Of Innocence & Experience – Ode To The Game

I’ve gotten it wrong for a long time…for a really long time.


But… I got it right initially and hopefully am getting it right again.


Innocence is bliss.


And true innocence is often tuning out the world and people that are around you. It’s living high on that emotional gratification scale, being grateful, finding joy and being very deliberate and focused only on what you see and feel directly in front of you.


Experience on the other hand is giving everything and everyone else the unnecessary, unsolicited, negative attention they crave and then digesting it all when you are fully well aware that they’ve been known to hurt, cause skepticism, kill trust and take you to a place where you stay stuck indefinitely. That’s the just between a rock and a hard place that I’ve made it home for a while.


There I played against fears and watched them win, I saw trust broken, understood in real and no uncertain terms the phrase “hot headed” and even seriously contemplated waving the white flag and starting again and anew (mostly to myself … pretty often). It sucks there and even with all the energy from all of them and everything, it’s pretty lonely. There’s a kinda “hol’ mi” oil that they rub on you when you get there and you literally feel tied to the energy and space despite sometimes even wanting desperately to leave.


The good thing about love (passion, connection, purpose, whatever you choose to call it) is that it never dies and never lies. It’s been pure and true even when I couldn’t be. It’s been forgiving and caring when I didn’t know how to be. It’s been a magnet, always pulling me back whenever I’ve lost my way. It’s always been there.

William Blake Quotes More

Today, I remember what the beginning felt like. It was purposeful, it was shared, it was strong; it was a real belief in something that was a lot bigger than anything I had ever imagined. It was fun. For the first in a long time I’m back at the beginning, made it to year 10 but this time with a little experience in my back pockets.



For The Thrill Of It

Some days I love love love what I do.

Some days I don’t know what on Earth there is to love about what I do…Ok, maybe I take that back, because there are always the hugs that I get from my big and little kids and those make you love love love what you do (even if it’s only for the duration of the hug).

I’ve been having a lot of those what am I doing, this is far from a sane, emotionally-healthy profession, but more like a wild and crazy ride towards mania career days recently.

Some days you get no work done, but spend every waking minute listening to parents tell you what they want and need for “their” children with total disregard for what “you” offer, advocate and deliver. Didn’t you do your due diligence? How can you seriously not know about the programme “you” enrolled your child in? Like seriously?! And yes, we shared that bit of our information already in the class or in the WhatsApp chat.

Some days you stop at nothing to remind teachers of our mandate: FUNdamental and yes of course, FUN experiences for our children (not our parents, but remember to communicate with them, and do your professional development, write your plans; ask me and the team questions and rock it like rockstars). How often can I possibly send reminders of the same tasks? Something must be wrong with their brains.

Some days you get bombarded by what happens at home or in some cases, doesn’t happen at home. Oh Lord. That’s always harder than the biting, fighting, spitting, scratching, hitting, being mean, saying very unkind and even naughty things. Then in between that you’re still making sure skills in reading, writing, thinking, creativity, numeracy and the whole string of academic and non-academic areas are not just developed but heightened.

There have been tears, expressions of frustrations, exhaustion, uncertainty and numerous big and bold question signs in the last few months making this undoubtedly my toughest school year EVER.

And FYI I’ve been teaching since I was 16. And yes, I had one of the toughest old school with new ideas bosses from the UK who I secretly and now subconsciously emulate and I survived, learned from and grew under her and from her leadership. Parents who know me from Hillel, know who my idol is?😉

What the craziness has felt like is probably best described as a deep desire to disconnect, reconnect and then start all over again. After all when I started my company I wanted to only do after school programmes; then came a bilingual preschool (actually 2), followed by expansion to PreK then K then now primary programmes and yes after school stuff still and activities and events and what seems like everything else for children up to age 18 years. But then, who has to time to start over; and what would that mean anyway? There’s no time for that.

I have business mentors, I have mentors in education and yes I even have a workout group who pushes me to meet these challenges by testing my physical and no doubt mental limits with these rides, runs and swims. So my support system rocks and I am grateful but it still doesn’t close the void you feel when parents need to meet with you and bring their friends to share their “concerns,” when teachers “feel sick” and don’t come to work, when children want to tell you something really really important and you have to address everything as it comes to you.

Towards the end of April, I stumbled across an online course for school leaders. I’ve seen it advertised many times before but didn’t think it was for me really. But I know I needed something to help me change the way things were unravelling but more importantly how I felt about all these things. Gosh I desperately wanted to see the beauty in the breakdown.

And that I did. It took a few weeks and as I learnt new things I put them to the test. I acted on everything. And I tuned out the attitude, drama and frequent chaos around me and zoomed in on this course. OMG I felt renewed, I felt empowered. Maybe the excitement I was feeling and sharing with my crew had a domino effect on my emotions. Whatever it was, I felt like my magic was returning to me. As if this wasn’t enough,  I saw a Professional Learning Institute advertised in Texas that I had been thinking about attending and again I bit the bullet. A double whammy! And what an amazingly fulfilling experience I had!

This was exactly what I was searching for: a trip alone, to refocus and to think of nothing else other than Fundaciones (and of course food and a little more food).

Emotional intelligence, intentional & instructional leadership, inclusive environments, critical thinking and creativity, educational marketing, employee relations & transitioning from high quality early childhood to meaningful primary programmes were some of my areas of focus. The connections with new and old colleagues were priceless and to say I learnt a lot is an understatement.

Laden with books, materials and contacts I’m back home and have finished hiring the entire team for one location and still have more to hire for the others. Although we’ve fleshed out our plan for the 2018 – 2019 school year my days are still long and there still seems to be a lot of things happening to demand my attention simultaneously. But, I tell you something, my magic is certainly back: ideas are flowing, the energy is there and I don’t feel any remorse about the way things have played out. I think everything happens for a reason and I am grateful to have purged.

No longer searching for the thrill of it, but in awe (again) of what’s in front of me.

Thanks Rebecca, we did the #GlobalGoals

If you know me relatively well, you’ll know that I really love and believe in education and my role in it. Thankfully I have a friend who believes in education (maybe a little bit more) and her role in it too. She’s my mentor and educational go to person in short, and her name is Rebecca Tortello. Whenever she sends me emails about education, they’re usually good.

Just as we reopened school, she sent me an email on the World’s Largest Lesson followed by an invitation to eat lunch. I knew this meant work but I knew it would be good. After a lovely healthy Japanese lunch, or maybe even before, I was sold on us doing the 17 global goals for sustainable development. Kerensa, our curriculum advisor, received the email that Saturday and was tasked with making it happen. In a matter of days, Fundaciones teachers were staying late doing the workshops and on Back To School Nights, parents were told about these SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Can you see, we literally waste no time?

Today, October 20th 2017, all the children in Kindergarten and the Primary Grades participated in lessons based on different goals. Overall, 10 classes, at 2 schools (and how could I forget one preschool group) participated in learning about 9 of 17 goals.

Here’s what was done:
Goal 2 – Zero Hunger

Goal 4 – Quality Education

Goal 5 – Gender Equality

Goal 6 – Clean Water & Sanitation

Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities

Goal 13 – Climate Action

Goal 14 – Life Below Water

Goal 15 – Life on Land

Goal 16 – Peace. Justice & Strong Institutions

It’s hard to explain to non educators the amount of work that went into planning the lessons around these goals but it’s so exciting to share the activities centered on and around enquiry based learning, making connections and deep thinking that my team and I saw in and among the children today.

Imagine learning about clean water and sanitation as you visit a restaurant and see their kitchen and then their waste water management system. Yes, the children were examining the good old (or in the case of Fromage, recently done) grease traps.

Imagine learning about alleviating hunger by visiting the school garden and preparing menus that include food items through sustainable agriculture.

Imagine being an 8 year old Jamaican child learning about Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandi and the influences they made in our world.

Imagine learning about heroes last week and then talking again about Nanny and the super heroic Women of Marvel today.

Imagine children learning about the refugee crisis and literally folding tarpaulin and talking amongst themselves about how to stay warm and even clean.

Imagine sending a message to prime ministers and presidents across the globe advocating a good education after learning about children in Asia who are forced into slavery and marriages.

Imagine sensitizing children to the realities in our world and not inflicting gloom and doom upon them but challenging them to become advocates of these global goals through this participation in the World’s Largest Lesson.

Rebecca, you rock! Thank you for sharing this and allowing us to awaken the minds and change the hearts in the children and teachers at Fundaciones; and thank you for telling me to write this blog 🙂

Check my Twitter Page @mcdonaldrachael for all the fun stuff we did today.

Just A Second

Do you feel like you have a zillion things demanding your undivided attention daily?

I do, and some days I feel like I need to forget the definition of multitasking and devote my time exclusively and wholeheartedly to each “thing.” And boy, does that take time (more than a second). 

Here’s my life in a nutshell these past weeks. Just picture: 

One head school whatsapping you while the other is already on the phone talking about the threat of pink eye, or hand foot and mouth, before telling you who dropped the F bomb in class; who hasn’t paid yet; who is absent until when and why? 

Then the educational concierge is in your skin about after school stuff and the January waiting list that needs to be signed off on like yesterday. But then wait, I see a few messages and emails coming in from Moms and Dads. Why are children bringing junk food for lunch and why are you getting so worked up about it? Which mom is not on the list? Whose dad wants to be added? Why? How did you forget him? Apologies. Wait?! More concerns?! Issues? Questions! Most definitely, thanks for sharing. Just give me a second. 

What?! He did what Nurse? Push what down his ear? Hold on, the other Nursie is calling on the other line. How bad is that cut? Does it need stitches? Send me the pic. Wowsers. 

What I really need is  … not a scotch so early in the day, come on that’s for the weekend; I’ll just have a cup of green tea with honey and lime please (remind them to add the honey and lime because they always forget to). 

Let me breathe deeply. Oh you know what, our other boxes are still stuck at the freight forwarders in Miami. When are they coming down to us? I need to go and exercise. Is there spinning today? Can I go to Spry before spinning? 

These thoughts and messages go on and on from the minute I check my phone early morning till I turn it over at bed time. Da da dee! 

In this age of technology, of digital connections, I guess everything does come at you all at once. But how did we manage before? How did I manage before? Did we have this much? Or did technology really allow us (i.e. me) to manage more and so driving us towards expansion? Maybe technology is a bad thing; oops no let me take that back. It’s a wonderful thing when you know how to use it. 

Now (like today as in Sunday), I celebrate. That I commit to delegating; to prioritizing; to setting realistic timelines; to doing me everyday despite whatever else is happening; to allow my best team ever to learn, to grow, to handle the drama that they are really supposed to (let me hang out with them outside of school and remind them of their worth).

Because at the end of the day, I still need to be here tomorrow to find more opportunities to connect with; to make more ideas manifest and to fall in love with a thought again and again. 

So dearest clients (aka parents) my sincerest apologies for not answering you right away especially on the weekend. I’ll have Stephanie or Danielle or Stefanie or Shantaul or Kerensa follow up directly with you. Thanks so much for understanding. 🙏🏽

As always I am remain stung by possibility as I  dream, grow and build with your (and everyone else’s) children in mind.


Baby?! No baby?!

Its 2017, 20 years since I’ve… graduated from high school and begun my adventures with children.
Twenty years ago seems like yesterday, in my mind at least, but doesn’t look that way when the kids I taught then have graduated from college and are sending their children to my schools. Their children?!
In 1997 I thought I’d definitely have children by now. After all, I love children. I’ve only ever wanted to make a a life and a career with them, from paediatrics to education to my own offspring. Children have been the basis for my employment forever; from summer camp, to America Reads, to Hillel, to extras, to Fundaciones, and plenty other projects and commitments.
So let’s reiterate that again. I have no children yet and I’m 36 years old. Around 10 years ago the gynaecologist reminded me of my ‘child-bearing age’ now Dr. Wynter doesn’t have any conversation with me about children, instead he reviews my mammogram report and tells me he will call me with the pap smear results as he usually does. But somehow everyone else seems to have the conversation with me about children.
I hear all the time;
“Whappen, you don’t want children?”
“How come you don’t have any little ones that belong to you?”
Or my favourites that come from the parents, “How many do you have of your own Tía Rachael?” and “When you have your own, let’s see if your philosophies change.”
Newsflash. Of course I want children (or at least one child that biologically comes from me). Is it something I just envision and it manifests? Not quite. I think its safe to say it takes two to tango; hhmmm well not really if I’m merely buying sperm. My mother thinks I could and should adopt and my father has absolutely nothing to say, other than “it was this ones birthday yesterday” as he recalls the birthdays of all his friends’ grandchildren. He, by the way, is 70 and has no grandchildren.
If you’re wondering if I’m fed up about the many questions directed at me about having children, I’m not. Instead I’m trying to find the perfect response that will encompass positivity, humour and downright reality. That’s been the challenge thus far.
I must declare that a few months ago I was definitely plotting and scheming how I can and would make this a reality. Regrettably that hasn’t worked as it did it my head. But when you live by yourself you really have plenty of time to think and when you have slightly older girlfriends who are going through menopause, your theory on having children at this stage also changes.
Maybe buying sperm, or entering into a contract with a man to impregnate me and to possibly share his life coparenting isn’t necessarily a good idea. Maybe just maybe, it’s a little late or a little too soon to make desperate life changing decisions. How important is this anyway?
Perhaps my fate doesn’t include biological children right now.
What is so wrong with being able to do what I want, when I want, where I want and with whom I want. Kinda sounds more appealing. Breastfeeding wouldn’t be my thing either. Whatever my fate is, it’s taken 20 years to accept that it is what it is and will be, whenever it’s supposed to be.
Let me digest that again…
Biological children or not, I’m still surrounded by them in my neighborhood, in my schools and with my friends. They’ve all been a part of my journey and I have a pretty good feeling that they will be with me, for a while longer.
Anyway… Here’s to twenty years down and at least another 20 (plus) years to go of other people’s children and possibly, eventually, let’s see how that works out, my own… Oh jeez, but now my mind shifts to the thought of me with a 10 year old going through menopause… Yikes. Let me just pause the pregnancy talks altogether.

Hacking lesson plans: lessons not planned for but learnt anyway

‪The concept of iteration is so important in education. As educators in a third world country we try a concept once and it doesn’t work and we abandon it. ‬Or better yet, we think anything new and different is just downright dirty and difficult so we play defense. We forget, or maybe we never ever really stopped to think that software developers have to “beta” test things over and over for them to work. We try, try some more, tweak it and try again. We have to repeat the process several times in order to hopefully have somewhat of the desired effect. 
Did I mention that we forget?! 

This is exactly what happened when my DO shared the updated EC lesson plan format sometime late last year. 

I’ll admit that I was a bit hesitant and was also hit with the lesson plan tidal wave. That enormous source of contention. Yes me! The one who would spoon and bottle feed my team. Sharing everything related from concept, idea, to sometimes even doing the whole entire lesson. Blame me right? After all someone had to take the blame. 

After panic attack mode and despite the numerous mental and repeated out loud affirmations I said morning, noon and night I still felt the anxiety. And guess what? My team felt it too. 

Imagine me giving my staff work to do? And expecting them to do it? What was it about thinking independently and not having your extra nuff boss, who thrived on micromanagement not be involved in something so critical? We both thought about that but there were so many other thoughts vying for attention in my head. How on earth was I going to get through so many pages of plans for each and every class? At both locations?! Could I physically manage so many lesson plan books each week? Where would I keep them? When would I find the time to collect and return books in a timely fashion? The list of questions went on. 

And then, like an earthquake it struck. The answer lay in Google Drive. Tah Dah! 

Now to get the team to buy into that. 

It shouldn’t have been hard, each class teacher had access to an iPad and internet. In addition, they each had smart phones. We all used the team chat. Didn’t we? In fact, I used Google Drive on my phone, couldn’t they do the same? Sometimes you go into boss mode and have to close your eyes and ears to the things you see and hear or are likely to. Because this wasn’t an option. It was how plans would be done moving forward. Well the ripple effect this change had upon my school was exactly what was needed and not quite what was expected. 
I have selective memory. When I first introduced teachers to the iPad some were excited but others were really fearful. The same thing happened when I put all my teachers on Twitter. I forgot all about the kinks and how much resistance I encountered. Hashtags, at mentioning, followers, taking pics, sharing pics and the list continued. I too, forgot about iteration. It was still the new year. We had enough energy to keep going and to implement these changes. Right?! 

Some teachers blatantly refused to do it, forget about saving time by copying and pasting parts, and being able to access plans at any time and anywhere without carrying a book. Who wanted to write and rewrite so much anyway?! They did! It got so bad, teachers resigned. They couldn’t handle it. But, on the flip side, it got so good that I saw other teachers rising to the occasion and using these technologically advanced tools like they were using them forever. Little by little they started getting the hang of it and this hack began to work. 

No one can talk to my teachers (who stuck around) about feeling empowered; about cutting-edge trends. Let them tell you about efficiency for themselves. 

So I confess, that I didn’t want to have to lose teachers in the middle of a certification process. But I certainly needed to know who was willing and able to learn and grow with the organization. These were, after all, very important characteristics of our team. The good news… Our team consists of persons who choose to be a part of it and who create, implement and update their lesson plans on Google Drive and share them with our, recently contracted, Curriculum Consultant and myself. 

So I’ve been reminded that in education, as with all things, we seek to learn and to achieve one thing and end up learning a whole lot more than we set out to…  

Know that you know

Do you really know that you know what you know?

It’s been said that you know what you need to know, when you’re ready to know it…know what I’m saying?!

Is it then,  that we’re afraid of knowing what we need to know; or just that we haven’t realized that we really already know what we know?


Hhhmm. It’s a lot to know. Here’s to a year of knowing all you need to know; when and how you need to know it.  I’m knowing it for you…;)