Collins Brook, A Maine Free School
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Collins Brook School teachers gave me the gift of time, trust, and tolerance to find my own way. I remain to this day a curious and enthusiastic learner, continuously in search of ah-ha moments. This life-altering experience shaped the teacher I have become as I share my fascination for the act of learning with young students in my own classroom. Teaching is more of who I am than what I do. Collins Brook is a place and time very dear to my heart. It had an enormous influence on who I am, and was especially influential in my decision to become an educator; the experience still influences how and why I teach.
Lisa Shepperd, Collins Brook graduate, Art Educator
Crossing the street in Freeport, a man drove by in his car, slowed down and waved at me with his middle finger, and yelled at me, ”Why don’t you go back where you came from?” Granted, I had long hair and looked like a hippie, but I was startled, and hurt. I was shocked by his anger. But I felt at home in Freeport by then: this was my home, too. I worried when I saw unmarked cars on the road by the school, or occasional helicopters flying overhead. In response to news stories about the culture clashes around the country, the riots in the cities and the government responses, I felt protective, even paranoid. But I didn’t know what to do to defend our property and what we were doing there. I had heard about surveillance by the FBI and I thought we might be a target because of our new educational philosophy or because we looked like a commune. I strongly believed in our right to start, run a free school and, now that we were successful, expand. I wondered if any authorities had interviewed any neighbors, especially the one next door who owned the swimming hole. I never again saw the man who gave me the finger in town, but I wondered if he represented others who didn’t want us to exist. Nothing ever came of any of that, it was my own paranoia. We lived in Maine where we benefited from the fierce New England trait of independence.
from Chapter 6 We're 0pen 1969-70
Out sailing, I felt a needed freedom. I wondered if it was similar to the freedom the kids felt at Collins Brook. I felt less bound by space or time. I could feel the irony that I put all this work to create a free school, a school where kids could experience free choice, but I felt less free because of all the responsibilities. I was overwhelmed by everything at school and at home. I needed to be by myself, to find some peace. When I had a chance to sail, I was so intent to get away that I shortchanged myself on supplies; to leave the dock was more important than exactly what I had packed for food or clothes. I rejoiced when I could cast off the dock lines and watch the space open up between Wandoo and the float. Suddenly I was free, the boat moved out into the river and caught the current. I felt more peaceful already as I motored down the river, out past Pound of Tea island and into open water. Even when it was blowing, which it usually was by the time I got off, typically from the southwest, I felt engulfed by the peace of the islands of Casco Bay, the spreading sea and the wide sky overhead. The low fir-trimmed islands, settled and secure around the edge, waited serenely, as if that’s all they had to do. I steered toward my favorite overnight harbor, the cove at Jewell Island, on the outer edge of the bay, a quiet and secluded anchorage.
from Chapter 7 Animal Pancakes 1970-71
Morning Blessing Gift Meditations
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Morning Blessing Gift Of Touch
Also available on Insight Timer: lessons from my book
Lesson 1 The Four Quadrants: Balance
Awakening Human Consciousness and the Future of American Spirituality