{The blog post below addresses several upcoming items as well as thoughts on what is unique in the aspiration of our public Montessori community….}

Snow day Jan 2018

Snow day Jan 2018

Midwinter has quickly come, and our days at school are filled with the hum of students engaged and finding their ways through the midpoint of our work this year with grace and growth. Our midwinter has seen a flurry of planning activity inside and out - even a snow day! (See a picture of how I spent my snow day at right - my 4 year old daughter is buried in there!)

We are watching the new addition steadily raise from the ground to connect our two buildings into one campus. Our community has grown by over 90 new families this year, and we look forward to welcoming new families for our next two school years.  

Below are a few housekeeping items, and a reflection on how conflict resolution can be one of the hardest though longest lasting skills we work at at our public Montessori school. I thank you for your support, for the work of weaving together our community one conversation and one dedicated relationship at a time. I am indebted and inspired each day by the empathy I see demonstrated by our students to each other.

 

Construction

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We have fielded many questions this month regarding the timeline and construction process in anticipation of next year. (I guess that there are a few office betting pools and/or kitchen fridge guesses as to when the construction will end :-)

There’s a simple message to know: construction is on schedule for our estimated completion date of August 15th, 2018. I do expect that there will be items wrapping up and equipment being installed through September of 2018, but the complete campus will be ready for the 2018-19 school year.

See the latest official construction update here.  And, as a reminder you can bookmark the board documents to see the latest work of the board and official updates from our construction firm. (Board documents linked here) In order to make sure we have enough time to settle into learning environments and prepare for the year, the school board will review a calendar in February that likely has the school year beginning on September 10th, 2018. This is a preview, and not official until the board approves. Stay tuned for official announcements!

I also recognize the need to send out regular updates regarding the construction process and progress - and we’ll be making sure that there is a construction update linked in each newsletter as well as each Great River Foundation email that goes out this spring!

Enrollment

As a public charter school, our enrollment depends on new families applying for the lottery. Current families do not have to reapply. The most likely grades to accept new enrollees next year include 1st, 4th, 6th, and 9th-12th grades. I’m writing here about enrollment to remind the community that we are a public school, and the gateway to having an opportunity for attending Great River is signing up for the lottery. Link below to pass along to families

The 2018-19 application for enrollment is linked here!

Also visit www.greatriverschool.org/enroll to find the application and details regarding enrollment.

I do know that the weeks of February 19th & 26th there will be community events to draw current and prospective families into the school - keep your eyes peeled for official announcements. My next blog post will also delve into the demographics of our school and our history as a public charter. We have a mission of peace formation as a Montessori School, and opening a dialogue regarding peace in our own lives and neighborhoods is a focus we can all take action on.
 

Reflection on Conflict and Montessori Public Education

I recently read feedback from one of our graduates who is now in their second year out of college. They wrote to say

“I found out that my dorm neighbor was taking my soap freshman year. I asked them what’s going on, and they said their soap was being taken by an unknown person. None of us had cars or ways of getting to the store to buy soap. I talked to our resident advisor and asked to start a community meeting with the 60 other freshman on the floor in order to talk about things affecting our floor. I wanted a ‘what’s going well, what could we work on’ time to address the way none of us knew each other.

Now, I live in a new city and I have neighbors in an apartment building between a bunch of houses. I went to introduce myself to my neighbors and found that they have strong opinions about the apartment building and people who live here. One of my neighbors told me that they have been wanting to host a ‘national night out’ but hadn’t gotten around to it… I found myself volunteering to put up flyers and get folks to come outside, and I felt like I was doing CAS again when I found myself searching for ‘national night out’ websites online.

I’m a shy person, and I didn’t ever say that I liked community meetings at GRS or that I thought that it would pay off later. Looking back, I really care about the people I knew at Great River, and I know that I wouldn’t be able to approach people in the world the same way without my GRS experience - even if I was indifferent to it as a high schooler. ”

This is a heartwarming and inspiring message to receive. Our alumni share a common report that the most lasting skills they take from their experience at Great River is independence, community building, and a sense of personal responsibility. These common ways of connecting people to each other are examples of the skills that we are engaging with in resolving conflict.

And, to be clear, this is a challenging skill to develop. It requires investment of time into addressing conflict. Conflict is expensive - it costs us time and vulnerability.

There are examples of community building that demonstrate just how it requires us to bend and change. I received a call from a Great River family late last year who wanted to address a conflict at school. The conflict was due to an acknowledged personality conflict, and the family asked if the student could be moved to classes that would completely avoid the conflict. A common phrase I hear from families in this situation is “We like the idea of resolving conflict, and we want to make sure that we aren’t distracting from our academic learning by focusing so much on community. We would prefer to have this issue resolved, and not to talk any further directly to the source of our conflict.” I heard a very similar phrase from this family, and I acknowledge that interpersonal conflict is an expensive time and energy investment.

Often, we see at school that resolving conflict and working together builds the very emotional safety that allows so many students to succeed. Feeling safe at school, and knowing that you can address a conflict, is the way we build the foundation of finding our place in any community we move into.

Now, these are two real examples - one examples that shines a light on a positive effect of our program, and one example that demonstrates how difficult it can be to invest the energy it takes to find common ground to work from.

From our experience at Great River, the long-term return in strong and well-proven relationships is worth the expensive investment of resolving conflict. Community is not a result of feeling nice - it’s the result of paring down what we share with others. As a public school, we should hope to engage with people of different backgrounds and differing worldviews. However, as adults I see us often envisioning a culture at school that is not reflected in our home lives.

How often do I invite over the folks in my own neighborhood who I may have conflict with?

How often to I engage in listening to someone who has an opinion that challenges my own?

How often do I seek out differences?

These questions (and their answers) can often lead us adults to see the places in our lives where we might construct some ways to experience the kind of peace-building that our students are practicing at school. And, we should acknowledge that we are building the skills as adults. We at Great River are not claiming a monopoly or even a 100% competency in every relationship. I am claiming that this method of persevering in finding common ground builds peaceful dorm floors, builds peaceful neighborhoods, and demonstrates for our students how to build peaceful relationships as adults. Thanks for joining me on a mission to find shared ground in uncommon places.   

Posted
AuthorSam O'Brien