Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Finding Passion in DC

Kyle and I just returned from our first trip to Washington DC. This trip served dual purposes: one to see as much as we could, the other to visit and spend time with my husband's best friend, also named Kyle, and his wife, Shannon. Our friends are spending the summer in Bethesda, Maryland while he interns with the government. We landed in Baltimore around noon on Thursday. Kyle and Shannon picked us up at the airport and we grabbed a bite to eat. Then we headed to their home for the summer so we could drop off our things and plan the next few days.

We decided to stay in the Bethesda area for the rest of the day, and I'm so, so grateful we did. Shannon mentioned she had heard good things about taking a tour of Clara Barton's home in Glen Echo, so we decided to make the short drive there to do just that. Clara Barton is the founder of the American Red Cross and her Glen Echo home served as its headquarters starting in 1897. While I was there, I was introduced to two people who let their passions drive their lives. I couldn't help but think of my incoming first graders. I hope I can help them begin to identify their passions so they might make a difference in the way these two people have.

Kyle and I outside Clara Barton's home.

First of all, I was introduced to Clara Barton. I had heard her name, and I knew she was famous for her work as a nurse during the Civil War. That was the extent of my knowledge of her until I set foot in her home. What I had no idea about was how passionate Clara was about helping others. She knew she had gifts to offer, especially in times of disaster, and she challenged many thoughts at the time about what women should and shouldn't do. She not only served as a nurse during the Civil War, but she used that strong desire to help others to start the American Red Cross. Also, she used her passion for the things she was doing to give lectures to all kinds of audiences in the hopes of inspiring more people to step up and help. That's amazing!

Secondly, I met our tour guide, Kevin. He was by far the greatest tour guide we had during the trip, because I could tell he was doing something he loved. Kevin let us take the last tour of the day even though we got there about five minutes late. (We didn't show up late on purpose. We just didn't know about the timed tours.) We were the only people in the group, and he treated us as I imagine he would treat a group of important officials. He knew Clara Barton. He could answer any question we had, and I could see and feel his respect for her and her home. He spoke of many of the hardships Clara had to battle (e.g. starting the first public school in New Jersey but not being allowed to be principal because she was a woman) and it was almost as if his heart broke each time. About halfway through the tour, I realized how passionate he was about the history in that building and what it meant to our country and I found myself close to tears.

Clara and Kevin were certainly not the only passionate people I met during this trip. Our tour guide at the Capitol building was pretty incredible too, one of the rangers outside the Lincoln Memorial was able to answer all of our questions, and the ranger inside Ford's Theater was passionately answering questions about Lincoln's death and the moments leading up to it. In all of them, I could feel their love for what they were doing, and it made a significant impact on me.

Standing beside the Washington Monument

Just outside the Capitol

I want to be Kevin for my students. I want them to see my passion for learning and to be inspired by it. More importantly, I want to help them identify their own passions and share those passions with the world around them. In a sense, I want them to be little Kevins. My hope is for my classroom to be so much more than reading and writing and math and science; I want it to be a place where my students can come to explore their world. While I will certainly push to meet standards, I don't want them to be the focus. I don't want to get lost in the world of numbers and percentages. My students are people with real thoughts and feelings, and I want to respect them in every way I can. My trip to DC was unlike any trip I had taken before. It was filled with wonder and learning, and I want to duplicate that in my classroom.

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