I fell into teaching the way that many humanities graduates do: we need to find a way to make a living in a society that does not value the arts if there is no monetary gain to be made from them. I was a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Vermont when I learned about writing pedagogy and was responsible for teaching my first classes. Perhaps unconsciously, I fell in love with teaching as a vocation, not just a practice or set of skills. Engaging with students, discovering what their passions are and how to help them find value and worth in the pursuit of them, is invigorating, and feels like important work.
When I learned about The Putney School, I was immediately drawn to its progressive philosophy and commitment to social justice. I had quite a traditional education in high school, and I struggled with that deeply. It seemed that many of my teachers wanted me to learn content that they deemed important, but they did not place value in discovery, in creativity, or in questioning everything that I was being taught. These are values and skills that I’ve come to hold dear, and I believe that building a more just society necessitates the use of these skills.
Putney is a place that gives teenagers the space to figure these things out for themselves, with guidance from caring and empathetic adults. We believe that teenagers are capable and powerful, and encourage them to see that. As a result, the students here truly take responsibility for building this intentional community. I learn so much from them and my colleagues daily.