Your professional experience can help others succeed in their jobs. Last week I listed 5 reasons why professionals should teach part-time.
Many famous people have said that experience is the best teacher. One of the first to say this was Julius Caesar, an organizational leader who was murdered by his team.
Although Caesar didn’t learn enough from experience, there is still a chance for the rest of us.
Teaching is a skill that must be learned, and part-time teachers who have not learned how to teach struggle in the classroom. (ShutterStock/Aaron Amat)
If you’re taking on your first part-time teaching gig, here are some teaching mistakes to avoid.
1. only teaching when you’re between jobs
Teaching only to supplement your income when you’re between jobs seldom benefits you, your students, or your academic employer.
Teaching demands a time and emotional commitment that is seldom justified by the pay. Although you’ll get more efficient as you present the same content a number of times, you’ll need to stick with teaching to realize that benefit.
Students and program staff are frustrated by a revolving door of professionals who quit as soon as the economy booms.
You’ll enjoy teaching, and stick with it, if you only take on a small, manageable commitment while you are already busy with your day-job. This way, teaching becomes a wonderful break from the intensity of your full-time career.
2. dismissing course content and devaluing academia
I’ve only seen this done by professionals who only teach when they are between jobs. But regardless of why they do it, it causes a lot of damage.
Your students have invested their money, time and hope in the course content and the institution that has hired you.
They have paid for the course material and expect to learn it and use it. They have paid their tuition and expect to market their credentials to prospective employers.
Your job is to supplement and enhance their experience with your own experience, not make them question their commitment. You should be able to find value in the course content and support the school.
If you can’t do these things, don’t take the job.
3. not learning how to teach
Just as you have mastered the skills necessary to succeed in your profession, professional teachers have mastered the skills they need to succeed.
Most professionals who teach part-time are seldom required to already have a teaching degree, but most academic institutions require some teaching training.
Facilitating student learning is not the same as pitching a proposal to customers, clients or colleagues. Teaching is a skill that must be learned, and part-time teachers who have not learned how to teach struggle in the classroom.
Since most professionals teach other professionals and graduate students, your academic employer may ask you to complete a program or seminar series in the principles of adult learning. You’ll enjoy it, because if you like teaching you already love learning.
4. focusing on yourself instead of your experience
There is a big difference between explaining how and why something happened and describing yourself.
Your experience is most valuable when you relate it objectively. Lastly, your experience also includes your objective description of what others have done.
Although you may have had some celebrated successes and some humiliating failures, attributing either to your character tells students that they must be like you to succeed or they might be doomed to fail like you have.
Education can free people from their circumstances, so presenting your experience in a way that empowers your students will enable them to apply it in a way that is uniquely their own.
5. devaluing the students’ experience
It’s become a bit of a cliché to say, “My students teach me more than I teach them.” But cliché or not, it’s true.
No one person is more experienced than another, they are only differently experienced and it’s that difference that we learn from.
No matter what subject you teach, each student, regardless of how young they are, already has some experience that is directly applicable and valuable.
Your job is to draw out that experience and show them its value. Their experience will make you a better teacher, and you’ll begin integrating what you learn from them into your professional practice.
what should part-time teachers do more of?
Three times each year I facilitate a two-day course at Mount Royal University. I also teach a ten-week, online course to master’s students at Royal Roads University. I do my best to “walk the talk” in this article.