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Connor McMonagle

Age: 27 Job: Music Teacher

Location: Columbus, Ohio

Connor and I were connected through Brian, who he met in college. We dove right into the state of education today, what it’s like being a male teacher in a female-dominated field, and where he sees the future of teaching going.

Give us a high-level overview of yourself.

I grew up in Carroll County, in Maryland, then went to the University of Dayton where I studied music education. After graduation, I went to the Philippines and interned there for a year, then came back to the U.S. and decided on Columbus, where I work for the St. Joes Montessori school. I am in my third year of teaching pre-K through 8th grade music and I teach Band, Choir, General Music, and Bells.

How did you know that this was your passion?

I originally wanted to go to school for recording technology, so I applied to Virginia Tech and the University of Dayton, and their programs really stood out to me. Ever since I can remember, I have always loved music, so it just felt like the right fit. I feel like the more I do it, the more I love it; that’s really the best way to describe it. Every year there's a new challenge and every year there are new rewards that come from working with the kids. The coolest part of the job is that I am able to learn while I’m doing the teaching, so I like to classify myself as a lifelong learner. I am always learning and growing and moving forward, and to be able to do that in conjunction with my students is a really powerful thing. We get to do something together as opposed to me just showing them something.

You mentioned you went to the Philippines earlier in the interview. What made that happen?

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with a music program there. In college, I had a friend who taught music in the Bahamas and I loved the idea of being able to travel while teaching, so I decided to look into it. I ended up interviewing for seven different schools and the Philippines option was not even on my radar because it wasn’t even a music program. However, the superintendent there added a music component to make it work, so that was how I got there at the age of 23.

Can you talk about being in a Montessori school and how that looks when you're developing your curriculum?

Absolutely. So I guess to preface this, I’ll share that I am not actually Montessori-trained, but rather, pre-K through 8th grade-trained. When it comes down to creating Montessori music curriculum, I'm still trying to figure that out, but I really love working in this kind of environment. The Montessori pedagogy is really framed around being a lifelong learner, treating every child as an individual, and being understanding as students are navigating them through their educational careers. The atmosphere of a Montessori school and classroom is still very evident and it’s a good organization to be a part of because they want everyone to succeed and make sure we get them there.

Talk about being a man in a female-dominated field.

So there are four male teachers at my school currently, and as you can probably guess, it is definitely a different dynamic. Specifically regarding Montessori, there are ways that you're supposed to handle different situations that still respects the child. Sometimes I respond differently to situations than tenured teachers or even the female staff, so it's always good to take a step back and go to my mentor when needed. I often go to the art teacher, and we talk about a situation if one comes up. It’s incredible to get a different personal and professional perspective on how a situation should be handled, how school politics should be navigated, or even how to run a class. Being able to have some sort of details through a different lens is tremendous. As far as the general population goes, I think the divide of male and female staff in an elementary school doesn’t really bother me. For whatever reason, there are a lot of young men that don’t want to be in a classroom, which is a shame because it is a tremendous opportunity to connect with younger male students who don’t generally get to see male figures in the classroom. Because of my gender, I think I have a different bond with some of my students.

What do you think will change in the future for teaching? Do you think there will be more male teachers?

I don’t know. I think the opportunity to nurture will always be there. I just hope that people take the opportunity to nurture and grow in teaching younger generations. I don't really mind who that is or what that looks like, but I just think that U.S. first needs to shift how it views education. As long as there are strong role models in the classroom, I think they'll get the job done.

Let's talk more about the shift that you would like to see our country take on education.

I don't like getting terribly hyper political about this but you just see a lot of resources being allocated to things that we might not necessarily need. Arguably, people want defense spending and a huge military budget to make us feel protected all over the world, but I do think there's a lot of money that could be used to help support the education system. If you compare the tech and education industry, tech has boomed since the 1990s. In the 2000s, we went from having very weak and unintelligent phones, televisions, and computers, to modern and smart devices. If you look at a classroom 100 years ago and then you go to a public school today, it almost looks exactly the same, with the exception of maybe a projector or a smart board. I like the idea that you walk into a room, you sit down in a chair, and somebody lectures, but there’s just no progress like there has been with phones or technology to enhance the classrooms and make them better, or to even change them to begin with. We see all this focus and emphasis on tech and not on educational policy or changing schools to make them the best they can be, and that’s a huge problem.

What kinds of things do you do outside of the classroom and what do you enjoy about being a young professional?

I love being in Columbus right now because there are so many things to do. One thing I love to do is watch live music, but I also play guitar, so I rehearse a lot for different bands I am a part of. I also am very involved in an ultimate frisbee league, so that’s a lot of fun for me and a great way to meet others.

My last question for you is very important. Do you ever bring out the recorder from back in the day? Do they do that anymore in music classes?

I am not a huge fan of the recorder, personally, because in college, we were graded on our articulation and tone and I did not enjoy that. I wasn’t going to do that to a fourth grader!

The YoPro Know's Takeaways:

– How you can learn on the job

– Why there should be more male teachers in the classroom

– Comparing tech and education industry

– Where the education field is heading

Check it out: University of Dayton, Columbus, Ohio, Montessori Schools

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