Having your own classroom

Today is my birthday.

My supervisor and I stopped for a moment to talk about strategies for the upcoming year. Our fiscal year actually started on July the 1st. We have conducted two classes so far, graduating our second class today. I took a look around and snapped a couple of photos because the room feels so quiet right now.

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It looks so idyllic to me, when compared to my former classroom:

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There are times when I miss my old classroom.

It was always filled with people. My day started at 8:00 A.M. and ended at 5:00 P.M. sharp, but it went by so fast that it seemed like an hour. In the 2 years that we were in our old location, I don’t remember a dull moment and I don’t remember a long day. Which brings me back to my opening statement.

My supervisor asked me when I was going to take vacation.

He surprised me with the question. So much that, I didn’t know how to answer him. My answer was that I would have to ask my wife. We talked some more, his advice being that I should really give some thought to taking time off, since he felt that the job tends to burn a lot of people out. I replied that I don’t feel burned out. Quite the opposite. I feel renewed. I told him that ever since I was hired, I’ve been addicted to the work. I look forward to the challenge of teaching more people something new. I enjoy helping people. I told him that I am afraid of taking vacation.

I have been formally teaching since 2003.

As a teacher, I even attempted working for the public school system and found that I just did not fit in. I am a maverick of sorts, with a need to share what I learn in simple, easy-to-understand words that do not confuse, befuddle or drive away my students. I teach adults. I cannot count the number of times that an entire class has asked me why I wasn’t their teacher in high school. I am told by my students, that there is a disparaging difference between my teaching methods and those of the teachers they had in school. In short, I am entertaining and passionate about what I teach and their teachers were robotic at best, uncaring at worst.

I believe that teaching is timely.

When I plan a curriculum for my adult students, it has to be not only engaging, but must include exercises that they can use. I teach all levels of computer technology, including Windows, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Web Applications. I’m well known in Las Vegas for my laid-back teaching style and patience when explaining how to use any applications.

I am afraid of going on vacation because I would miss teaching.

I am trying to replace my love of teaching with my passion for writing. I plan to revisit writing my books and short stories that I shelved in lieu of manuals and lesson plans. What is also keeping me busy is getting my project online, so that it can grow as a much-needed business on the web.

So, it looks like I will spend my birthday agonizing over minutae.

No I will not spend my birthday agonizing over small details. My family is getting together with me, while friends and family are already wishing me a happy birthday.

What I will be agonizing over, during all the festivities is that I have aged another year. Time is growing ever shorter, and my bucket list of projects just keeps getting longer.

I guess that I’m just like a lot of people in the world.

My appreciation over all though, is that I am alive, I am in good health and I have the company of a wonderful woman that I am madly in love with, after being together for over 20 years. Oh, and the fact that I am able to share my thoughts with so many people is really cool.

Have a wonderful day. I know that I will.

Working with People

Working with people is an art.

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Jacquelyn Smith, a Forbes staff writer composed an outstanding article about leadership entitled, “The 20 People Skills You Need To Succeed At Work”, where she outlined the need for anyone leading people to possess “people skills”.

People come to us in all different shapes and sizes. They come to us when they are happy, they come to us when they are sad. People come to us angry, they come to us with indifference. People are some of the most incalculable creatures on the planet. Some of us may feel that people, like computers are predictable and measureable, but when the facts are laid out on the table, people are as unpredictable as the weather.

When engaged in conversations, there are senders and receivers.

One can joke, cajole, even harass another with spontaneity or humor, expecting a laugh as a response, but there can be times when the response may not be one that is expected by the sender. The response may be anger, frustration, laughter, sadness…any number of responses when confronted with a decision to react with an emotion, always triggered by any number of variables. Some people may be experiencing outside influences such as personal challenges, professional challenges, personality conflicts, even a lack of an empathic response to the sender’s attempt at humor.

Some senders insist on enticing a reaction from the receiver.

Sometimes, a sender may insist on  a reaction from the receiver. Reactions could include embarrassment, anger, hostility, rage, subjectivity, or submission. For example, a manager may harass or ridicule an employee by including them in some “harmless” office fun, by making them the brunt of jokes. Perhaps the manager will ask the employee a question that seems innocent, yet is laced with innuendo and cynicism about the employee. Generally, situations generated by managers that involve placing employees in awkward positions can arise from a lack of empathy for the employee, or a desire by the manager to “put the employee in their place”.

The workplace can be a place for professional behavior, or unprofessional behavior.

It is up to the manager to set the tone for the office. Managers must remember that they are not gods, nor are they omniscient or omnipotent. Managers may often be misled by the impression that they are in control of the office and those employees who work for them; but they are not in control. Managers need to remember that they are influencers who guide the emotional tone of those around. them. I have been managing classrooms for over 30 years (on and off), and have had the opportunity to learn a lot about behavior and influence from my students. As a classroom manager, I have found that I am indeed, an influencer of those people I face, but I do not hold sway over their every decision. I can influence the people I am managing by my reactions to any emotion that is expressed by them. As a manager, I might temporarily remove a student in order to get their attention, I may listen to what they have to say in class, or I may schedule a private conference with my student, so that I have the opportunity to offer feedback that is both constructive and helpful to the student. I have learned in all my years of managing my classes that customer service is critical in order to not only maintain a semblance of control in my classroom, but also influence the desire to listen to what I have to say from my students.

It is important for managers to remember that those who represent them are people with feelings, complete with responses.

Managers need to remember that if their employees confront them openly, or object strongly and openly to policy that has been implemented, that manager needs to learn how to give them time to express their feelings. As a manager, I have had plenty of students who were angry or upset about the way I might be presenting a subject or teaching my class. I always am happy to take them aside and listen to them. I work hard in my conversations to maintain eye contact with my student, no matter how angry or frustrated they may be. I will also ask them for examples that they may be thinking of that could improve whatever they may see as an issue to be resolved. I will thank them for their input and give myself a chance to think over what they have said, usually an hour or two while I deliberate. I will then call my student back into the conversation and deliver my decision, thanking them for their input. This routine has always been successful. It has given me the opportunity to see how I am performing as a classroom manager or teacher through someone else’s eyes. I may or may not change what that person has relayed to me, but that is the answer I will always deliver to the class as a whole. I go to great lengths to keep my answers without any defamation or anger, instead going to great lengths to thank the student that addressed whatever they felt the problem was, and how I intend to resolve their complaint. This method has been a time-tested method in using my influence as a manager to lead class after class, again and again for years.

The art in leading or managing people is maintaining a level of mutual respect.

The manager who is willing to show undying respect for their employees and expect the same treatment in return is the manager who successfully influences their team. “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/leader.html#iZCo62cqEzA0RK20.99Leadership is something you earn, something you’re chosen for. You can’t come in yelling, ‘I’m your leader!’ If it happens, it’s because the other guys respect you.” – Ben Roethlisberger