Whatever You do, don’t Move into the District

“Whatever you do, don’t move into the district.” After graduation, a professor bestowed that advice unto me, not referring to my future district in particular. Instead, his recommendation was aimed at ensuring my personal and professional lives remained separate. What he couldn’t have told me was, as a teacher, the distinction is nearly impossible.

Heeding his advice I quickly drew a map of prospective towns to live in—all bordering the large EHS district. What I failed to realize was no geographic distance or astute apartment placement could distinguish between teacher-me and outside-school-me. In five years, between college and graduate school, I have moved to five different towns. Living in an apartment naturally feels temporary, yet when I moved here that changed. I find myself waving to my freshmen as they bag groceries at Market Basket, chatting with them as they serve me at my favorite restaurants, and standing in line behind them as they too go to the movies on Friday nights.

In turn, I too felt the devastation when EHS suffered the loss of Officer Stephen Arkell, an EHS coach and the father of two current EHS students. Officer Arkell was killed in the line of duty in Brentwood, a town within our district. EHS is not a stranger to tragedy, yet within my two years here, it has been the second time I have seen this school and community join together to support one another. While I did not know Officer Arkell, I have felt his loss through the parents, teachers, and students of this community. Returning to normalcy when nothing feels normal is difficult, especially for teenagers, many of whom are witnessing death and tragedy for the first time. My heart bleeds for his daughters, the eldest of which I knew, as well as my colleagues and the countless students I have and had who are pained over the loss of Officer Arkell. I drive through Brentwood everyday on my way to and from work; I see the signs thanking Officer Arkell for his service, and I am reminded of how many of my students must have watched the black plume of smoke from the fire at the crime scene hang over their town. I see the empty seats in my classroom of those students who knew Officer Arkell as a family friend or coach.

As I stood at the candlelight vigil last week, I recognized faces of students, parents, and colleagues. The reality is that district lines don’t define communities. When I became a teacher, I joined more than a school. I proudly became part of a population that has the strength to face tragedy with exceptional support and compassion. I followed my professor’s advice: I didn’t move into the district. But he failed to warn me that the district would find a place to settle down within me.











5 responses to “Whatever You do, don’t Move into the District”

  1. Debbie says :

    Jackie: So well said and moving. You have captured the essence of community in small town America. Thank you.

  2. teachergirlblog says :

    Wonderful post! Thank you for speaking for all of us who are part of this community.

  3. Deb Wheeler-Bean says :

    It’s almost impossible to not have this district imprint upon your heart , regardless of where you live. Thank you for your beautiful words, Jackie.

  4. Carol Dawson says :

    You have captured my sentiments. We are indeed a community that knows how to come together with a human safety net of understanding.

  5. Erika B. says :

    You are incredible! What a way to honor Officer Arkell, his family, friends, and colleagues. Your district, EHS, and students are so lucky to have you.

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