To relieve the stress, I would often go on long walks with Jeannette. One of our favorites was walking the Harbor walk from Fells Point to the Inner Harbor and back. In those days, the Harbor walk was not all connected and instead of walking past high rise condo towers, you usually walked past vacant lots or decaying structures that had not yet been Inner Harborized. One of the anchors of the walk was going past the Living Classrooms Foundation, right on the water at the foot of Lancaster street and Caroline I think. I did not know much about, this was pre-internet, so I could not really look it up, but I always thought to myself as I walked past, that place looks really cool. It was two well designed buildings, with a dock, with various boats attached. From the little I knew, it was where active learning took place. I knew I needed to do something different than what I was doing in my school, and that little highlight on the Harbor walk would always remind me of something different than a classroom of 35 plus kids that I was just trying to bring some sort of kindness and control to.
Well, to make a long story short, my principal in Baltimore did one cool thing with me by letting me run the summer school for a couple of years. I ran it like my own little Living Classrooms Foundation, with field trips, and interdisciplinary projects, and engaged learning environments. It was never a total success, but it helped me start to see what I could do.
I came down to Charlottesville to officially learn to become a principal at UVA. From there, I became an assistant principal then an elementary principal where I was doing a good job, but not following my dream of what the Living Classrooms Foundation represented to me. What did it represent anyway? Kids doing real things, kids outside of the classroom, kids interacting with their environment, kids making connections with adults from the real world.
Why this boring, maudlin trip down memory lane? Because I am starting to walk my leadership's knife's edge a little bit, and am working on Greer becoming an expeditionary learning school. As part of that, we have created some summer learning experiences for some of our teachers and right now, seven of our amazing teachers and our wonderful assistant principal are in Baltimore getting ready for an experience with expeditionary learning and, you guessed it, the Living Classrooms Foundation. Even though I am not there, the significance to me is incredible. In fact, it really just hit me today how I cannot really believe that I am taking steps with staff to make this happen. That twenty something teacher who walked past that classroom on the harbor every week and thought, there has got to be a better way, now is a late thirty something principal working with some kids who need this kind of learning just as much as kids in Baltimore did. It is scary to put myself out there, and scary to be finally doing what I have always wanted to do. This will be an interesting year to see how it all pans out, but I am just going to enjoy the moment right now about this experience happening for several of our staff members.