October 11 – consider me taught

79/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. About 7 years ago, I had a 3 year contract at UBC teaching adults. This was one of the most challenging jobs I’ve ever undertaken – probably due to the fact that it was the only other thing I did career-wise in 25 years. I had only worked with high school students and the relationship/dynamic was atypical of what most working adults experience in their day to days. I had not worked with adults since my early 20s and here I was nearing my 50s. I was nervous and apprehensive and rightfully so. I thought of ways to segue into the new role – the curriculum creation part was relatively easy but the interaction with adults was my worry. I didn’t really know how to change up my expectations – especially when it came to the softer side of education: attendance, lates, missed assignments etc. In addition to my teaching load, I was enrolled in a course that was exactly what I needed (The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Adult Education) but it was concurrently running as I was teaching – had I taken it the summer prior, I would have been fine but that wasn’t the case. I started to use the techniques that I had honed the high school environment which was the wrong way to work with adults. Bret, a man senior in age to myself, was in all my classes in my first year of teaching at UBC. He came up to me and respectfully told me that I was treating the class like teenagers and not like adults by not understanding their unique backgrounds and the fact that a lot of them had families and other obligations – in essence, I was condescending (my word). To say that I was thrown for a loop was an understatement – it cut to the core as I had prided myself in being a great educator but to realize that I was not that in the role at UBC was a hard pill to swallow. I reflected on what Bret said. I had gone through the teacher training program in my early 20s but here I was teaching a group where half the class was in the program while in their 40s and 50s. I had to change the way I thought. I had to refine my expectations when it came to adults and I also had to reflect on what I would want at my age currently if I was in the program. I made the changes consciously and the second term and summer sessions went much better. The final two years a vast improvement over my first year. I learned a great deal about working with adults and I thank you Bret for saying something. I am also glad that we keep in touch – albeit, here and there as we both have busy lives with teenage sons. Thank you for that life and career lesson! I rewrite a paper in your honour!

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