Shane Kinsella is the head of middle school at The Shipley School, a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students. Shane has a Bachelor of Arts in math and political science from University College, Dublin, a Master of Education from Bank Street College of Education and his doctorate from Fordham University.

(Photo Courtesy of Shane Kinsella)

(Photo Courtesy of Shane Kinsella)

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What is the most challenging aspect of teaching in the classroom environment?

“The most challenging aspect is also the aspect that is the most fun and requires one to be at their most creative. Someone once described teaching as being similar to being a dentist and working on 15 patients at one time. Each one has a slightly different need, as one needs to manage each one so that they get the attention they require and deserve. When things are working well in the classroom, students progress at their own pace, but in the same general direction.”

Do you have any advice for people wanting to enter the teaching profession?

“You have to have two things – a love of working with children and a passion for the subject or subjects you teach. Having a passion for one’s subject is essential. While not every student will love every subject they take, they need to be able to see that the person guiding the discussion believes that the subject is so important that students will just want to understand what is going on. Passion like this is infectious and helps a struggling second grader want to understand decoding in reading or a reluctant eighth grader want to understand why the quadratic formula is so important.”

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Are continuing education courses beneficial for teachers?

“Yes, but it depends on what they are and the spirit in which they are taken. Courses focused on curriculum planning, teaching methods and understanding how to teach students with varied learning profiles are all key elements of any good teacher’s toolkit, and they need to be continually updated.”

Do you feel a master’s of education would be helpful in this career?

“Yes, however, I am biased as I have experienced teacher training both here in America and also in England. In both cases, the education programs focused on combining a theoretical understanding of education with hands-on practical experience. Sitting in a classroom as a student and then getting a chance to implement my learning under the guidance of both my college professors and master teachers in my schools allowed me the freedom to take risks, try various teaching methods and hone my skills in a way that did not negatively impact my students (or me). The key to a successful master’s of education program is a partnership between school and college and a realization by the college that the courses need to be structured so that the knowledge is reflective of what we know about best practices, and not personal interests of the professors from the time they got their degrees (and I have experienced some of that).”

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