It was never Carmelita Hinton’s idea that The Putney School would train farmers. Her idea was to give students an experience of real life that contributes to their sustenance. We plant and harvest on the scale of a small commercial operation. Working in the barn as well as the classroom, I am able to see students who shine in different places, in different ways. When you discover their passion, it’s a lot of fun to meet the students there.
Things are simple in the barn: tasks are clearly defined, but they take big effort. For many kids who have never done those tasks before, there’s a steep learning curve. There’s a lot of teamwork, but in the end, it’s my way or the highway. I have a completely different approach in the classroom.
In my history classes, I want the students to be open to the ideas of others, then begin to form their own ideas. I try to broaden their horizons and help them see what a wide, fascinating world it is. I look for some point of inspiration in a student that will turn into a lifetime of exploration.
Today in American Studies, we are finishing Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.” I told the class at the outset, ‘This is a group exploration. I don’t care what other people say about the book. We are going to make of this what we will.”
This unit is about slavery and its legacy. As a class, we arrive at many intense questions. We have to acknowledge that we aren’t going to be able to answer all of these questions… we can’t. But we are going to learn how we got to this point as a society. We need to know how we got here before we can discover how to go forward.