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Stories from Sea Crest School

The official blog of Sea Crest School in Half Moon Bay, California.

— Permission to pause

Dr. Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise, Head of School

There is a fine balance between the traditions that we wish to keep in our independent schools and the push of innovation that encourages us to seek new heights. New technologies, methodologies of teaching and fierce competition from other educational establishments urge us to ever more rapid pacing to accomplish our goals – to do more with less and do it faster. Very few within our institutions are unaffected by these changes and as a result, we see increased signs of stress from our constituents, which must be addressed at all levels.

Entering Sea Crest School as its new Head four years ago, with the vision of moving our school from good to great, we set five major strategic initiatives, which included new curricula in mathematics, character education, health & wellness, innovation lab and technology. Additionally, we introduced an employee professional development and performance evaluation system and underwent our re-accreditation. The faculty, staff, administration and trustees rose to the challenge and the school thrived. There was an important thing to note, however. For all the goodwill, professionalism and sheer joy that was present within the school, the pace was unsustainable.

My personal realization came one summer morning when my husband said to me that whilst he would continue to support me fully, we could not go through another year of my being all consumed with my job. From the time I rose in the pre-dawn mornings to the time I went to bed, school had become the only topic of conversation and thought. He called me an iDrone, permanently welded to e-mail. The board expressed concern about my burnout and I became aware that if this was happening to me, it was most likely occurring with the administrators, faculty and staff. Ironic though it was, Sea Crest needed another initiative.

Beach WalkThe Sea Crest Faculty/Staff Health & Wellness Programme grew from conversations and discussions with faculty/staff regarding ways that we could mitigate the stress of the fast pace without losing the momentum and quality we had gained. We changed our 7-day pre-service schedule from being packed with workshops and meetings to incorporate time for mindfulness moments (e.g. yoga class, mindfulness through art, beach walking, playing a pick-up game) and extended periods of classroom preparation time that were free of administrator-scheduled meetings.

Mindfulness moments have been woven into the fabric of our school – whether in the invocations that open each of our faculty/staff and board meetings or the centering breathing of our pupils at the start of all-school assemblies. Teachers begin various portions of their day – first thing in the morning, following recess, after lunch, etc. – with these moments such as mindful breathing, yoga, reflection and meditation. These activities can be as short as two minutes long and rarely take more than 15. The teachers spearheaded their own initiative and instituted monthly faculty/staff lunch potlucks. We also agreed that during the school year, whilst we endeavor to respond to e-mails within 24 hours of receipt, we are not compelled to answer them after 5pm on a weekday or during the weekends. My holiday e-mail responses begin with a statement that Sea Crest is encouraging our faculty/staff to enjoy time with our loved ones. This gives the expectation that messages may not be responded to as quickly as when school is in session.

Fifth Grade Yoga Health & WellnessAt Sea Crest, we found that communicating the benefits of our health & wellness major strategic initiative to our parent constituency was essential. At our Mid-Year Address, we began with having the parents participate in a 5-minute chair yoga exercise that was led by a teacher. The health & wellness program was then presented as a curricular evolution similar to the innovations we were instituting in our mathematics, character education, technology and innovation lab. The school-wide emphasis on health & wellness is beneficial at all levels. Pupils are responding well; we observe this in their calmer behavior and many parents have mentioned that their children are taking these practices home.

On a personal note, getting an entire day of “me time” remains a struggle. A Head’s position is not one that easily affords significant lengths of relaxation time. I do, however, set aside a daily hour for meditation, prayer and exercise and a weekly afternoon of indulgence. What works well for me is a glass of bubbly, the occasional massage, a good book, walk in the woods, supper with my family, or pretty much any form of great chocolate. The importance is not on the activity; rather, it is that we give ourselves permission to take the time to pause. We must normalize daily, weekly, monthly routines of self-care and resist the pressure to be always bound to our over-filled schedules. We must realize that we cannot be on top of our game – knowledgeable, professional, empathetic and composed – if we are not ourselves centered. We must stop seeing de-stressing time as an indulgence and rather, see it as a necessity for the long-term health of each other and our institutions.


 

— In the News: Annual tradition draws grandparents from near and far

The Half Moon Bay Review published an article about our traditional winter concert and grandparents and special friends day — what a spectacular celebration of community!

2016-12-16-Winter-Concert-Grandparents-Special-Friends-Day-12By Kaitlyn Bartley

The performers belted out their hearts in front of perhaps the most devoted audience ever to attend a rock concert. Even in their red plush Santa hats, some vocalists were shorter than the microphones they sang into, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd, where glowing iPhone and camera screens bobbed and waved with the music like hundreds of Bic lighters.

Clearly, the musicians had practiced extensively for their big day, but it was also clear from the proud smiles in the standing-room-only crowd that the performances brought far more joy than could be expected by just hitting right notes.

The event was Sea Crest School’s winter concert program, held the morning of its annual Grandparents and Special Friends Day. The audience included more than 100 grandparents who had traveled from as far as Texas, Massachusetts, and even the United Kingdom, for the yearly celebration.

Winter Concert

Winter Concert“I love the joy of the children,” said Anne Mingus, who traveled with her husband Bill from their retirement village near Modesto to hear their granddaughter. Femke, a first-grader at Sea Crest, performed Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” with her class.

At least some in the audience were relieved that rehearsing for the concert was over.

“We listened to a lot of Johnny Cash in the weeks leading up to the concert,” Femke’s father and Half Moon Bay resident Kory Mingus said with a laugh.

“We are so impressed with the school,” said Ardis Tobin, of Nevada City, who drove for five hours in the rain with her husband, Patrick, to hear their first-grade grandson sing. “It seems like a wonderful, safe place.”

With the guidance of the school’s newly formed Grandparents Circle, this year’s special event featured a morning concert with each grade singing hits from previous decades. Featured artists included Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Coldplay.

 2016-12-16-Winter-Concert-Grandparents-Special-Friends-Day-213After the concert, families gathered for a snack reception, took photos in a photo booth, and explored a then-and-now display, which featured household items from previous generations. Later in the morning, students showed off their classrooms to families and grandparents and built gingerbread houses.

Janet and Ron Reed, of El Granada, attended Grandparents Day to see their fifth-grade granddaughter perform songs by Cyndi Lauper and The Cure and visit their daughter, who herself is a fifth-grade teacher. Although this is only their second Grandparents Day, it has become one of the most special days of the year for them.

“We like to see all of the grandkids perform,” said Janet Reed. “It’s so wonderful.”

 

— A magical journey of music through generations

What a spectacular celebration of community at our Winter Concert and Grandparent and Special Friends Day! We enjoyed a magical journey through the decades with heartfelt songs of generations sung by our students. After the concert, our guests participated in classroom activities and enjoyed a Then and Now display created by members of our Grandparents’ Circle. We had well over 100 grandparents and special friends in attendance. Some coming from across the country from Texas and Massachusetts and others from as far away as the United Kingdom. We also welcomed our neighbors from Half Moon Village.

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We thank you for all your support of Sea Crest School now and throughout the year.
We wish you peace and joy during this holiday season and into the new year!


 

— Invention convention in the iLab

In science, our second graders completed their unit on Simple Machines with an Invention Convention in the iLab. They discovered that simple machines are part of bigger, more complex machines that make our work easier. The students designed, sketched and built their own inventions using recycled/scrap objects. They tested different ways to move loads more easily using less force. They shared them with their classmates and took them home. We have a lot of inventors in this group! The students also participated in a handy dandy gadget scavenger hunt, where they needed to identify the types of simple machines found in household items like scissors, can openers, nutcrackers, etc.

Invention Convention Innovation Lab Second Grade Invention Convention Innovation Lab Second Grade

Invention Convention Innovation Lab Second Grade Invention Convention Innovation Lab Second Grade

Invention Convention Innovation Lab Second Grade Invention Convention Innovation Lab Second Grade

Parents, thanks for your help gathering materials and for the extra hands in the iLab!


— Parenting in a digital age

By Dana P. Blum, Bay Area Director for Common Sense Media

After my Common Sense Parent talk at Sea Crest School on November 17th, it is obvious that the school cares deeply about supporting your kids. We also know that all parents are struggling with their family’s 24/7 digital life. At Common Sense, our job is to ensure that all kids, parents and educators are harnessing the power of technology for life-long learning. Our motto is “sanity not censorship!”

We believe the best place to begin the conversation with your family about the digital rules in your home is to start with our simple Family Media Agreement. This is an easy tool to start the conversation and “have the talk.” You can also use our Customizable Device Contract to be very specific about what you expect from your kids and what your kids should expect from you in regard to device usage. I recommend you design the contract together with your entire family.  You are the primary role model for appropriate digital behavior, so be sure to set the example you want your kids to follow. Remember, your kids hear 20% of what you say and see 100% of what you do!

The next place I would like to guide you to is our Parent Concerns Platform. We have 13 different parent concerns and each one can be filtered by age. For example, take a look at Technology Addiction and click on teens. You can go deeper and find out if teens can be addicted to video games. This is a great place to go to with specific questions you may have about too much usage of a specific game or app.

Check out our Family Guide platform, specifically the Essential Apps. This particular platform is filled with information on how to pick the best tools for learning. Something I know you are going to love is our live Digital Glossary. The glossary has a complete definition for every platform you have heard about, every acronym you may have wondered about, and a lot of stuff you didn’t know existed. This is a great place to go when you have questions about new apps. Remember, if your kids are using platforms like Instagram or Snapchat, they have agreed that they are 13 and they will be marketed to by companies. Also, I wanted to make sure to send you the link to our Technology Addiction Research and our Common Sense Census: Tweens and Teens Media Use.  The research will help you better understand the usage patterns and differences in gender, income and ages. Be sure to keep an eye out for our “soon to be released” research on parent usage!

Also, think about how your daughters can start playing games to increase their math and spatial skills. Not all games are bad, so check out a few of our favorite and be sure to read about them so you can have a meaningful conversation with your kids about what’s happening in their world. Here are a few of my favorite games for kids: UnravelMission US: Flight to freedomThomas Was AloneChild of Light.

Lastly, I want to share an important short video to watch with your girls (and boys) about the reality of what they see in the media.  I think this Dove commercial is a fantastic way to help our kids understand the reality of advertising.


Common Sense Media is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization committed to helping kids and families thrive in a world of media and technology.

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