Thrive at Five: Celebrating My Fifth Year in My Second Career

On Saturday, September 2, 2006 I “officially” enrolled in my second career: teaching. It was on that date that I taught — of all subjects — my first traffic school class! Crammed with 40 students into the meeting room of a motel in Woodland Hills, CA without working air conditioning on a 100+ degree day —  it was almost literally trial by fire!

After Teaching a Public Speaking Class at National University in Los Angeles, CA (10/29/2010)In the five years that followed I have matured immeasurably as an instructor and managed to forge my own path into the world of academia. I now teach a variety of on-line and on-campus marketing, management, communication and writing classes (in addition to the occasional traffic school class).

The schools for which I now teach include UC Santa Barbara (Extension), UCLA (Extension), National University, Strayer University, and Axia College of University of Phoenix.

While teaching at these (and other) schools, I’ve had the privilege of learning with students from countries including Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kuwait,  Mexico, Mongolia, Nigeria, Norway, Paraguay, Russia, Spain, Taiwain, the Philippines, and Turkey.

For those of you curious about how I have found my way to teaching opportunities, my most common methods are through personal referrals, social media relationships, postings in the Education/Teaching Jobs section of Craigslist, HigherEdJobs.com and the jobs section of the Chronicle of Higher Education website.

Although I am dedicated to continually improving, I am confident in my abilities to create curriculum, inspire my students and manage a classroom. My students respond positively to my methods and I appreciate their consistently positive reviews. I’ve also become quite adept at driving all over Southern California to teach! On a related note, I am grateful for having taught traffic school: it helped me develop a casual, yet professional style in my classes.

Feeling Content Before Teaching a Class at DeVry University in Bakersfield, CA (1/27/2009)Numerically speaking, by my estimation, I have taught more than 150 classes (roughly 115 college level classes and 39 traffic school classes) and have learned with approximately 2,200 students! I am honored to have shared a learning experience with so many students and look forward to the individuals with whom I will have an opportunity to learn in the next five years!

Speaking of which, as a lifelong learner, I embrace Søren Kierkegaard’s idea that “to be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner.” I join with my students on a journey towards generative learning which, according to Peter Senge, “enhances our capacity to create.” Learning generatively connects existing knowledge about a subject with emerging ideas about it, resulting in a more personalized understanding. In a classroom, a generative learning approach encourages students to individually engage material rather than passively listen to lectures.

It is for this reason that I am motivated by the motto “semper discens, semper faciens,” which translates to “learn continuously, live generatively.” To help my students learn generatively, I avoid assignments that require repetition of information in deference to papers, presentations and projects that provide a platform with which they can confront personal or professional issues. When possible, I customize curriculum to meet the needs of each class and am responsive to change throughout the term.

Acting as a “guide on the side” and not a “sage on the stage,” I combine learning with laughter and encourage students to pursue their individual ideas. Having taught students of various ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, I am especially sensitive to the diverse challenges with which my students might be contending. Considering this, I believe an educational environment should encourage students to compete with themselves, not with each other. Learning should create community, not competition. When one of us succeeds, all of us succeed.

After Teaching a Marketing Class at UC Santa Barbara (10/28/2010)Interdisciplinary by nature, I teach courses in business, communication, English, technology and traffic safety. While each discipline is distinct, I consider their common intersection with humanity, technology and industry. I often include elements of one or more of them in every class, regardless of its primary focus. I encourage my students to shatter preconceptions and create meaningful knowledge.

In summary, although it can be as challenging as it is rewarding, teaching allows me to help shape the lives of others while giving my life greater meaning.