pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (child's play)
The course I teach at Tucson College is a required course for students going into all programs offered at the school, with the exception of the Certified Nursing Assistant and Electrical Technician programs. It's the first class the students take at the school, so it's their introduction to Tucson College (and, for most, to higher education, in general). I'm their first instructor at the school, so my ability to engage them in the learning process and to reinforce their commitment to school is a key factor in their future success.

The subject I teach, Career Development, sounds simple on the surface. In just forty hours, spread over eight days*, I am expected to teach my students the skills they need to be successful in school and in the workplace. I'm supported in my efforts by a fourteen chapter textbook. This text was, I believe, written primarily to support entering freshmen at a traditional university, although it occasionally acknowledges the additional hurdles that returning students may face.

For some of our students, it is the perfect choice of text: one young woman, an intelligent twenty-something who dropped out of high school and is now determined to give herself a future better than the past she has experienced, stood at the door, ready to leave, clutching the textbook to her chest as she told me she wished she'd had this book all her life. Another, also a strong student, sees much of what we cover as superfluous and wonders why we have to spend so much time on things that are just common sense and that all children should have learned at their mothers' knees. I could only point out that our students come from many different backgrounds and that many are finding the text useful. I can also only hope that I am speaking the truth when I say "many," because I know that several are struggling with the material. The reading assignments I make, of necessity, are long, and I worry that students who have weak backgrounds and poor reading skills may be having difficulty with the text, which scores as requiring a high reading level.**

The primary focus of our textbook is on teaching students how to be peak performers. Peak performers, we learn, are not people who have already reached the pinnacle of success, but rather people who understand that they are the person who is responsible for their own success and who have the attitudes and work ethic that will help them to achieve their goals. We put a lot of attention on understanding the many different qualities that lead to being a successful person in all facets of life, and on understanding one's own learning styles (important both for self-assessment and to help students maximize their learning). Our text also has a chapter on maintaining physical, emotional, and spiritual health, and I've placed a fair amount of emphasis on this, as I know that many of my students aren't living healthy lifestyles, if only because a number of them are going to school, working, and the parents of young children, a stressful and demanding combination.

Much of the class is intended to be motivational, so when I came home between classes on Thursday only to have my husband drag me to the computer so I could watch Susan Boyle's stunning performance (which had us both tearing up), I knew immediately that this was a video I wanted to share with my students. It made a great starting point for our Friday classes, serving as a chance to give the students a break in their routine, as well as serving as the starting point for a discussion that reinforced many of the messages I've been teaching.

To switch to the more personal side of what I'm doing, I'm busy and my days are very long. I have very little time for myself and the four hours of overtime I'm permitted don't even come close to the amount of time I've had to spend, so far, in order to keep up with my students, although I can hope that will get better as I settle into the course and teaching. But, I am extraordinarily thrilled to be doing what I'm doing. I love this job and my students. (Yes, I've said it before, but I still can't get over how wonderful this experience is.) I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to do something that is so directly connected to helping others do well in life. This is a great subject to be teaching, too. I'm learning so much, and seeing myself differently. As I've pointed out to my students, one of the the best ways to learn something is to teach it.

footnotes )
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (Blodeudd)
Yesterday, I taught my first two sections of Career Development at Tucson College. My students are great; I'm so impressed by them. Many have worked so hard and made incredible sacrifices to be there. All of them, every single one, regardless of how academically inclined, is a winner.

Our textbook, Peak Performance: Success in College and Beyond, lists the qualities of "peak performers" and it's clear to me that just by doing what it takes to get themselves enrolled and show up to class these students are already more than halfway there. My students have chosen to:
  • Take responsibility for their futures (and for many of them, this means also acting as a role model for their children);
  • To move outside of their comfort zones by taking on a new, and anxiety-provoking, challenge;
  • To make sound judgments and decisions about what it takes to create a better future for themselves;
  • To involve themselves in more positive relationships by getting to know instructors who will help mentor them and other students who are also striving to better themselves;
  • To learn new skills and competencies;
  • To have enough confidence in themselves that they are willing to challenge themselves by attending school, even though many of them have struggled with academics in the past;
  • To overcome barriers to getting an education;
  • To take the first of many steps toward their long-term goals

Have I mentioned recently how Absolutely AWESOME my students are?

I am so impressed by these people, and I hope that I will be able to help them to achieve their current goals and to have the confidence and skills to go on from here to keep setting higher goals and reaching for them.

On a slightly more personal note, I'm exhausted. I pushed really hard in the days leading up to my classes, as I prepared my schedule, calendar, lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, and in-class activities. I'm still adjusting to a split-shift schedule of five hours in the morning and five in the evening, and I live far enough away from the school that it's impossible for me to get a full eight hours of sleep at night. (I try to take naps during the afternoon while I'm home, but I still don't get enough sleep during the week.) Yesterday I was so charged with adrenaline, I was hardly aware of being tired until about 9 or 9:30 last night, but I finished the day with a stiff and aching back. It was incredibly odd, too, that I never felt more than mildly nervous about my very first ever teaching gig; except for my work as a tutor, which was pretty much 1-1, the most I'd done before were study sessions I led when I was a student assistant back in my twenties, and training courses for a handful of coworkers I knew and liked. I know my teaching skills are not perfect and I will continue to work on them and to improve, but in many ways I felt like I was doing something I was made to do. This is so-o-o wonderful and I can tell that I will find this work incredibly rewarding.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (Kitty Call Out)
This has been an awesome week. I've observed multiple classes, giving me the opportunity to observe almost all the other instructors at the school. Each has a different teaching style, but all are effective with their students. It's amazing, really. For, instance, it had never occurred to me that someone could make the subject of medical billing and coding not just fun and dynamic, but patient-centered.

But, even more amazing are the students. Some of these students come from impoverished backgrounds, some have worked for many years and want a new career, some are fresh out of high school or have just completed their GED (Tucson College offers free GED tutoring and testing to students who need it), some are already working but need to expand their skills in order to be eligible for promotion or just to keep up. Many of the students are parents, sometimes with and sometimes without a partner or family support. A few have disabilities or chronic illnesses. Some have children with disabilities or chronic illnesses, or have lost children to disabilities or chronic illnesses.

more )
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (Blue Dragon)
Hi, All! These ten hour days are tough, but I'm really loving being at the school. The instructors have been friendly and helpful. The students are curious and welcoming. This is such a great place for me. I start teaching my first classes, in Career Development, in April.

I hope all is well with you and I'll try to catch up with all of you over the weekend.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (Hooray)
Dear Friends, I'm happy and excited to announce that I've just received an offer letter of employment with Tucson College, where I will be a member of the faculty and staff, starting next Monday. This letter is the confirmation of the news I have been sitting on for the past week and a half and I am so glad to finally have this official so I can share my news with my friends.

This is a really exciting opportunity for me. Although I've had a long-held interest in teaching, working as a peer-tutor and a student assistant when I was in college, this is the first time I've held a teaching position. I think I'm going to love my work. *does happy dance*


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