Tomorrow is the first day of Intrepid Academy at Hale. Not the first day of the school year, or the first day of the semester. The first ever day of Intrepid Academy at Hale. I am excited, nervous, uncertain, and have a strong “sick Sunday night” feeling in my stomach. But that’s OK. The best experiences in life are often the ones that scare you.
To catch you up in one paragraph: The Intrepid Academy at Hale (IAH) is an outdoor semester day-school for Boston Public School students held at the Hale Reservation, a 1,100-acre plot of woodlands, ponds and streams. Every day 48 high school juniors will go to their high school in the morning, then get on a bus and be driven 20 minutes to Hale, where they will have school in an outdoor setting before returning home again in the afternoon. We will focus on exercise, nature, independent, student-led projects, small advisories, a long-view humanities curriculum and anything else that students want to incorporate. While I have been working on this for the past 4 months since moving to Boston, the original idea-seed was planted nearly 10 years ago by the founders Seamus and Eric.
So here we are, the day is finally upon us. Students arrive tomorrow. Are we ready? Sure! As ready as we’re going to be. If you had asked me 2 weeks ago, I would have had a very different answer. Two weeks ago, I was focused only on logistics: what’s the daily schedule? Do we need to order rugs? How will we grade the students? What gear do we need? Then, after a lengthy, somewhat inefficient meeting, I sat down with a co-worker and we talked. For 2 hours. We got into it. We dove deep into the “why.” Why are we doing this program? Why am I doing this program? Why is this important for our students? Soon I realized that those logistics don’t matter. It doesn’t matter if we have rugs on the floor, or if we have a finalized schedule on day 1. What matters is that our students know we care about them and that we are going to do everything in our power to help them grow, learn, challenge themselves and discover new passions. This program is not about what I can give students (how to hike, or set up a tent, or exercise). It’s about finding out what they need and meeting them there. It’s about telling them, and showing them that they are special. That they are important. That their lives matter.
It’s going to be a hell of a ride. I will have plenty of stories to tell Annie over dinner. I’m sure I’ll cry at some points and laugh a lot. I’ll grow frustrated, then inspired, then frustrated again…probably all in the same day. My expectations are high, but I’ll burn those tomorrow. My fears are significant, but I’ll burn those too. I’ve done all the prep that I can and I’m feeling ready, as ready as one can feel about to embark on a brand new adventure. Guess there’s not much more to say here, wish me luck!