November Update from Ms. Makela

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” A.A. Milne

How is it that our lives get so busy in month that actually is full of reminders to slow down, to pause and be grateful for all that we enjoy?  At school, we are keenly aware of this tension.  The pace of this month can be a source of stress if we don’t intentionally set our minds on the many, many good things happening all around us. Here are some of the things happening at Madera that fill my heart with gratitude and pride:

Our entire school continues to focus on writing, with every classroom using the Units of Study curriculum written by Lucy Calkins and her colleagues at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project of Columbia University.  We find children eager to write, focusing more on the craft of good writing rather than solely on the mechanics of grammar and spelling, and the work they’re producing is incredible! I’m grateful for our teachers who have taken this on with a gusto!  The workshop model is a significant paradigm shift in teaching from what we had been doing and has required a good deal of learning for them but they doing it, seeing results, committed to providing the best for your kids.

Many have begun to use the reading program as well and are finding children making great leaps both in reading level, understanding, and interest.  They’re loving reading!  And that’s the goal, isn’t it?  We want our kids to love to learn and find joy in reading, writing, exploring, wondering…

The wealth of enriching activities at our school fosters a love of learning as well. I think it makes school a happy place to be, allowing kids to discover areas of interest and make connections across the curriculum, while fostering brain development and thinking necessary for success. This all comes from your generous financial support. Thank you!  All our students have music each week with our new teacher Jen Wu. If you haven’t met her yet, join us on the first Monday of the month for a whole community sing on the yard at school. Kids also enjoy art with Annie Goodsill in our developing STEAM room and garden with Leah Ingram or, for 6th grade, Molly Wahl.

Our teachers value enrichment and rich, engaging learning. They plan field trips, bring in experts like Berkeley Rep, and go the extra mile in their own professional learning. We have a group of teachers participating in a project to improve math instruction by building on our workshop model for reading and writing.  We have another group learning Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), using art to develop thinking skills that permeate the Common Core State Standards.

In our desire to always be mindful of students’ development and social emotional learning, we’ve begun reading two books that you may be interested in as well, Yard Sticks, by Chip Wood and Identity Safe Classrooms, by Dorothy Steele.

Our school is what it is because of the partnership of parents, grandparent, teachers and community, working together to benefit students. Thank you for all you do!  Thank you for sending us healthy, well-fed, rested children. Thank you for reading with your kids. Thank you for volunteering in classrooms, on field trips, for class activities, and helping teachers in a myriad of ways. Thank you for supporting and organizing events and programs that build the strong community that is Madera.

Gratefully yours,
Alison