Tag Archive | inspiring

Chance Encounters

City scape 002Yeah, I know. You’ve all seen this painting before, and I truly am not bragging by any means, but I included it because it’s central to today’s post.

I took this abstract Cityscape to Michaels  craft store to have a custom frame made for it. A sweet young clerk waited on me and put up with me taking over half of the framing samples off the wall to put them on the corners of my painting. One thing that aided both of us was a software program that actually took my frame selections around a photo of my painting, so I could see what the finished product would look like. In twenty to thirty minutes, I made my decision, plus I almost stayed within my budget!

Breille asked me how I spelled my last name, so to make things easier for her, I pulled out one of my business cards. (I went to Vistaprint and designed a card that has pictures of my novels on the back side.) A business card is the cheapest advertising you can have for yourself–so if you don’t have one, it’s a good investment. Breille was impressed by my prolific collection of historical fiction, and it turned out she is a student at my Alma Mater. Of course, we spent a few more minutes talking about her present experience with her classes and professors.

Because my graduation was almost twenty-five years ago, most of my professors are either dead or retired, so I didn’t know any of the instructors she mentioned. I don’t even know if the Communication and English programs are the same as what I completed. You know, time changes all.  Yada Yada Yada.

Breille wants to become a media journalist, so I asked her if the University offered this type of major within the Communication, and she didn’t know. I asked her if her adviser was helping her, and she said no.

I encouraged her to find an adviser who would work with her, and then I shared my experience with my adviser and how she helped me achieve the goals I wanted. In the English department, a business writing major wasn’t offered, but through eighteen credits of internship, my adviser helped me graduate with a professional portfolio I could show potential employers once my sheepskin hung on the wall. The caveat was I graduated with a year of practical experience because I became a member of a professional writing team with a Fortune 500 Communication company.

Breille’s eyes lit up as I told her what I had done, and I encourage her she could get what she wanted, too. All she had to do was see the goal and work toward it with everything inside of her. I truly believe if you want to achieve you can.

The best part of this story is I left the store with a gift. Breille told me, “Meeting you made my day, Barbara.”

I love chance encounters like this one because perhaps something I did or said might make a difference for someone else. You never will realize the future affect of your actions or words because these moments are the cliff- hanger of life. The most important thing, though,  is connecting with another person in a special way for a few special moments.

Oh, and by the way, Breille made my day, too.

A Day in The Life of an Adjunct Instructor

great teacherIf you have been following me for a while, you know I have been teaching writing as an adjunct instructor at the local community college for the past two years. I’d like to share something that happened in my class yesterday. I have a couple of darling male students who wanted to play the game, “Stump the Instructor.”  I realized what they were doing right away because I’ve been down this path before. I’m happy to tell you, the game was over as soon as it started when I flat out told them, “I don’t know everything. Look it up.”

I continued the class by telling him, “I don’t know everything about everything. But I know more about writing and English grammar than you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting here.”  Done.

I think teachers who set themselves up as omniscient beings are asking for trouble. Even grade school children go to work to prove their parents and teachers are wrong about something. This is the very reason I tell my classes I don’t know everything. I tell them I make mistakes once in a while. I do so because it makes me human, and a better teacher.  My role is to coach and guide them through the class, instead of parking myself on some know-it-all pedestal. I want my feet firmly on the ground to connect with my students. I do this by sharing it wasn’t so long ago I was sitting in their seat. I tell them I was an adult student just like they are now, and say I understand they have other responsibilities in their life, which can throw a monkey wrench into their worlds once in a while. In the next breath, also share I graduated from college Magna Cum Laude in four years with two children and a part-time job. In other words, I subliminally say, “There are no excuses. If you want an education,  you will find a way to get it done.”

I know one of the best things they can do for themselves is to show up. When they are in class, they have the benefit of my experience. I give them tips on how to approach an exam, how to take good notes, and encourage them to ask “why?” As we go through the textbook from week to week, I try give them memory aids I’ve made up. Like ABIOOTU, which is my made up word for all two-letter prepositions. Then there’s the tried and tested, “I before E, except after “C” jingle.” And once in a while, I come up with something new. I before E

Yesterday as I stood at the white board explaining the difference between infinitives and prepositional phrases beginning with the word “to,” I had a spontaneous inspiration. I said,  “Here’s a Barbara tip  — the “V” in the word INFINITIVE tells you “to” is paired with a VERB, where as, the word PREPOSITION has an “N” so in this case, “to” is paired with a NOUN.” I realized I am a  frickin’ impromptu genius!

I love when my creativity has the chance to inspire others who want to learn. I even love teaching  students who still are lumps of clay, not sure if they want to learn. But I despise students who come to class only to collect their financial aid and have no intention of learning because they not only want cheat the system. Little do they know, they are cheating themselves, too.

So on it goes, from one class to another, from one textbook chapter to the next. Learning happens somewhere in the process. I can only hope that some of the things I try to teach will stick.