Adding College to the Discussion

“I’m going to college! I’m going to college!”

This joyful refrain came from our first graders on their walk both to and from Cabrillo College- on the way there in reference to the present moment and on the way back in reference to their future selves. Not only did our 6 and 7 year olds’ words get me thinking about the importance of adding college to the discussion in elementary schools but their confidence on returning to campus truly struck me. Worls got bigger today from this visit as new possibilities opened before our students in a very tangible and real way.

In my thinking, the end of the school year lends itself to these kinds of discussions and visits because it is a natural time of accomplishment both in terms of endings and beginnings.

Here are some resources for both teachers and parents, the first of which is specific to students in Santa Cruz County:

2, 4, 6, 8 Who Do We Appreciate?! #thankateacher

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to all of our wonderful teachers.

Thank you for all that you do to keep our students at the core of our school, our community, and our practice every single day!

This week has reminded me of a short essay I wrote 14 years ago about my most influential teacher and mentor, Julia Davis. Luck would have it that I found it after a quick search in an old email account. Thank you to Julia and to all of our teachers that continue to shape our lives and the lives of our children:

Out of the many spiral notebooks I filled during my four years at Whitman College only two remain today—the two that I scribbled in during classes taught by Julia Davis. The only Whitman professor without a PhD, Julia did something that no degree guarantees: She surprised me.

“Meghan,” she said, “I want to see you in my office after class.” After nervously waiting out the class period, I took a seat.  Embarrassment turned into horror as Julia proceeded to read my paper aloud. “Please stop,” I begged. “I just can’t take this.” It wasn’t that it was a bad paper that made me cringe; rather, I had trouble listening because I heard my own voice. By listening to my emotions surrounding an experience where something was ‘not quite right,’ my paper was a re-shaping of myself. My teary-eyed reaction showed me just how much my own words meant to me. Julia simply finished reading the paper and handed it back without a grade. As I left the room, she said, “Meghan, you took a risk in writing this. Keep going with it. Keep risking.”

Today, thinking back to this specific experience and the larger context of our student/teacher relationship shows me just how long-lasting a single teacher’s influence may be. It also reminds me of the importance of having mentors even as an adult learner. Thanks to my many teachers and mentors, writing as risking continues to be one of my favorite ways to learn.




Seeing As If For The First Time

Last week I had the opportunity to read to students and families at our annual Pages and PJs event. I read two of my favorite picture books and want to share them here:

Imagine A Day, written by Sarah L Thomson and illustrated by Rob Gonsalves, is full of  poetic prose and beautiful acrylic paintings that highly engage the imagination. At Pages and PJs our students initially paused in silence and then spontaneously debated what they saw happening in each painting, as the magic in every day life came alive. I always love seeing something familiar as if for the very first time and this book allows us to do just that!

If. . . by Sarah Perry has been one of my favorites since I was a classroom teacher. The magical watercolors and simple text invite us into a world where anything is possible. Even our youngest students were laughing (and sometimes shrieking and squirming) with joy as I turned each page. One parent emailed me immediately after Pages and PJs asking for the title because her son was so in love with the illustrations that she decided to buy the book for him. It’s one that you will come back to time and time again because it’s fun, strange, and magical.

Book Review: Mindful Games

This weekend I took my son and daughter to Mar Vista and attempted to work out with some friends. After about 45 minutes of carrying Connor across the field on my back (not the original plan), he had a complete meltdown because I poked his juice with a straw and he wanted to poke it. I had to dig deep and find my calm as he screamed for the rest of our play date and the entirety of the car ride home. Thankfully, I recently read Mindful Games by Susan Kaiser Greenland and, while it is written for parents and educators to support kids, I was able to tap into a few of the exercises myself. The author suggests doing just this- practice first and then introduce practices to our children.

Here is my absolute favorite:

One of my big take-aways from this book is that meditation does not have to be about sitting still, especially when it comes to children. Walking, stretching, and shaking followed by a period of rest or settling releases excess energy and helps quiet the nervous system. Adding a slight emphasis on the out breath also decreases the heart rate.

I am planning to purchase a few copies of this book to grow our school library for parents and teachers. Come by and check out a copy!

Math Strategies

One of the beauties of pushing into our second grade, as a support to our 2/3 combo, is that I witness students inventing, learning, and applying new math strategies every day. A strategy that works for one student might not be the right fit for another. Yet, without a doubt, each and every student has at least one strategy that works for them as a learner!

When students invent strategies it shows that they know what they are doing to manipulate numbers and can fluidly go between mental math and paper and pencil. If you think about a time you needed to estimate a grocery bill, make sure you received the correct change, or calculate a tip, you probably weren’t thinking of the traditional algorithm. Rather, I bet you were using a strategy you invented or someone taught you. Strategies are not traditional algorithms. Yet, both strategies and algorithms are part of our state standards.

One strategy a 2nd grader used when subtracting multi-digit numbers:The work of a single student practicing a multitude of strategies with addition:We give students time to invent and discuss strategies and we teach multiple strategies more explicitly because it:

  • helps students become efficient as they become adept at changing problems into easy to solve equivalent problems (For example: 40-12 changes to 40-10-2)
  • provides scaffolding so that students can find an entry place and problem solving options such as manipulative, drawings, written words or symbols
  • motivates students to solve problems due to autonomy created by choice rather than rote procedure
  • develops true number sense and the meaning of operations
  • Develops grit and confidence

Here are some more examples of how students gain number sense at Mar Vista:

Third graders did a directed drawing of a panda 🐼 then used them to create a multiplication and division resource: .Work places in first grade:

TK students building and counting:

Volunteering as a Working Parent

Recently a parent reached out to me wondering how to volunteer at Mar Vista as a mom who works from 9-5 each week day. This question struck me not only because I am a working, single mom who has yet to volunteer at my own child’s preschool in 2018, but also because I didn’t have a quick and easy answer. The most important thing to remember, in my thinking, is that there are so many different ways to contribute that look different than working in your child’s classroom during the school day. And, at the same time, Mar Vista wouldn’t be the same without our many parents who are able to contribute during the school day. We encourage all types of participation!

When thinking about volunteering, here are some things to remember:

  • Everyone has something to contribute
  • Find your niche
  • Be realistic with your time to find something that fits your schedule
  • Talk to your child’s teacher directly about what they might need
  • Remember School Site Council, ELAC, and MVP meetings occur later in the day or in the evening
  • Many of our bigger family fun and fundraising events occur on the weekends: Fall Carnival, Auction, Move for Mar Vista 5K
  • Don’t replicate your 9-5. For example, if your day job has you constantly making mental decisions, think about something more physical you could do on campus like tend to the garden. 

Thank you to our many volunteers. Over the last two weeks alone, I have seen parents, grandparents, and even some adult siblings heading up the auction, creating sets for the amazing third and forth grade plays, leading Kindergarten center time, practicing yoga with second graders, supervising the yard, attending field trips, participating in the MVP meetings, attending School Site Council, and organizing 21 Days of Kindness for the entire school.

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This also got me thinking that we need a resource that we can point families to where all volunteering opportunities, policies, and procedures are laid out clearly. We are in the process of updating our school website and including this information there all under the link that says “Donate/Volunteer.” Keep an eye out for this.