Thoughts on Life, Art, Photography, Technology, Teaching and Travel…..

On Teaching…

I got an e-mail the other day from my old High School buddy Gordon who let me know my 40th High School reunion was next month. I about freaked! I couldn’t believe it had been 40 years since graduating Holy Family Catholic High School on Long Island. I was a lousy student and the nuns didn’t think I would amount to anything. I took undergraduate school in New York a little more seriously, but it took a stint in the Army to shake me up and make me realize just how important getting an education was. I used my GI Bill and worked my way through an MFA in Communication Arts after leaving military service. I’ve been teaching (and Directing Distance Learning) at a community college since finishing graduate school in the early 80’s. In fact…distance learning has enabled me to teach for 7 colleges across North Carolina.

Teaching photography can be incredibly rewarding. Being a great photography instructor takes PASSION, ENTHUSIASM and a LOVE for the medium. It also can be frustrating, demoralizing and emotionally/intellectually draining. Especially when you teach technology and your course content is constantly changing, retooling and evolving. It’s definitely a challenge if you set your bar high. Being a college instructor you essentially enter into a contract with your students. They expect certain things from me and I in turn have certain expectations from them, such as being accountable for the course work and putting in the time and effort to do that work well. The most frustrating part of teaching is when some students don’t exert the effort it takes to learn the material and do the various assessments to meet the bar I set for them.

Learning shouldn’t be a forced thing, however in some cases it is and that causes the teacher / student relationship to be strained. Being a good teacher (in my opinion) is about finding a balance between having high expectations for students and yet being accommodating (flexible) enough to bend when issues causing students to get behind get in the way of them succeeding in class. Yes…balance is critical to the learning process and great teachers are always striving to maintain the integrity of the course and still help students succeed even when the setbacks in life get in the way.

As I said…teaching is rewarding in so many ways, but you have to go into it with your eyes wide open. Teaching is a very demanding career. It can however also be frustrating with all the extra “red tape” and “busy work” that educators have to deal with and address on a daily basis. The government constantly creates all these new rules and regulations to insure their federal and state funding is being used wisely I suppose and it all filters down to the teachers in the trenches who now have to constantly prove (with data I might add) that learning is occurring in their classes. Yes..accountability is important, yet some of the extra bureaucratic red tape is excessive and keeps us from doing what we do best and that is teach students all we know about photography and learning to truly SEE, FEEL and THINK photographically.

The following are a e-mails I recently got from my former students. Graduates of my Photography Program. These e-mails to me is really what it’s all about and the most rewarding part of teaching. We do make a difference in young peoples lives even though sometimes we might not think we do.


Hey, this is _________, I graduated in 2005 from CCC, I don’t know if you remember me or not? I was going through some old school stuff, and was thinking back to when I was in college, and I  have to say you are one of the most influential people I have ever met, and your dynamic teaching ways can make anyone just in love with photography. I want to thank you for getting me started on my path. I was a mess in College going through a divorce, but your energy and passion for photography was very addicting. I slacked off of photography for a while, I was shooting and shooting for a long time, and nothing really seemed to be coming my way. However I never gave up and I  now have to showing coming up. One gallery is also representing me and selling my pictures online. I want to thank you for inspiring me, you kinda took me under your wing a little when I was in North Carolina. I didn’t have any family down there as they all lived in Ohio, and I can remember one time I was flat out of money and you paid me to clean your house just so i would have some money! Again, Thank you for just being an amazing teacher and at that time a friend. You can change a persons life just by doing the small things, a lot of people have forgotten that kindness and a helping hand can go farther than they could ever imagine. 

Hey Patrick!

I just wanted to thank you again for the letter or recommendation, unfortunately I didn’t get the Cape Fear job…..I landed something way better!  For the past month I’ve been working at Eastern Skateboard Supply in Wilmington doing product photography and graphic design!  ESS is the world’s largest skateboard supply distributor and the images I take are used on our customer’s websites also.  Aside from taking all the product shots (everything from decks to wheels to clothing)  I’ve been creating promotional web banners for different brands.  ESS also hosts professional skate team demos once every few months and I’ll be shooting those as well!  The job is fantastic.  I get to skate to and from the warehouse when I’m pulling product, I have my own little “studio” with a sweep and a softbox, there’s no dress code, mass amounts of freedom, and I learn something new almost every day.   I just wanted to share this news with you, since you were one of the most influential people throughout my college experience.  It was you who instilled in me a passion for product photography and commercial illustration.  However, at the time, I didn’t think I could actually get paid to do it!  I just want you to know how everything you all taught me at CCC with digital manipulation, studio lighting, etc. has greatly prepared me for this job and really gave me a set of skills that has paid off!  

 I honestly feel that I gained more at CCC then I did with my two years at ASU.  Much thanks to you all, and I’ll stay in touch.

Mr. Keough,

Hope all is going well on the eastern side of the state. Just wanted to shoot you an email and let you know that I absolutely LOVED your class. I’m fortunate that I was able to take it as an elective. It’s been extremely informative, in-depth, and interactive. Again, sir…I thoroughly enjoyed your class, and do plan on continuing my artistic studies in the future.

This is another very successful graduate of our photo program’s web site. Clint Perry who came back recently and shared his career journey with our students and was very appreciative of what he learned in our humble photo program over 10 years ago. Click Here!

E-mails and testimonials like this are the real validation for me and make me keep getting up for work every day. Sure…the money is important, but as I said…you’ll never get rich being a teacher.

One comment on “On Teaching…

  1. souldiaries
    September 30, 2010

    rich reward to know that you have helped youngsters along their way. what an accolade to your journey on earth. thanks for the tips on teaching btw, and also for the continued inspiration for my wordshops xx

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This entry was posted on September 27, 2010 by in Keough Journal, Teaching with Technology and tagged , , , .
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