Ironwood Maine Web Update

“Teachers open the door, but you must enter yourself.”

Chinese Proverb

The leaves and temperatures are dropping here at Ironwood. Luckily, we are armed with rakes and winter coats. And as the weather changes, the students are going through their own transformation. The theme of this Weekly Update is centered around the student & staff dynamic. I am going to focus on how the development of a student impacts the individuals who work so closely with us through our program. 

All over campus we are gearing up for winter. Students are engaging in various therapy groups, enrichment activities and preparing for the annual Ironwood Fall Festival that is happening this Friday! We are looking forward to warm cider, Halloween costumes, pumpkin carving, and a slew of other activities! In the midst of the busy days, every student is working through something different. This development is supported by the guidance of the Ironwood staff. 

During the Farmhouse experiential on Monday, we took part in a trust and guidance activity. The group held onto a rope and walked around campus. However, there was a twist! We were blindfolded! The person in front of the line and the person in the back of the line were the only ones who were able to see. As we walked, the blindfolded students were guided by the students on each end of the rope. Before we began walking, we came up with some basic rules for the walk. For example, the leaders needed to be clear and prompt when giving verbal direction to the blindfolded students. This activity could be a metaphor for the dynamics between students and staff. They are committed to guiding us through the ups and downs of our program. They lead us and try to help us, but they cannot make the decisions for us.

For this Weekly Update, I had the opportunity to interview one of Ironwood’s Iconic Staff. This staff member has seen many people go through the program and is supportive, easy to relate to and so much fun to be around!

Student: Hi! It is a pleasure to sit down with you today! Let’s jump right into the questions. What perspective do you have of residents the first day they arrive at Ironwood?

Staff: I usually validate their frustration or confusion about being at Ironwood. I listen to them. If they are polite to staff, I thank them. I ask lots of questions and make an effort to get to know them. 

Student: What perspective do you have on residents who are graduating soon?

Staff: At that point, I have been a part of their entire program. It is great to see the growth that the students have made. The reconnection with their family is incredible to observe. To help students make plans for their future is satisfying and it is very rewarding to watch residents grow and mature. 

Student: I know you strive to make meaningful connections with all of the residents. Can you relate to some residents, and if so, how?

Staff: I can probably relate to every resident here in one way or another. But, I also try to help residents figure out their own way to deal with their own obstacles. 

Student: You have seen some significant growth in the student here. How has that impacted you?

Staff: It is a refreshing reminder of why I do this work. I am introduced to students that are anxious, angry, sad, or maybe not even able to identify their feelings.  After a while, I am able to support them in becoming a hard- working, confident and healthy. It is very rewarding. 

Student: Last question, if a song could describe you, what song would that be, and why?

Staff: “Hand Clap” by Fitz and The Tantrums. It is catchy and always puts me in a good mood!

Student: Perfect! I really appreciate you. And especially your approach to the day. I always remember your morning greeting of “it’s a great day to have a great day!”

This weekly update was written by a level 4 student at the Farmhouse. As we move into the winter season, students are developing into effective leaders, growing their skills and learning that Maine is beautiful during the fall! Like always, the relationship between staff and students is developing and getting stronger. The core of our culture is being encouraged always and we are growing into a healthy community. 

Happy fall y’all!