An Alternate Route
Josh Douglas, Launch’s full-time Social Studies teacher, shares how 18 years in alternative education prepared him to teach online.
I’ve been teaching for Springfield Public Schools for 18 years. I went to Missouri State University and majored in History, and I was between the ideas of teaching and going to law school. My senior year I decided I wanted to go to law school, and then I met a girl. She went to grad school, and I stayed in Springfield to be with her. I got a job, which became a teacher’s aide job, and then I decided I liked teaching. That girl later became my wife.
My first teaching job was at Solutions, which is the long-term suspension program for the alternative world. I was there three years. Next I went to Greene County Juvenile Detention and was there for four years, then in 2008 I went to Study Alternative Center and taught a variety of subjects. For the last four years I’ve done the Jobs for the American Graduate program at Study. Starting that program at Study required me to be very online literate, because it was pulling a lot of resources and designing things for kids.
I started teaching Psychology with Launch in Spring 2018. When the opportunity to teach full-time social studies came up, I knew it was something I wanted to do. I taught Psychology and Liberty and Law—the Government class—over the summer.
What I like about teaching for Launch is that you really get to focus in on the course material—you don’t necessarily have to worry about some of the classroom distractions. Also, you find some really fun and funny ways to connect with kids that you may not be able to do seated, because it’s a lot easier for kids to have a voice online. They don’t have to be the shrinking violet. Getting to learn their online personalities is very enjoyable.
One of the big things for me is finding ways to connect with students in my video announcements. This morning I started with “The Blues won the Stanley Cup!” I know I had some kids in St. Louis who are hockey fans, and they were really excited. An announcement last week was titled “I did not cop the Yeezys,” because I spent four hours online in a waiting room try to get a pair of shoes. I knew that the sneakerheads in my classes would know what I meant. There are also ways to connect with students by reading their work and finding unique things they put in their assignments.
I’m excited about the additional opportunities I have to connect with students by teaching online. I think that my experience in the alternative world helped me prepare for this. I’ve learned how to build relationships anywhere. It’s important that I have these relationships with students in schools all across the state, and of course online. Starting in the alternative world sharpened my relationship-building skills more than I would have ever anticipated.