Living Wisdom School, Helen Purcell

September 14, 2014

by Admin

To Whom It May Concern:

As my friend and colleague for the past 14 years, Barbara Rabin has been a moving force in establishing a new system of education based on a philosophy called Education for Life. The fruit of her labors is a stunningly innovative school in the heart of Silicon Valley. The name, Living Wisdom School, captures both the philosophy and practice that make the school gleam like a small jewel amidst surrounding conventional educational institutions.

Barbara was the pioneering teacher who began Living Wisdom School almost twenty years ago with a few families who had the wisdom to entrust their children to her. The school itself, situated on a beautifully intimate campus just down the road from Stanford University, radiates the same joyful outlook that Barbara brings to life. Enthusiastic, sensitive, intelligent, perceptive, optimistic, creative, artistic are all words that aptly describe Barbara. When she puts her energy toward something, good things happen!

Her deep understanding of how children learn best infuses the culture of the school with a spirit of love and kindness. She initiated a set of school rules that are governed by two basic life principles: Choose happiness, and practice kindness. And she models how to integrate big spiritual ideas like these into moment-to-moment living both through teacher/student interaction and curriculum. Her specific application of conflict resolution brings harmony and empowerment to the children both in the classroom and on the playground. Her Rocks in the Basked practice places the simple act of being aware at the forefront of the learning process, or, perhaps more accurately—life.

As a founding teacher, Barbara has set the tone of Living Wisdom School so that our tag line, “A school where learning and joy come together” is as truthful as it is promotional. As we have grown and prospered, she has mentored many young teachers working to develop and deliver curriculum and to master classroom management. Most recently, she helped to initiate a highly effective internship program, spending hours with interns both inside and outside of the classroom, observing them, reflecting with them, and guiding them with a light touch, lots of humor, and deep wisdom. Every year, as moderator of a weekly faculty meeting, she brings to the forefront of our awareness the most recent literature on educational theory and practice, as well as the great classics, the kind of books one finds on reading lists in graduate schools across the country.

Creating and delivering curriculum is another of Barbara’s great strengths. For example, in Writers Studio, the children learn to trust their own experience and imagination as they face a blank page. In Art the children become artists as they bring color, form, and medium together in the most stunning way—not just one child, but all the children. Perhaps her most spectacular curriculum achievement is the Theater Magic program at Living Wisdom School. It represents the thematic integration she brings to all subject areas. She began modestly by enacting small tales and stories of an inspirational type. Today, under the guidance of the entire faculty, who have brought their own inspiration to the project, Theater Magic takes over the curriculum for six weeks of the year, culminating in a dramatization of the life of a great soul who has brought light and goodness into the world. The sophistication of the script, sets, costumes, music, dance, lighting, attest to Barbara’s confidence that children will rise to amazing challenges when they feel supported. For six weeks, the play becomes the language arts, social studies and arts curriculum. But the learning doesn’t stop there. In the crucible of the theater experience, children learn from personal experience that the power of concentration, teamwork, collaboration, and compassion can bring a sense of achievement and fulfillment that comes from the inside out, an experience which, in the long run, develops self-confidence, poise, and resilience.

Barbara collaborated on the Living Wisdom School curriculum map, which represents the breadth and depth of our curriculum and which sketches grade by grade how curriculum areas integrate across the disciplines and with the deepest spiritual aspirations and practices of our school. An exceptional document, it provides a gateway for any serious investigation into what makes our school unique.

Finally, Barbara has served on the Board of Directors since its inception and, in typical fashion, has generously shared her experience and wisdom in that realm as well. Her enthusiasm is contagious, especially around big ideas. She has the ability to inspire others and the energy to help convert good ideas into reality.

As I write this letter, I feel grateful that my path and Barbara’s have crossed in this lifetime. We are colleagues, yes. We are also friends whose shared history includes that which is professional, personal, spiritual, and philosophical, for Barbara brings her whole self to all that she does.


Helen Purcell
Living Wisdom School DirectorNovember, 2010

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