Interview With Edward M. Barcott

From the interview with Edward M. Barcott of Port Townsend conducted by Pam Clise at the Fort Worden History Center on January 28, 2003.  Mr. Barcott was a teacher at the Juvenile Diagnostic and Treatment Center from 1959 to 1971.  Here he shares his experiences as a beginning teacher:

“I came originally just to fill out a year’s contract.  One thing led to another and I just stayed.  The longer I stayed the more I liked it.  It was an interesting job, fascinating, with a lot of support.  The wonderful thing about this place was the staff and the support.  The teachers were involved with the social workers, the psychologists.  We had Cottage Committee meetings on every youngster every four to six weeks, and some of them a little sooner because the kid was more troubled.  It was an ideal situation because it was a learning experience all the time with a lot of good support.  When you first started, you started with locking yourself in a classroom with students, but you only had about a dozen of them.  The reason there was only a dozen was that they were either slow learners or non-learners and hostile.  They didn’t want to be there.  It was kind of scary, but after you got involved and learned the ropes a bit, it was workable.  They did an excellent job here, I think, better than most places by far.  I first had basically young men and I was in Evergreen Cottage.  My students were in an age group of 8th or 9th graders, but they were all behind, so they were all on the same page as far as what we did.  I just had a class that I worked with in social studies, English, math and reading.  I used comic books.  Some kid didn’t want to read, and I thought, ’Okay, how do you get them in a book?’ But they would read comic books, so I used comic books and it worked.”

In response to being asked how he learned to interact with the students:

“That’s where the Cottage Committee came in, which was critical.  They gave you insight into the youngster and the background.  I remember walking behind a kid (I was from a touchy family and always had a habit of touching kids) and I put my hand on his shoulder and he jumped.  I found out later he had been banged around a lot.  You were a little more cautious after that, you don’t touch unless they give you permission by a clue. The part of it  that was the hardest to learn, because you thought everyone was from a normal background and everything was okay.  When you learned where they came from and what they’d been through, it was amazing they were still able to function.  One of the most difficult things was that their self-image was way down low.  I remember walking with a kid from Eastern Washington down to the Ad Building, he was looking down at the ground, head down.  I said, ’Look up,’ and he said, ‘What for?’  I said, ‘Be proud of who you are!’  It took a long time for some of them to walk with their heads up.  The first few years we tried to send as many kids home as possible at Christmas time.  The kids would come back before Christmas Day.  They were safer here, they had a meal here.  They came back here rather than stay home.”

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