Leader of the Day

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Four months ago, I took a photo from a similar vantage point with snow falling and hints of a long winter to come..   and now the grass is lush, and the students at Maine Coast Semester are walking around campus in shorts and t shirts, and the summer camping programs at Chewonki are preparing to welcome campers for fun and adventure.

One of the many roles that both students and faculty get to share is  that of Leader of the Day.  As a part time faculty member, I thought that I had missed out on this opportunity, but last week a student alerted me to the fact that my name was on the calendar.  I had somehow missed that, but sure enough, when I checked, my name was there.   I immediately began thinking about how to fulfill this commitment.

The leader of the day helps to keep the day flowing beginning with the very first commitment – morning gathering  –  at  6:55 each morning.  This is a quick check in where a quote or a thought for the day is offered by the leader before students head in different directions to complete their morning chores before breakfast.    The next duty is to offer the community a reminder that breakfast is nearly over and that morning meeting begins in 10 minutes and then running that morning meeting.   During this time, the Leader begins by offering a prompt for community members – both students and faculty –  to discuss with those sitting next to them.    After a student shares a current events story, the Leader then shares a personal story which is then followed by some announcements before we all head off and prepare for the days classes.

At lunch, the leader talks about the menu, describes what items at the table are from our own farm or locally sourced,  and then offers a quote before the meal begins.    He or she then manages the announcement period following lunch.    The final duty is at dinner which is much like  lunch.    By the end of the semester,  students and faculty have each had an opportunity to be Leader of the day 2 or more times, but, due to other commitments,  this was my first time to play the part – this was the first day that I had an opportunity to spend an entire day on campus.   I thought I would share here my  experience as Leader of the Day…

Morning Gathering:

I am thinking back to my sophomore year in high school – studying Julius Caesar  with Mr. Vacarro  at Quakertown Community Sr. High School –   I have often thought of a quote from the first act  where Ceasar was talking to Mark Anthony about Casius and describing him as one who … hears no music…    I emphasized to the group how that simple phrase from a much longer quote struck me as a student in 10th grade.   Mr Vacarro went on to explain that  Shakespeare repeatedly used the idea of one who hears no music throughout his writing and that it indicated a person who, at the very least, was very sad, and who more likely was suspect and one who bears watching…   of course, in the end,  Ceasar was correct about Casius..        I then encouraged the students to take time to listen to the music around us.. and I paused,  and we noticed how the air was filled with the sound of busy song birds..  and then I told them that I hoped that they had a song in their heart and wished them a good day!

Morning Meeting:

I opened the meeting by diving in and singing  ” I love you , a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck, a hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap,  a barrel and a heap , and I talking in my sleep about you… cows and chickens , are going to the dickens, cause I love you a bushel and a peck, you bet your pretty neck I do.. ”    yup.. i even included the part about the cows and chickens…    and then I said that this was a song that was corny when it was written, and a whole lot more corny today!   ( what I did not say was that  as a new teacher at 25 years of age, I would not have ever considered singing this to a group of high school students in the morning.. but at 58,  who cares! )

I explained that this was the first song that I  taught my daughter, Alison, when she was a young girl, and then I asked them to turn to their neighbor and to talk about the first song that they learned as a child..    it was fun to look around and to see smiles break out as they spoke with one another.

After the news, I shared the story  of  Bill Nash who was the music teacher  at my junior high school.   Although, as a young child,  I used to go with my mother    to a nearby nursing home where she led singing with the residents,  and I grew up in a house filled with  music,  it did not immediately occur to me to join the chorus when I entered junior high.  but one day, early in the year,  Mr. Nash stopped me outside of the library and told me that he had heard me singing in music class and that he wanted me to join the chorus..   and being the person who never wanted to disappoint anyone ( still that way)  I said “sure”.   So I joined the chorus… and the following year he said, “I want you to try out for county chorus. ”   I had no idea what county chorus was, but I said “ok/”    we practiced the audition song and went to the audition and, along with the rest of the group who auditioned, I  was accepted..  how fun was that!     And what followed  from that point on was  district chorus and regional chorus  and state chorus in my junior year..   I got to travel clear across the state of Pennsylvania to Pittsgurgh on my own to go to the state chorus festival.. and I  had a wonderful time and liked being in the city and later decided to go to college there.   And because of my participation in at States, I was invited to join a chorus that toured Europe the following summer…

And then life got in the way, and I did not have an opportunity to sing for a number of years,  but I rediscovered the joy of singing as an adult in a community choir in Wolfeboro NH – the Clear Lakes Chorale.  And, when I moved back to Pennsylvania to teach, I had the opportunity to join a Chorale there where eventually,  I met my wife Janet..

And then I pointed out how all of this unfolded because Mr. Nash took the time to stop me in the hall one day and said “Hey, I heard you sing in music class, and I want you to join the chorus.”

Lunch:

Quote –     “Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music.”   George Eliot

by the way..  as always, lunch was great –  the kitchen crew at  Chewonki are very passionate about preparing food,  and meals are a highlight of each and every day!!

Dinner:

I tried to keep this quick.. like every day,  it was long and filled with activity.. But I told the group about listening to  the radio personality  Paul Harvey years ago, and looking forward to the segment at noon when he would share the news and when he would tell us “the rest of the story”  – sharing  some interesting tidbits or twists about stories with which we, his radio audience, were already familiar.    And then I told the group that I had to share “the rest of the story.”

When I returned to Pennsylvania in 2000 to teach at Wyoming Seminary,  I stood for a group picture, along with the other new faculty and staff, and the picture later appeared in the Alumni Journal..   and not too long after that, I got a note from the Alumni Office.   I learned that Bill Nash has grown up in Kingston and was, in fact, an alum of Wyoming Seminary.  He had seen my picture in the journal, and  contacted the office to get my email address.   It was easily 25 years since I had last been in touch with Bill, and he was Mr. Nash then..  but here was the same guy, now taking time to reach out and re-establish a friendship.. and I gladly accepted..    In addition to music,  Bill and I shared a passion for boats, and he got me involved with the  local chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society which was based at Harvey’s Lake where he had a summer home..   He would address me as “my friend”  and we shared numerous warm conversations at Grotto Pizza over lunch or on his porch at the lake.  We enjoyed reminiscing about the days  at  Strayer Junior High and later at Milford Junior High where he finished his teaching career.   Bill rarely said a negative thing about anyone..  he was an optimist who focused on the good in people.

One night in the winter when I was sitting by the stove, I thought about the impact that Bill had on my life, and I wrote him a note, outlining all that I had shared at  Morning Meeting.  A week or so later, I got a call from him.. he had received my note and was calling to express his appreciation, and we agreed to meet at Grotto in the spring when he returned to the lake.    But that was the last time that we spoke..  a month or so later, I learned that he had passed away.   I often wonder if he knew all along that he might not make it till spring as he has been battling illness for quite some time.

Although the story ended on a sad note.. it was really a celebration of having an opportunity to share with Bill the impact that his life and work had on me and on so many other students.   I finished by encouraging those in attendance at dinner to  reach out to others to share thoughts of gratitude.

And then we sat down to another fine meal.. and I rounded out the day by working with my fellow faculty members on the dish crew…   and I left  to return home around  7:30 as the community was settling down to  study hours..     I left with a deeper appreciation for the work that my colleagues are doing on a daily basis..  their dedication to the students and to the program at Maine Coast Semester…     And I feel so fortunate to have had an  opportunity to teach at MCS  and to get a taste for the unique experience that it offers.

chew2The garden is a wonder to watch with each passing day.. signalling the full onset of spring but also reminding us that Semester 60 is quickly drawing to a close.  Tomorrow is the last day of formal classes, and in just a couple of weeks, the students will be saying good bye – they are already becoming sentimental – and so am I…

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The Lambs at Chewonki

The ewes at Chewonki are now  proud mothers…  the prize goes to the one who had 4 lambs all by herself!    I imagine that was a long day for her…    It certainly is a special time for the  Maine Coast Semester students and the Chewonki elementary students  to participate in the feeding and care of the new lambs.   It is also yet another sign that spring has arrived,  even if we continue to deal with some cold nightly temps..   lamb4 this little guy will never know that his picture is available to the entire world through this blog post!

lamb1 I guess that the moms know which lambs belong to them..  but I did observe two of them butting heads as one  seemed to be protecting  her little one…

lamb3these guys seem to be getting along pretty well..  maybe our politicians could learn a lesson or two if they spent a few hours on the farm at Chewonki!

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nothing like a mid afternoon nap!      The spring semester is well past the half way mark – only about 4 weeks of classes left before the students spend a week working on there capstone projects..  and then very quickly the semester will draw to a close.    My hope is that I will get to spend some quality time on the farm during that time.    It has been a gift to be able to spend this semester teaching at Maine Coast Semester..  I have met some new and interesting friends,  and I have had a chance to work with some great students.

But,  it is just about time to turn full attention to the work here in Georgetown with a number of exciting projects coming out way..  more on that in the coming weeks!

 

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!

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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 🙂

 

Monhegan Island – what a pretty house!

Monhegan Island - what a pretty house!

I have been off to Maine this past week with a group of students from my school. This was our fifth annual community service trip to Chewonki, a camp on the Maine coast in Wiscasset. We worked hard, lugging firewood, cleaning out the hay loft, painting a hallway, pulling thistle from the meadow, milking the cow, donning hip boots and wading into the frog pond to pull out the old docks, putting cedar shingles on an exterior wall, applying bottom paint to the sailboats and more.. it was an exhausting week, but collectively, these trips during the past five years have been the highlight of my career as a teacher.

For many of the students, the trip is their first to Maine. We do a lot more than simply work at the camp. We enjoy pizza on Ocean Point in East Boothbay, play mini golf, sample ice cream of often as possible, play games in the dining hall till lights out, visit small coastal towns ( this year we spent time in Bath and in Portsmouth NH). We had dinner at 5 Islands Lobster Company where a friendly fisherman from town gave me a tip on parking.. and, yesterday, we traveled to Monhegan Island. We had an absolutely glorious day.. not too hot.. clear as a bell.. we had to leave camp early to catch the 9 am boat out of New Harbor. The trip to the island is an hour in length. We saw a few porpoise on the way out.. Along with the students, this was my fist trip to the island.. it certainly will not be my last. I am including a few pics here, but there is so much to see. no cars.. just dirt roads and exciting trails along the perimeter and across the breadth of the island.. We spent the morning hiking, and we enjoyed visiting the shops in the village after lunch before catching the 3 pm boat back to the mainland. On the way in, we were fortunate to spot a seal sunning itself on the rocks…

I am already looking forward to making this a cruising destination next summer, once the boat is safe and sound in Maine.. all the more reason to get her in the water and her bow pointed north!

The kids had a great time all week, and it was so much fun to be with them. This is just the kind of experience that we older adults need to have in order to re-new our faith in the current generation!