Teacher Feature: Bryan Desjardins


Cassia Burns, Author

In his thirteenth year of teaching, Bryan Desjardins has found success in a career he had not seen himself in. Raised in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, teaching had never been a goal of his. As a favorite among students, he has established himself as an incredibly passionate teacher, whose encouragement enables students of all kinds to succeed.

What classes do you teach?

Currently I have four American Lit classes and one Creative Writing class.

Where did you go to college?

I went to Umass Lowell for undergraduate, and I got a Bachelor’s in English and Salem State for my Master’s, a MA in English.

What were you like in high school?

I was not a very good student. I was capable, but I didn’t care; I just wanted to goof around. I was an idiot for the most part. I wasn’t disrespectful or a real troublemaker; I was more of a class clown, and I had one weird sense of humor. My sister was a far better student than I was, and everyone kind of thought I was the disappointment. But even back then, I enjoyed English class, I just could never sit still long enough to perform in a class.

What inspired you to become a teacher?

Well, unlike some people who want to do the job from a young age, I had worked in computers for a while, and decided I just didn’t want to do it anymore. It wasn’t looking good for the company I was working for; it looked like they were going to go under, so I decided I should go for a career shift while I was still younger. Teaching had never been a goal of mine, but I decided to try it; I figured the hours would be good, especially since my son was on the way.

Do you enjoy it now?

There are days that, like in any job, are not great, but for the most part I’ve enjoyed my time. Now and then you get a good class where you get a lot done and can feel good at the end of the day. There are others when you feel like you are working yourself with no visible result, but you have to remember you’re dealing with teenagers. I know when I was a teenager, I was not the easiest person to work with. Overall though, I like teaching; I like talking about things that are important to me. Hopefully, if I’m passionate about it, it’ll make its way into the class, and a couple of them will be interested in it as well.  I love to see when people do their own research and start to read things based off recommendations.

Would you say that is the most rewarding thing about teaching?

I think so; when you bring someone to something and they have a reaction that isn’t yours, but is their own, it’s a nice feeling. Receiving emails from past students, saying how well they’re doing or that have kind words for you, is also very rewarding. Oftentimes things can be frustrating, but hearing things like that make it all worth it.

Opinion of the new schedule?

Jury’s still out as far as I’m concerned. I like that we don’t have 84 minutes anymore; that was a long time, but it’s difficult to settle into the seven-day rotation. I find I never really know what’s coming at me. I feel like now that we have five classes we have a lot more work in terms of grading  and creating assignments. I think the work hasn’t quite doubled, but the planning time doesn’t really compensate for the amount of work we do. However, it’s not really about me; if it works for the student’s then I’m all on board.

Do you enjoy seeing your American Lit classes all year versus one semester?

I’m not sure yet. I think we’ll get more done and get to know each other better, but without the January cut-off date, if there was to be a personality issue, we wouldn’t have an easy means of resolving it. It’s going to force us to work together a little more as a class, but that’s going to be as big of an adjustment than everything else. One hundred and twenty-six classes over One hundred and eighty days is a lot more time.

You mentioned you had to teach out of a bag. Why was that?

There just weren’t enough rooms, and I was the new guy. I was in Byrnes’s room for a while, then with Peloquin, and I was even in the library for a while. I was brand new, and I already didn’t know what I was doing, but then I had to move around all day and only had Level Two classes. I only had three Level Two classes, and compared to what we have now, they were rough. I guess making it through all that and still sticking around makes everything else about the job seem less difficult.

What’s the most ridiculous thing that has ever happened in one of your classes?

This was when I first started teaching, in the old building, and I didn’t have a classroom. It’s already difficult teaching out of a bag, but I had this really hard class, and for some reason one day, a student was really having a bad day. I said something to her that was apparently the wrong thing, and she just started screaming at me for a solid two to three minutes, calling me every swear in the book. I was shocked; I had never heard someone talk to a teacher that was. One of the older teachers that’s retired now had urged me to go home and I went, but I wish I had stuck it out that day. The whole situation was eye-opening. I’ve also had someone eat an onion like it was an apple as part of a poetry project we were doing, and that kind of weirded me out. Someone also stole my keys once, so I’ve seen a whole bunch of weird things. Sometimes though, I find I do more strange things than the students.

What music do you listen to?

I listen to everything. I don’t listen to a lot of current music on the radio, but I like jazz, classical, all kinds of rock. It depends on my mood. My son is a big music guy, and Spotify is good for that kind of stuff. I play guitar and drums a bit, so I appreciate music in that aspect as well.

Favorite book?

I would say A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. It’s a work of fiction, and it’s a book that always makes me laugh; I’ve probably read it about seven or eight times. It’s something; I’ve got others, but that would probably be the one for me.

Favorite movie?

This is a tough one, but my favorite of all time would have to be the original Mad Max. For some reason I love that movie. LA Confidential would probably be my second favorite.

What do you watch on TV?

Usually about fifteen minutes of a show until I fall asleep. I’ll watch reruns of stuff with my kids typically; we like The Office and Frasier. I don’t really watch stuff that’s on now, but I watch sports. We recently got rid of cable, so that switches things up a bit, but we’re surviving.

Any hobbies?

I play drums and guitar, and I like to read. I also write. I’ve been writing for years; that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do. However, you have to pay the bills, but I’ve always been writing. I’ve done two novels and I’m working on a third. It’s getting them out the door that’s the hard thing; I’m very slow, but I get there. Getting it out and selling it I’m not very good at, but I am a writer. It gets tough, but you have to keep at it; eventually something will come.

Advice for your students?

It sounds corny, but make sure to always stay active readers. Always read something; find at least one book that really speaks to you. There’s so much out there,; everyone can find something if they just look. To me, not reading is death; I can’t imagine not doing it. I mean, there are days when you can’t, but I can’t imagine all that work out there and not wanting to read any of it. On a different note, don’t rack up a lot of debt on credit cards. I know everyone is using them, but you don’t want to be a slave to that debt at a young age. Learn to use them wisely, and they will be an ally, but if not they will be a weapon. There’s my wisdom: read books and don’t mess up your credit.