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.” (http://eonli.ne/2nCaDJX)

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…http://www.oreillyauto.com/site/c/home.oap 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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Holding true to what is important…

Last spring, the staff sat in a fairly crowded room and asked if we, as a progressive school, with so many wonderful resources available to us, could engage in a campus-wide experiment. What would it look like if we focused on something that we are already known for? If we all, from kinder through 8th grade, focused on the importance and value of community? How do we interact with one another, with the school, the town, the state, our country? Why is interpersonal communication important and what does it look like? How do we work with one another when we have different ideas and beliefs?

The excitement in the room grew from the seed of an idea into full fledged units this fall. Students all over campus explored these ideas and engaged in conversations that had the ancillary benefit of building the community we live and work in.

We also brought the adults together for a powerful discussion on the same topic at our All PFG meeting in October. The transition to Thanksgiving seemed perfect as we had time to reflect on the good in our lives and spend time celebrating this with family and friends.

Welcome back! We are so glad that you are here. The winter months in California can be fickle, but when the weather gets cold it tends to bring people inside and create opportunities for conversation and inside time together. There are also a number of wonderful things to do outside when the air is crisp and frosty.

What are some activities that your family cherishes during the winter months? Would you share them with us? If you’re open to it, please drop me an email or a quick note in the office and I will share them in our next newsletter.

From time to time it is important that we stop, reflect, and refine our practice. This is a pillar of progressive education. At McAuliffe, our faculty engages in this practice on a regular basis. We consistently seek to improve the learning experiences for your children individually, as grade level teams, and as a whole faculty. The Community unit was an example of this on a macro level, but reflective practice occurs daily with your teacher as they reflect on what learning took place each day, and what they and the aides will need to facilitate student learning for the next meeting. They then plan for those conversations and identify those needed resources to be ready for the next day. It’s daunting work and a work of passion because we know just how much our teachers care for your children.

In addition to the exciting learning taking place in your child’s classroom, our faculty is also engaged in the essential work of evaluating and revising the Learning Targets for students at each grade level. Learning Targets delineate what we want students to learn and be able to do.  As we complete this work by grade level we seek to integrate multiple content areas, including social-emotional learning and the progression of learning from grade to grade. As we develop and refine our targets we will share that with all of you and I will provide regular updates on our efforts.

There is much to celebrate and a million things to do.

Have a wonderful weekend!


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Happy Thanksgiving

Dear families,

Thanksgiving break is just around the corner and to be honest, I can’t think of a better time for us to reflect on the good in our lives.

The following is the Online Etymology Dictionary’s derivation of  Thanksgiving:

1530s, “the giving of thanks,” from thanks (n.) + present participle of give (v.). In the specific sense of “public celebration acknowledging divine favors” thanksgiving dates from 1630s (the first one in America was held October 1621 by Plymouth Colony Pilgrims in appreciation of assistance from members of the Massasoit tribe and celebration of the first harvest); though Thanksgiving Day itself is not attested until 1670s.

So that may be the origin of the phrase, but here’s the thing…gratitude has a place in every culture, in every time period since the first society, so it isn’t the origin of the concept. Can you imagine the first tribe? People looking at each other, figuring out a way to communicate, and somehow expressing, “It’s just good that you are here.”

And it’s really good that YOU are here. You, your work, your caring, your dedication, and your energy make our school a fantastic place to learn for all of us. We’re glad that your family chose our school and we hope that your child thrives and grows in their time with us.  

“I see you.” This is an interesting phrase that has popped up on social media and in the news over the last few weeks. But as I consider the phrase, I am deeply touched by the power of it. We all, in some way or another, want to be seen as valuable for who we are as a human being with a place in this world.

I strive to see all of our students for who they are, to see their strengths, to see their possibilities. I also seek to understand their shortcomings and support them and help them find their voice. Our staff and faculty do this every day and they do it much better than I. We are truly fortunate to have them in our lives and in the lives of our children.

Sometimes, I fall short. There have been days this year, when I found myself so busy with the work of “running the school” that I missed a chance to listen to a student, a parent, a staff member, a teacher. If that person was you, I’m truly sorry I missed that opportunity.

Everyone has a story. I will continue to do my best to listen to them intently and because I don’t have enough time in the day to hear everyone’s story, I need your help. Please help me to be sure that every child and adult is heard on our campus and in our small community, that every adult and child is seen.

Over the years, I have shared Dave Isay’s StoryCorps. Dave asserts that “Asking questions and listening intently to the stories that emerge is one of the most powerful forces in the world.”

Thank you in advance for your support in this effort. As we move into this wonderful week of celebration and giving thanks, enjoy your time with your family and friends. Laugh, dance, sing, run, explore, play, eat, share your stories, and make new ones.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Community is more than a unit of study at McAuliffe.

Hi Everyone,

This has been an eventful week filled with opportunities for us to come together and learn and grow as a community. We started with a celebration of Diwali Luncheon help for our faculty by members of our community. It was heart warming! The conversation and time were filled with joy and caring. The food was delicious!

At our All PFG Community Meeting, last Tuesday, we continued the focus on Community. Conversations in each of our break out groups were lively and open. The big questions were “How does “community” support learning?” and “What’s My Part in the McA Community?” Each of us has a role, a voice, and the responsibility of making our community a better place. The conversation was excellent. And the singing toward the end of the night was impressive. If you haven’t completed your flag for the community, please be sure to do so and turn it in next week! We will be putting them up around

We continued our community focus yesterday with a school-wide disaster drill entitled the “Great Shakeout”. (http://www.shakeout.org/california/) This is a large scale earthquake drill. While it usually occurs in the morning, we mixed it up this year and held the event in the afternoon. We did this because we realize that a major event can occur at any time and want to be prepared for it.

During today’s Learning Day the staff spent the morning focused on emergency preparedness and completed a training on the Incident Command System. This afternoon we will examine our math program and discuss changes to the MARS assessment.  

In the week ahead, we will see several classes heading on expeditions around the bay area and beyond.

Halloween Parade October 31

I’ve had a few inquiries about Halloween Costumes. First off, Thank you! For being proactive!!  

Our Halloween Parade will be held on October 31. The general expectation that we use for costumes is that they will not scare other students or adults. Here are our guidelines:

  • All Costumes should be age and event appropriate
  • No face paint that is overly scary, bloody, or gory
  • Costumes should not be overly scary, bloody, gory or violent, (this includes costumes for adults… and adults are encouraged to dress up!
  • Masks should not completely obscure the face. Non-bloody/gory masks can be worn on top of the head to complete the outfit with teacher’s permission. Otherwise teachers recommend face paint, noting the above regarding face paint
  • If your costume includes an additional accessory, such as a light saber, you must check with the classroom teacher.
  • All adults should be readily recognizable

Please be sure to have your child speak with their teacher BEFORE Halloween if they have questions about their costume. It would be unfortunate if a student failed to do this and was unable to wear their costume because it didn’t meet our guidelines.

Enjoy your weekend!

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Conferences already?!?

I really enjoyed dropping in on a few conferences yesterday. In addition to the positive tone and great conversations, I couldn’t help but notice the keen look on our parents faces. In a student-led conference, (which start at the 4th grade at McA), the parents seemed to radiate pride and joy as they listened to their son describe a math problem and the approach he took to achieve it.  In a first grade conference, it was fun to watch the parents reading their child’s work. Conferences are an amazing time and a wonderful opportunity to further the discussion of your child’s learning.

You are here each week and see aspects of what the kids are learning. You attend monthly parent meetings to hear about the month ahead, reflections of the past month, and learn about and discuss some of the developmental aspects of your child. You are an integral part of creating exemplary learning experiences for your child(ren) and all of our students. You see the fruits of your labor in the interaction with the students in class and around campus, and yet, when it comes time for teacher-parent conferences we often can run into a road block.

What do we ask? What do I need to know? How can I help?

Edutopia offers a range of resources for educators and parents and it’s a worthwhile site to visit. Each year they put out a list of questions for parents. I’m sharing a portion of it with you here. If you are at a loss for what to ask I would  recommend that you pick no more than 1 or 2 and be open to the conversation.  Last but not least, enjoy this time as an opportunity to get to know another side of your child and to share insight you have with their teacher.

5 Questions Your Child’s Teacher Would (Probably) Love to Answer

  1. What are the most important and complex (content-related) ideas my child needs to understand by the end of the year?
  2. How is critical thinking used on a daily basis in your classroom?
  3. What kinds of questions do you suggest that I ask my children on a daily basis about your class?
  4. How exactly is learning personalized in your classroom?
  5. What am I not asking but should be?

Abridged from Edutopia’s 19 Questions which you can find here http://edut.to/1oh7hoZ

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