Dr. Charles Kramer has worn many hats in his career – from managing programs for Kennedy Krieger to running special education programs for schools that had been taken over by state, and from working in a ward for boys with severe and emotional behavior disorders to teaching in a school for teen mothers. Now, principal at Patterson Park Public Charter, he shares why he loves the educational philosophies at Patterson Park and how technology has fundamentally changed teaching and learning.

{And you don’t want to miss his advice for students!}

Charles Kramer
Patterson Park Public Charter School

When did you decide you wanted to be a principal?

I had heard that Patterson Park Public Charter School needed help about nine years ago. I became interested in the school, and when the opportunity came up, I grabbed it. I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to become part of a school like Patterson Park, which truly dedicates itself to treasuring the whole child.

What is your favorite part of being a principal?

The kids. We have a really diverse, interesting group of kids and families here from all across the city, and they’re all great.

What is your least favorite part of being a principal?

I guess my least favorite part would be the bureaucracy. At the same time, when it goes right, it has the potential to be very helpful. For example, when the whole school system works together to get funding for projects, it can be a great tool.

How do you think technology has changed your school?

It is so important. As adults, technology is the way that we manage information, how we deal with the world around us. The sooner kids become familiar with that, the better. We use it to create access for our students to the wealth of resources all over the world. We have buddy classrooms in other states and we use it to gain an authentic audience for student work. Technology also allows us to provide more individualized instruction to students of all ability levels.

We want to make sure to infuse technology education into upper elementary school classes, while still encouraging green time, not just screen time. There’s something about the feel of paper books in your hands, about the smell of a book, that is important in literacy. We need to honor both the older tradition – the way we were raised – and to identify where this newer work of open text is really important.

What was your favorite subject when you were a student?

I had a number of science teachers who really turned me on to thinking critically. They were tough, but boy, were they insightful. And they didn’t shy away from presenting us with some really challenging material.

When you were a student, what were your principals like?

I didn’t know my principals. I rarely remember seeing my principal; if you got in trouble, you saw the assistant principal. Schools are run so differently now. We’re in classrooms regularly, teaching classes, or just getting to see the kids.

Which season is your favorite, and why?

I really love fall. The beginning of school is such a great time. Every year it’s a little different – There are new kids, new personalities, new people to invite into this wonderful school community. Every child comes to us with his or her own story to tell.

How do you think having a uniform affects your school?

As a parent, I will say that it makes mornings so much easier. As a principal, I will say that uniforms make a powerful statement. When they put that uniform on, students really feel that they are all set for school and that they can step up with pride and begin the school day. They help to build a culture of success.

What do you like best about your school?

We’ve been really fortunate that we have this great community of people who helped found the school and who continue to collaborate on the school’s mission and vision. They have helped us to concentrate not just on what school should do for the short term, but to constantly review what we expect for the school. For example, a few years ago the entire school community got together and really wanted to redefine ourselves. After a full year of work, we came up with four standards that we would like our school to define itself by: hands-on and interdisciplinary thematic instruction, character building, the incorporation of arts and creativity in every part of the classroom, and the ability to challenge all students while still giving them the support that they need to succeed.

Can you share one piece of advice you have for kids?

Take risks – the right kind of risks. Go out there and try things, several times over, to get used to failing. Do things that you’re sure you’re not going to be good at. You’ll either get good at those things or find out what you don’t like, which is important too.

Patterson Park Public Charter School is a Public Charter school located at 27 North Lakewood Ave, Baltimore, MD.

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