Answering the Call of Teaching: Beyond the Bubble with Patsy Hinton
Written by Ben Dietderich
BEN DIETDERICH: This is Beyond the Bubble. My name is Ben Dietrich, and I’m here with Patsy Hinton tonight, a proud supporter of the college. Patsy, thank you for joining us tonight.
PATSY HINTON: Glad to be here. Thank you for asking me.
BEN DIETDERICH: Absolutely. So our topic tonight is Diving Deeper into Education. To start us off, tell us a little bit about yourself, your own role in education as a headmaster, and how you got in relation with the college.
PATSY HINTON: Well, let’s see. I started in education back in the ’90s. I was in the public school, inner-city school, and loved it. Every educational experience where I’ve had an opportunity to serve, I’ve been so grateful to be there. You find that people who are meant to be teachers or headmasters tend to like the work no matter what. It’s because it really is a calling.
I started in inner-city Tampa, worked in public school for years. When my daughter went to a Classical Christian school, I very quickly decided that’s where I wanted to be as well. And so I was hired on as the dean—served as the Dean of Academics at a Classical Christian school for over a decade.
And then from there, I went on to work with some of the Barney Charter Schools as an academic director in Texas and Arkansas. And then really entered the private school realm. I was a headmaster at Bloomfield Christian for a couple of years, which is a couple of hours from Hillsdale. And then actually I last year took the job down here in Oxford, Georgia, at Providence Classical Christian School.
So my relationship with the college has been that about twelve years ago, I think, I brought my first students up to visit at Hillsdale. Since then, we’ve had the blessing of our daughter being able to go there. But I’m coming back to the campus next week to bring another five students for a college visit. I think that’s going to be my seventh one.
I have also worked closely with the classical job fairs. I come every year. Y’all are kind enough to give me a spot there to get to talk to people, and I’ve been able to hire quite a few Hillsdale graduates over the years.
BEN DIETDERICH: That’s great to hear. It’s an exciting story. So I’m curious, from your time when you were a teacher, what were the major differences when you moved over from a public school to a charter school? And then, of course, after that on to a private Christian school as well.
PATSY HINTON: Well, probably the biggest difference from the public to the private, or charter even, is the level of parental involvement. In public school there was less of it, even though I taught inner-city. And then I actually taught at a more affluent public school. And it would be rare for me to actually interact with parents.
That changed a great deal when I moved into the charter school world, and then significantly more when I moved into the private school world. That’s one dynamic that I think is important to recognize, besides the fact the freedom within specifically the private school to really be able to tie in virtue, which is important for me.
I’m part of a group of schools that are part of the Association of Classical Christian Schools. There’s more than 250 of us in the country. There are even a few internationally. We are a group of schools that are much like Hillsdale in that we don’t accept any government money.
So as a part of that, we have a lot of freedom in what we’re teaching and the way we teach it.
For us, it goes back to the Word of God, ultimately. All virtues based on Scripture. I like the freedom that comes from not having government constraints. Even when I did go into the charter school world—and I love it, I love what Hillsdale is doing, I’m so grateful they’re doing it, but I’m also very grateful to be in education where I have the freedom to take it back to God’s Word as the foundation.
BEN DIETDERICH: That’s great. I think the stereotypical interpretation of a charter school is that it means taking a cut in pay if you’re a teacher. Do you think that’s the case? If so, do those advantages you just discussed outweigh any financial setbacks that could possibly exist?
PATSY HINTON: My experiences at the charter schools that I was with, teachers did not take a pay cut compared to what the regular public government schools’ teachers were earning. Now when it comes to the private school, there is a significant decrease in salary and benefits. I mean, that’s just not a part of what most of the small private schools are able to do.
The difference is, while you do have as much planning, you don’t have necessarily have 150 students. You might have 50 students. And so—and even just relationally, it’s really different. And so we don’t tend to have the same kind of situations in the classroom, as far as managing classrooms and engagement with students.
In smaller environments, there’s much less that takes away from the learning opportunities. So when you go back to kind of a regular public school situation, it is more exhausting. I do recognize that some people are called to do that. I’m glad that they’re there and that they’re serving in those ways. But as you move into classical and even into private, there is a trade-off for money. Sometimes it’s the kind of conversations, or the things you get to teach, or even the relationships you build. You’re not as tired physically, but you are mentally.
BEN DIETDERICH: Yeah. I get that. My parents are private school teachers. You’ve mentioned before that you like to come to Hillsdale for the classical jobs fair, to look for students as prospective teachers. What do you look for? What’s an ideal candidate for you when you’re looking at hiring new teachers?
PATSY HINTON: For me, and I’ll start with this, and then I’ll give you some other things that’ll help kind of break this out. But for me, it’s somebody who has a love of the Lord, first and foremost. That’s what I’m looking for. And from there, what I like to see is somebody who loves kids and loves learning. And that’s got to be evident to me in the conversations I have with them, and in that order.
Once we’ve established that, then I’m looking at more practical kinds of things, like how organized are they? How have they already been working with children? What are their experiences? The types of things that they tell me about their experiences. And those who are excited. I want people who want to be here doing this, because it’s hard work. And whether you’re private, charter, or traditional public school, it’s a lot of work.
You know, people talk about how much time you get off, but having parents who are teachers, or in education—there’s a lot of time spent in the evenings, weekends, even in the summers, preparing. And there is the investment of your heart as well. People go into teaching because they like kids. Or the good ones do anyway. And that needs to be evident to me.
But I do want to say that if they have something to present to me in writing, make sure that’s coherent and that I can understand it and it’s organized. Because in that presentation, in your written and your spoken conversation with me in the beginning, I need to see that you’re prepared and a lot of thought has gone into that.
BEN DIETDERICH: Absolutely. At Hillsdale, they have a classical education minor but not a major. A lot of students I know who have gone on to work in education, some of them didn’t even get the minor, but majored in something that was more liberal arts oriented. Is that acceptable in some situations for you if they have the other qualities you’re describing?
PATSY HINTON: That’s a really good question. My experience in the charter school world is, that will be more of a challenge because the state is going to require that you go through and become certified, wherein schools that are part of the ACCS, the Association of Classical Christian Schools, we don’t have that.
Actually, most of my teachers that I hire, especially in my upper school—middle and upper school—do not have teaching backgrounds. And I’m good with that. I would rather they were content specialists; they know their subject, and they have a love for it. Because that’s going to transfer to their students.
I can teach you how to do classroom management things, how to organize, even how to do a lesson plan—which is what I spend a lot of time doing. Most of the teachers I hire don’t come from Hillsdale, although I get to hire a steady stream. Every year it seems like I get a few. More when I was in Bloomfield because it was closer.
I would like to keep that steady train of Hillsdale graduates headed on down to Georgia so I can hire them. I can teach a teacher the skill of teaching. But teaching is also an art. And if you know your content, and you’re confident in your content, we can develop the art part of it. And that’s what we do.
Now, I do have a program that takes over two years going through it and then you become certified with ACCS. It’s a lot of reading books and writing papers about them. I do a lot of classroom observations where I meet with teachers before I observe them, find out how I can be helpful to them. Then I use a way to capture that information so that I can communicate back to them what I saw, and some things we can do.
I spend a lot of time with those early teachers as support. Those observations aren’t meant to be supervisory; they’re meant to be supportive. And that’s my role. The other thing I do is connect teachers with veteran teachers so that they can learn alongside them. We do a lot of peer support.
BEN DIETDERICH: Speaking of support, before we started the show, you mentioned a mentorship program you have. Do you want to talk a bit about that and what that is?
PATSY HINTON: Right, that’s essentially what it is. It’s working with a colleague that’s a peer in a similar type of age group or content area, and it involves observing in their classroom, them observing in your classroom, and meeting to come back and then unpack that—what you saw, what you liked, where you need some help.
I offer professional days where teachers can go and get off-site training, or even on-site training. So if they want to not teach for an entire day because they want to be able to go into their colleagues’ classrooms, we set that up so that they can do that.
I have a wealth of teaching experience on my campus in every school I’ve been in, so I try and start there. And from there we move out, going to other schools. We also attend a conference every couple of years, the Association of Classical Christian Schools.
Plus, we’re always doing professional development in the school. About once a month I have a half day or a full day with the teachers alone. Recently we took a piece of artwork, and I showed them how when I teach history, because that’s my love, I’ll introduce a piece of artwork. This one was of Pocahontas being baptized.
So we went through how you would look at this with the students, what you would draw from what they did know and applying that and asking, “Well, what are we guessing here that we don’t know?” And then from there, I help bring it together for them. But I demonstrate with the teachers and then give them those opportunities with me.
BEN DIETDERICH: Going back to hiring, how often is it that you receive candidates who come out of a school like Hillsdale with a liberal arts degree, who think they want to do something that’s maybe not related to teaching, but maybe something else with their liberal arts degree, and then one or two years out decide it’s not really for them. Is that common?
PATSY HINTON: Yes, it’s very common. And you know what? I took a very similar path when it came to education. I left, and I actually was a restaurant manager. And I just thought, I make good money; I can kind of get myself solidified financially. And then within a couple of years it was empty. I was meant to be a teacher. So I made the change. I came back and was able to teach. And I got some good training. That’s when I started working on my graduate work in education in order to prepare to be in the classroom.
People go out there, and they want to try something. But that call, when it’s there, you need to find joy in the work you’re doing. And if you’re called to teaching, that time with students is very rewarding. And you begin to decide, you know what? Maybe I could give up just a little bit because this is really what I’m supposed to be doing.
BEN DIETDERICH: Those are some wise words. Thank you really so much for joining us tonight.
PATSY HINTON: Yes, absolutely. It was nice to be with you.
BEN DIETDERICH: That was Patsy Hinton. We were talking tonight on diving deeper into education. So if you’re just watching this, go ahead and watch the whole thing, or any more of our Beyond the Bubble videos where we offer advice for recent graduates and students who are looking to break out into the real world. Thank you very much for listening, and have a good night.
Benjamin Dietderich grew up in Vienna, Austria. He is currently a junior studying political economy and journalism. Originally from Seattle, Washington, he is an Eagle Scout, former White House intern and radio host at Radio Free Hillsdale. His interviews have been nominated for two IBS awards and have included prominent guests such as Ben Shapiro, Gov. Gary Johnson and John Bolton. Follow Ben on Twitter @ben_dietd.
Published in February 2019.