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Dr. Grauer's Column - Four Geese

Dr. Grauer is experiencing nature on the other side of the country in Maine this week, enjoying the quiet beauty of rain falling on the lake on an autumn morning while paddling in his kayak.

Four Geese

Greetings from Maine. To start, I’ve never known nights so dark. The morning I turned 72, I got up early, dragged a kayak onto the damp, grassy bank of the river, pushed off and started paddling to the north end, where I’d never been. I set out and it is wonderful how incredibly efficient paddling is with the wind low and the surface smooth, how clean and long the glide is. I am alone here and preparing to return to the school with a little ambiguity in my role, which I don’t mind. Dealing with almost constant distraction and ambiguity will mean far more to future leaders than I think I would want to deal with, though. Be good to them.

Dr. Stuart Grauer relaxing in the forest in Maine - September 30, 2022

The river, in coastal Maine, here in the town of Camden, pure, slick and dark, mirrored the greens and slight tinges of red and gold from the trees on the other side. Back at the cabin, I was in the middle of six books, literally, and I bought two more this week, all spread out over a farmhouse table, each representing for me something like a different life direction I seem to pick at random, each a victim of what we were calling interruptive technology for a while there. But out here, a paddle stroke is consuming and simple and uninterruptable.

After a few minutes, up ahead, a few pricks appeared on the still surface and sent out their concentric circles. Flies?

No, it wasn’t flies, and as the pricks increased, barely a sprinkling started spreading over me, along with what sounded like pink noise.

Pink noise is higher frequency than the “white noise” you’ve heard of, and common in biological systems. I prefer the lower frequency brown noise and can listen to it even during sleep. I love natural sound and I want my students and classes to have more of it, for health and concentration. (Read about Grauer Zenbells for more on sound in the classroom. [1])

I studied my sweatshirt and saw the evidence, that it was rain starting, or drizzle.

Beautiful lake and autumn leaves of New England - October 10, 2022

Up ahead was the trestle at Molyneaux Road where I was headed, and I was amusing myself at the mythology and storytelling in that vein: a low, dark trestle that you could paddle right under, passing by trolls, by fairies, entering the secret forest world, or Steven King stuff (another Mainer) that takes us away from it all. In general, even without books, I think it is the very young and the very old who have the greatest access to the spirit world, and mystery, and with gratitude on this day, I thought/felt I might qualify more.

I almost didn’t make it. As the rain continued, I involuntarily dipped my paddle in at the right angle so that the little vessel curved around a full 180 degrees, turning back. Why? What was that impulse?

Then it came to mind that I did not care a thing about how wet I got. I might like to get wet. I looked at the sky and figured there would not be lightning, then dug in a couple strokes, held the J position until I had completed the 360 and the little vessel was heading once again to the trestle. You could call that the climax of the story. I admit I was playing with the sense that continuing on revealed the natural optimism that had always prepared me for leadership, though such a tiny story, not exactly Leif Eriksson over here.

I soon was gliding in and under the trestle. In a burst, four geese were released from down in there and flew over me, hoarse and honking and cluttering their way out. I slid into a narrowing, shadowy green, riparian ecosystem, quiet and dark and deep. I sculled upstream till my hull was sliding like sandpaper over a rock, and now I could hear the light tinkling of a little rapid which came into view just ahead. I was at the end, enveloped like a cave, and stuck.

Four geese on the lake in Maine - October 8, 2022

I understand that here in this space is where stories are written, but this is just a blog. It’s all yours, story weavers.

I shimmied and pushed backward until I was off the rock, turned, paddled back up the lake in what felt like slow motion, and before long, I dragged the kayak back onto thick grass that my bare feet sank into, and went inside again.

I busted out a clutter of work emails, then resumed writing a review of our recent student expedition in Kentucky, the opposite end of Appalachia from where I am now. I had recorded themes students had made at the end of that trip. They were strong:

“I figured out what it would be like to live in a more green area.”

“I did scary things and I really enjoyed them.”

“I had compassion for the bugs…”

That was a great group. They would not have turned back in the rain. Now, from my desk, I looked outside and there were the four geese at rest before me on the lawn, like a lovely little theme. Settle down! Settle down. In another ten days, the first, light frost came, and the golds and reds started taking over trees all around. By then, which is now, I had settled into just two of my books. That’s it from Maine, so thank you to those who have been asking, I’ll be back before long.

[1] Dr. Grauer's Column: Zenbells - Trade Secrets of Naturalist Education - December 19, 2021.

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Photos for Dr. Grauer's Column

Dr. Stuart Grauer relaxing in the forest in Maine - September 30, 2022

The beautiful lake and autumn leaves in Camden, Maine - October 10, 2022

Four geese on the lake in Maine - October 8, 2022

Fearless Teaching® Book
by Dr. Stuart Grauer


Fearless Teaching® is a stirring and audacious jaunt around the world that peeks—with the eyes of one of America’s most seasoned educators–into places you will surely never see on your own. Some are disappearing. It is a bit like playing hooky from school. You will travel to the Swiss Alps, Korea, Navajo, an abandoned factory in Missouri, the Holy Land, the Great Rift Valley, the schools of Cuba, the ocean waves, and the human subconscious—oh, and Disneyland.

There you will find colorful stories for the encouragement, inspiration, and courage needed by educators and parents. Fearless Teaching is not a fix-it book—it is more a way of seeing the world and the school so that you can stay in your work and focus on what matters most to you.

"Grauer’s writing reminds us that Great Teaching, singular, rare, unusual, is something that should be sought after and found. Thank you.”
Richard Dreyfuss, Actor, Oxford scholar, founder of The Dreyfuss Initiative

Click here to order Fearless Teaching® today

Dr. Grauer's Column: Archive of Past Columns

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This week's column features guest columnist Trevor Olson, High School Dean at The Grauer School. Trevor shares the wisdom he learned from Jim, a 79-year-old father and grandfather, about the importance of acknowledgment and respect for others.

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Conservationist Bill Toone's new memoir takes readers on wild rides through jungle treks, across canyon-spanning footbridges, and pole barges as he faced dangerous conditions and difficult politics of conservation. Dr. Grauer became friends with Bill Toone through The Grauer School's conservation work.

Dr. Grauer's Column - Artificial Intelligence And Our Future School

The rapidly expanding reach of AI has the potential to reshape many aspects of our lives, including how students create their academic work. Our teachers are grappling with how to know when students submit original work, an issue that will be magnified when AI bots become even more prevalent and their output becomes more difficult to detect.

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