One might think that this current pandemic is creating a crisis in educational institutions around the world, but I personally think it offers a unique opportunity for all of us to redefine ‘teaching and learning experiences’ for educators, students, and parents.
Probably the most soul-numbing career I have ever experienced was teaching Technical Writing to two classes of junior college students of all backgrounds and mixed-economic options. When I mentioned in a previous post that the students’ most prevalent attitude was “I don’t want to be here”, I wasn’t kidding. That was actually an understatement for how badly disrespectful the classes of students could be to me and to each other in the room.
And if you think it’s easy to pry open young, ‘know-it-all’ minds with technical instructions for how to more formally express yourself to others without using the standard texting ‘alphabet-soup’ shorthand, I can assure you, it is not.
I mean I’m a pretty creative person after all, and I’d had so many broad-based life/work experiences by that time, I knew that I could get through to them and help them accept and utilize these technical writing skills to better their own future lives, because Technical Writing is business writing—it’s how you communicate in the work environment—how you learn to accurately and succinctly express yourself to peers, bosses, and potential future clients.
If you want to be seriously considered for a job or a promotion, or for a business proposal; or if you are requesting a loan by presenting a solidly-prepared business plan to the bank loan officer, you MUST learn to formally present your ideas as though you are an educated and coherent thinker.
From creating a resume, to writing instructions on how to complete a task for others to follow, to doing research and exploratory reports on feasibility and applicability studies, to doing the final ‘formal business proposal’ to sway a boss or a client to accept your ideas as viable opportunities for investment, this was the class basis for helping a young neophyte into the next phase of their lives—WELCOME to the WORK-LIFE experience—these are the basic core skills you must learn for your future success.
I do know that the 2-year junior college experience is often considered the poor cousin to a 4-year university education, but it can still be a solid, reliable step-up to a better future for many; and it can knock down those same 2-years of university-required general courses prior to focusing on a more-specialized MAJOR, so for many it is economically advantageous to get the general college requirements out of the way at the junior college level prior to transferring to the university for more-advanced college experience.
HOWEVER,…at the junior college higher administrative level, there needs to be a more clearly defined PURPOSE for WHY we are attempting to “educate” these particular students before we just throw them into a classroom designated as a “REQUIRED COURSE FOR GRADUATION” when some of them are ill-prepared for the most basic class work: i.e., like reading and writing English. (Seriously. I had two students in my classes who spoke little English and who likely could not read it. WHY were they in my class? I asked my supervisor that question. She had no idea other than it was “REQUIRED” for their graduation.)
To me, despite the junior college’s marketing hype of creating “a world-class education experience at minimal expense”, what I instead saw was the administration’s two-fold education effort: 1) an overall plan to mass-produce a skill-specific workforce defined by local manufacturing needs (CAD, Welding, IT Technicians, Computerized Assembly-line Manufacturing operators, Construction Project Managers, Advanced Auto Repair, Semi-Truck Driving); and 2) the pre-university coursework to maximize taking all general requirement courses on-the-cheap prior to transferring to a 4-year institution of higher learning.
I got the ‘plan number 1’ group for both classes.
Was that basic 2-fold structure intention right or wrong? And more importantly, was it effective in how it was conducted or not?
Maybe I’m not the one to ask on that because all I experienced was tremendous frustration at every turn primarily because of a few class members who either had attention deficit disorder or simply chose to disrupt the class because they desired attention from classmates. Remember, these are 18-25 year olds. They are actually young adults, and that is how I viewed them. While you can provide the learning experience for them to partake in, you can’t make them appreciate it or take advantage of the current opportunity to stretch their minds.
One thing I emphasized to the students who actually toughed out the semester with me was that they should view this current educational training as simply the step/training that is necessary at this time of their lives because even though they think they are preparing for a CAD or welding job, or learning to repair a computer, or learning how to program a control panel on a manufacturing line, this training will not be a ONE AND DONE situation.
This particular classroom training may well apply to this time period in those specific jobs that they desire, but for their future—to be the best prepared and able to adapt to any new opportunity that might present itself before them, they ALL needed to KEEP LEARNING—to keep retraining for the next job. The days of a person doing the same job for 40 years and retiring in it were long gone now. You had to be flexible and adaptive if you wanted to survive in the present and future job markets.
The world was changing way too fast to stay in one job much more than 4 or 5 years now before you will have to retrain for something more advanced or you will be out of a job. That’s just how it is.
And for those who were capable of going further in higher education, I encouraged them to please do so, because if you don’t do that now, you will face a wage-ceiling a few years down the road where you will lose any future promotion to someone who has a 4-year degree to your 2-year associates degree and who is vying for the position that you want. That’s simply how the Human Resources departments will view it.
I asked the classes if anyone else had ever explained that LIFE-FACT to them of likely needing to retrain in the future, and they said no. So my thoughts are that we need a complete restructuring of top administration for these Area Higher-Education boards, and a cultural shift to reassessing WHY we are creating the educational systems that we are from K-12 and higher before we try to just patch up the holes in the current training systems that leak like sieves.
But then, that’s just my opinion, and hey, what do I know?