Education / Hampton Roads / Local

Anyone who thinks …

… teaching is easy should try it sometime 😦

educationI think those of us who transition to academia after years as practitioners have a different perspective on a lot of things than those who have spent the bulk of their careers in academia. I participated in an Integrative Learning Panel at ODU a couple of weeks ago. One question asked of me by a longtime member of the faculty was how did I come up with the idea to include activities – both inside and outside of the classroom – in the courses I teach?

My truthful answer: I just can’t imagine doing it any other way. Not only is lecturing a passive thing, but I think students grasp the concepts quicker by actually doing things. As my courses have evolved and I’ve included more interactive content, I’ve seen student performance increase. Yes, it means a lot more work on my end – classroom activities don’t just happen, they have to be planned in advance – but isn’t preparing the students for life after college what we are supposed to be doing?

Oh wait – some students just aren’t getting that:

One of the big problems for new employees is that they don’t know what they don’t know, especially when it comes to soft skills — like working with people and being self-motivated — as opposed to hard skills, like knowing how to code.

[…]

In the past, those fresh out of college may have had similar challenges adjusting to the workplace, said Oliver Raskin, a spokesman for Chegg.

But “what we’re seeing is an exaggeration of this,” he said. Automation of many departments means jobs that once were the bottom rung now just don’t exist “and there’s a higher bar for new hires to demonstrate their value. Now when you show up, you’re expected to hit the ground running.”

But experts say they believe that newbies need to think in terms even more basic than soft or hard skills, such as old-fashioned manners, grooming and communication.

Manners? Um, no comment 😦

One of the other challenges that instructors face is poorly written textbooks. How about the ones that make up their own terminology, that is foreign to the rest of the world? It happens. Or the ones that ever so subtlety – or overtly – include their political opinions in the text? That happens, too. The former forces the need to translate the textbook and adds additional prep time for class. The latter no only muddies the waters but gets in the way of learning, when students have political opinions that differ from those of the writers.

Keep your politics out of my textbook, please.

Making up their own terminology is worse that it seems, especially when an instructor embraces it. Prior to sitting for the CPA exam, I took a review course. As we approached the section on cost accounting, the instructor asked how many of us had taken a certain professor for the course in college. I was one. The review course instructor then admonished us to forget everything we had learned in that class – because the variances taught were not standard variances – you know, the ones on the exam.

All these years later, that lesson has stayed with me so I’m always concerned when textbooks include things that my experience teaches me is wrong. (Is it required minimum distribution or minimum required distribution? The IRS says the former.)  Even with my experience, though, I tend to check and make sure that I’m not missing something. Tax, which is what I primarily teach, is an ever-evolving subject.

Anyway – now you know part of the reason why my postings here have become less frequent. Three years into this career transition and, if anything, I’m working much harder than I did before. (And for half as much money.)

Come next month, though, I’ll be at graduation and see some of my students cross the stage and head out into the world. And I would have helped them be prepared. The emails from former students confirm it.

And that makes it worth it.

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One thought on “Anyone who thinks …

  1. One of the reasons for your success in this medium has to do with the way you thoroughly prepare for your columns and what we can learn from them. As a former educator, my hat is off to you and we will appreciate even more the students you teach. They will be better prepared for life and their careers because of you.

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