Welcome Back from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 08/31/2016

Dear Canyon Families,

Welcome back! What a wonderful first day we had! I love back to school! It was such a thrill to see the students’ faces full of anticipation, excitement and wonder as they were reaquainted with teachers and friends. I was so proud to watch our returning students warmly greet the new students, introducing themselves and inviting them to play.

It is important to note that K12 will have their back to school night tomorrow (this Thursday) at 6 PM because Judy will need to be at a family funeral next week. Back to school night for 345 and 678 will be next Thursday, September 8th at 7 PM.

We have had a busy end of summer getting ready for all of you! The teachers and staff had a professional learning workshop to support the implementation of our new Social Emotional Learning Curriculum, The Caring School Community from the Center for the Collaborative Classroom. https://www.collaborativeclassroom.org/caring-school-community
They also had professional learning about the Standards for Mathematical Practices. http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice/ We are all eager to share our new learning with the students and continue to to enrich and improve their learning experience.

We have been working on the building too! David Lascurettes (Misty’s husband) has refinished the hardwood floors in the multipurpose room. He even stained a four square court on the floor to make the space more useful for indoor activity on rainy days. The floors look beautiful; make sure to wipe your feet! Brian Coyle, our school board member, resurfaced the bathrooms floors in an effort to improve both their appearance and their functionality. We are grateful to both of them! There are always other projects to do, but these were both important and we are so glad they were able to be completed before the start of school.

Another exciting change is that we will be moving recess to before lunch. There is quite a bit of research to suggest that kids are better served nutritionally, academically and socially by making this switch. https://peacefulplaygrounds.com/recess-before-lunch/ We recognize that there may be bumps in the road as we change some longstanding routines (like moving morning recess 15 minutes earlier), but we are confident that in the long run children will have a better, more positive and effective school day for making the switch.

Recently there has been a lot of research about the usefulness of homework in the elementary grades. Much of the research suggests that homework in the elementary grades does not contribute to academic achievement and may in fact extinguish the love of learning and enthusiasm for school that most young children naturally exhibit. As a result, Canyon school will be emphasizing reading as a valuable nightly activity, along with quality time with caring adults (playing a game, having a lively discussion or doing something active together) and some projects that are intended to be fun and exciting for children to work on at home. We will also continue to offer optional activities like IXL (and may occasionally ask children to complete work not finished in school that is important for their academic progress).

If you are interested in reading more about reducing/eliminating homework:

Should Schools Be Done With Homework?


I am excited for a wonderful year of learning with you and your children. I look forward to seeing you at back to school night either this Thursday (for K12) or next Thursday (345 and 678).


Summer Reading

by Lucia Sullivan on 06/14/2016

Dear Canyon Families,

I hope you are enjoying your first days of summer vacation. As an educator, a reader and a parent myself, I LOVE summer reading! I try to read one or two professional books that will guide my thinking in the coming school year, but I will confess that I also love beach reads. Liane Moriarty has a new book coming out soon and I can’t wait for it to magically appear on my kindle. I have already started Terry McMillan’s new book, I Almost Forgot About You, and am finding it immediately absorbing in the way that summer reading should be.

If you are wondering what your kids should be reading this summer, my personal belief is follow their interests and go for volume. They should have books to read that they are dying to get to. Books that will eat up a whole day are the best! I have “borrowed” some summer reading suggestions from Berkeley and former colleagues if you would like suggestions. My advice is to find a great children’s librarian in your neighborhood, sign up for their summer reading program (they often have great prizes!) and have your child tell the librarian the last book they read that they loved. The librarian will know where to go from there.

Some kids love informational text in short form. Consider a subscription to National Geographic for kids, Cobblestone, Cricket, Ranger Rick, Popular mechanics… your librarian will have more ideas and copies available to borrow.

A lot of guides suggest having kids read one or two books in the summer– I am suggesting a novel a week as a baseline for my boys, but we aren’t doing much camp and they will have the time. There is a lot to be said for volume… You know your family best!

Common Sense Media has a fabulous searchable database by age

Also, from Common Sense Media (Thank you Sierra and your colleagues!)– a punch list of 50 titles your kid should read before age 12– I particularly loved reviewing the early readers and remembering reading them together…


This is the Berkeley Public Schools Website with Summer Reading by grade level

American Library Association 6-8 reading list– GREAT recommendations for middle school aged kids


a librarian blog to inspire you!

Contra Costa Summer Reading Program

Oakland Library Summer Reading Program

Alameda County Library programs

Barnes & Nobles Summer Reading Program

Scholastic Summer Reading Program

Happy Reading!

Preparing for Transitions

by Lucia Sullivan on 04/12/2016

I hope you all had a wonderful spring break week. There is something reflective about changing the routines for a few days, and I hope you were able to get some rest and relaxation along with “family time”.

As we return to school at this time of the year, it is easy to shift focus to next fall.

The end of the year can be hard for people. Many children really enjoy the consistent, predictable routines of school and find transitions to summer challenging. And for kids who are changing classrooms or moving on from Canyon School saying goodbye can be truly hard. One thing that I would encourage people to think about is the concept of “finishing strong” or making a positive goodbye. Many people feel conflicted about transitions and find themselves getting irritable, and when this happens it is easy to fall into a “good riddance” mentality. Sometimes we think of kids leaving high school and lament the senior slump.

It is an excellent life lesson to learn to say goodbye to a person or a place in a way that leaves the door open.

When we honor our feelings of sadness or feeling conflicted, we can say that we are excited to move on to new things but we will miss the old place. In this way, we leave a door open to come back and visit, to stay in touch, to keep mutually positive feelings.

When people have a hard time saying goodbye well, they tend to get angry, they experience disappointments and blow ups and say, “ I can’t wait to leave here, it will all be different next year.” We have all seen this happen– and it is a loss for all involved because it is hard to stay in touch, to return, to visit when we leave angry. And it casts a pall over all of our memories. It fundamentally shifts the entirety of the experience.

So if your family is preparing to leave, or even if your child is preparing to move onto a new classroom, remember to honor and experience your feelings. Change is always hard. Transitions are often sad. Growing up is fraught with feelings. It is our job as the caring adults to model this and to help the kids understand that they can have a wonderful experience and be both sad about it ending and excited about the future. They can love a teacher and be ready to leave her. The trick is to learn to do it with grace.

What are “Restorative Practices?”


During our March 11th Professional Development Day, Canyon staff attended a training on Restorative Practices in the schools.

The Restorative Practices model for schools (RP) is derived from the Restorative Justice movement. Canyon began introducing RP several years ago, and the March training served as a refresher of the skills/practices for some staff members, and an introduction to RP for newer staff members.

Restorative Practices are an alternative to top-down discipline practices and focus on repairing hurts rather than casting blame or punishing. RP in schools is not just about conflict resolution, it is also about proactively creating a school culture of connectivity where the personal dignity of all individuals is valued, as are the unique contributions of each school community member.

RP involves using a variety of strategies designed to build and strengthen relationships. It also involves proactively addressing hurts/harms through sharing and participatory decision-making.

If you are interested in learning more about Restorative Practices, here are several resources:

Here is the link to the Restorative Practices page by Oakland Unified School District with a variety of videos, links and resources:


Here is a link to a video focusing on one of the schools in Oakland:


Here is a link to a resource on the use of Restorative Circles in classrooms:


A Message from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 03/01/2016

I wanted to remind everyone that this Thursday night, March 3rd, Canyon & CATSS is co-sponsoring a Parent Education Evening with a showing of the documentary “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age.” This important film explores screen time and social media and their impact on today’s youth. Following the showing there will likely be a community discussion.

We are co-sponsoring the showing with Black Pine Circle School, a small K-8 private school in Berkeley, who is hosting the evening. There is no charge for the event but their auditorium isn’t huge so space is limited and an
RSVP to ljones@blackpinecircle.org is requested. Location is 2027 7th Street in Berkeley, near University Ave. Doors open at 6:30 and it will be open seating. We encourage you to bring your 5th grade and up kids, as this is
the age group most discussed in the film.

Here is an article that gives you a little more information about the film: http://www.forbes.com/sites/keithwagstaff/2016/02/28/are-your-kids-addicted-to-their-phones-screenagers-wants-to-help/#366c7bbd76d4