Looking outside

Morning Message: April 24, 2020

As previously, I am sharing a theme and a short reflection. You are invited to reflect on this theme as well. A reply can be any length. You can send words, pictures, music, or anything else. We will share some of your submissions by email, social media, or other means throughout the week ahead.

Submit by replying to [email protected]

FIRST, AN ANNOUNCEMENT AND AN ADDITIONAL INVITATION

Announcement: The Governor has extended the stay-at-home order in Illinois through May. Further, the state is recommending the use of face masks indoors and outdoors in any circumstance where it is not possible to maintain 6 feet of distance between persons. As I shared on Wednesday’s announcements, the Governor has officially extended the school building closure in Illinois through the end of the school year. We will continue to conduct Online Connected Learning through June. We are working now to determine end-of-year celebrations. Ideas, concerns, and questions are welcome.

Invitation: Cognia, GCE’s accreditor, is hosting a conversation with eight high school students from across the world to try to understand more about how their lives have changed in recent weeks—how they feel about learning from home, missing school events, and being separated from their friends. If we listen closely, these students’ words may lead us toward meaningful change in how we think about education.
Date: April 28, 2020
Time: 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. EDT
Click here to register.

Audience: Students, educators, parents

Featured Panelists:
The panel consists of high school students from the United States, South America, Europe, and the Middle East.

Moderator:
Dr. Mark A. Elgart, president and CEO, Cognia

NOW, THIS WEEK’S MORNING MESSAGE

This week’s theme:
WHAT MATTERS NOW

My submission:
Accepting her Oscar in 2005 for her role in Walk the Line, Reese Witherspoon quoted June Carter Cash: “I’m just trying to matter.”

Days run together, simultaneously too long and too short.
What day is it today?
I change out of my pajamas, take a shower, brush my teeth.
I take comfort in the routine, assurances of my own health.
I preserve normalcy for the sake of my children.
For my sake too.
There is still so much to do.
I find joy in small things.
I miss human connection.

My mind still works and thrills at good ideas and complex problems.
What can I solve today?

There is an opportunity in this current circumstance.
Opportunity to help people in need.
Opportunity to remember those who have been important to me.
Opportunity to reach out.
Opportunity to clarify priorities.
Opportunity to invent and create.

Without anyone watching, I am limited only by my own imagination. I can be who I am, rather than who I am supposed to be.

I think school still matters – at least, if we learn there. Maybe the two things that have always mattered most are relationships and education. The latter in service to the former. In learning one discovers oneself and one’s promise. Simultaneously, learning makes space for the appreciation of others’ integrity, others’ good ideas. Learning makes way for empathy, then for community, for collaboration, ultimately for citizenship – that is, living together. So education enables authentic friendship.

Even isolated in our homes, we remain in community. Paradoxically, it is our care for one another that keeps us apart.

So I will get out of bed today. I will do my work. Because I miss you.

U2, “Beautiful Day“:
The heart is a bloom
Shoots up through the stony ground
There’s no room
No space to rent in this town
You’re out of luck
And the reason that you had to care
The traffic is stuck
And you’re not moving anywhere
You thought you’d found a friend
To take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand
In return for grace
It’s a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
You’re on the road
But you’ve got no destination
You’re in the mud
In the maze of her imagination
You’re lovin’ this town
Even if that doesn’t ring true
You’ve been all over
And it’s been all over you
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
It’s a beautiful day
Touch me
Take me to that other place
Teach me
I know I’m not a hopeless case
See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light and
See the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out
It was a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
Beautiful day
Touch me
Take me to that other place
Reach me
I know I’m not a hopeless case
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
What you don’t know you can feel it somehow
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
Don’t need it now
It was a beautiful day

Head of School

Cabell King
Head of School

Time: Tree rings

Morning Message: April 10, 2020

Last week I shared a “morning message” on Friday. This week I am sharing another brief reflection. This message is not explicitly school business, but an acknowledgment that education is about considered thought and that these days solicit our attention.

I would like to invite the rest of the community into this practice as well. If you are receiving this message, this invitation is extended to you: students, parents and extended family, faculty, donors, board members, FE partners, and other friends. We will share some of your submissions by email, social media, or other means throughout the week ahead. And Friday I will be in touch again with a new theme, as well as some thoughts of my own.

Submit by replying to [email protected]

This week’s theme:
TIME

What does it mean to have time?
What is an historical moment, and how should we mark it?
How does one live in the present, remember the past, or anticipate the future?
(Do not be constrained by my prompts.)

Share a paragraph or three
a haiku or other poem
a song you love or have written
a visual art piece
some other representation of thought
Students, if you compose or create something of your own, reflective of some effort or consideration, you may earn civic engagement credit.

My submission:
I keep reading about all the time I must have, as if during the present stay-at-home order the length of days has been extended and obligations significantly reduced. Maybe new uncertainties keep me up at night. Is that where the time comes from? I no longer commute to work, so my extra hour each day is time to learn a new instrument, master a language, correspond with friends and acquaintances past, or watch Tiger King, Lost in Space, or a Ken Burns documentary series. We have focused our attention on the things that matter: relationships, necessities of life, meaning making activities. Does the rest of the noise simply fade, leaving only time?

My experience of the last weeks is that time fills reliably to overcrowding. For me, work has continued. Most of the old obligations remain. Now there are fresh opportunities to seize, as well. Work and family are sharing space, sharing time. My faculty tell me that the breakfast table is now a classroom. Every day is Sunday; so is every day Monday. I feel busy.

Still, the voices are not wrong. Somehow there is indeed more time. More time with my children. More time to express care. More time to imagine what comes next. It feels to me, as perhaps this message and the series to which it contributes testify, that the present is a time for indulging in the considered thinking that school work recommends. We are busy yet leisurely. Somehow leisure has become business.

Can there be a return to the old rhythms, or does this moment insist that we create new ones that will last with us as we emerge?

A poem by Sikh poet Valerie Kaur:

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

In our tears and agony, we hold our children close and confront the truth: The future is dark.

But my faith dares me to ask:

What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?

What if our America is not dead but a country still waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labor?

What if all the mothers who came before us, who survived genocide and occupation, slavery and Jim Crow, racism and xenophobia and Islamophobia, political oppression and sexual assault, are standing behind us now, whispering in our ear: You are brave? What if this is our Great Contraction before we birth a new future?

Remember the wisdom of the midwife: “Breathe,” she says. Then: “Push.”

Now it is time to breathe. But soon it will be time to push; soon it will be time to fight — for those we love — Muslim father, Sikh son, trans daughter, indigenous brother, immigrant sister, white worker, the poor and forgotten, and the ones who cast their vote out of resentment and fear.

Let us make an oath to fight for the soul of America — “The land that never has been yet— And yet must be” (Langston Hughes) — with Revolutionary Love and relentless optimism. And so I pray this Sikh prayer:

Nanak Naam Chardi Kala,
Tere Bane Sarbat Da Bhalla

“In the name of the Divine within us and around us, we find everlasting optimism.
Within your will, may there be grace for all of humanity.”

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Head of School

Cabell King
Head of School

Chicago Morning

Morning Message: April 3, 2020

The sudden shift to Online Connected Learning requires every school to look again at the curriculum. We are reminded that we can’t teach it all. I have read countless pieces in recent weeks about how this pandemic is compelling particular intentionality in teaching.

At GCE we have drawn back requirements to the core and foreign language. We will still encourage students to participate in physical activity and wellness practices, including cooking, mindfulness, and good hygiene. We will create opportunities for students to engage in art, exercising creativity and relieving anxiety. We will continue to require expressions of care and service through civic engagement, for which we will develop a dynamic list of opportunities safely done at home, serving those outside and inside our school community. We will honor the trusting relationships we have developed while in the building through advising, one-on-one meetings, office hours, and other forums. We will create opportunities for students to express, develop, and challenge their own emerging passions. And, as we always have, we will invite community members to engage with students in the context of coursework and outside of it, exposing us to new ideas, occupations and preoccupations, and ways of working through field experiences and other special events.

Though we have made some shifts, I am heartened that at GCE we have consistently recognized — even before now — that syllabus construction is an exercise in editing. It has never been the task of good educators to fill students with knowledge. Rather, it is our job to raise provocative questions, direct students to compelling resources, and occasion practice of worthy skills in the context of trusting relationships. GCE was founded with attention to learning that might be most important for our students’ generation. This attention is the reason we refer so consistently to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

These days we are all concerned about Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Standard 3.D.
Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks

As I shared with students yesterday, I am proud that at GCE we recognize that the present situation — in every way disruptive of our previous routines — does not trivialize the work of school. In fact, this public health circumstance, like the concerns raised by the SDGs, provide the imperative for our learning.

We are in school today so that we can be agents rather than victims in this rapidly changing world, equipped with knowledge, maturity, and wherewithal to contribute to wellbeing of our communities local and global.

Partner Spotlight:

All year, La Boulangerie Bakery and Cafe has contributed fresh bread and pastries to the GCE meal program. With the suspension of school after March 13, we have no longer required their donations.

I am glad to share that they have quickly found a new way to contribute to those in need. Tuesday-Sunday, at 3:00pm, on a first-come first-served basis, La Boulangerie is giving away 20 free baguettes and additional products to medical workers and to restaurant workers whose hours have been reduced.

We are grateful for the generosity of the team at La Boulangerie!

Head of School

Cabell King
Head of School