- by Lorelei Schumer
Mrs. Cox: On the highs, the lows, and the changes in her career, from a journalist to a high school teacher.
The graduate student and teaching intern reflects on what she has learned as a journalist after roughly 7 years in journalism, as she begins a new chapter in teaching.
Entering class this morning, Mrs. Cox greets the students filtering in as school begins at 8:30 in the morning. “Good morning, everyone. How is everyone feeling? Good?” Mrs. Cox asks, students, kindly waving and giving a thumbs up. Mrs. Cox discusses various topics with everyone in attendance, from dogs and how cute they are to whether Batman or Superman is better. It’s hard to picture Mrs. Cox doing anything else; she clearly has a natural inclination for teaching. However, this wasn’t always the case as Mrs. Cox had previously worked as an award-winning journalist before moving to Maryland and doing a one-eighty in terms of career choice.
Is there anything that really surprised you about teaching?
One of the things that really surprised me was the actual process of teaching journalism, because that is a whole different beast than going out and being a journalist; the process of going back and actually researching how to teach journalism. What the Code of Ethics is, where to find it, and how to put together a cohesive lesson on how to be a journalist. So I was learning right alongside you guys as we took this journey together.
As a teacher, will this be the first year ever starting off as a journalism teacher, or have you had background in any teaching experience at all?
The only teaching experience I have had is as a substitute teacher, which I’m sure you guys know is not really a true example of what it’s like to teach. I say that because I’m sure you all have had substitute teachers, and as a substitute, you’re not responsible for crafting the lessons, you’re not responsible for even making sure anything is actually done…[So] I did not have any formal teaching experience besides substitute teaching.
Did you have any fears when you were working for the newspaper, and how did you overcome them?
Yes, I did. One of the fears I had was I had to go into some potentially dangerous situations that involved shootings or crime scenes that were still active. There was one in particular that was a little scary because we just had a bank robbery, so I was called out to the bank. I was one of the first people there, and the police were really kinda freaked out because the person had brandished a weapon…and ran and was somewhere in the vicinity of the bank, outside in the neighborhoods at large. Taking my cues from the police officers and the detectives around me, they seemed nervous to have the general public out and about. I knew my job was to stay there and report…but I also was concerned that all of us were standing in the middle of an active crime scene.
How has being a journalist affected who you are today and where you are as a person?
I think that I’ve always had a natural tendency towards curiosity. I’m the person who comes into a conversation and asks questions. I’ve just always been that person, I love to learn about people, I have a natural curiosity. I think going into the profession for that was very helpful. One of the things I took from the profession was the ability to stop and actually listen to people. Listen to their stories, not just ask questions, but there’s a difference between listening to somebody and hearing somebody. I think that being a journalist really encourages you to listen [and] to take the information that’s being given to you, to process it, to react to it, to write about it. It’s really a whole different skill…That has been an invaluable lesson to me especially going into parenthood and now coming into the profession of teaching.
What do you think are some of your professional highlights as a journalist?
Professional highlights of mine were…interviewing some pretty famous people. I got to interview Garry Senise, who was an actor in the movie Forrest Gump. I got to interview a bunch of four-star generals, so generals that have the ears of Presidents–Colin Powel, I got to interview him. Laura Bush, I conducted an interview with her over the phone one time, that was really cool.
If you could go back in time and talk to your past self, what is one piece of advice you would give to yourself?
I would say that I would tell myself to be a better advocate for myself as a woman working in a predominantly male profession. Coming in as somebody who was in her early twenties with no experience in journalism, in daily print journalism, I did not advocate for myself very well in that newsroom. I worked really hard, I did a great job, I won Georgia Press Association award for the work that I did. I never felt like I deserved any promotions or accolades outside of what the Georgia Press Association was willing to give me. I think that that really held me back, I think that if I could’ve been a better advocate for myself, I would have found more success and perhaps more longevity in that career.