In the spring of 2011, after living abroad for two years, I began searching for work in my home state of Maine. I saw the Island Institute Fellowship on Islesboro, with the potential to work at the Health Center and Islesboro Central School, as a nice balance of community outreach, education, and life on the Maine Coast.
One day in March, about six months into my fellowship, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. I ate breakfast and enjoyed a morning walk down Keller Point, then headed off to school. By the time I arrived at Islesboro Central School at 8:00 a.m., a student’s laptop was already on my desk, stuck with a post-it saying “please install Adobe Design Studio.” First project of the day, check.
By mid-morning, it’s time for Spanish independent study. I head down to the conference room where my students, Pablo, Yolanda, and Fernando are waiting for me. The first question is always the same—when is lunch? “El almuerzo es a las 11:45, just like every other day, Pablo.” Vital information dispensed, we move on to conjugating irregular verbs in the present tense with the assistance of virtual flashcards from the Internet. At quarter of noon sharp (thanks, Pablo) we go upstairs to enjoy lunch prepared by Johnny, Islesboro Central School (ICS) chef extraordinaire.
After lunch I have some time to research interactive activities to reinforce biology lessons. That project complete, I join the fifth and sixth grade classroom to facilitate a 2:00 p.m. Skype session with the NOAA Research Vessel, the Henry B. Bigelow. The Bigelow traveled for five weeks between Africa and Australia, collecting phytoplankton samples along the way. Thanks to the Bigelow Education Team, students at ICS were able to follow the crew’s progress online, post questions on the ship’s blog page, and hold weekly check-ins via Skype connection. This week the class took a remote tour of the Bigelow computer lab.
The school day is complete, but I have more projects before my day is done. It is 3:30 p.m, time for the monthly Health Center Advisory Board Committee meeting at the Islesboro Health Center. Although I am not a voting member of the board, I attend the meetings, report on my work at the Health Center, and listen to health-related concerns of community members. Attending these meetings is what inspired me to organize an Islesboro Health Fair. The Fair is again a topic this month; we talk about raffle donations, food sales and the health care providers who will and will not be attending.
At quarter of five, I return to the school to coach the first Islesboro Ultimate Frisbee team. Ultimate Frisbee has long been a passion of mine. Often simply called Ultimate, it is the fastest growing high school sport in the state of Maine. Ultimate is one of few intramural sports that is self-refereed. As such, and with heavy emphasis on the “Spirit of the Game,” it teaches the players the importance of honesty and accountability. The level of enthusiasm the students are showing is phenomenal; 14 of the 38 high school students are on the roster. The Eagles will participate in the 2012 Maine High School Ultimate League, playing against schools from around Maine each Wednesday at the Cumberland Fair Grounds.
To round out the day, I teach a 6:30 p.m. adult education course titled, “Everything Spanish.” Part of the larger Islesboro Adult Education program, this is a four-week beginner’s introduction to Spanish language and culture. Although not part of my Fellowship on Islesboro, this class allows me to share a part of my life and, in turn, get to know community members I may not have otherwise met.
Halfway through my first year on Islesboro, I could not be more pleased with the decision to move here. The school children I work with, my colleagues at ICS and the Health Center, as well as the community at large have welcomed me with open arms. I look forward to the life and the work that has yet to come on my new island home.
Alex Hodges is the Islesboro Central School and Town of Islesboro Technology Fellow.