Tag Archives: Progressive Education

Welcome to McAuliffe School for the 2016-17 year!

“A minute goes by so fearfully quick.  You might as well try to stop a Bandersnatch!
– Lewis Carrol”

Hi Everyone!

I hope your summer was full of goodness and joy! Tomorrow is our first day of school. Welcome back to all our returning families. We’ve missed you! Welcome to families newly joining us! We look forward to getting to know you better! To all of you, we can’t wait to hear your stories of summer vacation and adventure!

I am intrigued by the road we will travel as parents this year. And I am equally excited for what lays ahead for our children. Who knows what the year will bring? What wonder and joy and learning? The start of a new year is always exhilarating!!

This morning as I woke my daughter, I was amazed at how much she has grown. It seems like just yesterday that I was taking her to the Los Gatos Parent Nursery School for the first time. Her eyes were wide with wonder at this new place and joy at meeting new people and new friends. Back then she wasn’t yet able to ride a bike, but she could dance and sing and laugh and explore like nobody’s business.

Her kindergarten experience brings similar memories to mind…eyes wide, excited, laughing. I remember the day she came home in tears because her teacher had a substitute and didn’t know what that meant and how happy she was to learn that the teacher would be back the next day.  That year she learned to ride a bicycle, to tie-dye, to play soccer and Rally Ball, and she remembers “eating banana peels as part of learning about the five senses” (her words not mine!). Yum?

Flash forward ten years…days away from starting her sophomore year of high school. She is a typical teen in so many ways, not the least of which is staying up and sleeping in, yet she spent the last week waking up at the crack of dawn for field hockey try-outs. She’s taller, more poised, and still as curious and insistent on exploring and trying new things as ever. These days she talks less about riding her bicycle than driving my Jeep…which while a bit unnerving for me that she’s growing up, promises to be a fun experience for both of us. West Valley parking lot here we come…! So many good things are in store for all of us this year and I am grateful to be both a parent and your child’s principal.

In the spirit of progressive education and exploratory learning, our faculty has decided to try something new this year. We will begin, as an entire school, by studying “Community”. It may look and feel wildly different from grade level to grade level and yet; there will be common threads among our learning experiences and yes, you will have a role in this, because you too are part of our community.

As we support our children’s learning, let’s spend the year asking questions and embracing the opportunities for us, as adults, to learn and grow as well. Give yourself permission to try new things and make mistakes. Allow yourself to step back from your children as they explore the world around them. At times they need a guiding hand and they also need the freedom to experience things on their own. If you are unsure, ask your child’s teacher, IA (instructional assistant), CC (class coordinator), or another veteran parent. We’re here to help one another.

For all of our students – Did you have fun this summer? We’re so glad your back!! Did you notice that our blacktop has been redone?  The climbing wall is up and our entire school is ready for action and for you!!  Errr… one small exception: the lower grade girl’s bathroom which needs a few finishing touches and won’t be ready until next week. We’re also putting in a new track sometime in October or November!! Most importantly, your teacher is energized and can’t wait to see you!

PARENTS – We strongly encourage you to come a bit early tomorrow to avoid the stress of rushing, traffic and to find a parking space.

Here’s to a wonderful new year for all of us! See you tomorrow!



Rick Yee
McAuliffe School
Saratoga, CA

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Just saying or This is Just to Say?

This Is Just to Say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
William Carlos Williams c.1934

You may wonder how a topic like this,  eaten plums and a whimsical apology, using irregular meter, would end up a poem of some esteem. And you would be in good company. Many believe it’s famous simply because William Carlos Williams, daytime doctor and nighttime poet, wrote it.
This is Just to Say…or Just saying?
Many of you know that I am curious about the origin of things. Words, phrases, inventions, programs… I am simply fascinated by how they came to be part of the world we now live, and by the people and time periods that created them.
“Just saying” has become a popular phrase in today’s vernacular. And while it is NOT my favorite phrase…(it’s actually much closer to the least favorite end of the spectrum), Scott Simon of NPR’s “Simon Says” describes it as “designed to let us express ourselves sharply, but without conviction.” (Read or listen to his opinion on the phrase at http://n.pr/RFQAdB)
Scott suggests its origins can be found in sitcoms like Seinfeld and Eddie Murphy’s stand up routine. Let’s journey back in time, 80 years into the past, for an earlier rendition by William Carlos William.
How many times have you been on the receiving end of a gesture of this type? How many times have you followed in William’s footsteps?  Did you ever leave a note? Was it sincere, humorous, loving, or snarky?
Just saying.
Have a great weekend.
There is no “They” only Us.
Maker Faire 2014 is here!
Next weekend is the Maker Faire 2014. Here’s a link if you are interested in signing up: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/maker-faire-bay-area-2014-tickets-9098302267

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10 Things About Digital Learning and Students (click on this to see presentation!)

I recently came across this presentation from Project Tomorrow about digital learning. According to the presentation, they derived the information from online surveys and focus groups reaching 3.4 million people since 2003. Considering the caliber of our program and the personal attention our students receive, I’m not sure that online math would be the greatest priority for us, however, providing a more personalized approach to learning is right up our alley. Take the presentation with a grain of salt and consider which elements would be most useful for exploring at McAuliffe.

1. Mobile Devices
2. Internet
3. Video
4. Empowering opportunities – Mobile devices for learning
5. Empowering opportunities – Different tasks = different tools
6. Empowering opportunities – Digital Footprints
7. Aspirations – Online Learning
8. Aspirations – Games within learning
9. Aspirations – Using social media in school
10. Aspirations – Using mobile devices in learning


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April 21, 2014 · 6:36 pm

Communication at McAuliffe

Dear McAuliffe Community:

I really enjoy sharing aspects of our campus life and activities with you. Over the past few years I’ve come to the realization that, even though we are a very active and tight knit community, it is difficult, if not impossible, to see or hear about everything that is happening at McAuliffe on any given week, which is why I write the newsletter and blog.

This month I’m trying a new path in communication. A few weeks ago, 10 representatives from the Oak School in Los Altos visited us to learn more about our social emotional learning program and Responsive Classroom. They really enjoyed their McAuliffe experience and went away with many great ideas for their school community.

They also challenged me to become more digitally relevant by communicating via Twitter. I heard the call and taken up the challenge.

Here are a few ways that I endeavor to facilitate improved communication at McAuliffe.

–                write bi-monthly newsletters.

–                share activities at our PFG and other community meetings.

–                send out occasional community-wide emails.

–                maintain a blog; (https://mcauliffeschool.wordpress.com/) and recently

–                created a Twitter account. @McAPrincipal

Through my adventures in writing, I’ve learned quite a bit about the challenges and joys of reflecting and sharing thoughts with others. I’ve learned that I need to deliberately set aside time to make it happen (which isn’t always easy in a school setting). Because there are so many things happening at McAuliffe, I realize that communications need to go out more frequently (hence the blog and twitter). I’ve also learned that writing is not as automatic as doing yard work or building shelving or bookcases or even reading a book.

Ultimately time has been my greatest challenge. Exploring the wealth of research, TED Talks, and news articles focused on progressive education, science, math, reading and writing, community, constructivism, state and national trends in education, etc takes time. So does reflecting, developing ideas, and crafting them into an entry that is at least somewhat connected to our community.

The final lesson I have learned from my adventure is that we are truly fortunate to belong to such a diverse and engaging community of learners. Having too many fantastic things to share, too many wonderful learning opportunities to describe, too many field trips to capture, too many positive adult child interactions to document them all, too many to write in a single letter/article/blog, is a wonderful problem to have.

So I am happy to continue to carve out a little more time each day to share with you as much as I can about our community and the learning experiences of your children. If you have any suggestions or ideas, on topics you would like to hear or see more about, I invite you let me know. Drop by the office, catch me around school, call me, or send me an email.

Look for Tweets (sp?) about what we are doing on our Learning Day and this coming Monday and our 4-8th grade math training on Tuesday!

Have a wonderful three-day weekend! See you on Tuesday!



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March 28, 2014 · 7:13 pm

Bottom-up innovation…how might this apply in education?

This is a summary of Joi’s TED talk where he discusses the importance of focusing on the here and now. He takes it one step further with an emphasis on bottom-up innovation and describes this process as “chaotic and hard to control” but the rewards are powerful and can affect real-world change…now.

Joi leaves us with these words: “I think we should be now-ists. Focus on being connected, always learning, fully aware and super present.”

My questions to you:

  • Are we identifying and addressing real world issues in K-12 education today? And…
  • Are we equipping our children with the tools they need to identify and address real world problems? If so, how? More importantly…
  • What are the tools all of us need to identify and address real world problems today? And last but not least…
  • How is technology supporting these types of fundamental changes in learning at your child’s school?

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March 23, 2014 · 6:53 pm

Happy Pi Day!

Today is Pi day. It’s always nice to celebrate. All too often we get caught up in the logistics of life. Navigating from here to there, we forget to slow down and appreciate what wonderful things are happening around us and the people in our lives that help to make this all possible.

So, whether you choose to celebrate today because it is 3.14, Einstein’s birthday, or simply Friday, have a fantastic day !

What is pi? In addition to being the 16th letter in the Greek alphabet, “…pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. In other words, pi equals the circumference divided by the diameter (π = c/d). Conversely, the circumference is equal to pi times the diameter (c = πd). No matter how large or small a circle is, pi will always work out to be the same number.” (http://www.livescience.com/29197-what-is-pi.html)

It’s also fascinating to note that pi finds its origins over 4000 years ago with the Babylonians. According to the Exploratorium’s History of Pi, there’s a tablet with an estimation of pi that dates back to c.1900 – 1680BC!

So why Pi Day?
Actually, Larry Shaw is credited with establishing Pi Day in 1988…at the Exploratorium.

In the May 1999 issue of Scientific American, Steven Bogart, shared a brief experiment that may be fun to try:

Using a compass, draw a circle. Take one piece of string and place it on top of the circle, exactly once around. Now straighten out the string; its length is called the circumference of the circle. Measure the circumference with a ruler. Next, measure the diameter of the circle, which is the length from any point on the circle straight through its center to another point on the opposite side. (The diameter is twice the radius, the length from any point on the circle to its center.) If you divide the circumference of the circle by the diameter, you will get approximately 3.14–no matter what size circle you drew! A larger circle will have a larger circumference and a larger radius, but the ratio will always be the same. If you could measure and divide perfectly, you would get 3.141592653589793238…, or pi.

Otherwise said, if you cut several pieces of string equal in length to the diameter, you will need a little more than three of them to cover the circumference of the circle.  (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-pi-and-how-did-it/)

Einstein’s Birthday?  And yes, today is Einstein’s birthday. Happy Birthday Einstein!



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College Board Revises the SAT?

It appears as though the College Board, in its effort to stay relevant in the world of education, is changing it’s assessment focus.

Perhaps they are considering the growing number of universities and colleges who are making the SAT optional for admission.

Or the large amount of research showing the inability of the SAT to adequately predict success in college like the one completed by the University of CA. In one such study they found “of the 81,000 students who entered UC during the past four years…” that the,  “SAT I scores add little, if any, incremental value to the prediction.”

According to Tamar Lewin in her 3/5/14 NY Times article:

“The Key Changes [to the SAT]

Starting in the spring of 2016, some of the changes to the SAT will include:

• Instead of arcane “SAT words” (“depreciatory,” “membranous”), the vocabulary words on the new exam will be ones commonly used in college courses, such as “synthesis” and “empirical.”

• The essay, required since 2005, will become optional. Those who choose to write an essay will be asked to read a passage and analyze how its author used evidence, reasoning and stylistic elements to build an argument.

• The guessing penalty, in which points are deducted for incorrect answers, will be eliminated.

• The overall scoring will return to the old 1600 scales, based on a top score of 800 in reading and math. The essay will have a separate score.

• Math questions will focus on three areas: linear equations; complex equations or functions; and ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning. Calculators will be permitted on only part of the math section.

• Every exam will include, in the reading and writing section, source documents from a broad range of disciplines, including science and social studies, and on some questions, students will be asked to select the quote from the text that supports the answer they have chosen.

• Every exam will include a reading passage from either one of the nation’s “founding documents,” such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, or from one of the important discussions of such texts, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.””

While we hope that the new assessment will be authentic, performance-based, and a better predictor student success in college, only time will tell.


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March 5, 2014 · 10:37 pm