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NOTICE: The Charter Vision project is dormant as of January 2008. This website is provided for archival purposes only.

Great Expectations No Longer Skating On Thin Ice

Patty (Great Expectations) Originally published November 2003
Editors’ note: Patty Nordahl is the mother of two girls, 12 and 24 years old, and a grandma of one with a second on the way. She works as the Child Facilitator of an ECFE program and does consulting and training for child care providers. She is also active in Violence Prevention and Literacy work in her community.

I am a parent and board member of a new charter school, Great Expectations, in Grand Marais. As I observed our students and staff in action in our temporary facility (an ice arena) the first three months of school, I was moved to write this. I shared it with fellow board members who asked me to read it to the students on behalf of the board. I spoke tothe younger students as well, with the same sentiment. I also expressed our appreciation of our wonderful, dedicated and gifted teachers and other staff whose incredible amount of time and energy “above and beyond the call of duty” made what seemed an insurmountable hurdle a pleasant memory for all of us.

Dear Middle School Students,
Over 16 months ago, as we sat around a kitchen table dreaming of this new school, our design team had many hopes and aspirations for our students. We envisioned students who were excited to come to school each day, who were eager to learn, who would treat each other with dignity and respect, and who would make this world a better place to live in. We named our school Great Expectations because that is what we have for each and every one of you.

Little did we know that we would end up spending our first learning block of school in an ice arena. Then after just one week having to move everything and hold classes at the Park and Recreation building, a tent and the great outdoors for the next week, and back again to the arena. By working together with our talented teachers, other staff and many volunteers, we made the best of what we had, and transformed these spaces into wonderful places of learning. It wouldn’t have been that way without your optimism and flexibility. You put up with noise and distractions, quilts for walls, and crates for desks. Some day we will look back on these days with amazement.

Since you are the oldest group, you have an awesome responsibility. By example, your behavior will set the stage for the students who follow you. What we have seen surpasses our wildest hopes. We have seen students working hard on academics, but what impresses us the most is how you are with each other, with the younger students and with the adults who work and volunteer at the school. We have seen kindness and respect in action. We have seen appreciation of differences in age and ability, encouragement, honesty and openness in discussing differences of opinion. We have seen students who are able to work together cooperatively, and students who work diligently on their own despite many distractions. We have seen active, energetic people who are also reflective, insightful and incredibly creative. We have seen students who are eager to help out whenever they can, be it packing and hauling boxes, putting furniture together, sweeping the floor or cleaning up after an art project. We have seen middle school students with younger students in their laps reading books, holding their hands out to the playground, and having long conversations with them at lunch time. We have seen a lot of happy faces looking up to you.

Life is never 100% easy, and it is inevitable that each one of you will have his or her own struggles with friends, school, and life outside of school. But seeing the way you interact gives us hope that you will all feel supported no matter what comes your way. And it renews our Great Expectations for the future of our school. As we enter into our next learning block in a brand new building, we are proud to have been a part of this dream. It is you who will pave the way for the future of Great Expectations, and because of you the
future looks bright indeed!

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