I am enrolled in Mr. Soule’s first class that he is teaching at college level, Globalization and Diversity. Chris is a full-time teacher in Wakefield, New Hampshire, at the Paul School, where he teaches 7th and 8th grade Social Studies. Chris started his teaching pursuit at Plymouth State University, and went on to complete his Masters in English Education with a focus on Teaching of Writing at PSU.
I asked Chris, do you have a mentor? Chris replied that he has been lucky to have many mentors along the way. “I am most grateful to the work of my good friend, Pat May, who is a geography professor at PSU. When I was an undergrad, he was in charge of the Social Studies Teacher Cert program so I had him for several classes. He helped introduce me to National History Day, a program I use in my classroom, and generally provided compassionate guidance and wisdom as I was just stepping off to become a teacher. He and his wife came to my wedding and we remain good friends.”
My next question for Chris was, “Do you collaborate with anyone on your work, and if so, how do you find that beneficial?” Chris responded, “My friend Greg, who teaches social studies in Virginia, and my friend Gavin, who teaches science at the same school as I do. If there is a current event question (such as, how should I approach this sensitive topic happening now) I call up Greg and we talk. On a typical day, Gavin and I are some of the problem-solvers at our school, working to help our students fundraise for their class trip, challenging each other to think of new ways to teach, and generally keeping each other fresh and positive when a school year starts to wear on us.”
I ask Chris, what career fields, other than teaching, are “hot” in today’s workforce that are within your field? He answers, “Anything having to do with “fringe” students is big. By that I mean school professionals dealing specifically with students that have significant disabilities or emotional/social needs is a career that is high in demand. Such as, special education, some specially trained tutors, reading specialists, speech and language, and school psychology. Another buzz word in education right now is STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.”
I then asked, “What courses should students who major in Social Studies Education consider taking OUTSIDE of that department?” His answer did not surprise me, because I find his classes to be very engaging and energetic. His answer was, “I believe a good history teacher is a good storyteller. You have to get students invested in the story or else they will fall asleep. I would advise someone headed out to teach history to take some writing courses or public speaking courses, to build your confidence speaking in front of an audience.”
My next question for Chris was, how familiar are you with the Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) program? He tells me, “I learned what IDS was by accident. I took 2 sociology courses as an undergrad and thought the material was fascinating. I almost changed my major and while I was researching possible shifts, the possibility of somehow combining sociology with social studies education as an IDS major was an option. I ended up sticking on my path. Teaching forces me to be interdisciplinary…I teach technology, writing, art, math, social skills, etc. I think the future of college is indeed interdisciplinary. PSU’s Cluster approach seems to indicate this.”
I also ask Mr. Soule, what professional associations are you affiliated with? He tells me, “ National Writing Project is a nationwide group of professional development centers for teachers and writers. Their unofficial motto is basically “teachers of writing should be writers themselves, and the best teachers of teachers are teachers”. I attended a 5-week intensive 9 credit course in 2013 that kicked off my master’s work and have been connected with them ever since.”
And in closing, I ask if he has any advice he would give to college students today? He provides me some specifics:
1: Don’t do any homework on the weekend…do everything by Friday night so you can actually relax Saturday and Sunday and be fresh for the week.
2: Volunteer to go first for any project presentation…set the bar, then sit down and relax while everyone else goes.
3: Remember what you are there for…do the work. The friends and social stuff is fine in moderation, but it won’t save you from crippling debt or put you ahead in the job market the way some scholarships and a summa cum laude diploma will.”
Good advice, Chris. I will take that to heart! Thank you.
You can catch Chris here at PSU or in Wakefield, where he lives with his wife and fellow school teacher, Kristin. You may even find them out with their new puppies who are training to be therapy dogs, or perhaps on the local ski slopes. Chris is a great addition to the staff of PSU. I’m certainly enjoying his teaching style and the passion he brings to a late class each Monday night.