Why I love teaching (and why I am surprised about that)

Please read to the end if you have a project for my ergo students this term!) I started teaching the Capstone Course in Conestoga College’s new Human Factors and Ergonomics program in September. In the fall, the course was fully remote, which suited me because I was still spending most of my time at the cottage, coming home for only client work and team meetings. This semester, it’s a hybrid course, so I now have faces to put with the names on my class list, and I’m enjoying the engagement of the on-campus part of the course. Years ago, I promised myself that, when my kids grew up, I’d look for a teaching position. When this opportunity presented itself, at the college just down the street, I couldn’t turn it down. When I started out, I was “hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst”. I grew up in a family of teachers, and, while I envy them every summer, I never regretted my own career choices. I confess that I generally don’t like other people’s kids. Dinner conversations always seemed to focus on the “problem” students, and I expected my students to be stereotypically truculent or disengaged. One or two (in a class of over 30) were, of course, but the majority of students were so committed that I couldn’t help but feel proud of them. I had already taken courses to develop and facilitate adult learning, so I wasn’t starting to teach from scratch. However, the college offers rich professional development for professors, and I’m trying to take advantage of as much as I can absorb, which will also benefit my clients. I’m learning how to better evaluate learning, incorporate interactive technology, and engage with students virtually and in-person. I feel like I’ve been offered amazing growth opportunities that I was not expecting. This semester’s students will get more out of me than last semester’s. If I continue to teach, future students will reap the benefits of my improving skills. Conestoga’s new HFE program includes some amazing courses, which incorporate topics that were not covered in the 80’s when I studied physiology, biomechanics, and ergonomics. I was delighted to learn that the students learn about technical communication, project management, digital human modelling, and quality management, including lean and six sigma. How I wish these courses had been available when I started out! Conestoga’s HFE program attracts many International Students. Aside from the challenge of pronouncing and remembering their names, I’ve been blown away by the education and experience that these students bring to Canada. Our class is literally full of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and engineers. While they occasionally struggle to communicate their ideas in English (more my problem than theirs), they are smart, and eager to learn so they can get a job in Canada. Not all of them plan to practice ergonomics (sadly), but most of them could, if they so desired. Adding a part-time job to my more-than-full-time role at Taylor’d was a classic case of Carrie trying “too hard, to do too much, to do too well,” to quote Mr Allen, my favourite grade school teacher. Our team has been picking up the slack. Alex has been mentoring our new ergonomists and teaching most of our open enrollment courses, and the team has been contributing to our social media, ergo awareness programs, and blogs. If my coordinator at College is right, teaching this course will eventually feel like “sipping Mai Tais on the beach” compared to my first semester experience. I look forward to that! An OPPORTUNITY to tap into some free resources: My class has six groups of students who are looking for projects in the local community. They will assess a job and provide recommendations, meeting with me every week to report progress and receive support and feedback. Projects are being selected now, and the presentations and reports will be completed in April. If you are located in the Kitchener area, and you have a project for a student group, please let me know as soon as possible. This course runs every semester, so if now is not a good time, please keep our students in mind for another semester!

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