NEWLAND — Avery High School theater and chemistry teacher Coleman Bailey recently successfully defended his doctoral thesis to earn his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis Program at East Tennessee State University.
Dr. Bailey, who was named the Director of Alternative and Virtual Education for the Avery County School System this past semester, is continuing to teach science virtually since the school system has placed an added focus on remote learning during the pandemic.
Bailey’s educational achievement is the culmination of a 30-year career during which he says he has witnessed a trend of young men in the educational system becoming detached. Bailey’s doctoral thesis entitled “Beating the Odds: Perseverance and its Influence on the Male Students’ Perceptions in Overcoming Generational Poverty” touches on this very subject.
“It’s a national trend, and I’ve taught in all areas of the state, all races and all backgrounds. What I decided to do was look for and interview young men who have made it successfully and see what we could learn as educators from those stories,” Bailey said.
Bailey pointed out that females have surpassed males in educational performance over the previous decades. As part of his research, Bailey conducted a qualitative study where he interviewed his subjects with open-ended questions, such as how they define success and factors in their life that they credit for helping them achieve their success.
Bailey found candidates by reaching out to former students, different organizations and a network of professionals who worked their way up from a low socioeconomic background and who saw themselves as being successful. Interview subjects ranged from 22 to 50 years old who came from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Bailey said a lot of the subjects were from single-parent homes, two were adopted and the rest had two-parent homes.
“I really wanted to study that because of my interest in helping the youth in Avery County, and even though I focused on the male population for my doctorate, what I learned from it will benefit males and females, anyone,” Bailey said.
Bailey’s research revealed that mentorship programs and relationships between adults and students, either at school or in the community, tend to have a beneficial impact on youth and provides them a positive role model to help guide them in life.
“Being able to participate in extracurricular activities, especially sports, a lot of males accredited that to their success. A lot of people think sports lead to college ball and things, but the stories I got were from kids who knew they were not playing ball in college, but they learned how to deal with success and failure on the athletic field, and that helped them overcome challenges later in life as adults, which was huge in this study,” Bailey said.
Those activities also benefited students in their educational pursuits, since it helped them learn how their education is connected to what they were planning on doing once they left school.
“There probably weren’t a lot of surprises (in the research), but the thing that kind of surprised me the most was just the hardships that our kids, especially from low socio-economic areas, that they have a very strong sense of family, but there’s a lot of hardships they’ve had at different times. A lot of them use that for their perseverance. They want something different for their kids, and that was a pretty big lesson there,” Bailey said.
In all, there were nine themes Bailey identified from these interviews, including involvement in extracurricular activities, having a direct intervention from a school personnel or mentor, having parents that emphasized the importance of education, defining success as not only obtaining financial security but experiencing inner happiness, being able to take care of the needs of others, surrounding themselves with others who are trying to better themselves and being able to persevere through hardship, among others.
Bailey began his doctoral study in 2016 after attending a leadership institute in which participants were encouraged to pursue leadership roles with their educational institutions. Bailey has certainly taken on the role. He spent the past summer building the school system’s virtual academy. Additionally, Dr. Monet Samuelson, principal of Newland Elementary School, had recommended ETSU’s program to Bailey.
“Helping those detached populations reinvest in the school has been driving me my entire career,” Bailey said.