About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Always a Teacher

(Our host for this week's Fun Monday can be found sipping a cuppa over at the Irish Coffeehouse and waiting to hear about our careers, then and now. What did we dream of being when growing up? Did those dreams come true? And, what about now? If we could work at anything, what would it be? My own career path could be described best in this way: once a teacher, always a teacher.)

Long after finishing my formal education, I still think like a student . I prefer an academic calendar that begins with July or September. In my mind, these months are the real beginnings of a new year because that's when we start the all important business of learning for yet another year. And, about now I begin to look for the catalog of adult education course offerings from the local liberal arts university. I'll eagerly look through it--what could I sign up for this semester? A writing course? Intermediate watercolor? Meditation? Digital photography?

I enrolled in a teaching college in the mid-60s. At that time students got very little career guidance. This was not a problem for me, though. I always knew that I would be a teacher. I loved school from the first grade on. Getting new books and just right school supplies was an annual thrill. And then to spend most of my waking time with a kindly, for the most part, adult whose job it was to teach me about the world beyond my home was too good to be true. I wanted to be just like them.

After four years, I earned a degree in English and home economics with certification to teach English at the high school level. In those days a major in English qualified--loosely--you to teach literature, grammar and reading. This leeway was fortunate for me in every teaching situation because I always got the remedial or struggling readers. Before I could teach literature, they had to learn to read. So, I taught basic reading for middle and high school students for two years, followed by three years with elementary students in the West Indies.

You know how an unexpected, seemingly minor, experience can have a major impact on your future career path? This serendipity happened to me. In my first year of teaching I also inherited the job of teaching basic adult education language and reading improvement skills at a local community college in the evenings. What an unexpected honor it was to help another adult learn to read or earn a general equivalency diploma(GED). After finishing a master's degree in American literature for my own interests, I returned to college on several occasions to do post-graduate work in adult learning and non-profit leadership development. This post graduate work helped me secure a variety of teaching positions working directly with adults--adult learning center director, English as Second Language teacher, coordinator of a regional homebound adult education program, consultant for a state department of education, and volunteer leadership training director.

It was in working with adult learners that I found my true career niche. The wonderful thing about adult students is that they come to you with built in motivation. They want to learn to read so they can share a book with their child. They want a high school diploma so that they can get a better job. They need to speak English in order to blend into a new culture. They want to be a more effective board member for their organization. They want to get rid of the shame of not knowing what the rest of the world seems to know. Hopefully, I helped many adult learners achieve these goals.

That was then. As for the "now", I'm mostly enjoying being retired and just pursuing a variety of interests. However, I just started reading this book by Ann Patchett, author of an all-time favorite novel Bel Canto. What now? Such an intriguing question, no matter what your personal crossroads may be--graduation, new career, or other major life transition. I'll see if that question is easier to answer by the end of this book--discussion to be continued. In the meantime, head over to the Irish Coffeehouse to find out about careers now and then for other Fun Monday participants.

25 comments:

Sayre said...

I will have to check out that Pachett book - Sometimes it feels like my whole career is "What now?" (which is why I still have the same job I got pretty much right out of high school).

I have to commend you and all other teachers who have this passion. I haven't the patience for it, but I do appreciate you all so much!

Molly said...

My husband knew that he wanted to teach too. I more or less happened on the career almost by accident.

In your post you have made an excellent observation about adult learners in that "they come to you with built in motivation." Motivated students are the best kind. Like the other pursuits you have written about, I can tell that your career has been an adventure.

Big Momma said...

Thanks for the book recommendation. I am always looking for that next book to read. It sounds like you have had a wonderful career.

karisma said...

I was so excited when I taught my youngest to read. My next step was to teach him to teach himself. With adults and children alike, if we want to learn something we will.

A lot of people have asked me how I can justify teaching my children at home with no formal qualifications. I simply reply to them I don't. We learn together. And we do, we learn something new everyday!

I imagine working with adults in this way as well must have been so rewarding. It sounds to me like you've made the round trip in teaching! You would have made a big impact on many peoples lives. You should be proud of yourself!

Robocop said...

I think I picked the wrong career. I am in the company of many teachers this Fun Monday.

Hootin' Anni said...

Ya know....your post brought back memories of my favorite teacher in high school! Her name was Mrs. Sanderson and she gave so much...I still to this day LOVE English Lit. She was my inspiration.

Stop by mine, it's not much, but it IS me. Hope to see you there.

My Husband Calls Me Weird said...

How wonderful to always know what you wanted to do. Not many people would think it was a honor to teach adults to read. Your students must have been honored to have you!

nikki

ChrisB said...

It's interesting you saying about adult students being more motivated. My son-in-law dropped out of uni when he was younger and ended up graduating last year as a mature student (holding down a FT job and going to night school). He was trying to explain to his son (who found no self motivation revising for exams) what a brilliant feeling it was walking into an exam room knowing that you had done the work and would be able to answer the questions~ I'm not sure my grandson heeded this advice but we'll know when he gets the results in Sept.

Lane said...

Ok, if that's your favourite book, it's got to go on my 'must buy' list.

You've had such an interesting career. I've taught (and will hopefully be teaching again soon) adults and you're right. It's the most rewarding thing to be able to open up a whole new world for them.

SongBird said...

I never really thought about becoming a teacher. I wanted to be a professional singer...a star. Then the 80's hit and I got caught up in the Yuppie 'make more money' movement. I burned out after only six years. It took the gentle hand of my former school superintendent to steer me toward teaching which is where I should have been from the beginning!

A Slice of Life said...

It sounds like a great book that I need to get my hands on. I'm nearing a transition when my chicks fly the nest and I'm not quite sure what I'll be doing.

Susan at A Slice of Life

iPost said...

Great post, Faye! I share your joy of educating others. One of my greatest challenges was educating migrant work families to speak English. It was the most difficult for me and the most rewarding.

Oh, and I got 2 beautiful postcards from Kentucky today! Hugs!

storyteller said...

One of the ‘gifts’ of teaching is that the job requires continuous learning just to remain ‘current’ … and that’s a good time in my opinion. I ‘relate’ to the ‘serendipity’ that shaped your career … for similar things happened to me along the way. I wrote of this previously … though at the moment I can’t recall just where. Thanks for sharing and for visiting Small Reflections. As for Blogger, it remains a mystery … but I’m relieved I’m ‘connected’ at last and able to visit & leave comments.
Hugs and blessings,

hulagirlatheart said...

I always feel compelled to say "thank you" to teachers. What a great thing to focus on adult learners. Thank you. Thank you, very much.

Cruise Mom said...

I love working with adults too. I taught ESOL classes, and agree the motivation they bring to the classroom makes it so much more enjoyable than the traditional student "do I have to be here" classroom.

Peter said...

You have indeed been fortunate in following your heart throughout your working life.

Alison said...

you are another unsung hero...a teacher...my favorite people!!!

Aoj and The Lurchers said...

It's so nice to read about all these people who are so committed to their work. Good for you!

Debs said...

I would LOVE to help adults learn to read. Reading is a great thing not to spread around! :)

Irish Coffeehouse said...

Oh how positively rewarding your experiences must be, in particular teaching adults!

lisaschaos said...

I would imagine teaching adults would be very rewarding. :) Sounds like you taught a lot of years and kept learning too. I always want to keep my mind exercised and it sounds like you should have a huge mega brain by now. :)

Ari_1965 said...

Boy, that's some brassiere that Doris Day is wearing in that still from Teacher's Pet. We're talking support, baby.

Grand Life said...

What an incredible gift you have for helping others. It was so great to read about your career on Fun Monday. Thank you for visiting my post and I love that we both used old movie stars in our post. Have a great week.
Judy

Rebecca said...

One of my favorite parts of school was ALWAYS getting my new books. And I STILL dream about getting books before each semester of college. :)

grace said...

that is so very true, adult learners are more motivated and feel like they are being given a second chance and want to make the most of it. My husband teaches adult learners who are getting a chance to finish their college degree and he loves it. I loved your post. My daddy was a teacher and I love teachers. I got an account just to post on your blog