Lessons from Woodberry

Woodberry Hall

This past weekend, we celebrated Mr. UpCyclist's birthday.  We made his special day a Yes Day, which means he had carte blanche to choose all the activities for the day and Miss O and I had to say YES.   Our family digs Yes Days.  You can read about our other Yes Days here, here, here, and here.

As part of his Yes Day, he picked "going out for dinner."  I knew this might be an interest of his, so I was holding an early reservation at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore.  We had heard of Woodberry Kitchen before, but had never been.  Boy, was it lovely.  In the photo above, you can see their Woodberry Hall.  They were setting up for a private party as we arrived, so I imagine it is a room you can reserve for special occasions.  I was ready to move into the whole place - the hall, the restaurant, the string-light laced outside seating area, the old steel mill buildings, you name it.  The look and vibe of Woodberry completely spoke to me.

Woodberry Kitchen  & Mr. UpCyclist
Miss O at Woodberry Kitchen
Upstairs at Woodberry Kitchen
Jen and Miss O at Woodberry Kitchen

It was more than the ambience, though, that inspired this blog post.  It was the whole experience. I left Woodberry thinking there were some important lessons an educator could adapt from Woodberry's thoughtfulness.  Lessons you could take back to a classroom (including an online classroom, too).

Lessons from Woodberry

1.  Environment plays a huge role.  No matter the situation, environment plays a tremendous role in how students feel and behave.  My family and I felt welcomed at Woodberry like we were guests in their home.  The staff and the vibe of the environment contributed to this.  Dr. Maria Montessori said 100 years ago the third participant in education after the child and teacher was the environment.  The same holds true today. An intentional environment has a major impact on how people feel and behave.  What are you intentionally doing to create a welcoming environment for your students?  What could you tweak or improve?  

2.  Make the people in your environment feel special.  Miss O, as you know, is on a special diet indefinitely.  Being gluten-free can be tricky when eating out.  At Woodberry, however, Miss O was treated like a rockstar.  She had her own special, gorgeous menu.  Her g-free bread arrived first and was delicious (instead of it being the waitstaff's after thought).  Since we were celebrating Mr. U's birthday, the waitstaff surprised him (and us) with a special dessert and candle.  I don't even remember telling anyone at Woodberry it was his birthday.  Maybe they asked when I made the reservation?  I can't recall.  But, I do know how special we all felt as we dined and now days later, how special each of us still feels.   How do you let your students know they are special to you? 

3. When your staff feels appreciated it shows.  I can't tell you how many times I've been to a school and have noticed the employees looking so sad and downtrodden.  It is heartbreaking to me.  At Woodberry, the staff was vibrant.  They each floated around the restaurant supporting each other while they kept up with the needs of the patrons.   I used to work in restaurants and bars all through my 20s and thought several times during the night at Woodberry, "If I were to work in a restaurant again, I would definitely want to work here."  The employees of Woodberry looked appreciated and you could feel it.  How do you show your appreciation to the people in your environment - your colleagues, support staff, class volunteers, and parents?

I left Woodberry wishing more people - teachers, parents, business owners, coaches - could be more Woodberry-like.  If we all would create more thoughtful, welcoming environments where others felt special, valued, and appreciated how might the people around us feel and behave differently?  What would the impact be?

Celebrating Woodberry and tipping my hat to them,