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  • Writer's pictureMark Wagner

"These Are My People"

When I first started teaching, many years ago, one of my extracurricular responsibilities was to organize the school Outing Club. We took bike rides, went white water rafting, and, at least once a year, we went backpacking. It was on one of those backpacking trips that I found myself ambling along with a student named Ted. As happens on a hike, our group had gotten spread out on the trail, and for an hour or so Ted and I walked along together. And, as I am wont to do, I often paused to point out some bird, or bug, or flower, or rock, or tree that I found interesting. After stopping for the 10th or 11th time to listen to me blather on, Ted said, “Do you ever just walk through the woods, Mr. Wagner?” As Ted discovered, and as my family knows well, the answer is no, not really.

We all have subjects that just fascinate us. Not long ago I overheard two of our former students discussing pickup trucks. The detail with which they could describe exhaust systems, suspensions, and pound feet of torque was impressive. It was all Greek to me, but I could only admire the genuine pleasure they took in the conversation. And listening to them describe a truck they had seen out on the road one day, I realized that they see trucks differently than I do. I look at a truck and I see a truck. They look at a truck and see an endlessly fascinating masterwork of engineering.

Last spring I joined a class to train volunteers to work at a nature preserve down in Calvert County called the American Chestnut Land Trust. If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend it. It’s beautiful. The class included a nighttime hike in March to look for frogs and salamanders. That’s how I found myself and my headlamp out in the cold, wet woods with 20 other souls peering under rocks and logs in hopes of finding something cool. And I did. Under a log I discovered a spotted salamander. It was surpassingly beautiful; shimmery slate gray with day-glow yellow spots. One of my classmates happened by, and for a few minutes we shared the utter joy of visiting with this wondrous creature. Walking back to my car at the end of the evening I thought to myself: “These are my people.”

Mr. Wagner is the Head of School.


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