【Faculty Voices】 Episode 4: “The Decision to Stay” – Dr. Patrick DOUGHERTY

You may have seen the faces of our faculty members, be it in a face-to-face classroom, an online classroom discussion, the university brochure, or possibly, through their professional outputs. But do you know how they really are as individuals?

This Faculty Voices series aims to acquaint you with some of our unique faculty members in the form of a relay essay by the faculty themselves. You will have a chance to get a glimpse of the faculties’ personal agenda, concept on life, philosophy, and memories, as well as their area of profession and research theme.

The fourth episode is from Dr. Patrick DOUGHERTY.

After Dr. Dougherty obtained his Ed.D. at Northern Arizona University in the United States, he has been teaching in the United States, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, and Japan since 1989. He has started teaching at AIU as the Head of the English for Academic Purposes Program from September 2013, and has assumed office as the Dean of Academic Affairs of AIU from September, 2019.

Dr. Dougherty has offered us a message under the theme My struggles during my youth.


The Decision to Stay

Autobiographical Information:

My name is Patrick Dougherty. I grew up in a small rural town called Buchanan, in the state of Michigan, in the USA.

In my undergraduate program, at the University of Portland in Oregon, I majored in history with a minor in English literature. I received my first MA in history, my ME in education, a second MA in Applied Linguistics, and a doctorate in Education. Three of the graduate degrees, including the doctorate were done at Northern Arizona University. My MA in Applied Linguistics was completed at the University of Southern Queensland, in Australia.

I had seven siblings growing up and later three step siblings were added to the mix. My parents were educators and, in a very real way, I followed in their footsteps.

The Decision to Stay

I finished an MA in the History of the American West at Northern Arizona University in 1989 and, at the same time, completed the requirements to become a licensed high school teacher. I was following in the footsteps of my parents. My father had been a high school biology and social studies teacher and my mother had taught high school mathematics and physical education.

My story goes back to my very first year teaching. Indeed, the event I will share with you happened in the first few weeks of my new teaching career.

I wanted to work with at risk kids. This came out of my experience in graduate school when I was hired to tutor local high school students near my university campus. They were at risk students, kids in danger of failing courses and dropping out of school. I was part of a last ditch effort to help them succeed academically. I discovered that I had a knack for helping these at risk kids. I was good at figuring out ways to reach them, encourage them, and make them commit to stay in school. Also, importantly, the work made me happy and gave me a sense of satisfaction.

So, I decided to get a teaching license while finishing my graduate degree.

Picture of Dr. Patrick DOUGHERTY as a young teacher

Dr. Dougherty as a young teacher

I wanted to go someplace where I could work with at risk students. I found that place when I was hired by an urban high school district in Phoenix, Arizona. The school I was hired at had a student enrolment of almost four thousand.

I arrived at the school, in a neighborhood that the principal who hired me called “neglected”, in late August for the new faculty orientation. The principal, at our first meeting on campus, recommended that we, the new teachers, “Be out of the neighborhood by nightfall.” He wanted us off campus by dark.

There were street gangs, and gunfire was not an uncommon occurrence. A young woman had died in a park near the school from a stray bullet. So, the principal wasn’t kidding about the danger of staying after dark. I didn’t dwell on this warning too much and focused, instead, on getting ready to teach. A few busy days later my high school teaching career began.

I set to work that first semester teaching World History and US History. They were subjects I loved.

My task was to get my students to love them, or tolerate them at least. I was tired every day from the effort of planning lessons, dealing with classroom management, and trying to develop ways to get my students to engage in the classes and stay focused. I thought things were going as well as I could expect under the circumstances. My confidence in my choice of coming to teach at that school and in that impoverished neighborhood was growing.

In my third week of teaching, however, the neighborhood would send me a challenge and force me to make a decision.

I had finished my classes for the day. The students, my young scholars, had been good.

Part of the World History class involved writing the script for a short video we were making about Egyptian history. I had put the students in teams and had them use the chapter on Egypt to brainstorm specific topics to include in the video. Later, we would work on the script using the textbook and books that I brought from the school library.

I was walking to the social studies office to get some drawing paper so the students could start mapping out scenes. The school was built in such a way that most of the classrooms opened onto the sidewalk. There were no internal hallways, and all the rooms opened into the sunlight.

I was walking along the side of the building near the street when I heard the gunfire.

I looked up and, about 30 meters away, there was a young man in white jeans and a white tank top running toward me. A silver car had screeched to a halt behind him and two men in sunglasses had jumped from the car with guns. The man in white was running toward me and the two men were shooting at him. I remember flashes and sound. Blood on the tank top and on the jeans. The two men disappeared from view as I focused on the young man who was now on the sidewalk. Ambulances, police cars, word, finally, that the young man who had been shot was going to survive. And then my decision.

There were some concerns that, as a witness to the street gang attack, I might be in danger. Witness intimidation wasn’t unheard of and the school administration was worried, too, that I might be nervous about returning to the school after what I had seen. They said I could even take a few days off to think things over and make a decision.

I remember talking with my parents by phone late into the night. I had wanted to teach there, in that neighborhood, and I wanted to work with kids who, I felt, needed me. When my alarm clock rang the next morning I got up and returned to the school. My World History students had a video to produce on the history of ancient Egypt. I wasn’t going to let them down.

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