacation and adventure!

I am intrigued by the road we will travel as parents this year. And I am equally excited for what lays ahead for our children. Who knows what the year will bring? What wonder and joy and learning? The start of a new year is always exhilarating!!

This morning as I woke my daughter, I was amazed at how much she has grown. It seems like just yesterday that I was taking her to the Los Gatos Parent Nursery School for the first time. Her eyes were wide with wonder at this new place and joy at meeting new people and new friends. Back then she wasn’t yet able to ride a bike, but she could dance and sing and laugh and explore like nobody’s business.

Her kindergarten experience brings similar memories to mind…eyes wide, excited, laughing. I remember the day she came home in tears because her teacher had a substitute and didn’t know what that meant and how happy she was to learn that the teacher would be back the next day.  That year she learned to ride a bicycle, to tie-dye, to play soccer and Rally Ball, and she remembers “eating banana peels as part of learning about the five senses” (her words not mine!). Yum?

Flash forward ten years…days away from starting her sophomore year of high school. She is a typical teen in so many ways, not the least of which is staying up and sleeping in, yet she spent the last week waking up at the crack of dawn for field hockey try-outs. She’s taller, more poised, and still as curious and insistent on exploring and trying new things as ever. These days she talks less about riding her bicycle than driving my Jeep…which while a bit unnerving for me that she’s growing up, promises to be a fun experience for both of us. West Valley parking lot here we come…! So many good things are in store for all of us this year and I am grateful to be both a parent and your child’s principal.

In the spirit of progressive education and exploratory learning, our faculty has decided to try something new this year. We will begin, as an entire school, by studying “Community”. It may look and feel wildly different from grade level to grade level and yet; there will be common threads among our learning experiences and yes, you will have a role in this, because you too are part of our community.

As we support our children’s learning, let’s spend the year asking questions and embracing the opportunities for us, as adults, to learn and grow as well. Give yourself permission to try new things and make mistakes. Allow yourself to step back from your children as they explore the world around them. At times they need a guiding hand and they also need the freedom to experience things on their own. If you are unsure, ask your child’s teacher, IA (instructional assistant), CC (class coordinator), or another veteran parent. We’re here to help one another.

For all of our students – Did you have fun this summer? We’re so glad your back!! Did you notice that our blacktop has been redone?  The climbing wall is up and our entire school is ready for action and for you!!  Errr… one small exception: the lower grade girl’s bathroom which needs a few finishing touches and won’t be ready until next week. We’re also putting in a new track sometime in October or November!! Most importantly, your teacher is energized and can’t wait to see you!

PARENTS – We strongly encourage you to come a bit early tomorrow to avoid the stress of rushing, traffic and to find a parking space.

Here’s to a wonderful new year for all of us! See you tomorrow!

 

Rick

Rick Yee
Principal
McAuliffe School
Saratoga, CA

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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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