Brene Brown’s Finding our way to true belonging —

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…

via Finding our way to true belonging —

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30 days hath September

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!

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“Humanity is an ocean.” – Gandhi

The start of school has been pretty amazing and we were able to also kick off our
week with an incredible eclipse!! As I’ve traveled through our classrooms, it’s
been fun to see our returning and new students engage in learning experiences
and community building activities! Class meetings, New Parent Night, CC
planning meeting, and so much more and we’re just getting started! This is truly
going to be an outstanding year at McAuliffe!!

At the same time, outside of school these last few weeks, it’s been increasingly
challenging for me to watch the news, listen to the radio, or read my paper (one
of my favorite morning activities), because there is so much anger and hatred
festering around the country and the world. The intolerance and violence
reminds me of Gandhi’s words, “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is
an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
Racism and intolerance, violence and hatred have no place at McAuliffe School.
Here, we foster an inclusive community of adults and children who support one
another as curious human beings seeking to gain a better understanding of the
world around us.

As such, our community offers students a global perspective. We acknowledge
one another’s weaknesses and celebrate our strengths. We recognize our
differences and similarities and honor them as they help to make each of us
unique and also tie us together as members of the human race. No one person or
group is more important than any other here. We ALL committed to making this
school better when we enrolled our children or signed on as staff members, and
together, we can and do make a difference in the world around us!

As we continue to focus on wellness, this week I want to engage in a
conversation with you around what we are doing, and what we can do in the
future, to make this world a better place.

Actions speak louder than words
At McAuliffe, we constantly remind one another that modeling is a powerful teaching tool. Last weekend, I saw something that reminded me of the impact that our actions carry. A dear friend works in the medical field. Realizing that not all of her patients can afford or are granted certain medical devices, she keeps an eye out for them on Craigslist, Freecycle sites, and FB communities. She then collects, cleans, repairs, and redistributes them to those in need at no cost. She does this on her own time, and receives no compensation, except the incredible gratitude of those she helps and their families.

We modified a wheelchair to better fit a patient. We then spent several hours locating, cleaning, and delivering another medical support for a different patient. It was amazing to be a part of that experience and to be able to help her and others for no reason other than to make someone’s life a little better. I was grateful to help out someone less fortunate and to be reminded that each of us can make a difference for the  better in the lives of someone else.

So I’m asking a lot from all of you. Help me make this world a better place. Whatever your act of kindness or generosity or love or goodness… do something this year. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and an even better week!


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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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