From the Principal

3 months ago


                                                                                                                            March, 2017

Reading for Empathy.

This month I shared this great list of books with staff:  Thirty of the Best Books to Teach Children Empathy . < http://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/50-of-the-best-books-to-teach-children-empathy/ > All of these titles are recommended for helping younger people (and older people) develop and activate empathy.  

I thought I'd share with you, too,  because so much of the work we can do together involves supporting our young people in the development of empathy. Whether we're reading together, participating in a joyful morning meeting activity, navigating a conflict at recess or on the bus, or thinking through a social studies lesson, we're tapping our capacities for empathy. 

When you read with your child or when you child surfaces from an independent reading session, try asking a few questions about the characters' conflicts. Ask your child how he or she thinks the character is feeling, and why. See what you can do to appreciate, and maybe extend, that emotional vocabulary. 

Have you read a book lately that does a great job of evoking empathy from readers or characters? Email suggestions to your child's teacher and Cc to me, tom.mckenna@juneauschools.org. I'll post suggestions (with or without your name) in future newsletters. 

Yours in empathy, 
Tom 

February, 2017

What's Love Got to Do with It?

In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, you can feel our students’ energy rising. Innovative (and loving) Harborview teachers are tapping that energy to design engineering challenges--planning and building creative containers to collect Valentine cards--and to encourage heart to heart communication in many forms of literacy.

I recently came across this quotation on a website for an organization called “The Center for Courage and Renewal.”

Our work is grounded in love, by which we mean the capacity to extend ourselves for the sake of another person’s growth. Our work in community stretches us to understand, respect, and support each other, teaching us why learning to love is one of the most demanding disciplines we can choose. -E. Tucker

As I work to support what we’re good at here at Harborview, and to address areas where we can improve, I can honestly celebrate the fact that this kind of love is truly at the center of our work here—a core value of who we are as Harborview.

“Extending ourselves for the sake of another’s growth” requires empathy. As we move through February, I invite you to join us in helping our young people at Harborview to develop, deepen and extend their empathy. While we certainly do this work in our Morning Meetings, in our class discussions, in our counseling classes, and in our thousands of interactions each day, we also promote love and empathy through supporting the habit of reading.

Through independent reading, students learn to expand their consciousness of other lives, and to build their emotional vocabulary. At the end of this month, and into March, we’ll be celebrating reading through the Harborview Read-a-Thon, through reading about Elizabeth Peratrovitch,  and through the Read Across America celebration. Please support our young readers in learning to love reading, and in the process learning to love, and respect one another.



A Resolution for 2017: Welcoming Your Involvement

As the days lengthen and we get back into the swing of our routines, we have some exciting conversations going on at Harborview about how to network with YOU, our families, in making students’ educational lives and meaningful as possible.

Harborview’s Equity Committee is conducting a year-long self study on how to make our school a more welcoming place. We’re looking at everything from our parking lots (always challenging in such limited spaces), our entryways, our key events, and our classroom communications. Our teachers are currently communicating with you via email, text, and good old phone calls and paper newsletters. Our office staff sends our the weekly newsletter via our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/harborviewelementary ).

Meanwhile, our Site Council and PTA groups both invite your participation and attendance at monthly meetings (the second Monday and Tuesday of each month).

Our resolution is to welcome you and to seek your input. If you see ways that our building or our programs could be more welcoming and better tap your family’s strengths and needs, please feel free to send me an email or to make an appointment to chat.

Here’s wishing you good health and lots of involvement at Harborview in 2017.



Teaching Children to Care: A Harborview Commitment 

October is a good time to take stock of the important social teaching and learning that has been going on in all classrooms at Harboview. A shared commitment among all of our teachers is to help students build their self control, and their capacity to care for their peers in the classroom community. 


In her book Teaching Children to Care, Ruth Sidney Charney traces the word "discipline" to the Latin root disciplina, meaning "learning." Charney points to two basic goals in effective, caring discipline:

1. Creation of Self-Control
2. Creation of Community.
The education philosopher John Dewey wrote, "The ultimate aim of education is creation of the power of self-control." Harborview teachers model and teach self-control in contexts ranging from Morning Meeting activities to "think time" and "buddy classroom" spaces for students to reflect and--with time and guidance-- to regain self-control. We invite you to share this language with your child, and point out the power of self-control where you might see it together. 

A key to creating a community is teaching children the value of caring--caring for themselves, for their work, for their peers, and for the welfare of the classroom and school community. We teach this as we guide students to know names, to take turns, to share, to problem-solve, to welcome others into play and work,  and to help make things right when mistakes are made. If your child receives a "TAG" referral, know that stands for "Teach and Guide," and know, too, that he or she will be in conversation with a caring adult about what kinds of choices might have been better, and what might be done to make the situation better. 

Whether your child has an easy or difficult time with self-control and caring for community, we welcome you into the conversation. As adults, we do well to set clear boundaries to help young people to recognize their power of self-control, and their capacity for care and generosity. Your thoughtful conversation in support of these two goals will go a long way to launching your child on a more fully engaged, purposeful, and caring journey through the years of school. 



August, 2016

Dear Harborview Families,

Welcome to the new school year! As I start my second year as principal, I’m full of gratitude for all of the work and care and kindness each of you brings to supporting our young people. In these opening weeks, teachers have been collaborating to share practices from the Responsive Classroom repertoire of social and emotional learning strategies.


We have reserved a 20-minute slot at the beginning of the day for all grade levels to participate in the 
Responsive Classroom practice of Morning Meeting. Although it’s a challenge to fit in all the components of Morning Meeting every day, we’re striving to greet students with an interactive written message, to practice friendly and fun peer greetings within the class, and to create time and structure for sharing and a group activity.

In addition to providing these supports for students’ social and academic success, our leadership team has set some ambitious goals for the year ahead. See our School Action Plan for details.  I look forward to getting to know each of your students and your families over the course of the year. Feel free to make an appointment with me via our office staff to drop in and get acquainted.

Yours in Learning,

Tom McKenna

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