Ironwood Maine Web Update

“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”

Booker T. Washington

            Beginning a few weeks ago, Farmhouse students have been involved in weekly discussions centered on character development. Each week, students are presented a trait and classroom exercises are designed around it. Students are also assigned a reading each week that entails a biography of an iconic individual who exemplifies the discussed trait. This past week, the word discussed was “perseverance”; the iconic individual was Booker T. Washington.

            Booker T. Washington was born into slavery and later forced to deal with many unfair obstacles of Reconstruction and the Jim Crow south. From a very young age, he worked daily from sunup to sundown while living in extreme poverty. As years went on, Washington desired one thing above all else….an education. For the first few years of his life, it was illegal to educate a black person in the south. His only experience of school was carrying books for a slave master’s daughter to the schoolhouse. After the Emancipation Proclamation, Washington continued to work long hours for the purpose of his, and his family’s, survival. He never kept the idea of obtaining an education out of his mind. He eventually made an arrangement with his step-father; Washington would work between 4:00-9:00 AM, go to school during the day, and work an additional two hours in the evening. He was determined to get an education no matter how hard he had to work or what he had to overcome. This determination led him to become the first principal of an all African American college (Tuskegee Institute). This institution grew dramatically under his leadership. Today, Booker T. Washington is considered to be a pioneer for the educational growth and potential of African Americans.

            In talking about Washington with Ironwood residents, not only did we discuss how often educational opportunities are taken for granted, circumstances on what causes individuals to abandon these opportunities also became a focal point. Examples of these circumstances were negative peer influences, developing unhealthy habits, family struggles, and not seeing the relevance of an education. As the discussion evolved, recognition about personal obstacles became apparent. Times have changed; we don’t have to persevere through the challenges Booker T. Washington faced. However, as we continue to grow and strive to reach our goals, many of us have to overcome our own personal hurdles. 

            This is my 21st year in education. I have asked a variety of classroom groups over the years, “How many of you believe school is important?” I am happy to say when I asked this question to the Farmhouse group this past week, everyone raised their hand. In all of my years of education, this was the first time I have seen every single hand raised after asking the question. Reaching educational milestones is important. These students recognize it isn’t always easy moving along the education continuum. I was pleased to see they all vocalized the importance of pushing themselves through the difficult times for the purpose of reaching their goals….persevering. 

           Daily challenges need to be overcome even during “normal” times. Covid-19 has presented another layer of challenges as we all are striving to make the best of a less than ideal situation. The importance around routine and structure are crucial in our Ironwood students’ progression. As they continue to learn character development traits each week, I truly hope they recognize each obstacle they have overcome; persevering while recognizing their own personal achievements.

Written By Matthew Littlefield, Director of Education