Wonder what I will be doing when I am 70

chewonki1well.. not really, but it is pretty interesting to look back on the journey that brought us to Georgetown, and now my current situation is intersecting with another thread that began back in 2004.   It was then that the Director of Summer Programs asked me to plan an end of summer trip for International Students who had been attending our ESL program at Wyoming Seminary.  Having recently moved back to Pennsylvania from New Hampshire, I was keen on creating an itinerary that would include many of my favorite places in New England.   I also wanted to include an outdoor experience as part of the trip.   After some research, I settled on making a visit to Chewonki in  Wiscasset, ME.   as a potential venue for a 3 night camping experience.

Over March Break in 2004 I traveled with my family to check out Chewonki.   We were totally enthralled with the beauty of the place and impressed with the various components that make up the Chewonki Foundation   https://chewonki.org/  …  We were surprised to find high school students on the campus and learned that in addition to  a farm, a summer camp,  natural history programs, and the outdoor classroom  program which would organize our camping expedition,  they also had a well-established semester school  for high school juniors called Maine Coast Semester.   We had the good fortune of being there over lunch, so we joined the community for a meal.  My daughter, Alison, who was in her sophomore year at the time, elected to sit with semester students.    A good portion of the the food that was served came from the farm on campus, and the meal was wholesome and very satisfying.   As we were preparing to head back to Pennsylvania,   I was  totally sold on including the facility as part of the trip that I was planning, and Alison was totally sold on the idea of spending a semester at Chewonki during her junior year!

chewonki 2

In fact, Alison did attend MCS during the spring semester of her junior year.  It was a life changing experience for her.. living in a cottage with around 8 other girls with a wood stove as the sole source of heat..  taking on a lot of responsibility and gaining a significant amount of independence…  working on the farm,  guiding a team of horses pulling logs out of the woods..  It was an intense but rewarding experience.

And, for the next ten years,  Chewonki played a significant role in what we called  Session III – a tour of New England.   For the majority of the students, this was the first time that they had camped, and for those who lived in cities all of their lives,  it was an introduction to the beauty of the night sky.   It was challenging, to say the least, but all survived!

One afternoon in 2008, while I was working with students on the stage crew, I proposed the idea of taking a community service trip at the end of the school year.   Everyone was interested, so I began to research ideas.   At some point, it dawned on me that we might be welcome at Chewonki  to work for a week as they prepared for the summer camping season.   I had to sell the idea to the folks at Chewonki, and explain that the students who were interested would have experience with tools and working on projects.   We won their approval so a few days after graduation we piled into a van and headed to Maine.  This was a first trip to the state for most of the kids..  By the end of the week we had completed a number of projects.  We enjoyed being involved with the community and we (I) especially enjoyed visiting a different ice cream shop each night of the week 🙂    We went out for a special dinner at a restaurant on the water, and we played mini golf.  We went bowling and we spent one full day visiting The transportation Museum and exploring Rockland after stopping at Moody’s Diner for breakfast on the way!

The trip was amazing.  As we got ready to leave and head back to Pennsylvania,  I floated the idea of returning the following year.  The thought was warmly supported by the folks at Chewonki.   As things turned out,  I made the trip 5 more years, and I have stated many times that these community service trips were, hands down, the most significant experience in my teaching career.  Over the course of 6 years,  we gutted two cabins,  shingled a cabin roof,  split and stacked firewood, built steps, fences,  platforms, painted buildings, painted the bottoms of boats,  painted rooms,  cleaned hay lofts,  loaded hay on a wagon in the field,  weeded gardens..   wow!

chewonki snowy morningAnd now for the intersection.   Wiscasset is just 30 minutes away from where we are in Georgetown.   And, the semester school is still going strong.  And, I learned back in the fall that they were in need of a part time math teacher for the spring semester….   so, I wrote and suggested that I might be able to teach..   my interview included the predictable elements.. teach a class,  meet with students, meet with faculty,  meet with the Head of School.   It also included working in the barn yard  with a student for two hours on a drizzly afternoon,  repairing fences!   It was a lot of fun, and just up my alley..   So, I have spent the last two weeks in ramp-up meetings, getting to know the system, getting to know my new colleagues,  rekindling relationships from my former experiences with Chewonki, and getting totally excited about welcoming a new group of students next week as they arrive for what,  many will be, a life-changing experience, just like my daughter 13 years ago..  I’m expecting that it will be life changing for me too 🙂



7 comments on “Wonder what I will be doing when I am 70

  1. Cort says:

    Very interesting story, Jason. Sounds like you’ll be teaching math. And that must have been quite an independence building semester for Alison, too.

  2. mary says:

    Good luck on yet another new endeavor.

  3. Greg Allen says:

    Hello. That sounds like a really neat place to be with endless lessons to be learned. I very fondly remember a time in my life where I was surrounded by a phenomenal group of teachers who guided me toward amazing experiences and helped shape me to becoming the man I am today. There was a certain Calculus teacher that I particularly liked. It was the way he taught the concepts that really made sense to me and he had this way about him that was firm but almost nurturing at the same time. He doubled as my tennis coach at the NH prep school I attended way back when. At any rate, teachers can have the most profound effect on their students lives, sometimes they may not even realize it. I remember watching this teacher and his family sometimes at school dinners and thinking that someday I would like to have a family like that and be like him. While I began college majoring in secondary education I eventually changed to a geography major which took me down a different path career-wise. I did end up marrying the love of my life and am a proud father of two boys who are now finishing up high school themselves. I didn’t end up exactly like this man whom I idolized but I like to think that his influence and guidance helped me make some of my better decisions throughout the years. I hope one day to express my gratitude to all those teachers who had such a positive effect on me at such an awkward age. And to my favorite math teacher, thank you for caring about me all those years ago and thank you for all that you still do for these kids. All the best to you and your family.

    • lifeat6mph says:

      Hi Greg.. thanks for sharing your thoughts.. I had a few very special teachers over the years as well.. one was choral director in junior high school … who, unbeknownst to me, was a graduate of the prep school that I most recently taught at in PA.. we reconnected through the development office and enjoyed a friendship until he died just a couple of years ago.. I happened to take the time to write to him to let him know just how important music has been throughout my life and to thank him for playing a critical role in all of that early on… he called me to thank me for the note and we agreed to get to get together for lunch once winter was over.. but he died a month or so later… don’t put off those thank yous! jt

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