Tag Archives: career

Finding my niche

Leave it to me to take a humble little molehill and dream of it growing into an amazing mountain.

I found out yesterday that my molehill did get a little bigger. I’d previously learned that I would be teaching a 3 hour budgeting class at a local DSS office for clients applying for cash assistance. Two classes, actually, one in English and one in Spanish.

Now I’ve learned that we finally made our minimum enrollment on a beginning Spanish conversation class through the continuing education department at the community college that is contracting me to teach the budgeting class. This is the third semester my class has been in the schedule, but the first time there’s been enough interest.

Let the good times roll!

I’ve always wanted to teach, and I’ve struggled for years with the idea of getting my teaching license and working at a high school. Because here’s the thing: I hate grades. I hate red tape, I hate mandatory testing, I hate all that extraneous garbage that wastes valuable time we could be spending working with words.

And with continuing education classes? No grades! No one is forced to take the class for their major or to graduate. There doesn’t have to be any testing at all. Every activity, worksheet, homework assignment, every last little thing we study is simply for the benefit of the student. Does that not sound like an educator’s dream come true?

Now granted, the budgeting classes have a mandatory element to them. All the folks in there are being required by the government to learn some pointers on how to handle money. And really, we can all learn more. Even once you have enough income and know how to manage it perfectly, you can then move on to investment information and things of that nature. There is always more to learn.

I want the class to feel like a seminar where they can gain valuable information to make important changes in their lives that will enable them to achieve their goals. Right out of the gate we are going to list our priorities, our habits and our goals, because you know what? I’ve been in survival mode. I’m not that far from it right this minute. And in that headspace it’s really hard to see the big picture. I want to take them to a safe place for a few minutes where they step back and think, oh yeah, I have choices, which choices am I making right now? What do I want from life? What habits have I picked up that are keeping me from it? What habits can I cultivate that will get me where I want to be?

I have high hopes, I know.

I have higher hopes for the Spanish conversation class. When I taught beginning French at the University of Oregon, almost every student was only in there because they needed two years of a foreign language to get their B.A., and all the Spanish classes were full. Bleh. Only a few students were really into learning the French language, or any foreign language.

But in this continuing ed class? Every student wants to be there for some reason. Hooray!!! I will make them super glad they took the leap. We are going to have fun and we are going to build a solid foundation for fluency in Spanish, and not even have to slog through much grammar to get there! (Unless they want to wallow around in the grammar for a while, because, being a word nerd, I’m all about the wallowing. Love me some delicious words squished between my toes!)

So is this my niche? I can come up with lesson plans, activity ideas, vocabulary lists, for HOURS and never feel like I’ve done a lick of work. In fact I savor such activities as recreation time! Can I rock these classes and get the word out, and become some kind of alternative teacher? Someone who makes the material engaging, relevant, alive? An instructor who draws you in so that you, too, feel like you’re playing, and you don’t even realize you’ve *gasp* learned something?

I know when I’m tutoring (which also involves no grades or tests or any other sorts of torture devices in order to address the subject at hand), I always walk away having been paid by the parent, and I think, wow, I get paid too? Because I LOVE it. I would do it for free, but I also like for my kids to eat, so I’m gonna take the pay and feel like absolutely the luckiest person in the world!

But okay, first things first. Dreams of a continuing ed dynasty of students in love with learning will have to just sit and brew. For now I have to make these assignments I’ve been given sparkle. I’ve got to do all my research. I’ve got to be fully prepared, and then some, to give all my passion and enthusiasm so that it becomes contagious and people are excited about things like managing finances that they had always thought was something hideously awful (guilty!).

Wish me luck.

The Start of Something Big?

In my ripe old age, I try to avoid getting overly excited about possibilities. I’ve learned that I have a pretty good imagination, and I can use it to create vivid scenarios based on fears and hopes, neither of which ends up being very useful.

Now brainstorming ideas, that’s fine, but weaving a fictional future in which all things turn out amazing with flowers and violin music… that’s just going to end in heartbreak.

So as I go off this morning in pursuit of a new opportunity, I’m trying to be chill.

It’s just a small gig, teaching budgeting classes at a local DSS office to folks applying for cash assistance. I’m meeting with the lady at a local community college who is setting the whole thing up. I’ve already developed the powerpoint presentation and handouts, in English and Spanish.

If it does happen, it will be extremely part-time, a few hours a week. But I am already plotting how I can secure more gigs with more offices for more classes. What if my name gets out there as someone who you can just call up and say, “I need a class about XYZ for my clients,” and I can develop the curriculum, translate it, and teach the class in both languages?

I feel like the meeting this morning is a pivotal moment along that path.

And the path feels like something perfect for me. I love to translate and speak Spanish. I love to teach, and how much better to not have to worry about grades and all that red tape but simply convey information and engage students in useful, relevant material. And I’d love to be able to help people by inspiring and/or informing them.

I am excited to see how this plays out.

No wait! I’m not excited!

Dude, I’m totally mellow…

Sent story off… learning to talk budget in Spanish

My children’s picture book story has been sitting quietly in a corner, collecting dust for some time. It is now winging its merry little way to a publisher who will with any luck adore it and give it a new home. Or lots of new homes, on the shelves of kids and libraries everywhere.

I’ve been working feverishly on a new opportunity to teach budgeting at a local DSS office. I was contracted to develop a powerpoint that would be informative and engaging enough to last 3 hours, so people seeking cash assistance from the government could fulfill the new requirement to learn how to wisely and responsibly spend said funds. I’m then to translate it into español. Then, supposedly, I get to teach both classes. I’m excited about the class itself, as well as the possibilities it might open up in the future.

To continue my assessment of where I am as the new year approaches: I am an officer in my homeowner’s group (secretary), I am moderator on three parenting forums, I want desperately to: finish my parents’ quilt, post regularly on my blog, practice yoga every morning, polish my French novel translation, homeschool Hank, explore new recipes, have a successful garden and put in more landscaping features in the yard, be active in my neighborhood and maybe even my community at large, and maybe develop new ways to make money.

I’m sure there’s some stuff I’ve forgotten, but my list is too long, and I don’t know how to trim it.

Freelance Educator

Is such a thing possible?

I love to teach.  I love to learn.  I love to splash around with words and meaning, to engage in true communication, to discuss, read, observe, analyze, explore.

Where the experts are - University of Oregon, Eugene

But I hate grades.  I hate tests.  I despise all the little soul-killing ways we try to educate our hopeful, energetic youth.  I detest the fact that most adults are DONE with learning because they feel, and generally rightly so, that it was all irrelevant crap.

My current plan includes getting a job as a lateral entry public high school French and/or Spanish teacher, then using the three allotted years to get my actual license and possibly a master’s degree.

The thought of being in a classroom excites me to no end.  I taught beginning French at the University of Oregon and it was one of the most fulfilling out-of-the-home things I’ve ever done.

But the thought of being a public school teacher fills me with all kinds of anxiety.  I think the part I dread the most is my own continuing *forced* education.  I will always learn – from life, from books, from sharing with other people, from taking classes and seminars that I deem relevant or interesting, from observation, from internet surfing, to name a few ways.

Up a tree - a great place to be (and to learn)

But to be dictated to as far as what I must read/write/study in order to be a great teacher?  I am frankly insulted.  I defy anyone to get to know me and what I’ve done in my life and tell me that I can’t direct my own program of study.

And the nit-picky crap that goes along with a university education.  The GREs, for example.  I’m supposed to take those AGAIN in order to apply for admission.  I took them 6 years ago, but you have to take them again if it’s been more than 5 years ago.  And yet, within the last 5 years, I took 40 credit hours worth of graduate work for which I earned a GPA of 3.95.  The GPA doesn’t tell you what you need to know?

And so I think: freelance?  Is there a way to be a French, Spanish or English educator outside of the system?  Some possible outlets: continuing education (non-credit classes) at community colleges; classes at daycares; classes at churches whose members want to learn Spanish for outreach or mission work; ESL classes for immigrants; tutoring kids in the system; classes for homeschooled kids; opening a shop to sell education supplies/books to local teachers; selling curriculum I’ve developed; consultant for homeschooling parents… the list seems endless.  In my fantasy, once I get my name out there and people get to know me and my passion for language and learning, it seems like the rest would follow.

Climbing into the light

But the safe path is the one that leads through the hoops.  The walls of the box are very comforting, though it’s stuffy in here and hard to breathe.  Also, not a lot of sunshine or rain, no mud or ladybugs or greenness.  Just the walls and the hoops.

And the silence.