Incorporating second jobs into the classroom

Incorporating second jobs into the classroom

A teacher walks into a bar.

Far from an old joke, this is social studies teacher Mark Wheeler’s daily life during the spring and summer. Wheeler has worked in restaurants since high school and has been a bartender since his time as an undergraduate college student at University of Massachusetts—more than 20 years ago.

“It’s not for everybody, bars and restaurants,” Wheeler said. “But I quickly learned if you can tolerate the atmosphere, it’s different.”

Having worked as a bartender in Brookline, Boston and the West Coast, Wheeler brings his experience to both bars and to the classroom. Although two seemingly contradictory jobs, they have one focal point, according to Wheeler.

“In the course of a week as a bartender, you come into contact with hundreds of people. Very different people, often times with different needs, different wants, and different ways of going about it,” Wheeler said. “You get better dealing with different people and communicating with different people. As a teacher, especially at a public school, we get everybody here. We get different kids with different needs and different ways of expressing it. I’d like to think that helps.”

Working with different types of people is not the only part of bartending that links Wheeler to his main job. Wheeler has met parents of students in bars that he has worked at and even had a former student come into his bar.

Referring to his work in Brookline at Jimmy’s Bar and Oven, Wheeler said, “I was resistant at first to working there, just because I didn’t know if I wanted to. But I did, and actually it was fine. A lot of families I’ve known, and students, have come in and sat at tables, so I go over and say hi.”

English teacher Nicholas Rothstein also has his own job divide.

Like Wheeler, Rothstein said he finds that there is a correlation between his two jobs, although there is a major difference in subject. Rothstein works as a boxing instructor outside of school.

As an instructor at the YMCA and at the Ring Boxing Club, Rothstein has found that boxing makes him more mellow in his daily life, something he realized in his days as an amateur boxer.

Rothstein said he draws a connection to his background as an English teacher to boxing instruction, noting that many boxers and writers dabble in both fields.

“Norman Mailer, a very famous writer was a huge boxing fan, knew a lot about boxing, wrote about boxing,” Rothstein said. “Muhammad Ali was one of the most gifted linguists in the day, you know, a guy who wrote his own poetry. There’s a lot of smart guys who’ve been around in boxing.”

Rothstein teaches mainly beginner and group classes. According to the Ring Boxing Club website, Rothstein is also a boxing coach to the wives of Red Sox players. However, Rothstein sees little difference between teaching boxing and English instruction.

“Teaching is teaching. If you know how to teach, you can teach anything,” Rothstein said. “That’s really the key. No matter how good a boxer I would ever become, or as educated I can get in the subject of literature, it doesn’t mean you can teach either one well.”

Rothstein said he believes that there are universal values that make a good teacher whether you are teaching someone to punch or to punctuate.

“Ability to convey the information to a particular audience. All that really means is that you have to know your audience,” Rothstein said. “You have to know your subject, you have to know your audience and you have to be able to manipulate and modify your information so the particular audience can understand what it is they need to do.”

Social studies teacher Marcie Simon also has athletic and scholarly connections. Simon used to teach aerobics and now focuses on personal training and brings experience to her training and teaching, having worked with people of all different levels of ability.

“I think personal training is a part of teaching,” Simon said. “You teach people how to be more independent with their exercise, to learn how to exercise safely and to keep it up. I’d say it’s a similar type of mold.”

Simon has not officially incorporated any personal training into her school curriculum yet, but she is working on it.

“I’m trying to do tabata. Every freshman class, halfway through the class, I’m trying to do three minutes or 30 seconds of exercise,” Simon said. “Any kind of movement is good. And there’s been all that new research about movement and the brain.”

Rothstein and Simon offer very different types of exercise. Rothstein describes the first step of boxing as throwing a person in training to the wolves. However, Rothstein does not find his second job special.

“Honestly,” Rothstein said. “It’s just like anything else.”

Juliana Kaplan can be contacted at [email protected]