Full-Time Welding Instructor Shares His Remote Teaching Experience

Photo courtesy: Pavel Chernonogov

Marc Rose is a full time welding instructor and the department chair of the welding program at LBCC. This is his fifth year teaching full time and he taught part time for six years prior to that. Marc is also an alumni of the LB welding program. He lives in Lebanon with his wife, 16-year -old daughter and 11-year-old son. 

How did you get started teaching?

I wanted to teach right out of high school, but I wasn’t the most academic of students and I couldn’t see myself going to school for four more years. So, I kind of lost focus on that dream for a while. But about 11 or 12 years ago Dean Dowless (a welding instructor at LB) contacted me about teaching a part time class. I was like, ‘Yeah! Why not?’ I taught part time for about six years and then five years ago there was an opening for a full time faculty member. I applied,  and here I am. 

What did you do before teaching at LB?

I worked at a local pulp and paper mill in Albany; Warehouser, which became IP.  When they closed I went down to Springfield and I started at a mill down there as a pipefitter and became a supervisor. 

How did you get into welding?

I worked on a farm during my summers in high school and I liked working in the shop repairing stuff. After high school, I showed up to orientation my first year at LB and John Alvin, one of the welding instructors, said ‘If you want to be a welder, come with me.’ So I followed him and that’s how I became a welder. 

What do welders do?

*laughing* What do we not do?

What I always tell students is that don’t think of yourself as being under the welding hood all day. You’re also going to be fabricating, building, and repairing stuff. But there’s also other career paths you can get into with welding. Mechanical engineering, sales, equipment maintenance, and repair manufacturing. I mean, there’s a ton of stuff. And there’s a lot more careers in general welding than just welding itself.

What’s it like to be a welder? What does a day as a welder look like?

A welder working at one of the local facilities, like LMN and H30, works as a group. So you have to have good communications skills and good math skills because you have to interpret blueprints and drawings, figure out your cuts, cut all your parts, prep all your parts, weld all your parts, double check all your parts, and get them ready for shipping. There’s a lot more to welding than people realize. People think welders just make sparks and weld stuff together but there’s a little bit more to it than that. 

We always tell prospective students that you may not know it but your everyday life is touched by welding. If you drove a car today, it was welded together. If you went over a bridge, it was welded. The building you work in has welded components. There’s a  lot more to it than people give us credit for. 

How did your work prior to LB prepare you for being a teacher?

I worked on both the production and the management side of things. Managing a crew of people with different personalities, and being a middle manager with other managers above me and my crew below me, helped me to build my communication skills. I learned how to make sure that everybody had the information they needed. That part helped me learn how to run my class like I would run a job. The student’s job is to learn the skills and my job is to teach them. 

So, I set that expectation. I tell my students if you’re not here to learn I can’t teach you. I had a boss that would always say ‘Inspect what you expect,’ which I thought was kind of silly at the time. But that’s kind of how I teach. I set an expectation, then I always inspect to make sure they’re following through with it. 

What do you find to be the most satisfying part of your job as a welding instructor?

There’s a couple of things. I tell my students that you’re going to struggle. You’ll improve then you’ll regress. Then you’ll improve and then you’ll probably regress. Then, one day, it just clicks. And you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh! This is easy!’

So when they have that aha moment. 

Also when I hear back from students who have graduated and gone on to successful careers. When I hear back from them, that’s also pretty cool.

With this term being online only, how are you teaching your welding students?

Mostly, we’re shooting a lot of videos and having zoom classes. I got my wife and kids to help me put together some tool kits for students. They include some supplies the students need and we made up these electrode holders so students can practice their hand eye coordination. This way the students actually have some things at home so when we shoot a video and say “hey, work on this” we give them some demonstrations and then ask them to do it. 

Our traditional classes are probably about 10-20% lecture, depending on the exact course, and the rest is a lot of hands on. We’ve had to try and figure out how to go from that format to where we are now – online. We’ve worked out a way for them to practice some from home, but teaching these types of skills online hasn’t been easy for sure. 

On the positive side, we’ve learned how to use Moodle and some other technology available to us more. I think our students are starting to feel more comfortable with it and I think it’s going to help us in the future. I can see us keeping one or two classes with the lecture portions online in future terms. It makes it much more flexible for students who work.

This term was just really hard because we didn’t have more time to prepare. It’s week seven now and we’re still learning because we are learning as we go.

How are students reacting to online learning?

I have a pretty good group of students that I already had a relationship with before this, because we work in cohorts, and they’ve been really understanding. Whenever we meet I tell them I know this isn’t ideal but we’re not singled out — we’re not the only ones dealing with this. 

They’ve been good at giving feedback on the videos I post and that’s helpful, knowing they’re actually engaging. The Zoom meetings are beneficial to the students who can make it but some students have had a hard time. 

Their living situations have changed, they’re trying to support their families and work in any job they can find. I have a few students that have had some housing issues this term and it has really impacted their school. They’re really freaked out. I’ve reached out to them and we talk a couple times a week. I keep telling them “Hey, don’t worry about it. We’ll get through it. This isn’t normal so don’t stress about school so much. Worry about your life first then we’ll get you back on track.”

I think it helps them to talk. And I’m a talker so…

But it’s been hard not having everyone together. I know the students really miss it because one of my first assignments in class this term was asking them how are you going to do with online classes, and what are you going to miss the most about being on campus.

Most of them said they’re going to miss me the most! Just kidding.

They said they’re really going to miss being in the shop and seeing their classmates every day. Because isolation sucks. But having some of these Zoom meetings where they can kind of see each other and they have their own instant messaging and text groups to stay in touch with each other has been good.

Specific to online teaching, what are some of the things you’ve identified as your biggest challenges and your biggest success?

The biggest challenge, since we used Moodle so sparingly before, is making sure that we all utilize it now the best we can to keep as engaged as possible with our students. But we have pretty good support. The Moodle team and Paul Tanahill have been really helpful. And some of the Kaltura software we got for this term has been really helpful.  

We kind of stumbled into some of our successes using Kaltura. There’s an option to embed questions into a video you’ve made, so the video stops and asks questions throughout it. The students really like that because it makes them feel more like they do during class — like I’m there talking to them, asking them questions. It’s still not real, but I think it’s as real as we can get.

One big difference in teaching online is that in a classroom I can read people’s body language and facial expressions to see if they’re getting it. I can’t do that online. I tell them to call me or text me, let me know how they’re doing but you have to get them to be honest with you and tell you if they don’t get it. 

How has it been working from home with your family?

Working from home has been a challenge. My kids are doing online school too so the internet can be kind of a booger. My daughter had AP tests yesterday so she was like, ‘Nobody use the computer!’ because she didn’t want anything to get jacked up.

My wife works in the dental field so she just went back to work. She was home for a while though because all the dental offices have been shut. But it hasn’t been bad having everyone home. It was like everybody, you know, had to meet everybody again. It’s kind of weird. 

Outside of work, what are you passionate about?

I like doing home improvement stuff. We’ve lived in our house for about 20 years and I think I’ve remodeled each room at least once. Some rooms twice. And we just did a big addition last year. I also like going camping and fishing out on the boat. I have a welding shop at home — surprise, surprise — as well, so I like to work on hot rods and trucks. 

If you had no limits on your budget or your program, what would you add to the welding program?

Honestly, I don’t even think I’d want money. I would just want time. Time to get everything done. We’ve been under construction for the last three or four years and just when we’re about done, we get shut down for covid. We were so close to getting back to normal and now it’s like we have to reset. We still have stuff to finish up in the shops, and the IA’s are out there working on it, but we don’t have students in the shop to help. It’s really nice when the students help out with the building and organizing because they learn from it.

But now we have to reinvent the way we teach. I don’t think money would help with any of that. I just want some time so we can just get back to normal and not have to work around stuff like we have been the last few years. We just want to go and teach in our shops. 

With everything that’s going on, what do you think the future of your program looks like?

Welding kind of stays the same. I mean, there are technological advances in equipment, but the basics of building stay the same. And throughout the whole pandemic, one thing we’ve seen with our industry partners is that they’ve stayed working this whole time. Their jobs are deemed essential. I feel like we might see an influx of students next year that we wouldn’t normally see. A lot of people have lost their jobs and maybe they know someone who is a welder and saw that they stayed working the whole time. That may make them come look into it for themselves.

What should someone do if they’re interested in the welding program?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Get a hold of me, Cameren Moran, or anyone else in the program and ask for more information. We can also steer them towards another CTE program for information. Just don’t be afraid to ask.

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