Dr. Dorsey is the principal of Friendship Valley Elementary. Dr. Dorsey was born and raised in Carroll County.
INTERVIEWER: My name is James Denstead. I’m interviewing Dr. Patricia Dorsey, Principal of Friendship Valley Elementary in Carroll County. Hi, Dr. Dorsey.
PATRICIA DORSEY: Well, good morning. How are you?
INTERVIEWER: I’m good. How are you?
PATRICIA DORSEY: I’m well, thanks.
INTERVIEWER: I wanted to ask you a few questions, some open-ended questions to get you to speak about your experiences here in Carroll County. And so question number one is, what was it like for you growing up in Carroll County? And was it generally a positive experience, or not? And maybe you can tell us why or why not.
PATRICIA DORSEY: OK. Well, I guess I can begin by answering the second part of the question first, and saying that yes, for me it pretty much was a positive experience. Really, my early years when I lived in Carroll County, we were living in an area in Henryton, Maryland. And really, we were right on the edge, or the outskirt of Carroll County, but we went to school in Howard County. So frankly, even though I lived in Carroll County, for grades one through five I went to Howard County Public Schools.
And after my fifth grade year, my family moved to the Sykesville area. And at that point, I began attending schools here in Carroll County. So from grades six through 12, I attended Carroll County Public schools. And all my life, even when I was on the outskirts of Carroll and going to Howard County Schools, and then once I moved to the Sykesville area, all throughout my childhood, it’s been positive for me.
And again, I feel it’s been that way because of the foundation that my parents laid for us. I mean, I kind of think that the kind of upbringing and support that we had at home– that again, it would’ve been positive, it seems like, no matter where we lived at the time.
So at that particular time, of course, the races were separate as far schools were concerned. So grades one through five, I attended Cooksville Elementary. And that was, again, an all black school. And then when I moved into the Sykesville area, in sixth grade I was at the Old Johnsville Elementary School. The building is now a senior center down on Barthelow Road, but it used to be the Elementary School. And again, that was all black.
And then once you finished sixth grade, at that time we were ready for High School. Grades 7 through 12 were included in high school. So I came to Westminster, so Robert Moton School. And I guess I have to clarify that, too, because Robert Moton was known as a consolidated school, and really it had all grades, from grades 1 through 12. And if you were black living in Carroll County at that time, you attended Robert Moton School.
So I attended Robert Moton for grades seven, eight, and nine. And then at the end of my ninth grade year, Robert Moton closed because then the county was integrating the school system. So then grades 10 through 12 were spent in my community school, which meant that I was then going to the predominantly white schools.
It was a bit of a transition for me. There were some tough times, I have to say. I mean, from our perspective– and when I say our, I am speaking of my peers and myself, as we were leaving Robert Moton– it was the feeling that our school was closing, and that we had to then go to their school. And again, that was a little uncomfortable, and we had to work through that. And I again, know that everybody had different experiences at that time. My experience was really once I felt like I was really acclimated and involved in my new school at that point, it seemed OK. But until I got to that point, it was feeling like I was without a school, and having to go to their school.
At that time– you know, when I think about how we would do things now, as far as transitioning new programs, that wasn’t in place back then. I mean, no one came and spoke to us as a class, or as a group of students at Robert Moton. We were just told, Robert Moton is closing, and you have to go to your community school next year. So again, the transition was a bit uneasy, but I think we all worked to make it go as smoothly for us as we could.
So even considering how it was a little uncomfortable at times, all in all I have to say that it still wound up being a positive experience for me. I guess when I look back at things, it’s like everything that I’ve really going through just really helped to make me the person that I am today, even, because I think it really helped to build character and helped to see you through all those situations and times. Even though some of the may have been uncomfortable, I think it helped to build some character. So all in all, I do say it was a positive experience growing up in Carroll County.
INTERVIEWER: OK. Which kind of leads to the next question, which is, did your experiences growing up in Carroll County influence your decision to become an educator?
PATRICIA DORSEY: I really can say that my experiences here influenced me. I was influenced from early on. As even a preschooler back then, I can remember even, I guess being age five– I’ll just say at age five– I just remember as a youngster, I just always wanted to be a teacher. And I went to take a piece of paper, and go around the kitchen and I just write down words, salt, pepper, fab, whatever words I would find on boxes or whatever. I’d write them down, and then I would later quiz my dad and also my uncle. It’s your turn, can you spell salt for me? And I can you spell pepper?
That’s how I spent my childhood. And if I wasn’t using my dad and my uncle as my class, I would have my baby dolls. My sister and I would play baby dolls, with the baby dolls, and a lot of times they would be part of the class, as well.
So I can say that here in Carroll County I was influenced to become an educator. Just seemed like– I just really had the desire to be involved in education from early on. And for the most part, my experiences going through school have been very positive. But I was one of the ones early on that just really felt like I wanted to be a teacher. And then really when I got in school and saw some of the great models that I had before me, especially early on, I just knew that I wanted to grow up and be like them.
INTERVIEWER: So you talked a little bit about your experiences as a student. And so what was your path to becoming a principal like? Did you always know you wanted to be a principal, or was it just you wanted to be a teacher and then you said, OK, maybe I’ll be a principal?
PATRICIA DORSEY: Right. I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and I enjoyed teaching very much. And a requirement, once you have had your certificate, the first three years you have to earn up to six credits towards your certification. And then within a 10 year period, you should have a Master’s Degree or Master’s equivalency, which gives you another 30 credits. So knowing that I needed to acquire these 30 credits, I knew that I wanted them to count for something. In fact, I guess my first 30 credits that I got, I just started taking classes, whatever I was interested in, and they really weren’t leading to one particular program. They were just credits based on– some were math– whatever area I saw that they we’re offering some classes. If I felt it was something that I could really benefit from, I took those classes.
Wound up getting my 30 credits, which is what I needed after 10 years. But it was after that that I really started looking at administration, and had to go back into a program then and take classes leading to administration and supervision.
INTERVIEWER: OK. And do you feel like the positive experiences you had an educator– do you feel like that influenced you to become a principal, or was it just it was like the next logical step in your career? Because my wife is a teacher, but she doesn’t know if she wants to be a principal. She doesn’t know if she wants to leave the classroom. So is it like the difference between management and labor, or is it just–
PATRICIA DORSEY: Well, I think what happened with me as a teacher, I was given some opportunities to take on some leadership kinds of roles. And that really helped persuade me that yes, I should go ahead and pursue this, and take it a bit further. For example, I used to be the leader of my team, so to speak. I taught third grade for a number of years. So I was the third grade team leader. And with being the team leader, we got to meet with the principal on a regular basis. And whenever there was anything dealing with the third grade team, whether it was management kinds of things, or whether we just had to complete all of our ordering for the next year, I was like the go to person for the team.
So that just gave me a flavor of what it was like to actually still be involved in teaching, but have some leadership type activities. And it seems like the more activities that I had related to leadership, the more that I really wanted. So it was at that point, I guess, my involvement with being the team leader.
And we used to years ago have– it was basically a human relations type committee in the county. And I was the human relations representative for my first school. And again, that was another leadership type activity or assignment. And the more I got involved in those kinds of activities, the more I really felt like OK, I can take this further and get involved in a program that would give me the skills so that I can be involved a bit more. So it was, I guess, during some of those earlier experiences that I realized I wanted to move forward and be involved in administration.
INTERVIEWER: And how long have you been a principal?
PATRICIA DORSEY: Probably longer than you– I won’t say longer than you, or old. But let’s see, I’m completing my 39th year in the County at this point. 10 of those years were involved in teaching, so it’s for 29 years then that I’ve been a school administrator.
INTERVIEWER: I was just thinking, do you miss teaching as your primary–
PATRICIA DORSEY: I did, especially at first, when I became an assistant principal. Just right out of the classroom, and I had been in a resource role prior to becoming an assistant principal. And during those early years, it was really hard to be out of the classroom. But now, I have grown in my role as principal. And really, I can be in any classroom at any time that I like. Even though I may not be directly teaching, I can be sort of influencing what’s going on in the classroom.
So rather than my direct involvement as the teacher, so to speak, it’s like that other layer is in there because I really communicate and interact with the teachers, and help to influence instruction by being involved with them. And then that really does set what’s going to take place in the classrooms. And you know, there are times when there might be an emergency that’s come up, and we need coverage for a class real quick, or something like that. And during those times I don’t have a problem at all with going in and covering the class.
INTERVIEWER: So where do you see yourself in five years? Still as a principal?
PATRICIA DORSEY: Oh, in five years? You know what? By the end of this school year, I’m going to be retiring. So in five years, I do not know what I’ll be doing. I still certainly feel that I have something to contribute, but I’m just not sure which direction, and in which form that’s going to reveal itself at this time.
INTERVIEWER: I think after 39 years you deserve a break, so–
PATRICIA DORSEY: Yeah, maybe during that break I can either refuel, or else rethink. And maybe there are other areas that I haven’t even thought of that I would venture into. I’m just not sure at this time.
INTERVIEWER: Well, as a personal curiosity, what is your PhD in?
PATRICIA DORSEY: It’s in education and educational administration, and supervision.
INTERVIEWER: Well, maybe I could ask you some advice while you’re on camera, because I’m currently training to be a teacher in Carroll County. And I’m a little older, I’m 38. So I’m coming into it knowing that I want to be a teacher–
PATRICIA DORSEY: Good.
INTERVIEWER: I’m probably not wanting to be a principal, because I just don’t want to do the management part of it. I want to teach my subject. So do you have any advice for me, starting out at this point in my life now?
PATRICIA DORSEY: I think you would certainly bring a lot to the table, because usually what I notice– because again, I’ve worked with folks in the past who’ve chosen teaching as, let’s say, their second career. And usually those folks come in very, very focused. They know what they want. And they have different reasons for having landed in the classroom, so to speak, but again the main idea is that they know that that’s where they want to be.
So for folks who are coming in like that, again you just have to continue to come in with your eyes wide open. I mean, certainly there can be challenges in the classroom. You certainly have to have that classroom management in place. And as far as instruction, sometimes– and maybe this is more for some of the younger folks who are just starting out. Sometimes they look at a classroom, and they just think, oh wow, that all looks very, very easy.
But it’s not easy, when you can get a classroom to really operate and function properly, because you have to spend so much time planning, you have to know your curriculum. Not only do you have to have your short term plans and objectives, but you have to know long term where you’re going. You have to know what it is that you need your students to know. And I guess that’s been a revelation for folks, too, because you have to start at the end. You have to know what they should be like by the time they leave your course, or your class. So you have to back map, backward map and see, OK, what you need to do to get them to that point.
So you have to be aware of your assessments that are out there, and what the assessment pieces are telling you. And then you have to plan your instruction based on the assessment results. And days are going to be different– I mean, no longer do you walk in a classroom and say, OK, these 25 kids are going to stay together as a group, and this is what we’re going to do day one, day two. You need to look at the individual needs that are in the class, and you really need to direct your instruction based on those individual needs.
So it’s a tough profession, in one sense. A very rewarding one, but certainly you have to be very prepared and ready to deal with all of the challenges in the class. So I think as an experienced person, you would go in knowing that it’s going to require work on my part. And again, you’re going to have the kids’ best interests at heart. And sometimes their best interests may not be at your convenience, so to speak. So sometimes you might have to do some things that may not be very convenient for you. But again, if they’re in the best interest of the children, you need to proceed with that.
And again, a lot of times the sooner you can get in our classrooms and get involved, the better it is for you. Like if you can get on the substitute list even while you’re working on your degree, so to speak, or if you’re going to get involved with your parent teacher organization and any opportunities that you can get to really come into the classroom would be helpful.
A lot of times with parents, they can be used as resources to come in and share their career with the kids, or just any kind of opportunity that you could take advantage of to really get in the classroom and interact with the kids, I think it’s going to be helpful, no matter whether you’re just beginning, or whether you are an experienced person.
So I don’t know. Hopefully that will shed some light, and you can get some advice, just in knowing all of that.
INTERVIEWER: I appreciate that. And I appreciate your time. Is there anything that you want to talk about before we stop the record?
PATRICIA DORSEY: I don’t really think so. I know that here in our county, there has been a project in place to really get the perspective of blacks who’ve grown up in the county. And again, no one person speaks for the entire community. We all have had different experiences. And I think, again, based on those experiences, most people have become what they are today, based on all of that. And even though sometimes there have been some hardships, or maybe some doors close that we wanted to have opened, sometimes in working around all of that it’s really helped to build some character.
INTERVIEWER: Well, thank you very much for your time.
PATRICIA DORSEY: You’re quite welcome.