Back to School – When the Teacher Becomes the Student

April 28, 2018
Back to School – When the Teacher Becomes the Student

I think that one of the biggest misconceptions that people have when they consider attending a college like the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science is that their career options will be limited to the funeral profession. Please allow me to dispel this myth. Sure, earning an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) or a Bachelor of Mortuary Science (B.M.S.) grants the bearer access into the greater community of practicing funeral directors and embalmers, but in addition to that, many other doors are opened. For example, I’ve known people who took their CCMS education and spun it into amazing and rewarding careers in medical examiners’ offices, college anatomical departments, family counseling, and education. I am one of those examples. Let me explain.

When I accepted my current position with CCMS as a member of the faculty, the job came with some strings attached. One of the requirements for keeping the position was that I needed to earn a master’s degree within five years of beginning employment. (Educators at ABFSE-accredited institutions, like CCMS, must hold a post-graduate degree in order for the college to maintain its standing.) With the understanding that I would once again find myself as a student, I accepted the position. Owing to my having earned a degree from an accredited institution, I was in the enviable position of being able to apply and be accepted to graduate school. Out of all the options that were laid out before me, I selected education as the focus for a master’s degree.

Hooding ceremony

Since I’d had my share of excellent teachers (and some horrible ones too) I set out to try to determine what it was that separated one from the other. As a consequence of this, I quickly found myself interested in what motivates students to do well in their classes. As it turns out, the best teachers are the ones who can motivate their students to do more, inspiring them to open doors and look under stones they otherwise wouldn’t have. Now before I get too far into this I feel as though a clarification is in order: there is a clear difference between being motivated to do something and being compelled to do something. The former involves inspiring people to do more with something from within, while the latter requires often unpleasant external stimuli. (As a soldier I became an expert at compulsory activities, but that’s a story for another time.) It is far better to motivate than to compel.

My thesis for completing my master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati entailed the discovery of methods utilized by educators to help students find that inner drive to excel. I researched and read through the writings of many wonderful teachers and grafted their methods together into something I felt would be something my own students at CCMS could possibly benefit from. In short, what it all comes down to is what sort of relationship a teacher has with their students. If you are willing to put yourself out there and laugh at yourself on occasion while giving students some agency in their own education, you will be a happier and more successful teacher.

John Vinnedge, CCMS Faculty/Clinical Faculty

As my students know (and I’m sure you’re beginning to realize) I like to take the long way round. Recently, all current students, faculty, and staff of CCMS were assembled to honor the completion of my Master of Education degree and it was quite flattering. It was a wonderful thing to see before me so many people whose lives I get to be a part of every day. That part is the honor. Earning the degree? Well, that was just my job. You see, the beauty of CCMS is this: I wasn’t born with the implements to touch lives every single day. CCMS gave me those tools. Regardless of what CCMS alumni do with their degrees, they can use those same tools to leave a positive and lasting impact on the lives of those with whom they work. That’s just what we do here.

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-Written by John Vinnedge, CCMS Faculty/Clinical Faculty

John Vinnedge is a licensed funeral director and embalmer in the State of Ohio having served in funeral service since 1998. He is also a veteran of the United States Army having served with the XVIII Airborne Corp in Fort Bragg, NC from 1995 to 2003 in both active and reserve duty status.After graduating Summa Cum Laude from CCMS in 2012 and earning his professional licenses in 2013, John has returned to join the Faculty as Clinical Lab instructor, as well as teaching Embalming Theories I & III, Microbiology & Pathology, and Cemetery & Cremation Fundamentals. John is a CANA certified crematory operator and authorized to practice in the Commonwealth of Kentucky under the guidelines of the courtesy card Act (KRS 316.14). John earned his Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Cincinnati.

John is a proud dad of two children and cherishes his time as a husband and father. In his spare time he enjoys film, literature, and spending time in the great outdoors for both sport and leisure.