Two years ago, I was looking for a change. I had been running my own small business doing social media + marketing consulting for local businesses – mostly restaurants – for nearly five years. I was feeling a little lost. I had come to the realization that at my core, I am a collaborator, a connector of people, a fundraiser. I loved the feeling of working for a mission, having a job where I could be a part of something bigger and make a difference. In the business world, my skills were applicable, but the work was not feeding my soul.
So, there I was sitting at Vent Coffee — ah, sitting in a coffee shop, I definitely miss that — and I decided to check in on LinkedIn. I wrote a post about the things I was looking for in my next home.
“I’m looking for a job. But not just a job.”
A competitive salary and benefits
A community where I fit
A mission I can believe in
<ping!> Message from Liz Dover, Head of School at The GreenMount School: “Please call me!”
Choosing Greenmount was the best decision for our family. The small class sizes assure that our child gets individualized attention and makes the school feel like a real community.
When I first met up with Liz to talk about the job, I didn’t know anything about The GreenMount School, not even where it was. I had worked at another area independent school for many years and for whatever reason, I had never really known anyone affiliated with GreenMount. I mean, it is very close to where I live, but the physical location is sort of hidden. “Just down the hill from The Dizz” is what Liz said. Fast forward a month, and I was offered the position of Director of Development and I was so happy to say yes.
Our parent community is made up of a really interesting mix of everything from doctors, artists, scientists, attorneys, entrepreneurs and more. I like that everyone brings something different to the group.
After I had accepted, I visited GMS on the day before Thanksgiving to fill out HR paperwork and the first thing that struck me was how warm and welcoming everyone was. A faculty member hugged me! (I really miss hugs right now.) And the people were genuine, real. I mean, everyone. The staff, the kids, the visitors for GrandFriends Day, everyone. Kids of all ages looked me in the eye and smiled. What I had missed about working in schools, it seemed I had found that again. Community. It felt really good.
The CO-OP aspect is really special. I love that I can sometimes do work at home to help teachers or go on a field trip with my daughter. Giving these hours not only saves us money on tuition and helps the school’s budget, but it also lets parents see school life from a different perspective.
The GreenMount School almost feels like a secret in Baltimore. However, we are 27 years old, AIMS (Association of Maryland/DC Independent Schools) accredited, and have about 110 students in grades K-8. There is a very active parent CO-OP component, so everyone feels part of the mission of the school. Parents log volunteer hours throughout the school year doing “jobs” like carpool duty, working at the front desk, subbing in classrooms, chaperoning field trips, volunteering at community events, updating the website, helping teachers with small class projects, baking treats for school functions — many jobs can be done outside of school. There is truly a CO-OP job for everyone. And, if that’s not feasible, you can “buy out” any unearned hours out at the end of the year.
GreenMount’s tuition is another big difference: roughly $13,500 instead of the average of $28,000 – $34,000 at other area independent schools. The CO-OP aspect allows for a much more affordable option for parents for whom those higher tuition amounts are impossible. Or maybe you’d just rather have a different KIND of school. And, we also give need-based financial aid, too. Part of my job now is to raise more money so that more deserving students can attend GreenMount. That feels really good, especially with the added financial stress families are feeling right now due to COVID-19.
So, distance learning. It’s something that our faculty pivoted to in a matter of days back in March. On what we thought would be our last day physically in school for a while, we sent kids home with Chromebooks and whatever other supplies they needed. The beauty of a small school is that we can be more flexible. And, we also know all of our students really well. And not just their own teachers know them — everyone in the school knows them and supports them.
The GMS school year is set up in three trimesters, with each trimester guided by a central theme. The three themes each year are based on history, culture and multiple intelligences, and all of the students’ learning during the trimester is wrapped around those themes. In science, language arts, theme studies (similar to social studies), math, music, art, etc – the theme is guiding them. It’s really amazing how that comes together.
When we went on a guided tour of The GreenMount School led by a 7th grader, we were blown away by how articulate and comfortable he and the other student ambassadors were in this leadership role. We wanted our daughter to go to a school that nurtured these qualities in their students. GreenMount delivered! With the guidance of faculty and staff and the encouragement of the community, she gained the self-confidence and communication skills we had hoped for.
When our kids graduate at the end of 8th grade, they go on to a lot of great schools like Poly, City, School for the Arts, Park, Friends, Bryn Mawr, Calvert Hall and many more. They all get accepted into their first choices. So, yes, they are very well prepared for high school. They can manage their time, they can organize their thoughts and communicate well and they definitely think outside the box.
One really important thing is (pre-COVID, however) that the students are outside daily. Whether exploring Stony Run in Explorations Class with Mr. Steve or checking on the garden in the Natural Playground, or, of course, daily recess and play. One of my favorite things is watching a class walk past my office door, excitedly talking about what they found along the stream or the art they saw on a walk to the BMA sculpture garden. I love that due to our building’s set up, my office is right in a main artery of the school. That’s really special. Sometimes Ms. Tristan’s 2nd graders come by to write me “checks” to buy pens and erasers or Ms. Sara’s K class comes by to take a poll about my favorite fruit or find examples of different shapes in my office. I love it.
One day I was dropping off my child and saw several 7th graders greeting first graders and hugging them, one by one. That would have been the last thing I would have thought to do with first graders when I was in 7th grade. I was really impressed by the sense of community, belonging and genuine affection the students had for each other.
GreenMount School to me is…eighth graders sitting with kindergartners showing them how to tie knots. It is a sixth grade teacher knowing that your third grader is having a hard time with reading comprehension and helping her over lunch. It is your fifth grader showing you what he learned last week and begging you to take him to the art museum.
Lastly, I’ve noticed that GreenMount kids of all ages have the ability to interact naturally with adults, peers, everyone. I see a sort of quiet confidence in them. They are taught to be critical thinkers, creative learners, to be collaborative, to help others. There is a mutual respect here within the student body. Kindness is abundant here.
I invite you to reach out for a virtual tour. You can ask questions, meet other parents and teachers. Your ideal school could be hiding in plain sight, right here in Remington.
I sure am glad I posted on LinkedIn that day. I am incredibly thankful to have found my new home. The GreenMount School is such a special place.
*Quotes provided by current and past parents.