On the morning that he began his tenure as "principal for a day" at Curtis Bay Elementary School, British schoolteacher Timothy W. MacCormack was more than an hour tardy.
But he did arrive in the principal's office with an excuse.
"The taxi was late," he said.
Quite an example for the children, Mr. MacCormack.
But all the children noticed was that their guest talked funny -- an accent nurtured while growing up in Liverpool, where he attended grade school with John Lennon. Mr. MacCormack remembers the boy who would become rock 'n' roll's spokesman for peace and love as a playground brawler.
In classrooms on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. MacCormack has seen both bullies and angels.
"Basically children are the same everywhere," said Mr. MacCormack of his two-week Baltimore visit to study partnerships between private industry and public schools. "You'll always find the characters, the goody-goodies, the bright spots and the dark one, no matter where you go. Most children are helpful, they want to know. Before they lose their innocence, they don't see things in shades -- it's either right or wrong."
Filling in yesterday for Principal George "Lee" Logue, Mr. MacCormack found himself buying chocolate bars for a fund-raiser, giving out tickets to a local carnival, and touring classrooms where students have been collecting information on the British Isles.
On Monday he will read morning announcements over the public address system, including a recitation of that day's school lunch menu to about 400 students at the hilltop school on the far edge of South Baltimore.
The rest of the time, he is being shown around the city by officials of SCM Chemicals, the school's industrial neighbor on the Curtis Bay waterfront and a global corporation with a plant near the school in Grimsby, England, where Mr. MacCormack, 51, teaches the third grade.
In Baltimore, SCM has been working with Curtis Bay Elementary for five years, using employee volunteers to help students with gardening, tutoring and a science fair.
Back in England, the relationship is more primitive, Mr. MacCormack said.
"It's more like we call up and said, 'Hey, we need some goal posts for the athletic field,' " he said. "I want to go back and try to establish some continuity. Of what I've seen here I like the tutoring and, if all things were equal, the gardening program."
With the help of SCM volunteers, the kids at Curtis Bay have reaped annual harvests of corn, zucchini, tomatoes and other vegetables they grow on a nearby lot.
But what has most impressed Mr. MacCormack so far is a partnership at Curtis Bay that some might take for granted, one between the students and their parents. "I've spoken to several parents here who are in the school all day every day," he said. "We get some parent volunteers back home, but it comes with a bit of arm twisting."