School’s Out For Summer

School’s out, but I can’t wait for the fall semester to start. I don’t even know what class I’ll be teaching, but I know it’ll be awesome, and it’s going to be the best class I’ve ever had.

How do I know this? A few reasons, actually.

Every semester I develop a deeper sense of satisfaction teaching students all about networking or servers or whatever it is that’s on the docket that term. I don’t have any quantitative data to identify some trend semester by semester, but I definitely sense a deeper appreciation for what we’re doing in the classroom on Tuesday nights from 6 to 9pm. I find this causes me to be more invested in what I’m doing and much more deliberate in preparing lessons.

Next, each semester my network engineering skills develop a little more as a result of my day job and professional development. That means I can bring more professional experiences and technical depth to the classroom each time I start a new term. It helps me prepare better and I think be more relevant.  I want to believe that students sense and appreciate this through the lessons and relationships we forge over those few months we share together.

Whenever I teach a class a second or third time, I don’t throw all my previous lessons out, of course; instead, I adjust and tweak and improve my material based on how the previous semester went. Yes – sometimes I’ve thrown entire lessons out the window, but normally it’s a matter of expanding and fine tuning labs or moving lessons around to get a better flow. My classroom management skills improve, and my delivery methods improve. For example, and perhaps to the chagrin of my network engineer comrades, I’ve found myself using less sarcasm in the classroom in recent years.

In hindsight, I don’t think I’ve ever taught a class the same way twice.

Also, as I get older and see the value in doing what’s necessary to support my family, I value more the effort my non-traditional students are making. Changing careers is no easy task. I started that process myself in my mid-20s when I was newly married and with no children, so I can only imagine how difficult it is for students who are close to my age or older seeking to make such a major life-change. As the age-gap widens between me and my traditional students, I’ve found it easier to relate to my older, non-traditional students and deeply empathize with their journey. I hope this translates to the classroom. I feel genuinely humbled and privileged to be able to participate in that sort of life-changing endeavor.

During actual class time, issues of life seem to fade as we delve into the content of the day and chase all sorts of rabbits in our discussions. It’s a great feeling, and I start to miss it around early July. Already I’m thinking about how to make that router-on-a-stick lesson work better or how to clean up that ridiculous Powershell scripting lab. Don’t get me wrong: I’m looking forward to some hot summer nights, but I also can’t wait for September to roll around and for those first few emails to come through with my new class roster.

School may be out for summer, but I guess I just can’t wait for the fall semester to start.



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