(This post is written by Zoe Woodbridge, Fairhaven School class of 2009 and current substitute. Enjoy!)
Over the years, there have been many things I have come back to: places, relationships, poems. Fairhaven has always been and will be one of those places I come back to. Though I’ve accomplished a lot away from Fairhaven, I continue to think of it as my jumping off point for finding my place and voice in the world.
After graduating from Fairhaven, I attended Washington College in Chestertown, MD. I studied sociology and creative writing, among other things. I had no problem transitioning into the grading system of college, though I had also gone to public school through 9th grade. At Fairhaven, I had considered myself a leader by being a JC clerk several times and School Meeting Chair two years in a row, along with being involved in different corporations such as Music Corp and Theater Corp. It was partly because of this that I felt comfortable becoming president of the Dance Club at Washington College, as well as a Peer Mentor for incoming freshmen.
In my experience working with people and taking sociology classes, I became very interested in social work. After graduating, I decided to move to Massachusetts and pursue a job in the field. I ended up getting a job working with a non-profit company, doing outreach work with children and families. This experience solidified my decision to stay in the social work field. Even at Fairhaven, I knew I loved working with younger children and adolescents and that I wanted to have a career involving this in some capacity.
After a year of living in Massachusetts, I decided to come back home to Maryland. On a whim, I decided to email Mark and ask if they were looking for any substitute staff. Luckily, they were, and I’ve been subbing since November. Mark calls working at Fairhaven “the impossible job.” And truly, I can’t imagine working here unless I had also gone to school here. “It takes one to know one” as they say, and it takes a Fairhavener to understand the workings and quirks of Fairhaven.
My first day subbing, I helped two younger ones with an art project, learned a new card game, attended a Theater Corp meeting, and caught up with students from when I was a student (who are now taller than me), all in one day. It’s a strange thing to see kids who used to sit on my lap now preparing for graduation, applying to colleges, and driving their own cars. It makes me feel old, but proud of them.
I’m still fascinated with the Judicial Committee process after all these years. I’d almost forgotten how to write someone up, but I had to because of a mess she’d made. In JC, I was surprised at how quickly she pleaded “Guilty!” and proceeded to suggest a sentence of “must clean up mess immediately, and three days restricted from the art room.” I looked incredulously at this five year old, already taking accountability for her actions at such a young age and able to admit that she had broken a rule. I couldn’t help but think that this wouldn’t have happened at a “regular school.” After subbing at one, I can tell you that I enjoy subbing at Fairhaven much better. I was actually able to help this student clean up her mess, and she felt so proud of herself for the work she had done. I told her she was great at cleaning, she just needed a little practice. It was one of those “teachable moments” I’ve heard about but rarely experienced as an adult.
One of my favorite things about coming back to Fairhaven is the woods. On one day when I wasn’t sure what to do, I asked Becka, fellow staff member, if she had any suggestions. She said she had been meaning to sweep the steps down to the woods if I felt like doing that. I took the chance to put on an orange vest and venture into the woods on such a gorgeous fall day. There was a fresh batch of leaves that had fallen on top of already decaying leaves on the steps, so I took my time sweeping while enjoying the quietness of the woods. After sweeping, I took the liberty of walking the path through the woods to the tire swing. I’ve heard the phrases “flooded with memories” and “sensory overload” before, but nothing like when I started walking into the woods. I remembered when I would come here to write, or have a picnic, or just get away from everyone after running a stressful school meeting. Having a place like that to come back to is priceless.
So for now, I’m working at Fairhaven and providing childcare while still applying to jobs in the social work field. Working with children with mental health diagnoses has become my passion and I hope to someday be a therapist or school counselor. I’ve applied early decision to the University of Maryland School of Social Work for Fall 2015 and hope to continue my education there. Because of Fairhaven, I value education more than I did when I was in public school. I believe that we continue to educate ourselves, whether in a formal classroom setting or by talking with friends, throughout our whole lives. Places like Fairhaven help to foster both forms of education, along with many others. Honestly, I don’t know what I or my family would’ve done without it.
I have to confess, I did swing on the tire swing that day. I pushed it up to the top of the hill and jumped onto it without falling off and closed my eyes. And for a few seconds I was a student at Fairhaven again. After all, it is one of my favorite places to come back to.