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A newsletter of the Black Pine Circle School 2027 Seventh Street Berkeley, CA 94710


Volume 34, Issue 1 Page 1: Mission Possible Page 3: Why We Teach

Mission Possible

Page 4: Leading the Room

The corporate morass of mission statement development is hackneyed, and loaded. Are we IMF Agent Jim Phelps (Peter Graves, not Tom Cruise—for us old time Mission Impossible fans)? Are we Sally Ride hurtling into space? No…. We know what we’re doing and how to get there…Black Pine Circle School has

Page 6: 8th Graders — In Their Own Words Page 8: Alums — Developing Voice Page 10: A  re We the Problem or the Solution?

a perfectly great mission and has been successful for almost forty years…. Or, is this mission thing, like painting the Golden Gate Bridge (it’s never finished, and when you think you’re done, you need to start at the beginning again)? My experience with a lot of mission statement construction has led me to be somewhat skeptical of this process. Often writing a personal or organization-wide mission statement can be just an exercise for an individual or a non profit. Consultants and leaders use this as a way to create urgency—a way to get engines revving and ignite first class “navel-gazing.” And yet, I find myself often thinking deeply about the essential “BPCness” of our school, and what founders Frances Kandl, Oscar Pemantle, and Carmen Gonzalez worked so hard to create forty years ago. I also know that my role as Head of School involves inspiring our faculty and staff to be reflective about what they DO everyday. They need to unequivocally know why they have chosen to spend their days (and often nights!) at Black Pine Circle School. As many of you have seen, on the wall of my office is a framed poster from the original ‘gathering of minds’ who created something called “Black Pine College.” The year was 1968, and along with our aforementioned founders, attendees included, John Searles, Allen Ginsburg, feminist/ literary scholar Jane Gurko, and Atlantis Project Creator Paul Piehler. The mission of Black Pine College was stunningly clear and concise: “Black Pine College is a small group of students and teachers dedicated to: high academic standards, interdisciplinary courses, small classes, student initiative and close student/

teacher collaboration, the unity of academic study with music, the arts, and life in nature.” Tutorial classes were to take place in the morning, followed by hiking, swimming, and fishing in the afternoon, with concerts, lectures, and films in the evening. Sounds pretty great! As the late 1960’s turned to the early 70’s, several members of the Black Pine College “think-tank” decided it was time to open a school for young people in Berkeley. The early population was nearly all family members of the Cal faculty, and in 1973, Black Pine Circle School became a reality. As the age of the student body and the tenor of the times changed, the mission shifted also. The concept of a school where Socratic Practice was an organizing influence became an essential part of this nascent school’s mission. “BPC’s mission is to create a learning community that encourages humanity, empathy, moral depth, cultural understanding, and freedom in intellectual pursuits. Educationally, it is our goal to create intellectually vibrant people, independent thinkers, who will never lose their passion for learning, their delight in research, and their involvement in cultural pursuits.

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Mission Possible continued from page one BPC’s teaching philosophy is best described as Socratic. This is a system of learning based on inquiry, questioning, exploration, and discovery. This student-centered drawing out of ideas minimizes competitiveness and makes learning personally relevant, motivating students to acquire knowledge and skills for their own sake. By researching in depth the hypotheses they have themselves derived, they will “own” the knowledge they receive and retain it for a lifetime, especially when it is reinforced by an interdisciplinary focus which integrates academics with music, drama, and the visual arts. Socially, it is our goal to instill mutual respect, compassion, and tolerance among our students. Our staff is dedicated to creating a supportive structure and a warm, loving atmosphere in which children can safely address problems and grow in their understanding of themselves and others. The ideal BPC student will be maximally free of all the “isms” which pervade most aspects of the world around them: from racism to sexism to the less obvious forms of discrimination. They will have a strong aversion to injustice, plus the awareness to identify the hidden signs of prejudice and the mental and spiritual strength to resist their influence.” Now, forty years later, as a faculty and community, we are once again analyzing, and Socratically discussing the words above. Discussions have ranged from the prosaic “is this too long?” to the more layered, and subjective “does the last paragraph reflect our current understandings of inclusivity?” Wonderful and disparate ideas abound in these faculty discussions. Painting the Bridge So why take on looking at the school’s mission now? On the heels of our CAIS accreditation process, we continue to be fiercely dedicated to “walking the talk.” Our goal as a faculty is to continuously distill and refine the nature of a spectacular BPC education. In recipe terms, we must ask, are we putting enough Socratic Practice into our intellectual mélange? Perhaps we need a “pinch” more emphasis on empathy, or a “quarter cup” more of teaching about research methods.

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We must also line-up our personal goals as educators with the concerted goals of the Black Pine Circle School mission statement. We ask our students to be reflective everyday, and writing personal mission statements as educators has allowed our faculty to reflect on their role as individual stars in the educational constellation that is BPC. In this issue, you’ll read some of these personal reflections. I think you’ll find them quite moving, as I did. Working with teachers, I’m often reminded how lucky I am to lead people who see their lives work as being about improving the human condition! No slackers in this group. We are made up of ambitious, talented, and deeply dedicated educators. Perhaps most importantly, these personal mission statements reflect what we want for our sons and daughters: A sense that learning is a lifelong adventure, and that success seldom comes without failure, wisdom, wit, and determination. In the spring, we’ll be reporting about our analysis of the school’s mission statement and how personal mission statements relate to it. As a larger community, we may end up rewriting BPC’s mission statement. Then again, we may not. It depends on where our ideas and “inquisitive conversations” (from Aristotle) take us. What’s important today, is that we’re revisiting the ideas that have made our school unique for forty years, as we wrestle with finding authentic understanding in our intellectual, artistic, and compassionate community. This process of looking at Black Pine Circle School’s mission statement has made me less skeptical about mission statements in general. In fact, my own journey reminded me of a quote about “mission” and the power of a “sense of agency.” Modern day Italian philosopher and author Umberto Eco once said: “Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.” A Socratic statement, to be sure! By John Carlstroem, Head of School, January 2013

Why We Teach Black Pine Circle School’s exceptional faculty spent some time during Professional Development days crafting their personal teaching mission statements. As you will see, our faculty’s passion for the craft and the opportunity teaching affords them to help young people thrive and become their best selves, shines through in these mission statements.

I will make the world a better place every day. I will exercise patience consistently. I will teach like I’m at drama camp -- joy will fill my day. I will help every student to feel heard and valued. I will help children to find their voice.

I will be grateful every day and encourage others to do the same.

Maureen Ray, 3rd Grade Head Teacher

I love to teach. I teach because I love the process of learning: to see students’ minds opening up, to participate in the joy of learning, to create different experiences which make complex math problems clear and simple to the extent that the students can understand and firmly grasp the concepts, and to facilitate students’ progress from frustration to accomplishment, from hate to deep love and understanding. But most of all, I am happy to see our students succeed in different areas of mathematics, to grow confident and be proud of their work. I see my ultimate mission is to develop students’ intellectual character, cultivating high-order thinking, developing problem solving skills and creating the proper foundation in our students’ mathematics practice for entry to high school. I believe in learning by doing because “doing follows being.” I take the differentiated approach to learning in the most efficient manner, adjusting the pace, level and content of learning to students’ needs and styles. I believe in the Socratic Method and I am amused that Algebraic language takes something from Socrates. It allows students to grow independent in thought, planning and evaluation.

Anatoliy Gulimovskiy, Upper School Math Teacher

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in a socratic


Leading The Room By William Webb, Head of Upper School Schools often label themselves in one of two categories, teacher-driven or student-driven. We, at Black Pine Circle School, are often asked what kind of school we are, which stake we claim. I like to think that we don’t honor the students’ needs over the teachers’ or the teachers’ needs over the students’. I would rather re-frame the category as not teacher or student driven, but text driven. In a Socratic classroom the question, the text or the idea is the heart of the work; it does not matter who brought it into the room or who receives it. We often define the word “text” too narrowly, and it is a disservice to the term. Text can be a book or any piece of writing, but it can also be a hypothesis, a lab, a piece of art, an equation, an image, and a question; anything that becomes the intention of the room. The text is the reason for the gathering; it is the object/language/symbol to be studied in the community. When the text becomes the authority then the question is not, who is serving whom, but, how are they working together? At Black Pine Circle School, the answer is clear: teacher and students work together by sharing information, asking questions, and seeking answers. They share a desire to know more. This year we have been asked to focus on our annual theme, “What do YOU THINK?” That question is at the heart of Socratic practice and it defines a classroom whose authority rests in the text to be learned. If the text could talk (and who says it cannot?), this might just be the question it might ask. I have studied three texts that have changed my view of the world and all three were brought to me by teachers who saw teaching as an opportunity for me to form a relationship with a text. Those three texts were The Book of John, Chaos Theory, and The Human Figure. I studied the Book of John with a don who was flabbergasted with me often. He told me to read slowly and carefully and to write long papers that I would read out loud to him. I would read, write and share and he would say, “You’ve got it wrong, do it again.” And I would read, and write and share again until I finally understood what I was reading, until I finally respected what I was studying. My don taught me to listen to the text.

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Chaos Theory and Mandelbrot I studied with others because I was soon going to have to teach them myself. I met in a classroom where the sole work of the teacher was to present the ideas and the writing of Mandelbrot and for us to make sense of what we were studying. She created a classroom where we discovered together. Perhaps there was some correction, perhaps there was some nudging from the sidelines, but I left that class without fear of what I did not know, of thick equations, of scientific tomes. I dropped my prejudice of what seemed foreign. Classmates and my teacher taught me to trust the text. When drawing The Human Figure, it is clear who is the authority in the room - not the instructor, the pupil, the paper or the chalk; the authority is the model. It is the skin, the wrinkles, it is shadow and light; it is patterns and bone structure, limbs and facial expressions. The body will tell you what you are meant to see, what you are meant to understand. The body wants to be known. It is the artist’s job to respond. I keep going back to the image of space and how it shows up in what I am trying to articulate. I see the space of the room where I studied Chaos Theory with the desks in a circle, the teacher sitting with us, writing with us, reading with us. I see my don’s office with a fire and a table and the pile of books that he pulled out each week for me to read. I see how our knees almost touched as I sat across from him and read my essays out loud. I see the space of the studio, all of us gathered around the platform where the model has disrobed. I see that none of us are looking out the window, we are looking at the center of the room, each other; we are studying the text. These three words linger from long ago, learning to listen to the text, trust the text and respond to the text. In other words, what my teachers taught me in a classroom was really teaching me about how to live a full life. If we do our work well as educators, then these three words will form the basis of any relationship we ask our students to develop. This is the stake we claim: at Black Pine Circle School we are in the work of creating relationships with texts and with each other, based on the skills of listening, trusting and responding.

integrating curriculum


Ghanaian Market Day By Leila Sinclaire, 1st Grade Head Teacher The Ghanaian Market Day was a lively culmination to the first graders’ month-long study of the West African nation. Students dressed in bright colors sat on beautiful textiles selling handmade wares, haggling dramatically with family and friends over prices in Ghanaian cedis. We listened to West African music and performed the traditional Highlife dance for our audience, then enjoyed a delicious feast of plantains, yams, moi moi, banana bread, fruit, and pineapple punch. The market was a fine example of cross-curricular integration: the students learned about Ghana from a Humanities perspective, practiced the pronunciations of African animals in Spanish, haggled in Math, wove and printed textiles in Art, studied native instruments in Music, and worked with their families and friends to make traditional (and not-sotraditional!) crafts. A parent from Nigeria assured me that the market was authentic, at least, its decibel level!

names based on gender, the day of the week on which they were born, and their mothers’ maiden names (Willa became Esi Dennett, for example, and Elliot became Kojo Rogers). A parent shared a family movie of his sister’s traditional African wedding in Nigeria. He philosophized with us about the atmosphere and social functions of the African market, and told us a great story about why the chicken is the traditional sacrificial animal. We played traditional West African games including mancala (using egg cartons and buttons) and a cooperative chasing game. Our Africa unit was just what I had hoped—deep, authentic, studentcentered—a success!

We began our Africa study with a simulated airplane flight, as we begin each new Social Studies unit, complete with an in-flight informational slideshow, pretzels, and a stamp in our pretend passports. Students learned that Africa is larger than the USA, Europe, and China combined; Ghana, on the other hand, is about the same size as the state of Oregon. Students worked with partners to create an informational poster about one aspect of Ghanaian life: School, Sports, Food, Land, Money, Homes, Celebrations. Students determined their West African 1st Graders Trading Crafts

Cherry Blossom, 3rd Grade

1st Grade Weavings Scratchboard Landscape, 8th Grade

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BPC—in their

own words

8th Graders Tell the BPC Story — In Their Own Words By Kira Del Mar, Acting 7th & 8th Grade English Teacher

rather than at their parents, who are the usual target of advertisers’ messages. The ads detailed below represent the spectrum of approaches tried out by 8th grade students; which ones have you most persuaded? On the theory that “parents usually listen to their kids,” Ross Parish chose to target his ad to middle school-aged students looking for a place to belong. Including the pathos-heavy quotation, “Even if you don’t feel special now, coming to BPC will make you feel special, I guarantee.” Ross’s ad “positions [the school] as a tight community of thinkers who have fun.” He felt it was important to display both faculty and students having fun, but with “a thoughtful twist.” He also harkens back to one of our previous themes— “Connect the Dots”—with his playfully dotted letters.

8th Graders Display Their Ads

Using sources as diverse as Jonathan Swift’s classic essay “A Modest Proposal” and recent Old Spice commercials (with their follow-up tweets), the 8th Grade has been looking at the ways in which writers, speakers, and performers carefully craft their messages in order to persuade an audience. The rhetorician has three primary tools: logos, or an appeal based on logic; pathos, or an appeal based on the emotions of the reader/viewer; and ethos, or an appeal based on the character of the speaker. These appeals are visible everywhere we look, from persuasive essays to political flyers to TV and magazine advertisements. In order to practice their own rhetorical skills, the 8th Graders took a look at the advertising that Black Pine Circle School puts out into the community, analyzed its most persuasive points, and created their own ads to reach out to prospective families. Their ads highlight the aspects of our school community that are important to the students themselves, and many are in fact consciously directed at prospective students,

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Stuart Myers also went for the student vote with his Doctor Who-themed ad, and made excellent use of ethos in the process. Attempting to associate BPC’s brand with a beloved and established Sci-Fi series, Stuart “replaced the circles in the logo with stylized Daleks [because] Daleks are epic, so if BPC may have Daleks, then you must go!” His classmate Max Nibler also drew on Doctor Who-related symbolism, inviting students to “Explore the Universe!” at BPC. Since we have a large (and growing) contingent of Who fans in the Upper School, both Max and Stuart felt that these ads, while somewhat lacking in actual information about Black Pine Circle, would attract the right sort of students to our campus. Leah Treidler, Sl(u)G (a pseudonym), and Claire Horner took a more traditional approach, appealing primarily to parents with their messaging. Leah’s advertisement makes excellent use of pathos (and alliteration) in proclaiming that BPC is “Building Brilliance, Promoting Passion, and Cheering Creativity.” Leah also struck an inspiring tone with

the main text of her advertisement: “Not just teach, INSPIRE / Not just know, UNDERSTAND / Not just copy, CREATE / Not just listen, DISCUSS.” This message emphasizes the Socratic practice at the core of our curriculum, and the importance of ‘exploring more.’ Claire wrote of her ad, “This school was really built on a doctrine of community, inquiry, curiosity, and voice. The teachers encourage you to search for what you want to do and who you want to be by setting up an environment that you can flourish in.” The photos she chose for her poster show students working and learning together in the science classroom and on the yard. Speaking directly to parents with the text of her ad, she advises, “You want your child to be in an environment where inquiry and curiosity are important aspects of our community.”

another questions, “Do you value facts, or curiosity?” Adam says of the process of creating his ads, “I wanted people to be curious about BPC…I wanted to make [people] think, so I contrasted ‘vocalization’ and ‘voice.’ This associates contemplation with the school.” He also described the virtues of minimalist advertising that “focuses all the attention on one thing” and avoids annoying or overwhelming viewers. Throughout the process, students developed an appreciation of the difficulties facing our communications team. It was a common sentiment that while we all know what BPC is like and why we love it here, it’s not so easy to translate that sentiment into an image or a snippet of text that will be relatable to those who haven’t experienced our special community for themselves.

Sl(u)G didn’t stop at one ad; he created a whole campaign. On a striking purple background with white, green, and purple lettering, he translated the “What do YOU THINK?” theme and BPC’s emphasis on the Socratic method into a series of advertisements that make prospective families think. “Do you value vocalization, or voice?” asks one, while

I teach kids because I love children, childhood and learning. I teach art because I want to pass on my passion for making and appreciating art. The arts are a reflection back to us of our understanding of the world. My goal is to create a safe, encouraging environment for kids to explore and learn that: making and appreciating art brings many lifelong rewards, you don’t have to buy everything-you can make it! The process is just as important as the product, you can do more than you think you can, if you don’t try you won’t get anywhere, and it’s important to not give up when it gets difficult.

Kieren Dutcher, 5th-8th Grade Art Teacher

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The Voice of


Developing VOICE at Black Pine Circle school One of BPC’s core values is VOICE – and the development of it can come in many ways and at different stages of the BPC experience: through instrumental music or singing, dramatic performance, participation in Socratic Seminars, through writing, creating art, designing a web page or conceptualizing a science project. Many former BPCers report that the opportunities, encouragement, and inspiration to develop their VOICE at BPC, have profoundly influenced life after BPC — whether it be at high school, college, at work, or in their personal life. BPC has helped create budding musicians & composers, accomplished singers, dancers, actresses, visual artists, and filmmakers. We caught up with a few of them – and checked back in with others on their artistic journeys. Sophie Worm, Filmmaker, Class of 2005 I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to cultivate my artistic visions at such a young age: both of my parents, and most of my family are artists, but the community at BPC was also very artfriendly. BPC allowed and encouraged creative development and problem solving, not only in the Visual Arts, but also in the Performing Arts. I attended BPC from 4th-8th Grade, and this was the first time that I consciously began to think about pursing art as a career. I was deeply involved in the dramatic arts at that time (taking classes at ACT), and I recall having abundant opportunity to express myself at BPC through the fantastic Upper School Drama Program, led by Andra Marziano. The notion that I was encouraged to think outside of a systematic or standardized format was critical to my development as a blossoming adolescent. I think, had I attended another school, my career path might have been very different. If I were only able to define myself through “Voice,” it would be that of an “artistic war cry.” I am here to make art that matters, and BPC was the birthplace of that consciousness. Storytelling and character have been the areas where I find the most solace when it comes to artistic practices. Thus, film and animation have serviced as vessels for my interests. As an artist, it is my job to make art that reflects, critiques, and mirrors culture. Coincidentally, there are many aspects of society that I find benefit from comedic critique. With this in mind, it is my goal to make films (a medium easily accessible to everyone) that provide a social critique of society through humor.

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Nick Rio, Ballet Dancer, Class of 2011 I began ballet classes almost a year prior to starting Kindergarten at Black Pine Circle School. My parents, recognizing my early enthusiasm and interest in the arts, chose BPC not only for its outstanding academic instruction, but for its additional emphasis on creative expression. They couldn’t have made a better decision! Throughout my elementary school years, I was exposed to a plethora of creative disciplines (music, dance, theater, visual arts—even poetry!) that were all seamlessly integrated into the daily curriculum. I especially remember Ms. Ronquillo, who was my 3rd Grade Teacher, but also a dancer herself, being a big role model for me. I joined her Afterschool Dance Club in its first year, and a still-memorable highlight of 1st Grade was when she choreographed my class’ “Dances from Around the World” assembly. I am extremely lucky that artistic thinking was not only included, but also encouraged, as a part of my learning. Years later, I realize how unique such an education was, but how crucial it was in shaping my values and interests today. I am now in 10th Grade, almost halfway through four years at Berkeley High School. I am still dancing, a dedicated member of Berkeley Ballet Theater’s Youth Company. I dance for an average of 20 hours a week (after school and weekends), taking classes and rehearsing for our biannual performances. This summer, I will be attending an Intensive dance program with the San Francisco Ballet. I am still, if not more, passionate about dancing than I was as a BPC student. Dancing is a challenge: when I train, I have to push myself to extremes, both physically and mentally. But the joy and satisfaction that I get in return from artistic and athletic movement is immeasurable. Although

I am a motivated student and have very ambitious goals for college, I have no plans to stop dancing anytime soon. It has become much more to me than just an extracurricular activity: it’s an outlet where I feel more able to express what I’m feeling. I’ve grown up dancing, and don’t see any end in sight!

Currently, he is studying at Bard College in New York — where he’s pursuing a joint degree in Composing and Ancient Greek. Here Dylan began the ensemble, called Contemporaneous. His music is far-reaching — an audacious blend of post-minimalism, traditional modernism, rock, jazz and more.

Gwen Hornig, Performing Arts, Class of 2009

Last December, his two commissioned world premieres were performed in the Bay Area, “Invisible Skyline” by The Berkeley Symphony Orchestra at Zellerbach Hall, and “Gone, Gone, Gone” for the Del Sol String Quartet at Z Space in San Francisco.

Andra Marziano introduced me to acting in, what was then for me, the “much- dreaded” 6th Grade Drama class, but eventually I learned that I had a passion for being on stage. It was not simply because I loved the spotlight and the applause — I did, and I still do today — but that passion stemmed from the adrenaline I felt, and continue to feel, every time I step on stage, knowing that I am touching someone’s life, inspiring them, making them feel something, and challenging their thoughts - everything that BPC taught me and that I have continued to learn from. In 12th Grade at Skyline High this year, I was voted the Dance Captain of the Advanced Dance Class, and the honor of being the production cast leader for both this year’s play and musical was handed down to me from last year’s seniors. I was recently accepted to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University in Manhattan where I will continue to pursue my passion in acting, as well as dance and musical theater. New York is a long ways away, and the idea of moving across the country would never have occurred to me if I had not developed a strong sense of self and individuality, which was so fostered at BPC. I know that my own hard work has paid off, but I will never forget the importance of all who believed in me before I was able to believe in myself.

Dylan Mattingly, Composer, Class of 2005 Dylan, now 21 wrote his first piece of music for solo cello at the age of seven after beginning cello lessons when he was five. Influenced in particular by John Adams, he has emerged as a talented multi-instrumentalist, composer, conductor, and musical entrepreneur. Dylan’s first CD, “Stream of Stars,” was recently released on the Innova label.

“I’m currently writing music for the choruses in “The Bacchae,” trying to use the actual metric system of the choral odes in Euripides. But after that, I’ve completed all my commissions, which is exciting and slightly sad. Now I’m just waiting for the next call.” Emma Stumpf, Singer, Class of 2010 Emma’s excitement about Vocal Rush — the 13-person a cappella ensemble she is a member of at Oakland School of the Arts — reaching the finals of ICHSA (International Championship of High School A Cappella) is palpable. The championship will take place at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City on April 18th. It’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication to get there. Emma was not initially selected to join Vocal Rush, but the second go round, she made it. Emma’s love of singing — and performing arts in general — was fostered at BPC. She found it to be a supportive, positive environment where she was encouraged to pursue her passion. She remembers particularly enjoying being part of Cheryl Sumsion’s Cantiamo singing group and studying with former Band Director, John Schott. Emma found the opportunities for performance in the Upper School to be both fun and rigorous. She hasn’t yet made her mind up about what she’d like to pursue in college — but musical theater programs and opera are definitely on the list!

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Developing social


Are We the Problem or the Solution? By Diana Warren, Head of Lower School “Back away from changing the world and change how you engage with the world”—I recently read or heard this thought, and it made me think about who we are as people and how we want to engage with others. I’ve always been interested in social development, especially because, as an educator, I’ve had more discussions with parents who care if their child is developing socially, than I have with parents who are concerned about academics: parents who wonder if their child plays well, has friends, or if other children like their child. These are all valid questions, yet, I wonder how many parents stop to observe how others may perceive their child: is your child’s social development his/her own responsibility or the responsibility of someone else? In thinking about how you might assist your children in developing social awareness of others, you could first start by modeling positive behavior and setting clear expectations of how you want them to interact with others. While we are all very good at doing this in reaction to inappropriate or hurtful behavior, a steady dose of positive awareness goes much further than isolated instances of addressing negative situations. It’s important to listen, really listen, to your child when they come home from a bad day at school, but it’s also important to consider what you don’t hear or see—what may be implied. As parents your initial reaction to hearing that your child has had a bad day is to protect, support and nurture, but too often in your haste to make your child feel better, you may react in a way that magnifies the issue. Try having a conversation with your child that empowers them to take responsibility for the outcome of a situation. Ask questions that get your child to see all aspects of the situation; remember, we are a Socratic school of learning. Usually a “bad day” is no more than one difficult encounter and that shouldn’t determine the outcome of an entire day. My goal is to provide a stimulating, safe, and nurturing learning environment where children will feel good about themselves, will feel engaged and curious, will be provoked by rich questions to think, and will learn best strategies for themselves to learn, to understand more deeply, and to find and effectively use their voice. It is my hope that my students will learn to regard and work with each other with kindness and respect.

Maria Palmer, 6th Grade Humanities

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At the beginning of the year, I asked the Lower School students to incorporate common courtesy into their daily schedule. Why? Because I know it can be an effective way for setting a tone for the day and with those around you. People look at you differently when you’re courteous and mindful. I used to tell my high school students, especially those going on interviews, when someone asks how you’re doing, respond with, “I’m doing well instead of I’m good.” People are impressed hearing a young person make this statement and that first impression may make a difference in the long term. Likewise, if students practice using simple statements as a demonstration of courteous behavior: “thank you,” “please,” “excuse me,” “I’m sorry,” and “good morning,” others may respond in kind, and you just may have a better feeling about yourself and make a positive impression on others. Thus, you have empowered yourself to dictate how you interact with others. As an example, I say, “good morning” each day as I greet the students and their families at the gate. I’m not a morning person, far from it, but I know saying “good morning” starts my day off right and maybe helps someone else to have a good start to the day. I’m sure we all appreciate it when common courtesy is extended to us and everyone prefers seeing a smile instead of a frown, but we so often refrain from doing what we know is right when it might very easily set the tone for how a day will begin and how it will develop. As we examine all the external factors that contribute to how the day or our lives develop, especially the lives of our children, think about the role you play, the small things that you do, and the examples you set. There’s very little we can do to change the world, but there is a lot we can and should do to change ourselves.

Why WE


Why Our Family Gives By Sarah Comey Cluff (parent of BPC graduate & 7th Grader) I did not grow up in a philanthropic household. The urge to make charitable contributions was something I learned over time as a student, from my work as a teacher, and through the role models of my husband Ken and his family. Cluff Family, photo by Sarah Cluff

Fundraising is only one piece of the overall structure needed to support a school to thrive, but an essential one. My work as a faculty member at Head-Royce on the Compensation Committee and at Windrush serving on the Professional Development Committee and Board of Directors gave me an intimate view into the importance of investing in the human and physical capital of a school. Through its donations to annual and special project funds, a school community plays a key role in improving the school and avoiding the financial burden of too much debt. So, while I love my time at Black Pine Circle School as a classroom volunteer, a tour guide, or a committee member, I have also come to appreciate that money is the basic tool that sets the stage for the visible, vital and vibrant

components of schools: sound buildings, a top team of committed teachers, and, foremost among them, a caring and consistent community of families. Our family made Black Pine Circle School our main philanthropic choice the past several years partly because of those realizations, but also because of the incredible satisfaction of knowing how many young people would benefit from that choice, including our own children. Our family is seeing the payoff from the excellent academic preparation our daughter received at BPC in the form of an academic scholarship, placement in honors level classes, and top grades at her high school. Our son’s enthusiasm for BPC as a 7th grader comes from the reliable presence of talented teachers and beloved classmates. The school’s commitment to seeing people through hard times means that his friends and classmates can stay together. So we give to the Annual Fund each year to help build up BPC’s financial assistance budget. We give to see a climbing wall built to extend the reach of our children. We give to help purchase the Addison building to make more room for the future. All independent schools aim for 100% participation in their annual funds, including from their faculty. Whatever you give will be doubled this year by the generosity of an anonymous $50,000 Matching Grant, so please consider giving any amount, and consider giving more than that amount if you can.

Double Your Gift to BPC Today: Accept the $50,000 Challenge. Thanks to the tremendous generosity of an anonymous donor, every gift to the Annual Fund until the end of this school year will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $50,000. Please help us take full advantage of this amazing opportunity to support our school. Our goal is 100 percent participation. If you have any questions about this challenge match, please contact Director of Development John Ormsby at jormsby@blackpinecircle. org or (510) 529-2715.

circular eleven

My role as a teacher is to facilitate learning through good questions, evident mastery and love of the material and relevant skills, a sense of humor, wordcare, awareness of learning styles and differences, and clear, rigorous, fairly enforced expectations and guidelines. As a teacher, it helps if I can tell a good story. Students learn best when the teacher creates a physically and emotionally safe environment, values their input, and supplies them many opportunities to exercise their natural curiosity and imagination. Education, therefore, is a dialogue, the goal of which is people equipped and free to be lifelong learners dedicated to peaceful engagement with the wider world.

Tim Ogburn, 5th Grade Head Teacher

Acknowledgments: Lesley Jones, Editor Polly Lockman, Design

Cheryl Burger, K-4th Grade Spanish Teacher

2027 7th Street Berkeley, CA 94710 What do YOU THINK?



I teach because I love making connections with the kids and seeing them “light-up.” Teaching Spanish at BPC allows me to keep learning more about what I have loved for the last 25 years; the Spanish language and Hispanic culture. Witnessing and encouraging kids’ enthusiasm and engagement in the world around them moves me to be more enthusiastic and engaged in my own life outside of school. I love teaching as it provides me a creative outlet, which encourages me to push myself and grow. I want my students to be kind to themselves and others around them, and to discover their strengths and weaknesses as a learner, which will help to push them to grow and learn more. I’m so inspired by the creative and passionate community I have the opportunity to collaborate with on a daily basis. I strive for my students to resist making judgments, to be positive, to take risks, and to feel good about who they are and what they can do.

Spring Circular  
Spring Circular  

Black Pine Circle School Newsletter