Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Stephen Sutherland

Second Advisor

Cheryl Nixon

Third Advisor

Alex Mueller


This work is a memoir of teaching English to incarcerated youth in inner-city Boston. Through the lenses of five distinct metaphors, the work examines the internal and external lives of incarcerated youth, the struggles and strengths they exhibit in the classroom, and the challenges inherent in attempting to achieve meaningful education in the context of juvenile detention. Exploring such themes such as inside/outside, proximity, and circularity, the memoir examines the teacher's growth as an educator, the socioeconomic circumstances of at-risk students' communities and lives, and the psychological effects of gang violence, abuse, and cultural isolation on incarcerated youth. The memoir reflects on the essential humanity of at-risk youth, focusing on the strength and potential of incarcerated students while exposing the reasons that this potential is so often left unrealized. Arguing that the education of incarcerated youth is a practice requiring both determination and detachment, the memoir ultimately suggests that before a teacher can help students find learning, he or she must first help them find themselves.


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