18 Jun 2012, Posted by admin in Uncategorized, No Comments. Tagged Cincinnati, De Paul Cristo Rey High School, historian, journalism, multimedia, New Media Bureau, Studs Terkel, University of Cincinnati, work-study coordinator, Working
Travis Rowley, 30, is a work-study coordinator at De Paul Cristo Rey High School in Cincinnati. Before taking the position, he was a public school teacher in Charlotte, N.C., for several years, and he taught English as a second language in China for a year.
I miss the classroom terribly. I miss being surrounded by kids all day. I took a lot of pride in saying that yeah, I’m a teacher. So in a way that’s been my identity for the last seven or eight years. I do kind of latch on to that identity. I say with pride that I’m an educator, but it doesn’t have the same effect, for me anyway, as saying I’m a teacher.
I’m called the program coordinator for the corporate work-study program. To give you the big picture, what makes a Cristo Rey unique is that there is this work-study component. Students go to work at a professional setting for one day a week, and in turn they earn scholarship money that pays for their schooling.
You have the academic department, which is the school piece, and the corporate work-study, which is its own business. We have our own by-laws. We’re part of the school, but we’re our own separate entity. Got our own board of directors. There are only two of us in the department, so I kind of wear many hats.
A day in the life: I usually show up at school around 6:30 to open the building. I open the school most days. Students arrive about 7 o’clock. I’m usually the first one there to greet them. They check in with me… literally every student comes in, and I’m there with a firm handshake and a good morning, trying to reinforce that professional, strong first impression.
The students that are working that day stay with me in the cafeteria, almost like a class, from about 7:45 to 8:15. It can be anything like, you know, filing activities, just pumping them up in terms of inspiration, trying to increase their attitude at work, something motivational. It could be working on communication skills or following directions. We’ve done a lot in the past couple of weeks trying to get them to pay attention to details. Anything to reinforce a professional skill for that half-hour period.
I have a set of administrative tasks, like attendance. I have to follow through with any transportation changes since I oversee transportation. Depending on the day or time of year, we’re doing site visits, going out to the companies, seeing the kids in action. We’re doing sales, trying to recruit new business, going out for prospect meetings, trying to do marketing for our school, for the program. A lot of relationship-building.
At 4 o’clock, the students start to returning from work, so I check them in and kind of see how the day went. If there is anybody with a concern or an issue, I’m there to respond to that. The kids are usually back by 4:40. I make whatever last phone calls. I’m usually one of the last people out of the door at 6 o’clock, so it’s a pretty long day.
The piece that I’ve experienced with public education, especially with TFA (Teach For America), that I would like to see integrated more into our school is data-driven decision making. Really looking at achievement levels and using that as a baseline for setting goals and having clear concrete benchmarks to measure our effectiveness.
There are a lot of freedoms that I have now that I didn’t have as a teacher. You know, I do get to leave the building occasionally (laughs). As a teacher you’re on from the moment you set your foot in the door at 7:30 in the morning until when the kids leave. You are responsible for everything that happens. So there are a lot more freedoms in terms of that, and I appreciate it, but at the same time, I don’t know, there is a lot of responsibility that I took a lot of pride in being a teacher 24/7.
This is one of the first years when I’ve had more free time, and a lot of that is because a lot of the responsibilities that come with teaching like lesson-planning, grading papers, like that, I don’t really have that. Most nights I can leave work at work. I plan a 30-minute lesson once a week. That lesson I teach four out of the five days a week because it’s a different group of kids each day.
We are a brand new school in our first year. Ideally, I’d love to see it through at least four years, to see the freshmen graduate and have that experience of being able to say ‘Hey, I helped build a school, here’s our product of a graduating class.’ And then a part of me really misses the classroom. So there is always that tension, you know, do I take that resume and apply for a teaching position or do I practice what I preach with my kids and see the commitment through? I had an opportunity to go somewhere to teach next year, but I feel like there is a lot of value in finishing what you start.
I still don’t feel like I am an adult (laughs). That’s one of the interesting things about being in education — you are surrounded by youth. I really don’t feel like I am an adult. Maybe that’s just my spirit, you know. Don’t get me wrong, I feel responsible and mature.
I don’t think that I would ever want to be removed from having contact with kids. There is just something special about the connection you have with the students. It keeps you young. It keeps you in touch with generations, and it allows you to relate.
– Interview, photo by Jon Doerger