First Days of School

The past few weeks have been a flurry of activity around the halls of Gilman Lower School. Teachers in all grade levels have been laminating, copying, planning, unpacking, decorating, and otherwise knocking themselves out to get their rooms and programs ready for the first days of school. Early in the summer, our conscientious first and second grade teams devoted time to planning new curriculum and working with retired teacher, Lillian Alpert, to make sure the best ideas from past years were not forgotten. It was a welcome sight to see more and more teachers return to school sharing summer adventures and talking of their enthusiasm about trying new ideas in the classroom. We had over 28 teachers receive grants over the summer to enrich their own experiences and by extension, enrich the experiences of our boys. Teachers went to a myriad of national parks, biked or hiked in European cities, or stayed closer to home and worked on improving their grade level programs. I particularly loved the grant awarded to Kindergarten teacher, Cheri McElroy. She decided that the Kindergarten boys needed a permanent “costume” for their annual, and much beloved, holiday concert toy soldier performance. See the picture in my photo gallery of Cheri behind her sewing machine. Wait until the Kindergarten parents see the end result this December! Kudos to all the teachers that gave up personal summer time to learn, create, and experience. We are all the better for it!


Today I had the treat of shaking hands with the third, fourth, and fifth grade boys who were entering school for the first day of classes. I was so impressed by the fact that each boy shook with a firm handshake, looked me in the eye, and said “Good Morning” as if they really meant it. So many examples of what it means to “Be Gilman”. I am placing the letters “BE” in the lobby of school and asking the boys what one word sums up what they want to “be” this school year. Will it be “happy”, “smarter”, or “thoughtful”? Look for a picture or see our work in progress on Back to School Night.


To begin our school year, Dr. Webster and Mr. Smyth led us in a morning assembly on the first day. The boys learned that gathering together this year means entering silently with harp or piano music playing in the background. Ms. Trinkova, who is a long term substitute for Ms. Cyman this fall, plays a beautiful harp. The boys were mesmerized. It was truly a moment to be mindful of music, togetherness, and the power of quiet. Mindfulness is a growing movement in education, and our assemblies and Morning Meetings each week will give us a space to think and breathe.


Mr. Smyth talked of being a “first class citizen”- one who takes the initiative to make the world a better place. Dr. Webster talked about kind acts we all can do to help each other over the school year.


I hope that my communication with you each week encourages “talking points” to inspire weekend conversation with your son or sons. Here are some “talking points” for this weekend.


  • What does it mean to be a first class citizen at Gilman? What is a second and third class citizen?
  • What is one way you can show an act of kindness to your classmate in the classroom, playground, or lunchroom?
  • If you are in Kindergarten- what were you trying to find on your classroom scavenger hunt, and did you find interesting things along the way?
  • If you are in Pre-First- what is “popcorn talking,” and did you learn new things about your classmates in the process?
  • If you are in First Grade- what does ”high five” and “you rock” mean?
  • If you are in Second Grade- what special pet is living in 2A, and why do you think it is always smiling? (See a picture here on my photo gallery!)
  • If you are in Third Grade- what theme does your classroom have for the year? Does it have to do with high adventures. sled dogs, or book challenges?
  • If you are in Fourth Grade- what have you discussed in preparation for your trip to Genessee Valley next week?
  • If you are in Fifth Grade- are you excited to have PE uniforms? What day of the week do they get washed? Have you played around with the new iPads yet?

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