WEEK 14 NEWSLETTER: “From Under Our Big Tree” (5-7 Class Edition)

All Together - 5 to 7 Class
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead
Happy New Year to all! We are looking forward to seeing everyone on Monday at the Park.After being away from each other for 2 weeks, there will be a natural re-connection period between children and adults. It is precisely these moments that we are reminded why we choose to dedicate one whole day each school week to being outside, connecting with nature and each other. We plan our time at the park to enhance our indoor classroom learning- specifically in the areas of math, engineering, art, phyiscal education and science. We call it M.E.A.P.S. for short. There is a time every park day, after our initial morning gathering, when we all come together for a focused, intentional learning opportunity.  You have read over the last newsletters the many different foci we have had from rocks to porportionality to conservation.

In additon to this focus on cognitive development and the expansion of academic concepts, one of the other very important aspects of park day is PLAY! From our work with Larry Cohen who wrote Playful Parenting, we learned about the different types of play. Free play, play with a purpose and blocked play. After last month’s parent meeting, in which we talked about the very normal but pervasive exclusionary play happening in our younger classroom, Michelle and I took the opportunity to very intentionally guide play with the children in order to address some of these issues.

Oftentimes as teachers, we stay close as students play and insert ourselves when bad feelings begin to arise and sometimes, as in the example our guest contributor, Lena Garcia will detail below, we weave ourselves into a play situation with children precisely to work on sticky subjects.  On this day, Lena and I intentionally focused on students that are not in our daily classrooms and here is the experience from Lena’s perspective:

At our last park day, when it was time for the students to have their free play time, what we would call our “Deep Learning” time, I headed over to see what types of connection I could support between M, A, J, L and Z. Right now, this group of young humans are working hard at figuring out how friendship and inclusion works, just as others in the class are doing and the downstairs class worked on a lot last year. I invited J over to the playground mini-spinner (imagine a “personal” merry go round) and challenged her to the very unlikely task of hanging on while I tried to spin her off. She squealed with excitement at this provocation. As I was trying to unsuccessfully spin her off, L and M came over, wondering what all the laughter was about. I challenged all of them to get on and I would try to expel them from the spinning thing. More squeals! They held on tight as I tried over and over to spin them off. No luck! By then, A and Z joined the fun. They all piled on the disc that really only had room for 2 but through teamwork, managed to find room for all. My goal in all of this was to get them on one team, with me as their opponent. A chance for them to feel united rather than divided. With each unsuccessful spin, I feigned major frustration and they laughed and laughed. Of course, then they all tried to spin me off, which to their noisy delight was quite successful!

I then tried to run away from the “TERRIBLE!” spinning and they “caught” me and decided I needed to go to jail. Bingo! They were deep in their connection with each other, with me as a common enemy who could actually handle their mistreatment. They expelled me to the worst “cell” possible and began to explore the feelings that were bubbling up which may or may not have been tied to recent experience. They threw sand at me and gave me terrible things to eat (sticks, leaves and sand) which represented many unmentionables. Bingo again! They were working out playing with being mean and in theory, dissolving some of the tensions they might feel at being the ones in the past to receive or deliver mean-ness to others. When sand was thrown in my hair, I set a limit on not wanting that and they heard me and so then my feet were covered in sand! They laughed and laughed at how “mean” they could be and the disgusting things they could bring me and how much I wailed and complained at the injustice of it all. I played the less powerful role to the best of my ability as I crouched in the sand and pretended to be horrified by their offerings.

We were deep in this play for at least 30 minutes when suddenly, one of my jailers brought me a “chocolate stick.” I thanked her profusely and then another one caught on and brought me more “chocolate.” Within moments, I was inundated with sweets and tacos and spaghetti and salad and sandwiches. On a dime, they were reveling in just how kind and thoughtful they could be. I was moved to a lovelier jail cell that included candles and a recreation coordinator, S, who shared all sorts of crafts with nature I could do while locked in my nature prison. I thanked each girl with as much gratitude as I could find and they worked as a loving, connected team to keep me healthy and happy. The team work that happened between all of them, the connectedness, the open invitation for others to join was all present as they used our game as an opportunity to connect.

This whole game probably lasted an hour and a half. On the outside it may have looked like I was just an adult, enjoying a silly time with children. However, I took every opportunity I had to guide the play towards more connectedness and release of tension. The release of tension happened through the laughter and the acting in ways they thought they “shouldn’t”. Every child is kind, generous and inclusive and it is only tension that gets in the way. The girls were not only much more connected to me afterwards, but also to each other. When else could we have had such a long, uninterrupted time to work on these social-emotional issues? Our park time was exactly the place to do this important work. Did it “solve” the issue this group is working on around exclusion and inclusion? No, not yet. But it did begin the work of loosening a knot and it gave them the opportunity to be a team, united and connected.

This is one of the goals we have of our field day. A chance for children to work on the social issues that are alive and present for them, which can affect their emotions and ability to learn while in the classroom. As teachers, we couldn’t do this deep work without knowing our Park Day Parent Teachers are close by, keeping a watchful eye on everyone else, taking children to the bathroom and removing the inevitable splinter. Then, when we head back into the classroom on Tuesday, we hopefully have an anchor of connection and release that can support our many deep academic inquiries.

Thank you to Erin and Saundi and all of the volunteers who helped with our holiday performance and party in fellowhip hall on our last day before our holiday break! Thank you to Gina, Alice and Cameron from Free To Be Me for all of their hard work and creativity shared with our children. We look forward to beginning a new F.A.C.E. time in 2 weeks.

Happy Learning,
Michelle & Lena
Michelle Goldbach-Johnson
, Founding Teacher/5 to 7 Classroom
Yvette Fenton, Co-Teacher, 5 to 7 Classroom
Dawn Smith, Co-Teacher, 5 to 7 Classroom
Lena Garcia, School Builder/5-7 Class Mentor and Collaborator
Saundi Williams, 5 to 7 Room Parent
Shutterfly Info Site
Follow us on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pintrest/Youtube
TKG Info

Tending the Garden

***Classroom Planning
If you have planned absences please let me know in advance so I can plan small group work, community building activities, and exciting shared experiences accordingly.

***First Friday Dance Party
This coming Friday is our first Dance Party of 2015, just after drop off.  Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to connect with your sprouts, your students and parents and SHAKE IT OFF!  As we learned in December, dancing gets the OXYTOCIN flowing!

***Handbook Check-In
We want students to express their individual style!  In an effort to safeguard creativity and protect development of original ideas, free of commercial influences, we request that students keep costumes and toys at home.  In our experience, toys can become exclusionary items that lead to disconnections triggered by an external source. Because we are TKG, we strive to balance flow and environment with developmental needs and realize that sometimes comfort, in the form of a small pillow or blanket may be the thing they need to self soothe.  If your sprout is needing some comfort in the form of a lovey or special pillow, just let me know!

TKG Principals
teachers and parents provide the trellis on which students will build on their existing knowledge
WHOLE CHILD + FAMILY, cognitive, physical and social/emotional capacities are connected – families & caregivers are our partners
BRAIN SCIENCE,we are sensory learners with existing neural pathways and we can help develop and practice new learning
CAPACITY BUILDING, nurturing creative thinkers who are encouraged to solve problems that serve our community
COOPERATIVE LEARNING, small groups, low ratios, mixed ages and generations

Parent Teacher Info

Parent/Teacher Toolbox

PT Schedule for the week*
TUESDAY (E (AM Breezeway), L (AM set up), S (PM clean up))
WEDNESDAY – E (E(AM Breezeway), L(AM set up), S(PM clean up))
THURSDAY – L, S We need COVERAGE for AM SET UP! (G (PM clean up), E (AM Breezeway))
FRIDAY G, S ((E(AM Breezeway), S(PM clean up))

*Names in parentheses are working on-campus, outside the classroom on that day.

Download the most current PT Calendar – here!  Please make changes directly with available PTs.  In the case you don’t find a sub or you fail to show up for your shift (full day to cover the cost of the sub), $150 will be billed to your statement of account due the following month.  Clean up/set up/breezeway will be billed at $20 per hour. Contact Trish with any questions.

PT PROTOCOL: MOBILE PHONESTKG believes in power of listening and honoring children’s needs.  This is gentle reminder for you to put your phones away or in the Phone Basket by the tea pot.  “Multitaskers think their brains are buzzing along in cruise control as they listen to music, talk on the phone, surf the Net, and write an email all at the same time, but numerous scientific studies have shown that the brain is actually jerking from one task to another.” Think about how many times your children ask for your attention while you are looking at your phone…don’t do it at school too.  READ About the effect of Multi-tasking, here. READ about why PAYING ATTENTION is awesome.

Admin Announcements

From the TKG Office

  • Office Hours 1/9, 10am @ Catalina Coffee
  • TKG is Hiring!  We’re looking for substitute teachers as well as a part-time 9-11 class teacher to begin in September of 2015.  Please contact Trish for more details.
  • Board Meeting 1/15, 7pm.  Guests are welcome at 7pm for any and all questions related to TKG business.  If you have questions about the classroom, please contact your teacher.  If you’d like additional conversation, please come to office hours.  If resolution is still unattainable, a meeting dedicated to collaborative problem solving, will be scheduled with some or all of the board (based on availability).

Thank you Families!  Contact Trish or Monica with any questions or to schedule meeting time. PRINT the official Calendar (updated weekly).   The google calendar, online, is the most up to date calendar (reflects daily changes).

The Four Agreements
1. Be Impeccable with your Word
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best

Resource Of The Week – Whole Family

When Philosophy Becomes Therapy
Alain de Botton’s self-help books for those who style themselves as intellectuals are making their way to the United States.

At TKG, we value real-life learning, learning collaboratively, mindfulness, empathy and self-awareness.  We know that each of us is unique, we are stronger together and that we must constantly reflect and evaluate in order to move forward with a purpose.  We definitely know that we want our children to know this sooner than we did – to be masters of their own “School of Life.”

Philosophy has earned a reputation as a complicated, inaccessible, and irrelevant pursuit, consigned mostly to old white men in wood-paneled offices. It’s vaguely associated with asking the kinds of big questions—Do we exist? What does life mean? Is there such thing as right or wrong?—that can seem frustrating, impractical, and, perhaps, pointless.

But for the past ten years or so, Alain de Botton, a Swiss-British philosopher, writer, and TV presenter, has made it his mission to rebrand philosophy by stripping away its crusty, academic trappings and restoring its day-to-day value.   WHAT IS your source of enlightenment and cure for daily ills?

Whole Family - Reasoning & Reflection


Comments are closed.