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:

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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Why I started watching 13 Reasons Why…

Last Friday, I received an email alert from El Camino Hospital about the release of a new series called, “13 Reasons Why”. The story is based on Jay Asher’s 2007 book of the same title.

“The intensely heavy teen drama from Netflix about a high school girl, Hannah Baker, who commits suicide and leaves 13 tapes for her classmates, explaining her decision, tackles a variety of subjects from rape and bullying to drug-use and school violence.” (

Frankly, the last thing I thought I would do over the weekend was binge watch this series and yet Saturday morning I started watching…

So what changed?

That night, my daughter asked me to make sure Netflix was on her iPad because all of the kids in (high) school are watching and talking about it. The show is super popular and it’s no different than any other mystery/murder show we’d seen.

Could that be true? No different than Sherlock or Master Chef Jr.? It certainly didn’t feel the same to me.

My initial thought was to  protect my child and ban her from all things Netflix…maybe cancel Netflix?

Fortunately, my inner voice won out. Banning a show that my independence seeking, teenage daughter sent some very strong messages…none of them awesome.

Instead, we’re now watching the shows together…well virtually as she is with her mom in Palm Springs for Spring Break. So we watch and then talk about each episode.

The topic hits very close to home because it’s all about teenagers in high school, my daughter’s age and they are involved in bullying, sex, drugs, yes…some rock and roll, and an incredibly scary topic for parents…teen suicide.

I realize that in parenting we all have areas of strength and weakness. I also understand that we differ in the way we approach different topics with our children. This is the path I chose to work through the series and topics with my daughter. You will have to choose your own path on addressing or not addressing these issues with your high schooler.

In this situation, I chose to engage because it is an opportunity for conversation and understanding. It is absolutely uncomfortable and definitely not easy, but it is a worth while conversation for a daddy and his daughter none the less.

Not the easiest thing to be a parent…but the upsides are priceless!

ps –

Someone asked if the series was appropriate for a middle school child. While I am inclined to say wait until 8th grade or high school, my recommendation is that you watch the show first. There are some very mature themes and a few more tame, though still challenging topics. I would hope that the topics are addressed before the child has been exposed to it in real life and you know your child best to make that decision.


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Track Update and Experiential Learning

Hi Everyone,

The Track is Underway!:

The track is well underway at this point. The incredible machines have left us and in their wake the ground work has been completed. There is a brief pause until the rain clears up and then we will be up and running (pun intended) in no time!

Experiential Learning:
This week Jackie’s class is in Ashland. This is the culmination of months of students planning and learning about various facets of travel, Shakespeare, theater, and so much more. I’m not going to give away the details of their trip. That is for them to share when they return, but the gist is that this is truly an exciting learning experience that was developed by the students.

Yesterday our entire third grade class traveled to Ardenwood Farm. We started the tour with a walk along a path that led us to the barn and a lovely green with picnic tables populated by several peacocks and peahens.

I laughed a lot during the corn shelling portion of our trip. Who knew that farmers originally used seashells to assist in the removal of corn kernels from the cob??

The kids in my group agreed that it was a lot of work to remove the kernels from the dried husks of indian corn. We tried using our fingers which was a very slow process and then switched over to a corn shelling device made of cast iron. That was much faster but still took quite a bit of effort. Inside the barn we raced to see which team could remove the most kernels with the hand crank version. That was hilarious! I’m sure someone has a video of the event.
We all wanted to try the big automated corn sheller, but only farm staff were allowed to operate the hand crank on the big machine.

I was reminded of the ancient phrase, “Mater artium necessitas” (Necessity is the mother of invention.) Farms are ripe with examples of invention and we were presented with four examples just with the different type of corn shellers. If we included the tools used to clean the laundry and the rope and pulley system used to load bales of hay, we’d have several more!

Many of the tools on the farm appeared to have been designed to allow work to be completed quicker or with less effort. This didn’t eliminate work it just lessened their load and there was a LOT to do in the course of a day.

I’m grateful that our guides made a point of asking questions that would encourage our students to compare their own lives and world to those who lived and worked on a farm.

Is life on a farm different from your life? If so how? How is it similar?
Why do we have sheep and goats on a farm?
How many children wake up before dawn to do their daily chores before breakfast and then head off to school?
Did children who lived on farms have time to play?

These days, very few people live on farms in Silicon Valley. This trip offered a glimpse into a different life experience and a window into someone else’s world. Adventures of this nature help us appreciate the strengths and challenges of others and provide us with a chance to reflect on our own life.

Ok…last but not least…techies…stop what you’re doing…click on this link… and type in part “121G” right now. Seriously…it’s worth it.

Have a wonderful weekend!


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What Love Language Does Your Child Speak?

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

When I started writing this week, Monique suggested I talk about the beautiful sunshine and the weather today is gorgeous. In truth though, it’s rained so much this year that I find myself wondering “Are we done yet?”. Frankly, this weekend only served to support that notion as my hike to Lexington started out sunny. Ten minutes into the hike it began to rain. Five minutes after that the sun came out along with clear, blue skies and the temperature increased at least 10 degrees…and on the way back it hailed…really?!? Talk about wacky weather!

It’s interesting how perspectives can shift and adjust according to our life circumstances. We have had a drought for so long that I had nearly forgotten what it was like to have a winter season and yet here we are at the tail end of an honest to goodness California winter.

I’ve noticed that happens for me as a father at times too. After 15 years with my kiddo, I find myself thinking that I really know her and then she does something completely outside of my expectation. It has happened often enough that I picked up Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages for Teens. It was a good read and a nice reminder about our children’s drive for independence at that age. It also served as a reminder for me to continue to learn and grow.

Among other things, one practice that I like about Gary’s work is that he creates opportunities for us to better understand the lens we are seeing the situation through and then to use that understanding in working with our children. Here is an example from his study guide on the 5 Love Languages for Children:

Think about positive and negative words from your childhood. What impact did they have, both at the time and over the long term?
Have you seen a similar impact in your own kids from words spoken by you or your spouse? What are ways you can change the tune, moving from negative and angry words to positive and lovingly corrective ones?
We often assume our children understand our love, even if we don’t always express it. But children are very literal and may need to hear an explicit expression of love from us. Over the next week, every time you feel love, express it as directly as possible to your children. At the end of the week, ask them if they better understand your love for them.

As we move into spring (March 20) what are some of the activities that you and your family look forward to? Speaking of looking forward, this weekend is Daylight Savings. Don’t forget to set your clocks!

Other things you can expect at McAuliffe are field trips, class plays, end of year assessments, MARS scoring, the student-faculty basketball game, science day, parent appreciation day, art day, movie nights, and much, much more.

Have a wonderful weekend!


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