Sunday, November 22, 2015

Private (Corporate) Charter Schools

Here's an animation about private charter schools. Sums it up in about 2 minutes.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Tonight You Belong to Me

If you have not seen this yet, you may enjoy this. Really cute. This is why there should be a ukulele player in every house!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Eight Week Update

Eight weeks ago today I underwent major open heart surgery to fix a problem I was born with. For more than 30 years I had been aware that I needed to have this surgery. Last October, it was clear that I needed it, and I began a two-month journey to the operating room. 

Along the way, doctors had told me that it would take about eight weeks to recover. In the first days after surgery, it was hard to believe that.

But my doctors were right. Thanks to attentive care from my wife, Sarah, my daughter, Elizabeth, my son, Ted, many friends and neighbors, and countless Kaiser staff, my recovery ran ahead of schedule. 

I feel very good now, quite a lot better than I felt in the months leading up to the surgery. I can walk farther and faster. I sleep well. I enjoy playing my ukulele. I’ve signed up as a Whale Watch docent on Bodega Head. Soon I’ll be back to teardrop trailering with Sarah, canoeing, kayaking, traveling, volunteering as a ukulele instructor in local schools, and bike riding.

Best of all, I’m happy. I feel extremely fortunate and very grateful to live in a time when medical science works its modern miracles. 

In the days, weeks and months ahead I plan to resume more strenuous activities—longer hikes, bike rides, and paddling excursions for instance—all things I once enjoyed but had gradually given up.

I’m happier, too, because I am okay after facing one of my scariest fears (my father died soon after the same surgery). The world seems bigger, safer, and kinder somehow.

An experience like this enhances one’s awareness of the beauty, brevity and preciousness of life.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Almost two weeks have passed since my surgery at Kaiser San Francisco. I was released from the hospital on Sunday, December 14. I have been quietly recuperating at home since then. My family has been by my side and for that I am grateful beyond words.

Each day I make progress. Now I am able to take slow short walks—strolls, actually—around town or on pathways in nature. Most of the time I’m happy and pretty comfortable. I have to remind myself to take it easy. I’m visiting doctors and getting poked and prodded much more than I am used to, but that’s to ensure my full recovery.

The cards, messages, and gifts that have come from Dunham community have buoyed my spirits. 

Thank you for taking the time to send your good wishes my way.

Enjoy the holidays!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

All I Want For Christmas Is....

All I want for Christmas is a heart at ease…

…and for you to send me you good wishes this week—especially this Tuesday, December 9.

My doctors tell me that it is time for me to have valve-replacement surgery to fix a heart condition that I was born with. 

In San Francisco on Tuesday morning a surgeon and his medical team will do this for me. Everyone says I’m an excellent candidate and that I will feel a whole lot better once I’ve recovered.

I will be in the hospital for about a week. Full recovery at home is expected to take another seven or eight weeks. By Valentine’s Day I ought to be feeling better than I have in quite some time.

My daughter—she’s a doctor herself—has come home to help my wife and me get through this major surgery while I’m in the hospital. My son is coming home this weekend and will stay with us through the holidays to help us manage the first two weeks back home.

I hope you’ll be willing to take a few moments this week to send me your best healing wishes.

Thank you.

Monday, December 1, 2014

This Will Revolutionize Education!

The claim in the title of this post has been made for decades going back as far as Thomas Edison.

It's been wrong every time.

We now live in an era where experts tell educators that tablets and tests are going to revolutionize education, but it's just ain't so. These experts have a clear motive for spreading their nonsense: PROFIT from sales of tests and tablets and income from selling teachers the latest snake oil.

They should be shown the schoolroom door. They have no business telling teachers how to teach.

When I was at the beginning of my teaching career personal computers promised to completely revolutionize education, and I was swept up in the enthusiasm for machines that came into the classroom. I was an early adopter of computers, but soon abandoned them.

I found that kindergarten kids, especially boys, engage in much more valuable learning from using "The Three B's" Bikes, Blocks, and Bars than they ever learned from classroom computers.

What a good teacher does is to set the social and emotional container for students to work together in the learning THEY DO.

It's a classroom where safety, happiness, and kindness and blended with challenges, humor, and forgiveness.

The video below has a look at what I'm talking about:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Curdmudgucation's "Burden of Proof"

I follow a blog titled "Burden of Proof" by Peter Green called Curdmudgucation.

Recently Mr. Green wrote about the harm that current education reforms do to young children. The problem with current education reforms is that they begin with the assumption that schools are failing because of bad teachers. All efforts to improve public schools are predicated on the idea that what's wrong with schooling is bad teachers.

One problem with this approach is that it will miss all of the other ways in which schools might be improved. For me, one of the worst consequences is the harm it does to young children.

Here is an a teaser from this post:

"This is the essence of bad assessment, particularly for young children. Park of the idea of authentic assessment (for you young folks, that an approach to assessement that was just gathering steam when No Child Left Behind came along and stabbed it in the heart) was that for teachers to approach assessement by asking, "What would be the best way for me to allow the sutendts to reaveal what she knows or can do?" High stakes standardized testing says to the child, "Prove to me that you're not a loser."

Here is a link to Mr. Green's post. "Burden of Proof."

Monday, August 18, 2014

30 Seconds of Retired Life

Here's a 30-second peek into what's up in my retirement. On Wednesday I'm planning to spend the whole day out there with the music teacher.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Final Pre-retirement Mr. Kindergarten Blog Post

Teaching has been my life’s work and a most rewarding career. 

In all I’ve taught for about 37 years, 33 of them at Dunham School. 

Former students—some now adults—have been kind enough to tell me that I’m the best teacher they ever had. Surely others, equally kind, have spared me stories about my being the worst teacher they ever had. For the vast majority of my students, I surely fell somewhere in between.

When I came to school early Friday morning to close out the classroom. it was sad to see the bicycle shed in the jaws of a John Deere 444K High Lift and the jumble of kids' bicycles piled in a pickup bed to be taken to recycle town.

Out with the old

As I write this today, the wall between my classroom and the Community Room will be torn down. The kindergarten room where my teaching took place is no longer there. 

I enjoyed the goodbye picnic last Saturday. I brought along our Teardrop Trailer, made in Petaluma, to suggest how I’ll spend a good chunk of my time in retirement. 

Camping Mr. Kindergarten style

Teaching is a treasure

Our teardrop trailer at the camp.

Paddling the river between Duncans Mills and Jenner

Mostly we’ll camp along the Russian River at Duncans Mills Camping Club. We enjoy paddling this part of the river that in the summer months really amounts to a narrow, 4-mile long, shallow lake that slowly makes its way to Jenner. 

The six words on the base say it all

Saturday’s party culminated with the move of the Mr. Kindergarten sculpture to my front yard in Sebastopol where it now stands. The sculpture suggests the other activities I look forward to in retirement: bicycling (yes, slowly and in regular clothes), playing ukulele, and gardening. 

Happy trails!

Be well.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Carnival Tomorrow

Today was our second-to-last day in kindergarten. We had an art activity in place of the centers and it went so well that I think we'll have another go tomorrow before we go out to the carnival.

Lexi's grandma stayed through the first part of the morning, through snack, to lend a hand. It was good to have her help.

Mrs. Campbell was gave us one extra PE lesson.

They won't see Ms. Campbell till next school year.

While the class was outside we got their take-home grocery sacks ready to go. Inside there is a little stuffed animal or puppet that your child chose from among the kindergarten classroom collection that I've accumulated over the years.

Animals and puppets awaiting adoption
Our last regular day of kindergarten was a good one.

See you at the carnival tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Last Centers Today

We finished out the final set of centers today.

Tomorrow we will have art in its place and a special lesson in PE, courtesy of Mrs. Campbell. Send your child to school sturdy play shoes appropriate to PE.

Your child will come home tomorrow toting a grocery sack filled with kindergarten memorabilia. The names made of glued beans and of red-on-yellow construction paper will be inside along with the 2014 school yearbook and the end-of-the year progress reports folded inside a white business envelope.

Look for a bag like this.

There will be one more day of school after tomorrow, the big school Carnival put on by the PTO.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Bicycle's Last Hurrah

This was the last day for bikes in kindergarten this year.

Mrs. Zell assembled us for a photo.

And... she took this movie, if I can figure out how to add it to the blog:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Worth a Read

This might be worth reading:

A third grader studies Poseidon

Last Bike Day Tomorrow!

Tomorrow, Monday, is the last bike day in kindergarten.

Remember to bring in a bike and a helmet tomorrow so your child can take part.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Beginning to Wind Down

We had both PE and music this morning, the last Friday of this kindergarten year. We jiggled the schedule because Andrew had been down with springtime allergies on Wednesday, his usual day. Our music session was an all-request day.

We will have one more bike day on Monday and our last PE day with Mrs. Campbell on Tuesday. Yes, the year is beginning to wind down.

In centers today we had some dads help out. Evan's dad made this crayon-resist watercolor using a white crayon and watercolor paints.

We'll do more of these on Wednesday.

At the game center, kinders are playing "Up the River." Aubrie's dad, Paul, helped in that center.

Next week we'll finish up centers on Tuesday. Wednesday we'll take home a lot of the room decorations that the class has made. Thursday, of course, is the PTO's End of the Year Carnival.

Have a good weekend.

Be well.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Introducing the Calculator

In our math program we're asked to introduce the calculator in kindergarten. We did that today. If you want to follow up at home, I suggest you use counters to work simple addition and subtraction problems and then check the work using a calculator. Work within your child's existing level, aiming for easy problems, not hard ones. Remember our intent at this point here is to introduce the calculator, not explore the outer edges of what they might know about arithmetic.

In this "take-away" example, illustrated below, Kaden starts  his subtraction problem with 10 counters.

10 sticks to start with. He counted the sticks and entered 10 on the calculator.

Take away 7 sticks.

Entering "take away"

(take away) 7

Here, Kaden counts the remaining sticks of which there are 3

And he presses the "equals" button to check the answer he got by counting the sticks.

 Most six year old children benefit from doing problems like these "hands on" by which I mean using actual counters and moving them together (for addition) and apart (for subtraction) and getting their answers by counting. The calculator is a fun way to check their work.

If you have a tablet computer, consider using one of the free calculator apps instead of a regular calculaor. They're bigger and brighter.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014/ TED talk

It was Ivan's day today, and he brought a very nice snack for the class—drinkable yogurts, meat and cheese sandwiches, apples, strawberries. It was also Jacob's birthday and he brought in brownies to share. Tomorrow will be Jacob's day for sharing.

Our music teacher, Andrew was ill today so we used the time to watch an instructional animated video about blending words. Most of the class really knows how to blend CVC words now.

We talked about the vowels they mentioned in the video (A, E, I, O, and U) as well as the vowel they failed to mention: Y. I wanted the kids to know that every word (with very rare exceptions) has to have one of those vowels in it.

During centers I'm working on report cards. They'll be done within the week.

As you know, I talk a lot about being safe in kindergarten. I recently ran across this TED talk which discusses how leadership involves keeping people feeling safe and included. I hope teachers who read this blog will find 12 minutes to watch it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What a nice way to begin the week to sing with the whole school one of the songs we do in kindergarten, Deeply Beautiful. I was touched.

It was Iris's day to bring snack and story. She made this with the 1" wooden cubes and she wanted me to take a photo of it.

Noah was proud of his new shoes. They light up when he steps. Noah pointed out to me that they are Star Wars shoes.

Both of them lit up
Tomorrow is a bike day. There will be no Fifth Grade Buddies due to the fifth graders overnight field trip to Angel Island where they will re-enact the Civil War era with some marching, flag waving, and cannon-firing. I am sure they'll have a good time.

Be well.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday in Pictures

Just a few pictures from this morning....

Zoobs to start the day.....

Cooking some biscuits and putting freshly made butter on them in centers....

Great to have so many dads involved in kindergarten.

We visited the second grade to see the dioramas that they made for Open House Night. They're also hatching meal worms into beetles.

With the dioramas were written reports about animals.
Remember that the Dunham School Talent Show is tonight on the playground at 5:30.

Have a great long weekend.

Be well.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Set of Centers Tomorrow, Friday

We are bringing up a new set of centers tomorrow. Two of them will be cooking centers.

Mrs. Zell thought we might be one parent volunteer short tomorrow, so if you would like to volunteer to lend a hand tomorrow morning, please do so.

We are so close to the end of the year that this will be the final set of centers we will run this year. Hard to believe that only 9 days of kindergarten remain, and that's counting the big carnival day at the end of the year.

See you tomorrow.

Be well.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Open House Tonight

Tonight the school will keep its doors open from 6:00 to 7:30. We invite you to come and visit the school and see inside the other classrooms. Be sure to visit first grade across the luncheon patio for an advance look at what's to come in the fall.

In the second grade you'll have to opportunity to meet the new second grade teacher who will begin at Dunham next year, Ms. Nicole Whitehorn.

And the sixth grade has a Wax Museum of figures from Greek, Roman, and Egyptian civilizations—well worth visiting in the portable classroom out by the main parking lot.

On top of all that there will be a Buy One, Get One Free Scholastic book fair in the library and "Engineering for Kids" a supplemental educational engineering program that will be offered next year as interest in it dictates. There will be lots to see and do.

Ava working on her wood structure.

Of course the kindergarten room will be open for you to stop by and say hello. At your child's place will be the handwriting book we worked in all year. There will also be the glued wood structures that your child built in class recently and black bean mosaics that they made quite a while back. You can take all these things home with you tonight.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


For the past few days we've been busy working on some new art—cityscapes—to display at the front of the room. Today just before Mrs. Campbell's PE class we worked on the pictures for the last time before putting them up.

They cityscapes are up for tomorrow evening's Open House Night.

More about Open House in tomorrow's post.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Travel Journal

Each day I try to read a "non-fiction" title to the class. As wonderful as the storybooks for kindergarten children can be, I've found that for some students have more of an appetite for works of nonfiction. (As an adult I'm almost always reading nonfiction titles. Though I enjoy an occasional novel, it's rare that I read them.)

Today we had the treat of reading a nonfiction work by one of our students, Nicholas. He and his family traveled to Disneyland late last week. Nicholas kept a travel journal which will be a real keepsake for his family. I took a few pictures of its pages so you can see what he did.

Later in the morning Jacob pulled out some custom tailpipes for his Harley. We installed them and he roared away.

Loud pipes. Our bikes make quite a racket these days.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Have a Good Weekend!

I hope you enjoy the weekend ahead. We've got some relief from the warm weather.

As for me.....

Paddling on the Russian River

I've got a weekend of camping and canoeing planned.

Be well.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Blocks & Bikes

We had some fun at centers.

Kaden wanted to have his Hot Wheels car go through a wood block tunnel that Iris and Addie had made. Problem was we couldn't figure out how to get it to go through.

Then I thought that perhaps the digereedoo might be the ticket, and sure enough, it worked.

We had some fun in the spin art table, too.

Outside at bike time, we literally roared around on bikes with motor sounds made by repurposed veggie 6-pack containers from Mr. Hansen's garden and from discarded plastic water bottles.

I took video with sound which I'll post later from home since YouTube is not available to me at school.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Buddies & Bikes

Today was our first ever Buddies & Bikes Day. We invited the fifth grade buddies to bring their bikes to school and ride with us during our Buddy time. Most of them did and, despite the very warm afternoon sun, we had a good, safe time with each other.

It was the first time in six years that the fifth graders got to ride their bicycles on the playground during school and they were pretty happy about it. Mrs. Schmidt, who is an avid cyclist, brought her road bike and joined in on the fun.

We had a good time.


Today, Wednesday, will be a bike day with our fifth grade buddies. Remember to bring your bike!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

New Centers Started Today

We started out on the next-to-last set of centers this morning. Here are some of them.

Blocks center is independent

Mrs. Zell's son, William, contributed his marble maze.

We're doing some spin art, always a favorite.

The math center involves recording the results of rolling two dice at a time.

Tomorrow is a spirit day. To participate, have your child wear something sporty—team wear or sporting outfits of some sort.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Whooping Cough

Just to be sure that you know:

A note was sent home today about the fact that a fifth grader has come down with Whooping Cough. It's quite contagious. Since the fifth grade and the kindergarten classes are together as buddies, our class is affected.

Please read the note sent home today.

If it didn't come home, you can read that letter here:

Friday, May 9, 2014

Have a good Mother's Day

This morning we boxed up our Mother's Day things. Please don't open the little box we sent home until Sunday morning.

Have a great weekend!

See you Monday.

Be well.