Enjoying teaching…

Just in the last few days there have been several issues which have set my mind to thinking “I should write something on my journal about that”. So, if my writing work-rate stays reasonably high, there might be several new posts all at once – rather like waiting for a bus…. there is a long wait, then several come along at once!

I will make no promises though, in case I cannot deliver!! But here is the first one and this sort of follows on from the last, which related to students. What set this thought stream off was a question posed by “Barbara” on Linked In, who said she had just started teaching International Business at Rutgers and did anyone have any advice or  “… suggestions for videos, projects, guest speakers? I have taught it before but want it to be more involving this time.”

Wanting to be helpful from my own experience, I added the comment below to her debate….:-

Hi, I have been retired six years and before that ran a Sustainable Development consultancy at the university for nearly ten years – so it is a while since I taught International Marketing there…but two (no, three!) thoughts occurred….
First is that I wrote a case study each year which we used for that years exam, so then we used the same case study the next year for teaching….and so on until it became the oldest case and got dropped in favour of the newest. This way all the cases were companies the students knew and, as the writer, I KNEW the cases personally, so we could have extended discussions whenever an issue arose that may not have been directly covered in the case itself.
Secondly we got the students involved in real companies real problems with some “consultancy” projects.
Thirdly we visited companies involved in international marketing (on one course we had a week in France visiting companies in and around Paris – I loved it and I think the students did too!!)

Above all – enjoy teaching – that way the students will enjoy your lectures etc!

And, that set me thinking back to one of those visits to Paris. It was with a group of Diploma in Management Studies (DMS) students. The group was one I had not been teaching on (another colleague had been teaching Marketing to them) and I had only ever seen them a couple of times, on the case study programme we had on DMS at that time, before the Paris visit. The couple of times I had seen them I had, for some reason, not felt any strong positive vibes from the group, so I was a bit doubtful about spending a week in Paris with them.

Whether that had subconsciously prompted me to work a little bit harder with them as a group than normal I am not sure….

As far as I can recall I was the only member of staff with them from Nottingham where they were students but I think we had another staff member from an associated college in Lincoln because there were some Lincoln students on the visit too. I also had my wife with me – I always paid for her travel, of course, and covered her expenses – but she managed to come on several of our trips to Paris and she always helped with the “travelling case study” we did to make sure any logistic gaps in the programme were spent doing something useful, rather than sitting around twiddling thumbs. This included time on long train journeys and evenings without visits! They worked hard it was not just a jaunt!!

My recollection of this trip (certainly over 25 years ago, maybe over 30, so the memory is a bit hazy!) is that there were one or two problems we had to overcome at the last minute. For example, I think one of the visits had to be cancelled at short notice so we ended up doing an extra stint on our “travelling case study” one afternoon instead of going round a factory.

Also I ended up being involved in the translation process from French to English because the young lady who was acting as translator had excellent ‘Social English’ but got stuck with some of the technical concepts we were being shown. Although I did not understand all the French, once I had the gist of what was being said I could explain enough to the students for them to ask the next question. This was not something I had planned on but it actually went well!

By the way, the glass (or two!?) of wine at lunch-time helped my French as well. Clearly my inhibitions were relaxed by the wine and I “exaggerated” the accent a bit, but found I was being understood better than when I used my previously “normal” way of speaking French!

Anyway, taking all things together, the week went very well – much better than I had feared and all the problems had turned into opportunities. In fact it was a Great Success and I use the Captial Letters deliberately. Everybody was in good spirits on the way home and something happened that had never happened before (or since!) A Student Spokesman called for silence on the plane and on behalf of the group presented me with a bottle of wine and a T-shirt with a picture of Snoopy on top of his kennel.

The words on the T-shirt were in French but translated into something like …” beneath this calm exterior lurks a raging storm!”  – a compliment to my unflappability I think!

Hence my remark above about “enjoying your teaching” – it really can be very rewarding (and I mean emotionally – rather than the bottle of wine!!) Sadly the Snoopy T-shirt eventually wore out, but I think it may still lurk in a box somewhere in the loft.

About Keith Melton - Green Lib Dem

Retired English liberal environmentalist living in Nottinghamshire; spent six years in Brazil. Author of Historical Novel - Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536. Active member of the Green Liberal Democrats - (pressure group in Liberal Democrats) - was Founding Chair of GLD in 1988
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