My First Newspaper Interview: Head Start, Teacher Retention, and NPR

In the beginning of March 2013, I was contacted by Elle Moxley to do an interview on my preschool teacher retention research.

Elle Moxely works for StateImpact Indiana: A Reporting Project of NPR Member Stations. See Elle’s reporting here.

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She had somehow heard that I had worked for the University of Indianapolis and that I had done research on preschool teachers of Head Start and the reasons they would give for staying or leaving their place of employment (perhaps through my blog). When she contacted me via email though, I, Michael Wells, was already living in Sweden, where I’m a PhD student in Social Pediatrics.

I became quite excited by the prospect of someone picking up my work and wanting to share it with a greater audience. After all, that’s a reason researchers go to conferences–to spread the word about their research findings. Only now someone will come to me!

After explaining that I lived in Sweden, we decided to do the interview via Skype. However, shortly after saying that I was a PhD student in Social Pediatrics, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Faculty of Medicine, Uppsala University, Elle quickly changed the conversation from discussing Head Start teacher retention issues (which I had researched) to my political thoughts on President Obama’s stance towards early childhood education (which I had not researched)…and then stated that I used to work at the University of Indianapolis (perhaps because that adds more validity to my research than citing the University that I’m now working for?).

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Sadly the only aspects of my conversation that made it to print weren’t about my research nor about Obama stance, but rather arbitrary details on the cost of preschools for families. The article is printed here and says the following quote:

“Michael Wells is an early education researcher formerly with the University of Indianapolis. He says high quality preschool is out of reach for many middle-income families, let alone those below the poverty level that quality for Head Start.

But what we’re doing is saying, ‘Hey parents, at a time in your life when you’re the youngest — and that’s typically correlated with making the least amount of money you’re every going to make in your life — that’s when you need to pay $8,000, $10,000, $12,000 a year to send one child to preschool.’ “”

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Another very similar article is printed here.

This first interview taught me that:

1) I need to stick to just talking about my research

2) Reporters have their own agenda

3) I get nervous when talking on the spot (even when it’s a topic I know very well)

4) Be careful of anything that you say, because it’s being recorded and could be taken out of context when quoting you (this did not happen with Elle, but was just a lesson to be learned)

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