Friday, March 23, 2012

On teaching

I really do love teaching. I love standing in front of a crowd. I love giving speeches and presentations. You name it!

But too often I focus on the negative. The difficult thing about teaching adults is that they make their own decisions about their learning. You can guide them and provide them with functional skills that you think will make their lives easier but ultimately they make the final choice.

Okay here's an example: This month we are doing a unit on employment. Most of my students at some point or another in their future will be getting a job. I prepared a resume writing guide book. I gave them a list of action verbs to use on their resume highlighting different skills (leadership, managerial etc...). I gave them a copy of my simplified resume. I had them write a rough draft in class, to which some complained and said they'd do it for homework.

I asked the students to write a final copy of their resume and hand it to me this Friday. I told them if at any point down the road when they are actually looking for a job and needed someone to check their resume I'd gladly help, even if I wasn't their present teacher.

So this week a student told me she applied for 2 jobs. She's been looking for work for awhile now. She hasn't been successful thus far. I asked why she didn't have me look at her resume to check it over. She told me her husband looked at it for her.

She had an extra copy in her backpack that day so I asked to see it. There were issues with formatting, abbreviations, spacing, grammar, punctuation, you name it. I gave it back to her filled in red pen.

If she's serious about getting a professional job in Canada she must have a professional looking resume.

After this, I talked with the whole class about the importance of making sure your resume looks good. I have an eye for detail when it comes to things like that (although it's not really reflected in this blog!). I pretended that I was the boss at a company looking through a stack of resumes. I went through a stack of paper sorting them into possible candidates. Of course these were not the actual students resumes but I wanted to demonstrate what would happen if they didn't have a polished resume.

I took the paper and one-by-one I examined them. "This one looks good!" I said. "Oh, spelling mistakes, poor grammar, this one goes in the garbage". The students were shocked that something like that would happen in Canada.

This led into a conversation about first impressions.

Okay to get to the point!

I spend way too much time worrying about these students. I know they can do better so I get caught up in thinking I'm a bad teacher. If one student doesn't do well then all of them must not be doing well. That my all or nothing attitude, my friends!

Sung Hyun says I'm 'too much'. I think he's right. I need to back off. Maybe next week we'll sign Kumbaya or something (not!).

I'm going to make a point of focusing on the positive from now on. And in doing so I'm sharing this letter that I received from another student in the same class:

Hi Jenifer :
I have received my resume, I am very grateful for your guidance.
Do you know ? I am most looking forward to getting up every day to go to of Jeniffer the English class, it is interesting and effective learning, which for me is very helpful. I say is true, this is not my kind words for you . In short, thank you!

And to that I say, YOU'RE WELCOME!


Anonymous said...

"The difficult thing about teaching adults is that they make their own decisions about their learning."

I have taught children for 9 years and have worked with adult intern teachers.

That is not the difficult thing about teaching adults. That is (one of) the difficult thing(s) about teaching anyone, of any age, anywhere.

Why am I here??? said...

Elaborate please. I'm not sure I understand the context of your comment.

Anonymous said...

You limited your statement to adults only.

I'm saying it applies to teaching anyone of any age. Everyone makes decisions about their learning. It would be great if we could just unzip their heads, pour in knowledge, and be done, but that's never the case.

Jacky said...

Anonymous means that it's not just adults that make decisions about their learning...people/children of all ages do the same thing. You can only give them the tools, but it is up to them to use it. It was definitely one of my frustrations teaching high school in the states...and now in Korea.

Why am I here??? said...

Maybe my statement wasn't clear enough. But I was talking about basic principles of Adult Learning Theory, namely the difference between pedagogy and andraogogy.

The point being that I'm focusing on the positive from here forward!

Thanks for your comments ladies!