“I began to focus more on equity instead of equality”: Q&A with Larry Newby, MEd ’17
Larry Newby expanded his way of thinking about teaching in his MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: Methods and Curriculum program at Concordia, and it changed how he taught and spoke to students. It’s helped him focus more on teaching to the differences in how individual students learn to be more effective overall.
What inspired you to work in education?
What inspired me to work in education is the possibility to help another human being understand their capabilities. What they can do with what God gave them. The one thing that motivates me more than anything is seeing somebody else succeed. That’s the reason I got into education.
Do you have a favorite course or experience from your master’s program?
In one course, we discussed an experiment by Jane Elliott, Brown Eyes vs. Blue Eyes. It was the first time I had dealt with that experiment; and after those assignments and discussions, I went into my classroom with a different way of thinking.
I began to change how I taught and the verbiage that I used, to focus more on equity instead of equality. Because it’s really not about treating everyone the same but treating everyone individually the best way that we can, in that same class.
I like this explanation: If three people look over a fence to see a baseball game and they’re all different heights and everybody stands on the same crate… the shortest one still can’t see. That’s equal treatment. But let’s not do that. Instead, let’s find different heights of crates so that everyone can see the game regardless of their height.
That’s the difference between a teacher and a great teacher. A teacher just goes in and teaches the material.
What was the hardest part about earning this degree and what helped you get through it?
I had the hardest time just starting it. Just buckling down and saying I’m going to take this step. And I needed support during it. Had it not been for my wife, I probably would have said, “You know what? I’m done with this.” But she was going through a master’s program at the same time and she was getting very close to graduation herself. So she understood. She took time away from her program to make sure that I stayed focused and driven to make sure that I finished. She stuck by me.
Did anyone at Concordia also help you commit to starting?
The first contact I had with Concordia was Brian. He stayed with me all the way through to my first class. And, when I got to my last class, he contacted me again and he said, “Hey. I saw that you stuck with it. Congratulations!” He was the one who made it so easy to say, I’m going to go to this school. Our six-minute conversation changed my life completely.
How do you think your educational advancement has benefited your students?
The things I learned at Concordia are vast. They’re broad. Before, I had a perspective of education that was one-dimensional. The program taught me to gain the patience to understand everybody’s viewpoints: everybody’s way of learning; how each student is able to understand a concept versus everyone learning the same way; and how to teach based on that. It helped me to understand why certain schools aren’t doing well versus some who are. And they’re right down the street from each other.
Concordia taught me how to embrace all of the aspects of a way a student learns and why on Monday he’s fine, but on Tuesday something’s terribly wrong. But on Wednesday, everything’s peachy-keen.
Watch a clip from our interview with Larry to hear more about how Concordia helped him advance as a teacher leader.
When thinking about teaching and its challenges, what keeps you motivated?
Every teacher out there knows what the salary of a teacher is. We knew that before we majored in it. We knew that before we took the job. It is what it is. And we still got into it. That’s because we weren’t looking for money. It’d be nice to be compensated for what we do, but the fact of the matter is, we know that we’re not going to get paid what we’re worth. And that’s okay.
The satisfaction of seeing a student “get it” is the most satisfying thing in the world for me. When I was teaching middle school, it was seeing one of my 5th graders change—the one who gave me the hardest time in class; who just didn’t want to conform or do what teachers asked; always in trouble. Seeing him become a 7th grader, just two years later, who ran for class president. And when he lost, shook the winner’s hand… that’s the motivation I need. I got paid that day and didn’t even look in the account.
Kara Wyman has a BA in literature and a MEd from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She spent a decade working with adolescents as an English teacher, the founder and director of a drama program, a curriculum designer, and a project manager for a teen-centered nonprofit organization. She is now the Alumni and Community Manager for Concordia University-Portland.