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Executive Director's Blog

Working With 2D

Videostreaming makes this pandemic much more bearable than it might otherwise be, but sometimes we might overstate its benefits. Recently, for example, I heard from another school leader about how difficult it was to run a school for the deaf in a remote learning model. I was surprised! In my naivete, I thought that videostreaming was an essential breakthrough for those who use American Sign Language. But while the visual aspects of Zoom or Google Meets are of undeniable benefit, I learned that ASL is a three dimensional language that does not translate so well into two dimensions. The beauty of shapes, gestures, and touch becomes compromised on a flat screen. That insight was new to me.

 

In our Zoom world, we can struggle with depth perception both literally and metaphorically. Consider our human interconnections. Metaphorically, we all know how “flattening” videostreaming can be in terms of building personal and professional relationships. In this pandemic, we may be losing some depth of mutual understanding.

 

Fortunately, neurologists are quick to share how well our brains compensate for a lack of binocular vision. For example, when we move, other objects move at varying speeds depending on their proximity to us. When objects overlap, we understand where they are in relation to each other. We can also use color and contrast clues to grasp where we stand in relation to others. Finally, we might use other senses to gauge object proximity. McAuliffe’s math, science, and related arts teachers can explain these phenomena much better than I can!

 

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to practice some of these workarounds. When I connect with friends and family via pictures or video, I’m going to place myself in visual context with my immediate family. I’m going to try to connect with them when I am walking outdoors instead of positioning myself against a blank wall. I have the privilege of hearing, and so I am sometimes going to close my eyes and just listen — truly listen — to those who bring deep meaning to my life. Taking these steps might overcome my difficulty perceiving how close or far apart I am from others; I hope it does the same for them.

 

What are the workarounds you will use to deepen your connection with others during this holiday season?

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Executive Director's Blog

Election Day

This has been a tumultuous year, disruptive for all. It’s been particularly difficult for people of color, immigrant communities, and those who financially struggle. Unfortunately, it seems that we may face even greater instability in the days and weeks ahead. Post-election strife and amplified political rhetoric may seek to divide rather than bring us together.


Whatever may happen in the coming days, it’s critical that we remember what will not change: our school, our mission, and our values.


We are a diverse Crew of scholars and educators. We celebrate and draw strength from our breadth of identity and background.

We believe in science, and in history, and in inquiry. We are not afraid to ask big questions through expeditions on climate change and human rights, and we commit to scholars leading their own learning to find answers.

We believe that an intense commitment to self and community will foster a more just and equitable future. We stand against systemic racism and inequality. We acknowledge that indigenous peoples were the original stewards of this land. We affirm that Black Lives Matter.

We uphold the norms of a civil and engaged community. We extol civil rights, the precious value of free and fair elections, and the power of an educated populace taking action. We believe that our motto — “We Are Crew, Not Passengers” — should be the rallying cry of everyone across this land.

We are a school, and therefore a place of hope. 


Almost three decades ago, a play called “Angels in America” opened in New York. In that play, characters faced a public health crisis disproportionately affecting some more than others. They saw little support from leaders in Washington. Yet they discovered that their voices, attitudes, and actions still made a difference. Today the final moment of that play seems particularly resonant — that moment when the lead character suddenly turns to the audience, looks people in the eye, and says

 

The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come.

 

Team McAuliffe, stay strong. Be well.

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Executive Director's Blog

Learning On the Fly

What was the best class you ever attended?

I had some great teachers growing up. I fondly remember my 5th grade teacher, an amazing ELA middle school instructor, and a compelling history professor in college. But the best class I ever had took place well into adulthood — a three-hour introduction to fly fishing. 

I was on vacation with my family. I never had any previous interest in the sport, and yet I was spellbound. But what made it so special? Reasons included:

  1. An enthusiastic teacher. In my case, we had a park ranger who was also a science teacher at the local school. He was genuine, generous, and passionate, an instructor whom we trusted.

  2. The sense of camaraderie among the students.

  3. His presentation — informal lecture, careful demonstration of equipment, and plenty of time set aside for Q & A. He was completely kind and responsive to our rambling questions. He gave us confidence and cued our positive mindset.

  4. Our performance — fly casting on the river. We made a lot of mistakes, but we trusted and respected each other. We worked through moments of failure together. We took the time we needed to generate a beautiful, lengthy, geometrically fluid cast into the water.

  5. The sport itself — an unexpected combination of high focus and low stress. We worked with nature, not against it. It was mindfulness at the riverbank.

  6. Our teamwork — students helped each other out and learned together, not independently.

  7. The novelty– I had no preconceptions of the event, no idea what to expect. Hello, dopamine release!

  8. The bargain cost — a benefit of our weekly national park pass, as were the other half-dozen programs we enjoyed and the countless unstructured hours we spent in the park.

  9. Seeing my child so enthralled — priceless.

Somehow these elements came together to create a perfect morning. None of these pieces were “once-in-a-lifetime”; all were, and are, reproducible. And as my eighth grader would say, in a loud voice: “GUESS WHAT!!!”  We are replicating them right here at McAuliffe. We offer creative and innovative experiences for our scholars, including #WeAreCrew mindset; expeditions inviting scholars to take the time they need to tackle large questions in an interdisciplinary environment,; hands-on fieldwork; and culminating events allowing the community to celebrate high quality work. 

When we say “remote learning” in 2020, we might not think of a remote wilderness. But the founders of EL Education were rooted in outdoor education and certainly thought so! At McAuliffe, we harken back to that original vision of what learning should be. It’s what drew me to this delightful school, and I imagine it will excite those who learn more about all that we do. Welcome!

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Executive Director's Blog

Test Blog

Check back periodically for updates from McAuliffe’s Executive Director, Frank Tipton.