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The Tenth Anniversary of my Start at Dearborn Academy

January 24, 2012

The following is a bit of a departure for this blog, but I have been thinking about my other world lately, and here’s a little piece I wrote about the ten years I have been a teacher at the Dearborn Academy.

It may seem odd to start a discussion of my job with a description of the first time I left work for the day, but I remember the moment vividly. I had been through the orientation, but because of the lateness of my job change I still owed my old employer a week before I could start at Dearborn. For that reason my first day of work was one week into the start of the school year. I was overwhelmed. I was replacing a teacher who’d held my position for fifteen years. My students seemed vaguely to hold it against me that he had left. He had left, by the way, without leaving much in the way of project plans or ideas, and having never taught woodshop (or anything else, for that matter) I was scrambling to come up with project ideas for students ranging in age from 7-14. They were assigned to one of four teams rather than grades and I met with them in groups arranged by their math level (purely for scheduling reasons, when one half the team was in math, the other half was with me) not their woodworking aptitude. They had learning disabilities, emotional challenges, trauma, behavior issues, and the only common denominator was that their home school districts were unable to provide them with the education they were guaranteed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I was struggling to remember the names of the students, the names of staff, my schedule, seating charts, phone numbers, and which infractions of the behavior management rules called for which consequences. Simultaneously, I was trying to come up with interesting projects for my six classes. But as I was leaving the building, shuffling to my car at the end of that first day of teaching I was no longer thinking about any of that. On the way out to my car I found myself thinking what a hard place this was going to be to leave. I knew that I was beginning a job that might be challenging, overwhelming, underappreciated by the public, and exhausting, but it was also immediately obvious that it was necessary. It was clear that I was going to be part of a staff which was trying to help young people who really needed the help. Many of our students have been ill served by parents, or society, or schools, or biology, or any combination thereof. And I knew that I was privileged to be in a position to add my efforts to the cause. After ten plus years at this job many things have changed. Most of the challenges I found so daunting as a rookie teacher have become routine. I have developed a catalog of projects over the years suitable to the wide array of students we see come through our doors. Names, phone numbers, procedures, schedules are more or less second nature. But the one thing that has never changed is my firm belief in what we are doing. Every morning we greet our students and spend every moment until we escort them out at the end of the day working to make connections with them. We meet and discuss how best to support each student – looking at their strengths and challenges – and what we as a team can do to help them succeed. I believe that the most important thing we do is make our students feel they are important, that they deserve to be taken seriously, that they are known. It is good work, and I still feel lucky to be a part of it.

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