I have two jobs at my institution: I am a language center director and I am language teacher. Both roles, in fact, involve a certain amount of teaching. The type of teaching I do in the classroom mirrors the way I work with my staff: They come to this class or this job with a series of skills that make them eminently capable to do the work. My job as a teacher and a co-worker, I believe, is to push and prod and ask hard questions and help identify the “somethings” that would allow this person to grow. To identify the areas they would like to take on, explore, create, break (and then fix, please). But the bottom line in both the office as well as the classroom is this: what does this class or this job need to provide you so you can grow and flourish and move on? If you can tell me that, then I am here to help you launch.
For the past fifteen years, in the classroom and in the workplace, this practice seems to have worked.
In the classroom, through a combination of their own gumption as well as the freedom this pedagogy provides, magical things have happened. Some of the students I have had the honor to teach have used their projects to create the underpinnings for an eventual fellowship application to the Fulbrights or the Comptons or the Watsons of the world. Others have gone on to further schooling, taking their project ideas with them and weaving them into their graduate school applications and even their career paths. Like I said: magical.
In the workplace, I have worked alongside some amazing young people, each of them gifted in different ways, each of them using our shop to hone their talents not only the benefit of the people we support, but also for their own personal growth. They, like the students, eventually acquire the skills and the experience needed to get from here to bigger, better environments.
The college classroom and the entry level tech job are similar in that they both are about developing the necessary skills to move up and on and out of that space… to infinity and oh-so-beyond.
I am proud of the work I get to do in both parts of my job. The results, both in terms of my students learning outcomes as well as my former colleagues’ professional accomplishments, have been remarkable.
But after 15 years of mentoring others in the classroom and in the workplace I have to admit: I am drained. It’s hard, damn hard, to teach and to mentor over and over again. It would be soooooo much easier to dictate, demand, and insist as a boss; to teach from the textbook and to fill in the blanks as a teacher. As enticing as that might sound, I know that the learning in both places would suffer if I took the easy route.
It is also hard and exquisitely exhausting to feel as if you are constantly standing still while everyone with whom you have worked is moving on. They go away and do great things. I’m still here, standing at the launchpad, over and over again.
This is where you, the readership of LLU, come in: We created this blog many moons ago as a place where people who have one foot in (language) teaching and another in technology could share and support one another. Your comments have helped me shape what I do in my daily practice before, so now I am going to ask for your ideas once again.
As I watched this conversation unfold (with a certain amount of envy I do admit because yes a former co worker just launched and will soon land at this remarkable workplace), I began to think, if there were a paid leave option offered that would allow one to re-energize as a teacher, technologist and a mentor: Where would you go? What would you do?
Caveat: I personally believe community is hugely important, and I for one need people to do for me as I do for my students (read: poke, prod, question, etc) Aside from conferences (which as was said here before, can be done better), where does one go????
Or to put it in the language of animated gifs:
How does one move from this:
Without ending up like this?
I welcome your comments.