Hello 2017-18!!! “Sailing out into a universe of possibility…” (Roz and Ben Zander)

Hello everyone!
This morning, as I sat in a local coffee shop thinking about all of you and the year ahead, I overheard a child exclaim, “I can’t believe that school is starting next week!” My thoughts exactly! It’s finally here!
Right about now, I figure that each of us falls into one of four camps:
1. Summer was WAY too short!
2. Summer was WAY too long!
3. Summer was just about right; or
4. Summer?!? When did that happen??

Wherever you land on the summer spectrum, school starts in just two short days (Monday 8/14) and we are so excited for your return!


Welcome to all of our new families! We are so excited you’re here and we can’t wait to get to know you! We know you will have lots of questions. Don’t hold back. Ask away! We become better by reflecting on and answering them! We also want you to jump right in! Whatever your strengths and passions, everyone has something to contribute in our community and we love that!

Welcome back returning families! We can’t wait to hear about your summer adventures and to see what the year ahead holds for you and your children! We ask that you welcome and guide our new families as they learn more about our school, community, and philosophy. You’re the experts and you have so much to share!

Over the summer, I shared the news of several new faculty members joining us along with their personal hello’s. We’re very happy to welcome Sonia (Kinder), Jessica (4/5), Karey (6/7), Lauren (School Psychologist), Jane (Sonia’s IA), Ann (Sue’s IA), David (Music), and Josh (along w/Laura for PE) to our community!

Schoolwide Theme:
Our theme for 2017-18 is Wellness. The OED defines wellness as “The state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.” When I searched Google, I found there were “about 171,000,000 results”.  It’s exciting that the faculty chose such a diverse and varied topic and it will be interesting to hear how each class and grade level broaches the subject.

To each of you, I wish you good health. As we travel together in the year ahead, I hope you find new ways of improving your mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. I encourage you to broaden the traditional view of wellness to include our community, your neighborhood, our country, and the world around us.

With your help and energy, this year promises to be our best ever. Let’s work together to provide amazing learning experiences for our children. Together, the possibilities are endless!

Opportunities to Help:
We are working on renovating our classroom gardens. 2nd and 3rd grade are looking for help with designing and (re)building raised beds and the garden framework as well.

My personal pet project focuses on our playground revitalization. I love the way our kids play and use our current structures. Over the last several years, I’ve noticed that they are becoming increasingly worn. This is exactly what we want – heavily used by kids for play.

The structures are so well used in fact, that we will need to replace elements of the playground in the next few years. In light of this, I am wondering what we should replace it with and I need help.

Specifically, I’d like help identifying what options are out there that would best align with our philosophy and our students’ needs. One example I LOVE is the Adventure Playground in Berkeley. I hope to include this in the mix of possibilities for our school. In doing so, we will need to identify what elements would or would not work in a public school setting. Whatever ideas we come up with, we’ll need to share with our students, and ultimately, I’d like the students to have an equal voice with our parents and faculty in the decision making process.

If these opportunities to contribute don’t tickle your fancy o problem! Christine and Jodie, our PFG president and president emeritus respectively, along with other PFG board members will be sharing more opportunities with you shortly!

Endless Possibilities:
Finally, I leave you with this poem by Emily Dickinson and encourage everyone, as we embark on this new year, to live in the house of Possibilities!*


I dwell in Possibility —
A fairer House than Prose —
More numerous of Windows —
Superior — for Doors —

Of Chambers as the Cedars —
Impregnable of Eye —
And for an Everlasting Roof —
The Gambrels of the Sky —

Of Visitors — the fairest —
For Occupation — This —
The spreading wide my narrow Hands —
To gather Paradise —


— Emily Dickinson

Here’s to a new year of adventure and learning for all of us!



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Goodbye 2016-17. Hello Summer!

We’re finally here! It’s the last Friday of our 2016-17 school year.  I can hardly believe that another year has passed us by! My hope for you and your family is that this year was better than the last, and that next year will be even better for all of you.

It’s amazing that it’s time to begin our farewells for those who will be leaving us and moving on. We are so grateful that you were part of our community, for adding to our school experience, and making our lives better! We are sad that you will be moving on because we will miss you. At the same time, we are excited for your next adventure! We wish you the very best in the days ahead and we encourage you to continue to make the world a better place in whatever shape or form you can. We also want to remind you of something: You are always a part of our community and have a place here.

This year we focused on and learned about Community. We learned about communities locally and worldwide.  And, much like people, communities can be wildly different and each carries with them incredible strengths and challenges.  We discovered that communities do not always think the same way or agree, and when we engage in open dialogue, those differences along with the ties that bind us together enable us to grow and thrive and become better and stronger. We learned that communities are places where people belong. And all of you belong here.

In the coming year, our school will focus on Health and Wellness. With the summer months upon us, I hope that this includes lots of time outside for your children. Let them run and play. We have an agreement that children…and adults for that matter…cannot climb trees or fences on campus. While they may not be allowed on campus, these are great gross motor activities for kids…and adults! Consider giving your children the gift of exploration this summer. There is so much to see and do and learn that cannot be found sitting in front of a screen.

I leave you with a request and this poem by Miller Williams. Extend compassion for those around you. This world is a busy and sometimes careless place but most of the people in it are good and kind and caring…like you…and in everyone’s life there are times when we can all use a helping hand.

We are so grateful again that you are part of our community. Have a wonderful summer. Enjoy the warm and sunny days. We can’t wait to see you next year…and for those of you who are moving on please remember you are always welcome here. Come back and visit us!

Have a wonderful summer!

Rick and the McAuliffe Faculty



Have compassion for everyone you meet,
even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit,
bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign
of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on
down there where the spirit meets the bone.


Miller William









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May Reflections

Some days are diamonds
Some days are rocks
Some doors are open
Some roads are blocked…
(Walls – Tom Petty)

As I write today’s newsletter, the year is quickly coming to a close and Walls is playing in the back of my mind.

What a year this has been! We experienced joy and wonder. We explored the world; we studied history and participated in historic events. We  studied the meaning of social-emotional learning through play and conflict resolutions, class meetings and cooperative learning. We’ve engaged in difficult conversations to build our character and resolve our dilemmas rather than let them hide away in shadows, and built bridges rather than walls. We strive to understand before being understood. It’s an element of our community because we believe that each person has strengths and weaknesses and that together we make each other better. In doing so, we’ve grown in our ability to develop strong relationships with others and also learned a bit more about ourselves.

I’m so grateful for our community because we’ve had some hard times too and we banded together to help those in need; reaching out, checking in with, and caring for our friends who were hurting or going through a difficult time.

Thank you for all of your hard work and energy. Your efforts have made the learning experience for the children at McAuliffe richer and more meaningful. We have a few days left…8 to be exact. Let’s make the most of our time together! It’s time to celebrate a year of growth and learning and friendship.

Have a wonderful long weekend.








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Field trips, books to read, tips from Sheryl

Happy Friday everyone,

Each year, I go on number of field trips to get a better idea of our students’ learning experiences. I also go on our trips to build relationships with the students, the parents, and support our teachers. An ancillary benefit for me and the other adults is that we are learning too. A few of the trips that I shared with your children this year included the beach trips, Project Look, Ardenwood, Elkus, and Mendocino.  

We learned about invasive plant species and its impact on the environment and ecosystem such as carpobrotus edulis (aka ice plant…which coincidentally, makes for a fun mini-trampoline and snack area) or the Tragedy of the Commons (both at Mendocino last week),  monarch butterfly sanctuaries and that the migrant population has dropped by close to 90% in the last decade – the answer to why is unclear and complicated! (Natural Bridges), and various mediums of art, the theory behind them, coupled with hands on activities to develop an increased appreciation and literacy for a range of media (Project Look).

These adventures are rich with contextual learning and meaning for children and adults. The conversations that result from these trips are engaging and thought provoking and a natural extension of the learning and philosophy of our program.

What is your favorite field trip/learning adventure at your time at McAuliffe? What is your child’s favorite learning adventure so far?


Last week I made some time to read a few books:

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)

Beautiful – Being an Empowered Young Woman (Naomi Katz)

– Interesting read for middle – high school girls with a focus on “body image, self-confidence, sex, relationships, peer pressure”

Option B (Sheryl Sandberg)

– I loved the candor and vulnerability of Sheryl’s story.

I immediately resonated with her comments around journaling. She shared that since she was young, each year she would start a journal and after a short time it would be tossed aside. And she would start again the next year.

Journaling can be a powerful way for us to reflect on our lives, process our feelings, challenges, and regrets.

A few months ago I tweeted Søren Kierkegaard’s quote,  “Life can only be understood backward but it must be lived forward.” I loved that Sheryl used the same quote in her book!

Here are two strategies that worked for her and I invite you to join me in trying one or both of these strategies.

Strategy One:

Each evening write down three moments of joy every day. Three happy moments in a notebook. They can be whatever makes you happy and small is okay.

Strategy Two:

Psychologists Jane Dutton and Adam Grant suggest that gratitude is passive in nature and makes us feel thankful for what we receive.  “Counting our contributions is active. It builds our confidence by reminding us that we can make a difference.” Option B, Sandberg and Grant

Spend 5-10 minutes writing down three things that you have done well each day and why. Start small and don’t aim for perfection or expect that you will do well all the time. Include moments of success for you…what moments of success can you find?






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April News pt2

Hi Everyone and welcome back!

I hope that your spring break was filled with curiosity, exploration, and joy!

Track Update:
The week before we left, we had a fun ribbon cutting for the track. It’s officially open and the hurricane fence is finally down and off campus. The last steps will be to replace the backstop next to the ball wall, remove the old broken one, and repair the gate which was damaged during the track installation.

Spring Overnight Adventures are in full swing:
Last night we had three class meetings. It was exciting to listen to and observe the parents prepare for their children’s Elkus and Mendocino trips. One thing that I noticed was that the parents were calm and relaxed throughout the entire conversation. This is a dramatic change from their expressions on their child’s first overnight. It occurred to me that part of the relaxed attitude they portrayed was due to their level of expertise and comfort with the trip. It may also have been due to the fact that their children have already engaged in one, if not many, overnight trips and frankly this is another exciting adventure waiting to happen.

I love that the level of collaboration with our parents is so high. They worked together to develop their roles in the same way that our students work collaboratively on their projects. Parent voice is an important element in our program! There was lot of discussion, suggestions, and laughter at McAuliffe last night…and a few ewws with the barf bag convo.

Something that occurred to me while standing in the back of Andrew’s room is that I know these parents…and their families and I have for quite some time. It was a little unnerving. Thinking about your kids and how they have grown over the years. Hey! I didn’t cry or anything, but inside, I had a warm and very grateful feeling because it is truly an honor to work with you and your children. It’s been 6 years together for many of us. As in any relationship there have been ups and downs and in the end, we are all here for the children and that is what makes this place such an incredible community.

Next week, I will join the 1st graders for part of their hike and then head to Mendocino to see what all the hoopla is about. I believe that I have now joined all but a dozen trips that our students regularly participate in. I go on our field trips to increase my understanding of the teaching and learning our students engage in; to continue to grow my relationship with the students, faculty, and parents; and, to better advocate for the elements of our program.

We strongly believe that learning can happen anywhere. Our adventures fully support this idea, and model its importance by giving students an opportunity to practice and explore outdoor learning first hand.

Welcome back and have a wonderful weekend!


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April showers bring May flowers…

“Education must be not only a transmission of culture, but also a provider of alternative views of the world & a strengthener of the will to explore them.” – Jerome Bruner

April showers bring May flowers…Based on the rain we’ve had this year we can certainly expect quite a vivid display of beauty and flowers this spring!

On Wednesday, I went to Project Look with Susan’s class. First, it is an incredible, hands on lesson in the arts, culture, and society. The docents worked equally well with our 1st graders as they did with Andrew’s 4th/5th class who arrived just as Susan’s class was leaving for lunch.

The conversation between the docents and students was fun to listen to. I observed that our 1st graders tended to be as on task and interested in the various exhibits as the 4/5 ‘s later in the day.

Once they completed the hands-on portion of the trip, I had a chance to ask them about their favorite exhibits and what appealed to them.  I noticed the depth of their connections to the art and the world around them and each student had one or two exhibits that appealed to them.

Yesterday was a rejuvenating and energizing time for all. We started the morning off with a ribbon cutting ceremony for our new track. After years of debate, negotiation, and planning, the dirt track has been replaced through the generous donation of our parent community.

Vicki, one of our amazing kinder teachers, kicked off the event by cutting the ribbon and opening the track to all of our community.

It was fun to watch the joyful and rather spontaneous reaction of the students, and they immediately took to the new track. Some sprinted, some jogged, some walked, some skipped, and some wheeled! A few students even ran a full mile!

The festivities didn’t end there! At the end of the day we had a faculty-middle school basketball game which was VERY CLOSE! We also had our community ice cream/face painting activities. Music, games, running, playing. There was something for just about everyone and frankly, we could all do with bright spots like this in our lives.

In the coming months, the district is working to provide additional upgrades to our field. They have already started replacing sprinklers that were broken and hope to complete that work soon. This summer we will also see the pitted areas of our field filled in and then hydroseed will be used to fill any areas needing additional grass. Here’s an explanation of the technique: http://www.doityourself.com/stry/hydroseeding.

One of the reasons I love our community is the joyful learning environment that we work together to provide. When you seek the best in others by focusing on their strengths, presuming positive intent in their actions and allowing yourself to learn, grow, and make mistakes, you become a powerful role model for your own child(ren) and the many students (and adults!) on our campus. Thank you for making McAuliffe an amazing place to learn and grow.

Spring break is upon us. Have a wonderful adventure! We look forward to your return.




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Believe the Warning Captions on 13 Reasons Why…

Again this most likely will only apply to our families with high schoolers and/or middle schoolers.

I finished the series last night. It was difficult for me to watch. My daughter and her high school (Los Gatos HS) classmates were very excited to watch this series. I wonder if the same is true at other schools…

Knowing the content, I didn’t want her to go through this alone so I jumped in.

WARNING : Episodes 10 – 12 are GRAPHIC and depict sexual assault and rape. Episode 13 has a horrible and very realistic suicide scene.

It’s a difficult thing to realize that we don’t always know what our children are thinking. It is even more concerning that suicide accounts for “1/3 of young people ages 15 – 24.” (APA see link below.)

If you, or your child need to talk with someone about Suicide or suicide prevention here are a few links:





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