From Reporter to Teacher, Carol Kloss McClellan Enjoys Her New Challenge as an Inner City Public High School Instructor
When I discovered that an Omaha television news reporter had left that field to teach at an inner city public high school I just had to catch up with the former reporter and get the story of what led her to make the transition and what it’s been like for her. The long time reporter who made the move is Carol Kloss McClellan and I tell her story here. She teaches creative writing at Omaha South High Magnet School. Some of her students participated in a school poetry slam competition and are gearing up for Omaha’s Louder Than a Bomb festival in mid-April. Over the winter Louder Than a Bomb co-founder Kevin Coval and some of the slam poets featured in the documentary by the same name dropped in on Carol’s creative writing class and she and her students were pretty stoked by the whole experience. Watch for my future post about the Louder Than a Bomb festival.
©by Leo Adam Biga
Published in El Perico
Leaving the life of a television news reporter for a public high school teaching job is not something second-year South High Magnet English and creative writing instructor Carol Kloss McClellan entered lightly in 2010.
After all, she distinguished herself as an investigative news reporter at KETV, winning Nebraska Broadcasters, Associated Press and Edward R. Murrow awards. But as she reached middle-age and TV news gathering became less satisfying she felt called to leave one challenging field for another.
“It had been on my mind for a long time. I took a lot of education courses as a (University of Michigan) undergrad,” says the Detroit native. She recalls seeing a TV news colleague make the transition from reporting to teaching and thinking, “That looks like something I would really enjoy.” But years went by without acting on the impulse. Meanwhile, a newsroom romance with then-KETV photographer now-attorney Mike McClellan led to marriage and a family. When the couple’s two daughters entered their late teens she finally got serious about switching careers. She enrolled in the College of Saint Mary‘s Fast Track-to-Teaching program, earning her master’s degree and teaching certificate.
Beyond her studies and student teaching, she felt the same skill set that helped her succeed in TV news would make her effective in the classroom. Cultivating sources and researching-writing-reporting stories is not so different than preparing-delivering lesson plans. Besides, she says, “I’m a people person, I’m a communicator, all those kinds of things. And I’m a mom, so I’ve got all that experience, too.”
Abandoning the new biz wasn’t as hard as you might imagine.
“It got to the point where it just wasn’t as much fun anymore. I left on very good terms and I had a wonderful job, but the opportunities to do some of the really good stories we used to be able to sink our teeth into, when we had the resources to sit on something if we needed to, were drying up.
“It used to be could travel to get a story. My photographer-producer Cathy Beeler and I were like a little team. Some of the stuff we would get into was so much fun. Those opportunities just weren’t there anymore. And then when I went back to general assignment I was like, OK, I need a new challenge. I just couldn’t go out on another snow storm story or another shooting and knock on some victim’s family front door. I had to move on.”
Does she miss the buzz of the newsroom and the thrill of breaking stories?
“I honestly don’t. I mean, I miss people I worked with. But I see a lot of them still. I enjoyed it but my life is so full right now there’s not hardly room to miss anything. And its just a whole new world.”
That world is even tougher than the one she left behind.
“It’s hard, it’s really hard, it’s so demanding,” she says of teaching. “There’s so much to it with the lesson plans and classroom management and this whole new grading system. It’s never ending.”
The virtual audience she had as a TV reporter has been replaced by a live one subject to the distractions that come with raging hormones and identity issues.
“Most of the kids are great and want to be here, but standing up in front of the class it can feel like you’re a standup comedian having to deal with a couple of hecklers. It’s like you’re trying to serve the majority of kids who really want to get a good education and then you’ve got a couple of kids causing a ruckus.”
She’s had to learn how to handle disruptive students within the constraints of a public school setting.
“Your heart just goes out and you have to learn to let some things go and that’s I think the hardest thing for a new teacher – to figure out what to let go of. You can only do so much, you’ve got to make the best of it and move on. It’s just this constant balancing act.”
She admits “tears” of self-doubt her first year when she often wondered, “I don’t know if I can do this. Here I am a woman in my mid-50s reinventing myself and coming from an environment where I know the game and I’m a pro to having to start all over again.” But she’s sure she made the right choice, saying, unequivocally, “I have no regrets.”
The very challenge, she says, “is what keeps you alive, so even though it’s a hard thing, it’s a good thing,” adding, “Some days are better than others as you’re trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, and it’s not what you expect, and that’s what makes it exciting, too.”
Moments like her creative writing students jamming at a December poetry slam to enthusiastic cheers of students and faculty “are what keep you coming back,” she says.
- How To Teach Creative Writing To Middle School Students (superdoodadsblog.wordpress.com)
- Teachers who Inspire (themiddlegeneration.wordpress.com)
- Praying for Revival in Chicago at Wells Public High School (inthegardeninchicago.wordpress.com)