As I type this, the first graduating class of SLA@Beeber is crossing the stage, seven years to the day from when SLA-Center City graduated its first class in 2010. This grand plan was kicked around for years while I worked at SLA-Center City and then after I left the classroom, momentum for opening a second campus caught some speed. A rundown of that part of the story can be read here.
There was a moment about 3 weeks before the opening and some really challenging issues were mounting… when Chris Lehmann looks at me across his desk and says… “Do you think this was a good idea?” I paused a full deep breath and said, “Chris, we are not at reflection yet… the answer is irrelevant because it’s happening.” Internally, I nearly lost my mind because questioning something as big as a school opening so close to the actual open of doors seemed ludicrous. But Lehmann is a reflective kind of guy and he wasn’t asking because he thought it was a bad idea, but challenging because the timeline was so condensed and looking back, more time would have been helpful. But we did it anyway.
So, four years later, I can say, unequivocally, that this was more than a good idea. The blood, sweat and tears that the staff have poured into their school is evident in the smiles I see them wearing in all the photos flooding social media. That first graduating class is where you learn many of the hard lessons, form bonds that only come from pioneering/creating something new, and worry about what is the next thing you will need to do for the first time. After today, that staff will have done it all. A complete 4 year run with the founding class. I hope all of them have a really stellar summer plan that includes very little school work. They have earned a really relaxing summer break, ten times over.
To the students, I cannot tell you how happy I am to see your cap and gown photos all over my social media feed. So. Many. Congratulations. Being the first is hard, you have to break in all the new teachers, accept that there will never be a year quite like that first one and blaze a trail for the rising classes, hot on your heels. Know that you can always go home again, the network you have with your teachers and alum can be called on long after graduation.
For me, it’s the culmination of a project that dominated my work life in the early years of Inquiry Schools and then less so as they found their legs. This style of project is heavy lifting in the early days and then gradually stepping away as they carry the project forward on their own steam. There is almost nothing better than a project like this not needing you anymore. And I’ve never been more proud to not be needed.
To all of the humans that worked hard to create this really special place, thank you. The world needs more schools built from a place of care, that value student curiosity and genuinely seek to create meaning with their students. This year the world welcomes 250 SLA grads into their mix. I’m not sure the world is ready for them… but I’m positive they are ready for the world.