A New Year

There is something so exciting about the start of a new school year. The boys are so excited to see old friends and make new ones, teachers are brimming with new ideas to try, classrooms sparkle. Even the mundane paper, crayons, and pencils look fresh and inviting. This year, with so many new teachers and teachers in new positions, there is a unique “newness” to every classroom. As teachers began to arrive in August, rooms were rearranged, whiteboard wall paint was added to classrooms, and there was a general feeling of “what can we try that is unique and different from last year”. John Xanders, having moved to a new classroom after 35 years in one grade level, showed genuine emotion at back-to-school night as he talked about the energy and excitement that come from a fresh start as a fourth grade teacher. Pictured below is the display of some of the many books that he read over the summer to inspire his new students. Whether a teacher moved in to Gilman, or moved across the hall, the year seems alive with possibilities.


New teacher, Mr. Williams, is welcomed by Mrs. Shapiro and Mrs. Hudson!

One of our classrooms has undergone a new renovation over the summer. We now have a “Makerspace” , and the boys are eager to begin tinkering, innovating, making, and exploring. These activities create the word TIME and there will be “time” each week for one grade to use the makerspace during morning recess. Please enjoy the stop action film below which illustrates the room’s transition from a computer lab to a innovation lab! A huge “thank you” goes to our wonderful maintenance crew who installed storage units, shelving, and painted whiteboard paint on many of our walls. Perhaps most exciting for our boys is the wind tunnel constructed by Gilman maintenance to be used for testing small flying creations. Prep-One did just that last week during our first Makerspace class of the year. We read the book, What Do You Do With An Idea?, discussed the Wright brothers garage tinkering which resulted in the first airplane, and created small prototypes of flying machines. They gave our new Makerspace a huge thumbs-up!

In next week’s blog I will write with more detail about the thinking behind the Maker Movement. Project-based learning, hands-on learning, and design based thinking are very much in the forefront of educational discussion these days.


I attended the screening of the film, “Most Likely to Succeed” shown at Gilman this past Saturday. The film makes a strong case for emphasis on the “softer skills” like empathy, perseverance, and creativity over more traditional curriculum taught in schools. I highly recommend the film and will report more about its ideas, as well as ideas from my current bedside reading, Futurewise, a book that promotes teaching “life-ready” skills over specific content. One of the many things I love about education is that new research often leads to new ways of thinking that inspires many of us to move in new directions. Dr. Webster and I relayed many of these ideas to teachers as our goals for the new school year. Teaching boys to be strong in character and always demonstrate their best selves should be prioritized over specifics in the curriculum. We encourage lessons that build empathy, perseverance, creativity, and grit. With such a willing and hard-working teaching staff, the year holds much promise!



I hope that my communication with you each week encourages “talking points” to inspire conversation with your son or sons. Here are some “talking points” based on recent school events.



  • If you are in Kindergarten- What was it like to wear your red cap all week as a brand new student? What new routines do you have in K? What did you include in your self portrait? What hopes and dreams did you express to your teacher? What happened during your egg-drop in KA.


  • If you are in Prep-One – What was it like to swim in the pool for the first time? Are you enjoying learning many of your lessons through games? How is Makerspace class? What are you attempting to create?


  • If you are in First Grade- What is a superhero? What goals do you have to make this a superhero kind of year? How do you like having PE after lunch this year? Is first grade very different than last year?
  • If you are in Second Grade- What did you write as your goals for the year? How do you like having two recesses this year? What do you like/dislike about the dining hall for lunch?
  • If you are in Third Grade- What happened during your first Mystery Skype? Have you had any other skype sessions? What do you think of this experience? Have you enjoyed reading The Stories Julian Tells? How do you like having PE towards the end of the day?
  • If you are in Fourth Grade- How has the experience of Gennessee Valley bonded you as a class? How are you liking your current reading novel, Out of My Mind?


  • If you are in Fifth Grade- Did Echo Hill meet your expectations? What was it like to be away from home for several nights in the company of your classmates? Did you make new friends? Did it help you bond as a class?


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