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Charter News December 10, 2017-18

posted Dec 11, 2017, 7:02 PM by Rhonda Schlosser

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”

- African Proverb

Dear Charter Families,

The December days ahead are sandwiched between the Thanksgiving holiday and the coming Winter Break.  Our high school students will be completing their projects and finals with the semester coming to an end, our younger students continue to work through their various units and themes of studies.  But the shift toward the winter season sometimes needs an additional hug or nudge of encouragement for some students as the shortening days can sometimes slow down one’s energy.

An important skill that we teach and reteach our students is to edit and revise their work.  Very few things in life can be done well without a second, third, and maybe a forth look to ensure we have done our best work. The more we have trusted peers and adults to support us in critically taking time to help students to do their best, the better they will be able to do their best in the future. This pertains to any academic or soft skill endeavor.

It’s called Scaffolding; like bracing a building as it is built or refurbished; we do the same to support the growth of a child.  And don’t forget that a child’s prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until well into their twenties!  That means it is important to support them in all ways possible for as long as you can.  Ask them guiding questions, review their homework, remind them that is it okay to have a second or third set of eyes and ears or to give themselves the second or third time to review their work before turning it in.  Very few things in life need to be done completely alone, thank goodness.  And the more support students have, the more they will be ready to take their tasks solo when the time comes.

Please read further for Jen’s article on self-awareness and special events within our community.

Thanks for all you do.


NOTE: All newsletters will be archived on our website if you would like to confirm any information.  Specific pertinent information can also be found on our website so if you have an opportunity, please give it a review.

From Our Counselor, Jen Sims: Self-awareness.


Happy holidays! I am hoping that this is the most wonderful time of year for you all, but acknowledge that for many it’s not always ideal. This time of year can bring about a very special kind of self-awareness – for instance, we might be with loved ones more than usual and thus more deeply examine our relationships. This season brings on the pressure to perform: decorate, shop, give, visit, hug and pay attention to other people in ways that are beautiful but also exhausting. All of these can really hold up a mirror to who we are and how our connections are holding up which, to be honest, is not always a relaxing process.


What is self-awareness? Working with students this month we have defined it in many interesting ways – awareness of one’s body and how we look, awareness of what we say and how it can impact someone, awareness of rules that apply to you – both overt and covert. While all of these are accurate, the kinds of awareness that I wanted to promote with my students in the SLVUSD school district are related to core values, beliefs and things that we would fight for. The ability to have awareness and roots in what we most value gives us access to a very secure part of ourselves. In this way, self-awareness can bring us a lot of peace that has a rippling effect out into the world.


Something I think about a lot is how do we help children develop this self- awareness in a positive way that nurtures rather than shames? Shame is a powerful emotion that is important, but uncomfortable. It helps steer our moral compass, but so often it can become a toxic guide, whispering bad news into our ears and taking up space in our minds. I see a lot of shame happening in this society in general and it’s hard not to fall into the trap. I can remember many of the shaming things that my parents said to me, and half the time I’m grateful because some of those words stopped me from doing stupid things, while the other half of the time it creates a lot of fear and other noise that gets in my way. Growing up, in order to get me to eat food my mom concocted a woeful tale about poor orphan children who wandered the street and pressed their little faces against the glass of fancy restaurants and homes while diners feasted on lavish meals. I could practically see these poor orphans standing outside of my kitchen window while I tried to choke back my mother’s undercooked Uncle Ben’s rice, burned spaghetti, and hard as a rock pork chops. How could I even think of turning away from my own abundance when poor children had nothing, nothing at all! Obviously I cared, I cared so much that I ended up making a career of empowering people to rise up out of the situations that keep them down. I wonder, however, if I could have been alerted to the needs of others without learning to deny my own out of shame?


I know my mom had good intentions, like we all do. She’s a good person and does not agree that she was a bad cook, by the way. But this is a trap we can fall into, to use comparison or other shaming tactics to guide behavior. It can be effective and sure, at times appropriate to be critical and comparative. The problem is that when it’s used too much or at the wrong time, it can inadvertently contribute to our self- awareness in negative ways. As a result we become wobblier, rather than more

stable and rooted. Or, according to a student at Coast Redwood High School, we become more self-conscious than self-aware. This makes it hard to achieve the kind of self-awareness that comes as a response rather than a reaction.


When promoting self-awareness in your children, use shame sparingly. It’s too important of an emotion to go unchecked, although I once read an article that said there was an underwhelming amount of research on shame because people don’t want to talk about it, don’t recognize it, or won’t share honestly. As yucky as it feels, we need shame to get us to act right in the world - from pitching in with cleaning up after dinner to refraining from murder, it is so effective in giving us that pause necessary to make the right decision. I love shame for that. But it needs to be controlled and match the situation in weight so that it doesn’t impair one’s ability to vision their internal values, beliefs and truths.


I wanted to address the issue of shame deeply because this is a major component of my work with clients, including my students here at the Charter School and Boulder Creek Elementary. I see all around me that our society is riddled with shaming messages, and we already have so much to deal with. Shame can really get in the way of our understanding of who we are, what we want, and the ability to move forward in life. One technique I remind myself to use when I find myself getting too

negative is the Five to One ratio – I will make five positive comments to one critique. It seems like a lot, but it’s pretty magical, can be used immediately and gets an instant response. It helps to keep both the kids and I on track, and the more I practice, the more natural it becomes to constantly be noticing and giving positive feedback about good decisions. In the ideal situation, this opens up the path to intrinsic motivation with no shaming necessary. I am always hoping for this, though as a human being I do get flustered and frustrated by some situations and things don’t go as planned. I try not to live in shame about it though, or else how could I move forward with my vision and value to give kids the best access to education possible? The less shame I heap on myself, the less I pay it forward. I encourage you to do the same.


Let your child go through tough times. (Within reason, of course.) The defining moments of life often arise from painful experiences. I’m just the school counselor and sometimes I want to throw down my walkie-talkie or my pen so that I can run out to defend a child who has been hurt in some way. I need to remain that supportive ally on the sideline, however, and send them back out into the fray to work things out on their own. (Note: this does not apply to situations where there is true threat to physical or emotional safety, chronic bullying or harassment, violence or abuse, or serious mental health concerns). I encourage students to find their words and use their voices because me sticking up for them would only work out until the next time there was a problem. The pain and sadness that arises from dealing with it all, while heartbreaking to witness, is going to help them grow and inform future decisions. It will teach them that pain passes and that they have the grit to deal with hard things. The process will lead to greater awareness of who they are in so many ways. We just need to keep reassuring them that we are on their side and give the best, most honest direction possible.


Empathize, communicate, and listen. These skills are the subjects of my previous three articles for a reason, as these are the skills necessary to be an effective mirror for someone. With parenting, I suspect that some kind of mirroring is happening all the time, whether you’re intending it or not. So often I will see a student say something or make a gesture that makes me think, wow, they must have gotten that from their parents! It’s usually amusing and endearing, or I’m impressed at some of your thoughtful ideas. When we are empathetic, communicating and actively listening, we can create a safe container for children (or anyone) to express themselves and explore their identity. They can experiment and take risks, try new things on for size. When I was a vegetarian for two years in college, my parents - to their credit - didn’t complain, they respectfully rearranged every meal I had with them to accommodate my new way of eating. Eventually I learned that I am not a person who wants to live without a hamburger and although they didn’t say anything at the time, later they told me they were relieved. The time and support I received from them to explore a new ways of living, my ideals and values, and ultimately what best supports my health has always been a good spot in our



Mindfulness, meditation, breathing, spirituality, movement. I think it was Timothy Leary who said, “To lose your mind you must get out of your head” and I think it’s true - we can’t think our way to who we are, we must incorporate some non- cognitive experiences. One of my most powerful moments of self-awareness happened during an exercise in a low ropes course in graduate school. I was being ‘taught’ nothing at the time, the pure act of the movement associated with participation sparked such a connection that I still reflect on it often. To this day, when I put something emotional together I will think, “Yes! I rope-coursed it!” This can really look like so many different things, well beyond what I have listed above. The important thing is taking time away from cognitive process and grind of life to have experiential moments. It could be travelling, horseback riding, art, running –opportunities to spend time with yourself, have your thoughts quiet and turn your attention to your felt and emotional sensations. Don’t think of it as an indulgence, think of it a developmental task necessary to awareness and moreover, resilience.


As I’m sure you know, children are super absorbent and if you model these behaviors, practice empathy and real listening, create a safe space for self- exploration and use shame for only the most serious of situations, they will take this in learn to do it for themselves. It will become a never-ending resource, which is great because uncovering the layers of self-awareness is one of the main jobs of life, whether we like it or not. You don’t always have to like it, some days you may sit inside eating Cheetos or whatever, and there is a place for days like that too if you can swing them. It’s about knowing what you need.


It all comes back around to empathy. When we are aware of who we are, what is important to us and what we like and dislike, we don’t have to be as invested in the content of other people’s beliefs. When we are rooted, we cannot be easily swayed. This allows so much more room for empathy and understanding. Throughout life there are non-stop opportunities to practice self-awareness. One of

the reasons I love working with students is the opportunity to be a part of that with them at school. Every day they are working just as hard at developing themselves as humans as they are at any of their academic subjects, and sometimes even harder. It is very rewarding to be a part of building these safe places for students to become aware of who they are, what is important to them, what they value and what they will fight for.


I hope you all enjoy the holiday season, the time off, and all the gifts of awareness that you may receive.



Opportunities in our Community: “Race to Nowhere” documentary


To start the coming year, the SLVHSCougar Club is sponsoring the "Race to Nowhere" movie, a timely and provocative film exposes a silent epidemic plaguing America’s educational system. The movie will be followed by a panel discussion.

Called a "must-see movie" by The New York Times, Race to Nowhere was the first education film to uncover the epidemic of unhealthy, disengaged and unprepared students caught in the rat race of an obsessive achievement culture. Through heartbreaking stories of students from across the country, the film explores how high-stakes testing, runaway school schedules and relentless pressure to achieve has pushed our children to the brink.

Note: You must register through the evenbrite page in order to attend.

 Date: Wed, January 17, 7 to 9 PM, PAC

 Register for this free event on the Eventbrite registration page.

 Movie trailer:

 SLV students will get extra credit for attending.

SLV Foundation for Education is Raising Money for our Schools

San Lorenzo Valley Foundation for Education is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. We provide an easy way to support a broad or specific tax deductible donation to the SLV schools and clubs, including Charter and Homeschool groups. One can donate directly to any of the groups listed below, without needing to buy or sell products. For more information or to donate, please visit

*High School Cougar Club  *Drama Boosters  *Music Boosters *Art Boosters

*High School Stadium Lights  *Patron of the Arts *Middle School Panther Club  *BCE parent club  *SLVE Bobcat Club   *SLV Charter School Booster Club    *The Nature Academy

Parent Advisory Committee: Thank you to the parents who came and reviewed our WASC report draft.  You gave me good feedback that was added to the report.  It is a tremendous help to have parents who are educated on the systems and reports of the Charter meet with me regularly so that I can gain a parent perspective.  I really appreciate it (probably more than you realize).

Thursday, December 14, from 3-4 pm in the Fall Creek Charter office.

What’s Going on in Our Charter School?  ..little snippets of some of our programs.

Coast Redwood HS: Our students in our Horticulture classes are busy pruning, cultivating, propagating, preserving, composting, engaging in planter bed preparation, and so much more to put to sleep our garden for a long winters' rest. However, Melanie has other plans and isn't ready to place the garden entirely to sleep! The Horticulture students and Melanie are readying the beds for winter crops! Thank you to EVERYONE for your contributions to our Annual Thanksgiving Feast. It was the most abundant feast we have presented in 17 years! It was a beautiful day all around for everyone. It was refreshing to step away from academics, electronics, and activities to sit with each other, catching up with "old" friends, and opening up new conversations with new friends. Thank you! Academy of Sciences field trip was a huge success! A chilly day in the City but we quickly warmed-up with exploring, reading, and experiencing so many wonders at the Academy.

Coast Redwood MS: The Chico Bag fundraiser was a great success. Our lotion sales at the craft faire were better than expected as well. During Business math the kids worked on figuring out the real cost of materials used to make each container of lotion. This is a challenge because each step is actually composed of multiple steps and multiple operations. In Business writing the kids read and analyzed different project descriptions and then wrote two different original product description drafts. The kids worked in teams to build a Wordpress website, create a brochure, finalize product description copy, paint and hand-write product labels, enter material cost data on a spreadsheet and determine pricing and to make a bath of the lotion. We had a sign language lesson with our friend Katreen. Katreen taught us about the anatomy and physiology of hearing loss and shared her personal story.

Nature Academy: 6th grade had a wonderful day connecting with nature and learning with Tim Corcoran. The students are working on their Gods/Goddess projects over the next few weeks. Students will be dressing up like their god and presenting next week. The rough draft of their essay is due this Thursday, December 7th.  The Winter Carnival is coming up on Thursday, December 21. Please check in with your student if they want to do a booth. We spent some time in class today going over what that includes.  Mark your calendars!!! Our next trip is on January 12th to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose. 7-8th grade classes went to the tech museum and participated in the DNA lab and saw Body Worlds exhibit.  The next round of parent and teacher led electives are underway!

Quail Hollow Integrated Arts (QHIA): This week we explored the Hour of Code. Click on the link below to try out the solar eclipse animation that Abena put together the coding for. Drag the moon with your mouse and see the environment darken, and then brighten up again! Solar Eclipse Animation by Abena We studied Mary Zimmerman’s writing/directing process for her award-winning production of Arabian Nights, watched a clip of the performance from Berkeley Rep., then researched familiar tales to write our own scenes. Students have been working on their scenes and will choose actors to perform them next week. We also dove into the 7 Medieval African Kingdoms with a focus on Ghana, Mali, and Mansa Musa.

Quail Hollow Homeschool: Next Tuesday, 12/1​2 will be our Annual Crafting Day.This last week we spent a morning doing our Hour of Code. The Hour of Code started a few years back as a one hour introduction to computer science, to demystify "code", and to show that anybody can learn the basics and broaden the participation in the field of computer science.​  We have been participating each year since the beginning and it is a fun day enjoyed by friends. (K-2)​  We learned a new math game, Race to 50 in  which students worked with the concept​of "adding on" and​ strategy.(3-6)​ We followed Welcome Circle with a grammar lesson focused on contractions.The mornings in the park are chilly!!!  We went on a visual scavenger hunt for items in nature, walked the river trail, and played a couple games of hide and seek.

Fall Creek Homeschool: This week we were treated to our friend Katreen playing her ukulele and teaching us to sing Octopus’s Garden by the Beatles. Our friend Maclaine read his notes on the adventures of Phokey, our sea otter puppet. We rotated through 4 stations of experiments with water. We explored solutions; vacuums and pressure; surface tension; density; and gas formation.  We listened to more chapters from the book Phokey. We finished painting the ocean zones on our mural-in-progress. We listened to a news report on how scientists are now using techniques used to count and identify stars to identify the patterns of dots on whale sharks and thus follow and study individuals.

Mountain IS: We have been writing and illustrating a class book about what we are thankful for. We glazed our ceramic owls. Students danced and sang folk and African songs. Throughout the month, students have been using a variety of instruments including shakers, guiros, hand drums, maracas and xylophones. Sheila also incorporates a variety of rhythm pattern practice, giving students opportunities to create and lead their classmates.  We collected new books for our independent reading bags and continued to read Aesop's Fables. If you have a favorite one from a book at home that you would like to share, please feel free to bring it in. We are beginning to plan our class play which will be based on Aesops fables. Our students will be helping to dissect the fables for possible characters and settings in addition to writing some of the dialogue over the next two weeks. I am hoping to have a portion of our script available to send home for practicing over the break.

Dates to remember:

  • December 22nd- January 7th:  Winter Break

  • January 25: End of first Semester

  • February 12: Holiday

  • February 19: Holiday


This is a reminder that San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District policy, as set by the Board of Trustees, declares that we are a fragrant-neutral district. Please take care to follow the policies below for the sake of the students and members of our community who are highly allergic to fragrances and scents. The SLVUSD Board of Trustees adopted a California School Board Association policy to make all district classrooms and offices fragrant neutral. SLVHS has parents, students, and community members with respiratory issues who can have negative reactions to fragrances. Please take care to follow the policy while on campus.  

Staff and students shall refrain from bringing furred or feathered animals, stuffed toys that may collect dust mites, scented candles, incense or air fresheners and from using perfume or cologne, scented hair spray, nail polish or nail polish remover that are not fragrance-free in classrooms or other enclosed areas or buildings.