Every fall, private schools around the area hold special events to educate the community about what makes their school environment unique. Gilman is no exception. Years ago we had “visiting Saturdays” where prospective families could tour the school and speak with teachers about their programs. These open houses had their merits, but there was one very obvious flaw- there were no young boys! It is very difficulty to get a feel for a school climate without the main members of the community. When touring colleges many years ago with our children, my husband and I realized that without students on campus, wonderful colleges fell flat. We soon found that summer, while convenient, was not the best time to see a school. Because of this need to get a snapshot of life in a boys’ school, Gilman adopted a “visiting days” schedule, and it has proven to be a much more interactive venue for displaying who we are. As parents tour, boys are everywhere: on the playground, enjoying a great story with snack, moving from one class to the next, and learning in classrooms.
Twice in recent weeks, Gilman’s lower school has hosted visiting days. Parents have pre-registered and arrive knowing that many of their questions will be answered, either by the small army of volunteer parents who lead the tours, by the admissions staff, or by the boys themselves. I wandered the halls this week taking note of what a prospective new parent would see, hear, and experience.
Officer Kelly happily greeted each family, as she does our lower school visitors each day, with a smile, nametag, and pertinent information. One of our talented fifth grade boys, Max, played piano as visitors made their way to one of two group gatherings of the morning. During both gatherings, speakers included administrators, boys from our fourth and fifth grade classes, alumni, and faculty from our middle and upper school who spoke about what a lower school experience has meant to their current and former students. I was impressed with the variety of stories shared about what it means to be a Gilman student from the early years to the high school years. Friendly sports rivalries, tough assignments, bug-filled tents at Echo Hill, playing an assortment of parts in the class play, all add up to unite these young men in ways that last a lifetime.
Our dedicated group of parent tour guides led each group of curious parents around the lower school and parts of Carey Hall. They may have dropped in on the book exchange in the library where classes of boys were carefully selecting one “new” book in exchange for two of their “used” books. A group may have then stepped into Madame Giorgis’ French class where boys are learning about classic French literature as a basis for dialogue using a story-telling format. Kindergarten classes may have been playing a game of slithering snakes in the multipurpose room, sorting for patterns in math, or engaging in free play in the loft/ makeshift haunted house with friends. Downstairs, parents engaged in conversation about curriculum with our first grade team, who are currently using project-based learning techniques to teach a variety of skills with spiders and monsters. A quick peek into Pre-first found personalized Jack-in-the-Beanstalk creations hanging from the ceiling and boys curled up in many cozy-reading corners exploring more classic fairy tales.
Putting our best foot forward- of course. We certainly want our guests to see us at our finest. However, the daily “routine” at Gilman lower school is anything but routine. There are new marvelous things going on around every corner regardless of which visitors may wander by. I ended my own tour at a familiar daily stop- recess duty. Nothing says boys’ school like a competitive, yet friendly game of touch football on the blacktop. Hopefully, some of our touring groups were able to glance over and enjoy the sheer pleasure of being a young boy, in the fall, enjoying the comraderie of friends at Gilman lower school.
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.
- Our assembly this week was Taikoza: Japanese Drumming and Dance . Ask your son about how loud the drumming sounded compared to how soft the flute playing was. Did he like the dance routines? How did the art of karate become part of a dance with small cymbals? What parts did the audience play in the performance? Would you like to hear this type of music at a festival for which it was intended?
- If you are in Kindergarten- Did you have a new classmate to celebrate this week as a “surfer of the week”? How are you making your hot air balloons? Do you like working with watercolor paint?
- If you are in Pre-First- How did you like the story of Jack in the Beanstalk? How did you make your picture of Jack and the Giant? How did you create a monster and place it into the app “Draw and Tell”?
- If you are in First Grade- What are you learning in your Monster Unit? How did you make a monster that related to the story of “you”?
- If you are in Second Grade- tell me about the iMovies that you are creating in your groups about leadership? What does it mean to be a good leader? How can you make a difference in the overall behavior of your class?
- If you are in Third Grade- Are you reading the novel Frindle or did you just finish Catwings? What is the book about and what projects are you completing to go with the novel?
- If you are in Fourth Grade- How did your trip to St. Mary’s City this Thursday reinforce the lessons you have been learning about Colonial Maryland? Did you learn anything new?
- If you are in Fifth Grade- How did Jamestown survive? What did it take from the leadership in this colony to allow for survival? What fantasy novel are you reading now? What does it mean to be a fantasy genre?