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October 12, 2005 3:41 PM   Subscribe

How can I become a community college or contunuing ed instructor?

I'm interested in becoming a college or continuing studies instructor. I have an MBA, BA (English), and a certificate in instructing/training. My work experience is in marketing management, communication, writing, and marketing and business consulting. I've never worked as an instructor or even as a TA. However, I've got some decent experience in developing facilitators' guides for magazines and websites -- complete with lesson plans and classroom activities. I've written lots of articles on career management, too. I have a lot of the pieces I'd need to become an instructor. My Executive MBA program didn't allow for teaching assistantships and I've never had the opportunity to teach before. (I was a Brownie leader for many years and I've always enjoyed mentoring my employees and volunteers, so the idea of teaching is not entirely foreign, though.)

How can I easily make the transition to teaching? I'm looking for some ideas on how to get teaching experience. I've checked out some recent questions on succeeding as a TA and first-time lecturer. Yet I'm interested in how to get into those positions in the first place.

I realize I could perhaps make a pitch to the continuing studies program at my local rec centre or school board, but I don't know what I would teach -- I mean, yes, I could teaching marketing or business, but I don't think creating a brand-new course is the best way to get my feet wet. Given this, I suspect I might be best suited to taking over an existing set of lesson plans or curriculum. But community colleges and technical schools will want teaching experience. Can anyone provide some practical tips for making the transition? I'd prefer not to work for free, at least not for more than a few evenings. Thanks.
posted by acoutu to Education (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm teaching adult ed classes at night in a paid capacity right now. I'm not sure where you live, but I'm in the US. The pay is not quit-your-day-job great, but on an hourly basis, it's not bad ($30/hour of classtime, all prep work is on my own time). The place to start to do what I did is with the continuing education or the adult education outlets near you. See if your local university has continuing ed. Take a look at the classes they offer. See if there is one that you could teach, or one that would expand on something taught by someone else. Create a proposal and make a proposal to the people who run continuing ed. They're usually happy to have new teachers and lack of experience isn't as much of a big deal as willingness to make a commitment and having some knowledge that would be useful to students, and that they would pay for.

So, with the skills you have, I'd think about classes like "How to Promote Your Small Business" or something that would not be horribly difficult for you, but would be giving really good [and valuable, worth paying for] information to people who don't have your background. One of the joys to teaching adults over kids in a school setting is that you don't need to worry about discipline issues and you can mostly focus on content. Start small (my first class is eight hours, I'll probably do more next time) and be prepared to adjust your syllabus and expectations between classes. Your first class or two you may feel a bit like a fish out of water, but once you've got more experience you'll be more poised to work in an actual school setting, plus you have probably met and made friends with some of the people who already work there. Good luck, teaching can be fun.
posted by jessamyn at 4:11 PM on October 12, 2005

Look over the course offerings at a local community college and see what they offer that you could teach. Type up a syllabus (you can google examples) and a few sample assignments, along with your resume, and go see the department chairman or dean. If you are teaching an introductory type class, see what textbook are used at your target institution and check out what teaching resources are available with the book. Often there is a wealth of materials--Powerpoints, practice quizzes and other self-study materials on the web, suggested classroom activities, test banks, and more.

It should not be that hard to pick up a night class. The pay isn't much--typically around $2500 a course. But teaching is so much fun.
posted by LarryC at 8:17 PM on October 12, 2005

I have a close friend who taught an evening course at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He had done no prior teaching, but had a lot of qualifications from his work experience and education.

It turned out that he wasn't a very good teacher (at least the students thought so, based on their evaluations) and he wasn't invited to teach any further courses.

Moral (one data point's worth, anyway): it may not be that hard to get into the door (you sound like you have solid qualifications), but teaching well is important too.

I second the suggestions that you think hard about what course you want to teach, then go see several colleges and talk to them about possibilities. (If you walk in with a "I'd like to teach, but don't know what", you're probably not going to get as good a reception.) They may counter with the suggestion for another course where they need an instructor and think you're qualified; they may tell you what additional qualifications they think you need; in any case, you'll have a much better sense of your options. And you won't be wasting their time - there obviously is a certain amount of turnover as instructors leave for one reason or another.

A (hopefully) unnecessary addendum: adult learners are very different than regular college (young) students, or even MBA students right out of college. If you do get a college interested in your teaching a course, you might do well to ask them for the names of a couple of instructors who routinely get high marks from students (and teach a course similar to what you're thinking of), and then to sit in on several classes and see the style of teaching.
posted by WestCoaster at 9:44 AM on October 13, 2005

Response by poster: I can live with $30 an hour. Long-term, I might go do a PhD, but I'd like to see how I like teaching first. (I know I like research). But it would work better for my family if I just taught a couple of nights a week for the next few years.

My instructor course was focused on adult learning, so I would welcome the opportunity to try teaching adults. My MBA program was an executive program -- average age 37 -- so I have a good understanding of how mature students differ from college-age or high school students. I'm interested in doing a good job at teaching, since I don't think I'd enjoy it if I thought I was failing.

The general sense I get from the three of you is that I just need to pitch myself and a course. When it comes to creating a new class, I suppose the problem is that I'm not sure what I know that isn't already being taught. Teaching is already new to me and I think I'd be biting off a lot if I added in creation of a new course. However, from what I can see, the people already teaching the marketing courses have been entrenched for years, so I don't know that I can take advantage of turnover. So perhaps you are right that I need to create a new course. (LarryC -- great tips on putting together courses.) I like the idea of sitting in on some courses, too.
posted by acoutu at 11:21 PM on October 13, 2005

Response by poster: Just as a follow-up, I saw an ad for GMAT instructor and applied. I'm now on board as an instructor. Thanks.
posted by acoutu at 11:29 AM on November 2, 2005

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