Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men’s blood….make big plans, aim high in hope and work. Daniel H. Burnham

Our kick off party was a joy last week.  So many people are drawn to GCE’s mission, Eric’s vision and track record, and now to each other.  Our task is now to be precise in our self-assessment and clear in our requests for help as we grow.  There is room for all this enthusiasm and good will! Converting plans into action not just in our classroom community but with our growing ranks of supporters will be important and crucial work for us, even as we now shift focus to the students and the daily work of teaching and learning starting tomorrow morning. If in reading this you feel compelled towards us, email or call! There is something you can contribute.

We have been busy working with applicant and new families right through Labor Day weekend! ( Thank goodness for the Internet!)  I will be meeting with parents even as our students go into their first classes tomorrow morning at 9 am.  I do not see a break between admissions for this year and next.  We are growing a school-we are aiming for 50/60 students for fall 2001 and 150 for the 2012-13 school year. We’ll have scholastic seasons to be sure, but ours may be stretched during this early stage of our “start up”. And I suspect our students will be working and studying in their summers, and that they will have time for rest and relaxation and joy all year round. We will have folks wanting to transfer mid-year no-doubt as word spreads, but have decided that new students will enter only in late November and then in March when we wrap up trimesters. The integrated learning units necessitate this. The cyclical nature of what we are doing means students need to enter when there is a natural pause, but we will allow some flow mid-year as we want to keep the momentum going.  This policy is a good example of administrative process being led by what teachers know to work best.  With the student experience as our compass, I think we will continue to build good infrastructures. We are going to ask students to have really spent some time getting to know us before spending a whole day in class as part of the admission process as well.  Our classes are too intimate for visitors to be “invisible”, so folks need to enter the rooms in the spirit of participation, even if they are observing.  We hope we’ll have many people spend time with us once teachers and students have formed a tribe and claimed their space as their own.

This year will tell us a lot about whom we can best serve.  Hungry to earn, curious, committed to trying are clear identifiers for the current group of students. I suspect humorous and creative will be common identifiers once everyone is comfortable.  That was surely true of the GCE staff! We did not give an entrance exam this year, but will use several assessments to help us make decisions about individuals and groups to get started; we can be fluid as students catapult or plateau .  The essays, portfolio of student work and interview tell us so much, along with records and recommendations. Students will know if this is the right place for them if they enter the admission process fully. We came to the mutual conclusion with several applicants that GCE was not going to be a good fit; this is a successful admission interaction for everybody if it was a learning process and led to an appropriate outcome.  As opposed to the families of primarily much young students I have worked with the past 8 years, these students have a lot to say about their own paths, and a lot more impact on the ultimate decision to attend.  This is so appropriate, and I deeply admire the parents for whom a school like ours may seem so far from their own experience, but who support a child whose light is lit for the first time in years when they hear how we will “do school”. The parents and guardians of our students are incredible advocates for their children and taking the leap with us is brave.  We are pioneers in this project, and I think we’ll look back and be proud we followed our gut-or the gut of the student-and went forth.

Time for sleep-school tomorrow -so much more to reflect on from our meeting with David Spadafora at the Newberry to the PBS special on Burnham to the mansion kitchen renovation! Sweet dreams, and let us not be like owls in the dark, ruminating but never seeing the light.

Burnham Plan for the Lakefront