PITTSBURG — Professor John Franklin has always wanted to influence students, hoping to encourage them to lead productive lives.
He was teaching in an underprivileged area in Houston as a high school English teacher.
“I thought, ‘I'm doing a pretty good job keeping students out of gangs and getting them into the military by working with the ROTC people,” he said. “I was helping my seniors get athletic scholarships and working with coaches … one day I went out on the porch of my classroom — I was in one of those temporary buildings — and thought, if I can teach 10 people to do what I’m doing it wouldn't be 130 students, it would 130 times 10, so the influence would exponential.”
After speaking to his favorite teacher at his undergrad school, Rice University, he was advised to get his master’s degree in English.
“He reminded me that I’m an English major first and an English teacher second, so I should take my graduate degree in English rather than education,” Franklin said.
Although there is nothing wrong with teaching degrees, he said, the philosophy guides future teachers to work on their craft, rather than focusing on soley teaching.
“I brought that philosophy here,” he said. “The students in my class are English majors first and teachers second.
“That’s my philosophy and that’s how we make sure they are competent in their subject matter.”
In addition to this philosophy, he has made a special guide "ELA for M/S: A Guidebook for Beginning Teachers” and it is the first class in history of PSU receive a zero textbook cost.
“It’s my pleasure of giving them this book,” Franklin said.
He compiled a career’s worth of content in one year with the assistance of Brenda Frieden, Jason Kermashek, the PSU Open Educational Resources Steering Committee and many other university faculty and staff who were instrumental in design all the way to print. Professional development funds paid for its publication.
As an avid traveler, he created the guidebook so his students can have a resource for his Literature for Middle and Secondary Schools class and to be utilized by recent graduates in English or Language Arts classrooms at the middle or secondary school level.
"Guidebooks are time-honored as essential to travelers venturing into foreign territory that is already settled," he said in the forward of the book.
His students said they are glad to have the book, they said, which each have read and presented a chapter from in front of their class.
“I think that it is such a Professor Franklin thing to do for his students to write a textbook ... and give the money to this program to give it to us for free,” one of his students Casey Blanchard said. “He likes to do things for his students.”
“I also think the fact that it is zero cost is important, but the fact that we utilized it in class makes it even more worthwhile,” PSU student Daniel Mirocke chimed in.
Another student, Kevin Bradley agreed.
“I like that it's a resource and very easily accessible so I can pull it up in a classroom and quickly go over things and read the practical tips and questions to use as I’m teaching,” he said.
To go along with Franklin’s backpacking experience during summers when he taught high school he was particular about one thing, at which his students laughed, yet said they were thankful for.
“One of his big things is that it fits in your pocket,” Bradley said.
The book can fit in a back pocket or the front pocket of a shirt for easy access, just like guidebooks used for travel.
What the students call “little nuggets” of information and sayings their professor provided will be going along with them through their journey following college.
These “nuggets” are what he calls the “eight pedagogical imperatives” — it’s all in the cards; genial criticism; Swiss Army tool approach to teaching; the total relaxation theory of the universe; function follows fun; pet peeves; be friendly, don’t be friends; and teaching as a multi-tasking activity.
Aside from teaching the literature for middle and secondary schools class, Franklin also supervises interns and student teachers.
He has been working for PSU for 20 years and through his supervising over the years he has walked down the hallways of many schools at Arma, Baxter Springs, Bluejacket, Carl Junction, Carthage, Chanute, Cherokee, Columbus, Frontenac, Fort Scott, Galena, Gardner-Edgerton, Girard, Joplin, Miami, Neodesha, Nevada, Paola, Riverton, Webb City and Wyandotte.
After his interview at PSU two decades ago, he knew it would be the place where he could finally influence future teachers to help students, like his students in Houston, succeed.
“Of all the interviews I had, the happiest people I met were on this campus,” he said. “That night … you can call it prayer, meditation, thoughtfulness, I saw the pathway open up here as clearly as I’m looking at you right now.”
Despite another job offer he chose Pittsburg as his new home.
“I’d rather have happiness than money, and the job was a natural extension of what I was doing at my job in Houston,” he said.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.