Monday, May 10, 2010

The Inspiring Teacher Series: Interview with Travis Tingle


Welcome to The Inspiring Teacher Series - a tribute to inspirational K-12 teachers and college professors, and what we can learn from them and each other about the craft of teaching. Now let's meet...
Travis Tingle
Band Teacher
Union Grove Middle School
McDonough, GA

Bio
Travis Tingle has been a middle school and high school band teacher for 8 years. He taught at Hull Middle School in Duluth, GA; Jonesboro High School in Jonesboro, GA; Stockbridge Middle School in Stockbridge, GA; and is currently the band teacher at Union Grove Middle School in McDonough, GA. Travis received his undergraduate degree in K-12 Education with a concentration in instrumental music from Georgia State University and his Master’s in Business Administration degree from the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University.

Travis was awarded the Business and International Education Scholarship for overseas studies in International Business in spring 2008. He spent 16 days in South Africa with the J. Mack Robinson College of Business studying the social, educational, and economic landscape. He perceives the global business community as a large contributor in aiding countries both financially and socially by producing jobs and partnering with the academic community. His students have been selected to participate in the University of Georgia Honors Clinic, the Georgia All State Band, Troy State University Honors Clinic, Metropolitan Atlanta Youth Wind Ensemble, Atlanta Youth Wind Ensemble, and the Music USA Contest in Orlando Florida. His students have consistently received excellent and superior ratings in all Georgia Music Educators Association large group performance evaluation categories.


What inspired you to teach?
Much like Bridget Robbins, one of the other bloggers for the inspiring teacher series, teaching was the last thing on my mind when graduating high school. My dad was an assistant principal and my mom was a world history teacher. Dinner discussions were not at all inspiring or very positive!! Don’t get me wrong, they did a great job in their fields but the schools they taught in were very difficult. The communities around the schools were plagued by drugs, alcohol, and broken families. I remember finding a baseball bat in my dad’s closet in his office and I was immediately reminded of James Belushi playing the role of Ricky Latimer in the movie “The Principal!” Who in their right mind would want to enter the teaching profession after hearing those horrifying stories at dinner every night!! Not me! I was dead set against being a teacher or a pastor! In my teenage opinion, both were underpaid and had to deal with crap being shoveled on them every day! Who needs it!!

I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career and after two quarters I dropped out of college and decided to work at a restaurant waiting tables until I figured it out! Several months later I decided I would give the college of education at Georgia State University a chance seeing as several of my friends I attended high school with were education majors there. I went in as a K-12 Music Education major because I was very involved in music through my school years as a kid. During my middle and high school years I was fortunate to be selected as a member of the Georgia All State Bands 8th-12th grade and was also selected to attend the Governor’s Honors Program in Jazz Studies at Valdosta State University. The opportunity to teach private saxophone lessons afforded me the break I needed to quit waiting tables and still make a living as an undergrad! Then the unthinkable happened: I actually started to enjoy teaching and watching the kids get better! I was full force going to finish my undergrad in education and get a job teaching!

I was VERY fortunate to have great mentors that taught and still teach in the Atlanta area. While watching them teach I took endless notes and my mentors allowed me to teach their classes and gain experience using their techniques!

**Here’s the most important facet of learning to teach in the classroom for people currently teaching, student teaching, or just registering for your first education courses as an undergrad: You must have mentors that have held successful teaching careers from surrounding schools and from the University you attend. Go ahead and fight the pride and understand you know nothing about teaching in the classroom until you have copied their techniques and molded and developed them into your own over several years by trial and error (I call it “Trial by Fire”)!! Then give it some time and hang in there! Hey, it takes 5 years of teaching to get over the shock of it and then things in the classroom will get a little easier and VERY rewarding!!

What teaching methods are most helpful in pushing students towards their goals?
I teach 6-8 grades, so Character education is something my students and I practice in the classroom. It may sound old fashioned to many, but students by and large do not know how to address adults or each other. We spend a considerable amount of time in the first two weeks of school going over my expectations and role playing them in class. It’s simple stuff like, being in your seat on time, raising your hand before you speak or get up, do not play your instrument until the director begins rehearsal, and do not touch anyone’s property except for your own. The big one is, you must answer with yes sir or yes ma’am, or simply yes or no. There is no yeah-uh huh business that goes on in our classroom!! Another crucial expectation is disrespect with gestures like smacking lips and sucking teeth!! I use Bon Qui Qui (look it up on You Tube) at Burger King as an example of this and the students think it’s hilarious that I am re-enacting Bon Qui Qui!! I have a student act like the teacher and I act the part of a student. They call on me for misbehaving in class and I respond by smacking my lips and sucking my teeth. Then, the student (acting like me the teacher) gets up and writes my name on the board! Hey, it gets the point across and they get to see how ridiculous people look when they behave this way! I have the students demonstrate the wrong way and the consequence of me writing their name on the board and they receive what we call in my school a “citation”. Of course, they don’t really receive a citation from me while we are role playing the expectations! The first 2 weeks of school is perfect for this because the environment is not threatening and most students are not misbehaving yet!! Basically the procedures of the classroom are ingrained in their minds so they become second nature to the student. Now, it’s not as easy as it sounds, the first few weeks will be a little difficult and there will be quite a few names on the board!!!

What is the one thing you wish you'd known when you started your teaching career?
I wish I had known how mentally and emotionally draining it was going to be. If I had considered the emotional drain and the pay scale, I would have majored in something other than education. I wish I had known how many years of experience (5-6 years) it would take for the shock of teaching to wear off! Presently, I enjoy my job at my new school and am happy teaching, but I had no idea how much of an uphill struggle it would be to get there. Most jobs, careers, and life in general are common in that way. Unfortunately, Generations X and Y were not well prepared for the reality of the world. Our teachers and guidance counselors painted a very rosy picture of the world and told us everything was going to be okay if we work hard and pursue our dreams. That is partly right but it was definitely not the whole truth!!

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