November News

Visiting teachers
We started off with a visit from a group of teachers from Myanmar seeking a better understanding of progressive education and Dale Jones who was hosting the teachers and is next week’s guest speaker. Alicia led the tour and was excited to learn from them too. One thing that we are going to explore is giving teachers time to visit their colleagues’ classrooms.  We offer many varied strengths and it makes sense to learn from one another.

Superintendent visits McAuliffe
On Tuesday, our Superintendent, Dr. Craig Baker, joined us for the afternoon. We started with a brown bag session with parents, followed it up with a tour of our campus where we visited all of our classrooms, and then wrapped up the afternoon with a staff meet and greet.

One of the things that I have really appreciated about our conversations is his constant attention on what is best for students. He has a mind for the budget and has been clear about where we are fiscally and has revenue generating ideas. He is also already focused on being proactive and collaborative with parents, teachers, and administrators. These are exciting and needed, but it is his mindset around students and what is best for them that resonates so powerfully with me and many of the parents and teachers I spoke with after our conversations.  

Field trips and class news updates coming your way!
Some of our students are at Astro Camp this week while others travelled to San Juan Bautista and Monterey Historic Park. And that reminds me! At our emergency PFG meeting last week, the parents agreed to share stories from our classes every other newsletter. This begins next week and we are all excited to hear about the many learning experiences taking place around campus! Stay tuned!


All Community Meeting This Tuesday November 14 at 7-9pm
This is an important time for us to come together and learn new ideas and discuss critical issues. While we are all committed to attending this annual event, it’s important to know that your participation in this meeting benefits everyone in the community as we all learn and grow together as friends and parents!

This year we have a very special guest speaker and his topic is “Parenting for Optimal Child Wellness”.  

Our talk will look at how parenting affects the emotional health of our children, and will include strategies for improving your child’s “wellness” in the face of increasing societal stress. There will be plenty of opportunities for dialogue with the presenter and your fellow audience members.

Our special guest presenter is none other than Dale Jones. Dale is a leader in the progressive education movement, long-time educator, and former principal of and parent at McAuliffe School.


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Hybrid Mind Reflections


“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real.” – Richard Louv

Happy Friday Everyone!

It was refreshing to wake up to rain this morning and with fire conditions across the bay area, it couldn’t have come at a better time! Our hearts go out to our family, friends, and our neighbors who have been displaced or impacted by the fires.

Thank you to everyone who is reaching out and helping those in need. You are making the world a better place.

On Wednesday, Katie, Sue, and I went to the Commonwealth Club’s presentation of the Hybrid Mind by Richard Louv. He offered a compelling discussion about the importance of finding balance between the use of electronics and technology and being outdoors in nature. Richard’s talk resonates with our schoolwide focus Health and Wellness.

The three areas he targeted were:

  1. Create a hybrid mind.

As technology becomes increasingly accessible, how do we balance the 24/7 always on, always connected lifestyle with the idea of being outdoors and developing an appreciation for the natural world? Richard embraced the idea of inclusion and encouraged us to seek a balance for ourselves and especially for young children. How do we foster this in our own lives and how do we model it for our children?

  1. Support and create bridges to nature for young people.

Dr. Stephen Kellert states, “Play in nature, particularly during the critical period of middle childhood, appears to be an especially important time for developing the capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and emotional and intellectual development…” “Unstructured free play in the out-of-doors brings a host of benefits to children — from being smarter to more cooperative to healthier overall.”

Richard cited example after example of schools that were reducing or canceling recess in favor of more “academic” time. He described schools that eliminated music and/or PE and extended the school day while reducing students’ time outside.  

*Interesting factoid – In the United States, prison inmates get more time outside (2 hours/day) than children do (1-1:15 hours) during the day.

Richard also shared a number of the impacts of nature on children and his findings are consistent with what we have seen at McAuliffe:

  • Creativity, physical competence, social skills, environmental knowledge, confidence, and problem-solving ability are among those benefits to children’s development.
  • It also leads to enhanced cooperation and conflict resolution skills; gains in self esteem; gains in positive environmental behavior; and gains in problem-solving, motivation to learn, as well as having positive impact on their personal, intellectual development.
  • Outdoor education leads to persisting benefits for children even years after the event.
  1. Become leaders in the new nature movement.

Finally, Richard challenged the audience to become leaders in a counter culture. He spoke specifically to tech industry leaders and then encouraged all of us to stand up for a balance in technology and nature.

On many levels, McAuliffe has been on this path since we were founded. We have always embraced the notion that learning happens everywhere and “Classrooms without Walls” describes our daily practice. At the same time, as a progressive school, we can be better than we are now. And that all of us working together as a village can make this happen.

What can we do here at McAuliffe to be leaders in the counter culture that embraces the importance of nature along the electronic/technological world?

What can we do at home to foster this in our own lives and the lives of our families?

Ok problem solvers! Now’s our chance! Let’s hear your ideas and let’s make this happen!


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Braving the Wilderness.
A few people asked what I’m reading these days. I haven’t read as much as I’d like, so that served to help me kick it up a notch. This week I read Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness. Her book focuses on the search for “True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone”.

As many of you know, I am a huge supporter of Brené’s work on shame, empathy, vulnerability, and courage. I particularly like that, as a grounded theory researcher, she “develops theories based on people’s lived experiences rather than proving or disproving existing theories.”

She describes true belonging as “only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance.” What’s particularly compelling about this is the role that social media plays
for adults and children in creating a less than authentic experience of our lives.
In upcoming letters, I’ll explore this a bit more. I’ll also return to Rox Zander’s work, The Art of Possibility, that I shared about in August. For now, I’d like to pull back the curtain to reveal what happened at our Learning Day last Friday.

Learning Day
Last week’s Learning Day was considered by staff as generally one of the best we’ve had in the last few years. We felt this way because we made time to discuss major and minor issues that we were faced with in a conversational and reflective manner. We kicked off the meeting with Ann and Christine sharing the PFG Parent Portal. We then spent the morning discussing issues like the need for space for our middle school, updates on our school-wide wellness theme, and including the Units of Study writing program in our integrated curriculum in a way that is consistent with our philosophy. We coordinated schedules for families with siblings for our upcoming conferences, talked about Info Night, Playground Supervision, and refined our plan for the upcoming November PFG meeting (Look for more on this shortly. Suffice it to say we are ALL very excited about this special meeting!)

We then wrapped up the day with grade level collaboration to reflect on upcoming our students’ learning experiences and refine our curriculum for the next few months.

Have a wonderful weekend…and Go Bears!

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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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