The Teacher in Me (Part 1)

Education was one of many majors I tried on during my ten-year stint as an undergraduate. Thanks to a mountain of credit card and other debt, working full-time (and more) wasn’t optional. I had to change majors because practicums and student-teaching didn’t fit into my schedule.

I compared the credits I’d earned to the requirements for every degree offered at the University of Kentucky in search of the shortest route to a degree. The result was to major in Family Studies in the College of Home Economics. My other option — English — seemed unlikely to improve my lot in life.

After graduation, I left my middle-management position in the hospitality industry to work as a secretary in the Family Studies Department at UK. Best career move I ever made. Graduate school had never been on my to-do list, but free tuition was a fringe benefit, and my bosses strongly encouraged me to take advantage of the opportunity.

I entered graduate school the following semester. In addition to my secretarial duties, I taught a personal finance course. Class met from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm once a week. For the next three years, I taught two classes a semester.

Those poor students….

My lectures were beyond boring. Covering every page of the textbook by the end of the semester was my job. I stood behind a lectern, read from my notes, and shared everything I knew about the day’s topic.

The majority of those in my classes were “non-traditional” students with full-time jobs, spouses, and children. They wanted to be there and were much more interested in personal finance than their younger classmates. They also kept me on my toes.

Despite my boring lectures, students from my sections were better prepared for follow-up courses than students from sections taught by others. The difference came down to homework. Instead of word problems and hypothetical case studies, my students had to apply what they’d learned to their own lives.

Small wonder I ended up in Cooperative Extension. Helping people to help themselves is what we do.

Stay tuned. Next week: my journey back to the classroom.