One Less Headache: Solving the Dual Credit Instructor Dilemma

A few years ago, when I was serving as a university center dean, we offered a small number of dual credit options to a private local high school.  We struggled to make this happen, mainly because of the difficulty in finding and scheduling instructors.  Our regular college classes were scheduled one night per week for anywhere from 5-10 weeks (5-10 total meetings).  In order to fit our college classes into the high school schedule, we had to build our classes in 40-50-minute segments, five days per week, for 15 weeks (75 total meetings).

There is a great and increasing demand for dual credit classes across the country. The problem, of course, is: How do you find a qualified instructor who is willing to drive to a high school to teach 75 class-meetings for one course for the same wage they receive from teaching 5-10 times (although each class is 3-4 hours)?  Simply calculating the average gasoline usage alone burned up the paycheck.  Needless to say, this was not an easy hurdle to overcome.

The only viable solution was to either find qualified instructors within the school (with a Master’s Degree and at least 18-graduate hours in the dual-credit subject area) or find someone with the same credentials who lived or worked close by the school and was willing to make that enormous commitment.  We ended up offering only a handful of classes during my five-years at the university.

One day, at a lunch meeting with one of the Vice Presidents of the Alamo College System (which has more than 60,000 students), I asked what the system’s greatest needs were.  She said that one of their extreme needs was to find a way to bring high-school teachers up to the qualifying masters level, where they could then teach dual credit. She said that finding a college that could flexibly and affordably meet this need would be a huge help for high schools and community colleges.

I eventually found a university that offered an online Masters of Education with the 18 graduate hours in the disciplines of English, Science, Social Studies, and Instructional Technology that cost less than $17,000 for the entire program (Which is much less than the national average and most people use federal financial aid to attend – find extensive information on college pricing and financial aid at trends.collegeboard.org and  www.FinAid.org).

Now, we are getting the word out.  If you need some help preparing more dual credit instructors for your college, give Wayland Baptist University a call at: 210-202-1104.  Or, you may visit  www.wbumed.org

Other universities are now becoming aware of this increasing need.  I believe, as do many other administrators in higher education, that colleges and universities should be more directly connected – and rapidly responsive to – the needs of businesses, communities, organizations and even global educational needs.  We need to make a habit of asking the important questions and finding ways to fill the many emerging needs.

Creative, Playing Children Are Learning to Become More Productive and Thriving Adults

One of the most talented and caring child-care leaders I know is Mimi Zylinski. She runs a creative, fun, ambitious learning program to mostly preschoolers in Vermont. I remember her defending “play” for children by saying, “Play is children’s work.” Although a seemingly simple statement, I remember that it struck me at the time as an “Aha!” moment. I thought, of course, in order to learn to work well as an adult, we have to learn to play well as children.

I know that Mimi meant this statement to mean more than simply “getting along” or “playing well with others.” She very intentionally infuses the day with various creative endeavors, like finger-painting, cooking and baking, planting and harvesting food from a garden, daily craft time; and, of course, running, playing, climbing in the beautiful green space that surrounds the daycare.

When I held my first administrative position at a community college in Texas, one of the areas I became responsible for was Kids’ College — a summer program predominantly for elementary school age children. When I worked to enhance and develop the program, I observed and asked questions about what children needed and wanted. I watched what engaged children in our own programs. I noticed that playtimes at the public schools had been minimized and more time was spent doing worksheets to prepare for testing. There was only one art teacher assigned to a whole district of elementary students, yet the students in our program seemed to crave art-time. It is clear that the arts in public schools are being minimized in order to maximize test preparation.

Therefore, I set up a few parameters for Kids College, including that there would be no testing or work sheets. We would ask our teachers to infuse art, creativity, exploration and imagination into every possible area of our programs. Together, we developed courses like Storytelling, where children read books, created a story from books or their own imagination, wrote a play from that story, and used real costumes and props to act out those plays. From this, they became better readers, better writers and better presenters – and isn’t that what most of us need to do as adults?

We hired teachers who had hands-on experience in the creative and knowledge areas and were passionate about what they did. We had a Junior EMT course where students were able to ride in an ambulance to the emergency room, observe medical professionals acting our what might happen in ER, board a medivac helicopter that landed on our campus and talk to the people that rescue people by flight. We had raku pottery, fused glass jewelry, painting, theatre, and various music-related classes, including guitar and musical theatre. We had Outdoor Adventures, where the children were able to canoe, explore and work with the flora and fauna our enormous park area. They built and launched rockets, and met scientists from NASA in Aerospace.

The children thrived. They were excited, enthusiastically engaged and we had almost no injuries or incidents, despite the 1800 class enrolments we had the last summer I served in that capacity. When children are doing things they love (and of course, learning at the same time), they do not act out in ways they might when they are bored or being forced into tedious repetition.

I love it when I hear stories from Silicon Valley where play and activities are often infused even into adult problem-solving and teamwork. The success there appears to be evident.

I am an unwavering, whole-hearted believer in creative play. We must find ways to front-load creativity, art, exploration and imagination into as many areas of study and activity as possible. We need to explore minimizing our testing requirements, which seem to place enormous pressure on students, teachers, and administrators. When people love what they are doing, they tend to do it more. Tapping into the sparks of creative gifts and talents and fanning those flames should be clear pathways to a more productive and fulfilling adult life.

We need to also find ways for students to be physically active in as many of those activities as possible. Igniting the spark and excitement of learning by creative endeavors and problem-solving is the best way insure that we will one day have a population of adults that will enthusiastically do the same.

Like Mimi knows, we learn to work well as adults by playing well as children.

Question: What are some ways you incorporate play into your daily classroom experience? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Is There a Place for Feminism in the Classroom?

I picked this up from my sister in law when we were discussing how to talk about feminism in our college classrooms. Write the word the word “equality” on the board and ask the coed class I taught: “Who believes in this principle?” Almost without fail, 100% of my class of 15 students would raise their hands.

Then, I would take a few steps to the side and write next the word “feminism” and asked: “How many of you believe in this principle?” I would often only have one or two hands go up.

This one aspect is the sure-fire entryway to success

I like to think of the cover of a book as a doorway and a computer screen a potential window, into knowledge, understanding, discovery, adventure and insight.

I watch as my grandchildren are constantly pulled to the computer screen to play games.  They love the challenge.  They seem driven to accomplish the next level and, at times, become frustrated when they do not succeed. They are 100% engaged in this seemingly all or nothing contest.  It is sometimes a challenge to move them from the game to a book, although once they do, their face transforms. 

The Greatest Pain-Points Facing Texas Public Schools Today

It is clear that schools are experiencing increasing pain-points and are searching for ways to address these in an efficient and effective manner.  To increase awareness and insight into what various leaders in Texas public schools perceive as the greatest pain-points for their particular ISDs, I sent out a query to about a dozen contacts in various leadership positions

This was a very small preliminary query using a convenience sample.  There were five responses, which were listed below. This is not a large enough sample to be comprehensive or conclusive, but it is interesting starting point for the conversation about the pain-points in public ISDs today.

Step One: Let’s grow a community of educators together

Great teaching, at least in my experience, requires inspiration, fresh ideas, continual learning and discovery.

That is why we continue to learn, grow, develop new tools and resources. What better way to shortcut to great working ideas than for engaged educators to share their most successful tools, creative ideas, and powerful experiences?

4 questions to ask before deciding on your graduate program

1. What is my passion?

Let’s face it, teaching and working in schools is not for the faint of heart.  It will take more than a paycheck to keep, not only, persisting, but thriving in the classroom.  When selection a graduate degree, success will likely be mote forth-coming and the outcomes more fulfilling, if the field of study aligns with your passion. In my experience, the best fuel for success is to identify subjects, goals, missions, that tap into your passion or sense of calling.  This was the number one trait I have sought in my 20 years of hiring teachers and it proved to be extremely fruitful.  If you are not sure what you are passionate about, ask yourself where you experience joy; what projects do you enjoy so much that you would not only do them at work, but would do them for no pay and even stay up late by choice to work on them?

2. What are my greatest gifts and talents?

You likely know what you do well, what comes naturally, what you excel at.  These are frequently indications of your natural gifts and talents.  I have often found that students struggle with success when they do not align their degree choice with their natural abilities.  I have seen many students select law or medicine as a degree pathway, even though they have no real interest, aptitude or gifts that relate to those fields. It is my opinion that many of these students are attempting to please someone else by pursuing a field that they think will earn approval or praise from family, friends and community, or will make the most money, rather than an area that will be personally fulfilling and inspiring. So much financial expense, time and heartache could be avoided by tapping into the better fit to begin with.

 3. What are my long-term goals?

I know people with three or more Master’s degree.  This is perfectly fine, if a person loves going to school and has the funding to support it.  However, I have seen this happen more often from people changing their mind or deciding to go in another direction, often because they did not think things through regarding long-term goals, which can waist time, money and energy.  It can be a career limiter to become highly specialized, particularly if long-term goals do not exist.  If the long-term goal is to become a Superintendent, at some point a move needs to be made to educational administration and Superintendent Certification.  This process usually involves becoming a principal first and perhaps holding a Master’s degree in Educational Administration.  It is becoming increasingly common for Superintendents to hold a doctorate in Educational Administration along with their Superintendent Certification. Thinking your degree plans through to the ultimate goal, is the most effective and efficient way to pave your educational pathway.

4. What are my limitations?

Things that may impact your degree program choices and success that should be weighed accordingly may be:

  • Place-boundness – are you free to move for your career or not?
  • Financial limitations – how much debt to you have and what can you afford to take on?
  • Proximity – do you have to drive to attend or can you take course online?
  • Scheduling – time for study and class – will your schedule allow you enough time to study and attend class?
  • Available job opportunities – if you complete a graduate degree path, are there likely to be position options opening that you could consider?
  • Wellness level – is your physical, mental and relational situation strong enough to endure the stresses of graduate school?

Is life after graduation scary? It doesn’t have to be

As students move closer to high school graduation, many are questioning not only what path to take – college, job, military, but even within each of the options, there are so many choices. It can be overwhelming.

The New York Times ran an article recently about three high school seniors in Topeka, Kansas, who were struggling with these options. In many ways, these students appeared to be a good small sample of cross-section of various student types.

One student in the Times‘ story was worried about taking on a large amount of debt and still not having a job upon college graduation. I suspect he’s not alone. Parents are worried about this, too. With the high visibility recently of so many stories on crippling student debt, this is an understandable concern.

Of course, in a perfect world, students would like to focus on a college education that is both affordable and prepares students for jobs that are plentiful in the market. The trouble is that it is difficult for the average 17- or 18-year-old be able to discern and compare all of this information on their own. It’s tough enough for adults!

There are 4000 colleges in the U.S. and many hundreds of degree programs. The job market is pivoting faster than ever before. We do not yet know what all of the many new employment areas of the future will be.

Despite the fact that the last census showed that average income still correlates strongly with level of education, we know that there are no guarantees. Higher education remains a frightening proposition for many, yet so many jobs require a college degree.

Many school counselors have so many students assigned to them that it is virtually impossible to spend much significant time with any of them.

How do we help high school students to navigate these continually changing future options? How can we build a process that is more predictable, affordable, stable and less frightening? That’s one of the main issues I’d like to address in the weeks ahead on this site. I hope you’ll join me on this journey of joint discovery!