REA 2013 conference: remembering Grace Mitchell

The location of this year’s Religious Education Association conference has a peculiar significance to me. From the window of my hotel room, I can just see Winter Street where it crosses Route 128 and heads into Waltham. Back in the summer of 1973, I used to commute along that road on the way to my first paid job in education, working as a very junior counselor at day camp of Green Acres Day School in Waltham. Technically, I was unpaid staff — after all, I was only thirteen years old — but at the end of the summer the camp gave the junior counselors an honorarium of, I think, fifty dollars.

The founder and executive director of the camp was Grace Mitchell, a progressive educator; she is probably best to known to other educators for her long-time column in Early Childhood magazine. Looking back, I realize that I absorbed quite a bit from her approach to education, especially her sense that the timing of education should not be set by the ringing of bells, but rather by the engagement of the children themselves.

So being here in this part of Waltham brought back a lot of memories of that first job in education (including many uncomfortable memories of my early failures as an educator). Green Acres Day School was sold many years ago, and the land has been built up with condos. But there are quite a few of us who worked there, who continue to work in education, and who carry Grace mitchell’s legacy of progressive education forward.