First of all, I don’t work in a classroom. I do have two very different views from the two very different offices from which I work. I haven’t been splitting my time between these two spaces for very long – it’s been a little over a year now. The fact that I have these two very different views is part of the reason I’m taking this course.
The first window, the one I’ve enjoyed for the last eleven years, is of Portland Harbor in Maine. I see a lawn, sometimes occupied by 5th or 6th graders visiting our lab in Portland to participate in LabVenture!, one of the signature education programs of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI), where I work. As often I see tankers, tugs and barges, or container ships coming or going on the Fore River. I see the fishing vessels tied up on the piers (over the last ten years, their numbers have dwindled, but the few that are left now spend less time at sea than they once did). I see the sky. Occasionally, I see the moon rise. In the summer evenings or winter afternoons I often see the Band of Venus, the pink shadow of the earth on the atmosphere. I often call my colleagues’ attention to the view when something special is happening – a ship going by, a striking cloud formation, a rainbow, the moon. This view makes my heart ache and makes me feel lucky. I feel so fortunate to get to look out this window.
My second view is decidedly more developed and urban and foreign. My second desk is in a NYC living room, from which I can see several brick, 3-story buildings, an intersection, and one very busy cherry tree (birds, birds, birds!). I can see a little section of sky. Occasionally a troop of kids will walk by on their way to Central Park, flanked by protective and wary adults. Lots of ambulances use these streets, though I hear them more than I see them, their wails lasting far longer than the brief glimpses I get. I’ve seen an arrest, with four cops with guns drawn taking a suspect down to the ground with shouts and drama. I see the same man walk slowly by several times a day with his two loose-limbed, aged dogs. I see people all dressed up on their way to work, all dressed down on their way to the park, and everything in between. I saw one particularly lovely cloche hat on a woman one drizzly day. I see planes in the sky, and occasionally the moon. I never see a star. Yet this view also makes me feel lucky – I’m on the sunny corner of a relatively quiet neighborhood in a world famous city, just a short walk from Central Park. I work from this living room on the weeks when I’m visiting my NYC-shackled man. Over a year in, it still seems very foreign.
So, those are my views from my windows… how have they influenced my perspective on education?
Maine water is where my education really started, as an instructor for the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School. I spent six summers in little boats, mostly with 14-16-year-olds, sailing and rowing and living along the coast of Maine. I taught navigation and sailing and cooking. I learned from my students how to stop fighting rain, how important a little humor can be, how to expect people, including myself, to surprise me. The little boat taught cooperation and teamwork and responsibility and respect for effort. The cold water we slipped into each morning and the rocks we climbed taught us all that we are capable of more than we think. Seeing the ocean from my desk at GMRI reminds me of these lessons, reminds me that lessons are best learned when they aren’t contrived but are real, when they are immediate rather than theoretical.
The NYC-shackled man very much wants me to move to NYC. I may know something about education, but I certainly don’t know much about urban anything. And I’ve never taken a class in education. And I think very highly of Fred. Altogether, this Introduction to Global Urban Education seemed like a great opportunity. I’m not sure yet how the view from my NYC desk will shape my education thinking, but it has lead me to this course. I have a lot to learn. And learning inevitably changes thinking. I’ll probably have a better answer in eight weeks.