…At least the good ones are

Written by Eric Burnham

Personal growth, to me, means becoming the person I was designed to be. I’m not too sure where the balance is found between nature and nurture in the formation of my spirit as a unique human being. I do know, however, that I’m just one incarcerated man trying to overcome my past mistakes and make a positive impact on this crazy world. I kind of think that’s what life is all about: taking the bad and using it for good. Eric Burnham #12729124 Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution 2500 Westgate Pendleton OR 97801

October 20, 2023

Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash

I still can’t believe it. When I think about it, it still feels impossible, but you guys are really gone. Honestly, it is difficult to resist an encroaching sense of bitterness toward a bureaucratic system that failed to take care of the people who made more of a rehabilitative impact upon me than anyone else has during my 22 years in prison, or in my entire life for that matter.

For those readers who are wondering what I’m on about, I was a tutor in the GED program for the last 16 years…and now…I’m unemployed because Blue Mountain Community College felt it prudent to allow a 37 year contract with the Department of Corrections to expire without even an attempt to renew it. Consequently, the GED program at EOCI died along with the contract – and what is worse, there was no effort made by the Department of Corrections to retain the dedicated teachers who made the GED program so successful over the years. The teachers…are gone…moved on and found new employment elsewhere, and even now, months after the contract ended, there is still no GED program at EOCI.

It sometimes feels like the administrative bean counters who think shit up while sitting around an oval mahogany table with their rolled up sleeves, starched white shirts and party approved power ties seem to believe that the task of effectively educating and positively impacting the disenfranchised, broken and discarded is such an easy job that anyone can do it. Well, not just anyone CAN do it, and we are all worse off for that assumption. It is a harsh reality that people often matter so little in the halls of power that support is not given to the change-makers responsible for lifting up those left behind by the fast-past, results-orientated, self-centered nature of contemporary culture. Makes you sort of wonder how the decision-makers feel about those of us who depend on the change-makers. At least the beans are counted, I guess, but I feel like people deserve better, at least those people did.

So…Thank you Mr Villers, Mrs Reed, Ms Doherty, Ms Bennett, Mrs Youncs, Ms Bose and Mrs Shutte. Thank you for weaving love, compassion and respect into your professionalism. Thank you for your time, effort and expertise. Thank you for the knowledge, the skills and the moments. Thank you for the tolerance, patience and acceptance. I took away something special from each one of you and I won’t ever forget you. I will never be the same because I knew you and I’m forever a better person because I was known by you. Working with you over the last 16 years was an incredible and invaluable experience for which I will always be grateful. I may never see you all again, but you are people who exemplified what it means to be teachers – in every sense of the word. I miss you all so much, but I guess teachers are supposed to be missed…at least the good ones are.

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