a big mouthful of concrete

School is hard, and I don’t know if it’s right for me.

I don’t shy away from hard things – I welcome them with open pants – but there’s a lot to be said for taking a step back and looking at the Big Picture. Sometimes admitting that something is wrong actually harder than quitting, and this is one of those times.

I don’t want to quit this course. It’s only been four days. I can see the value in what I’m learning. Yes, the material is very advanced – but that’s not a problem; I’m smart. I enjoy a challenge.

And I don’t want to be a teacher.

The program I’m taking (at the advice of my boss) is the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program at Vancouver Community College. The program is designed for people who want to teach adult learners, and can be a stepping stone for those wanting to get their Master Degree in Education. It’s an intensive program with six courses and a practicum, and it’s very detailed.

I am not a teacher. I don’t want to be a teacher. I don’t consider myself a teacher – my job is that of a technical trainer, and to me there is a world of difference. I am not building a curriculum for students; I am passing along procedural and technical information. I don’t have the luxury of a 30-hour course designed to cover one topic; I cover what must be shared and move on to the next item. I don’t evaluate my students – hell, I don’t even have students. I don’t have to be conscious of why my participants are taking my “course” – they’re learning the procedure or software or system because it’s their job.

I do see some value in what I’m learning – ways to engage the learner, for example. Getting their attention and making them care why they’re learning the topic. The rest of it, though .. it’s brutally hard to try and see how it would be applicable in the real world; the world that pays my bills. Outlining a curriculum that I could actually use at work? Building a lesson plan that promotes interactive learning and student participation? How do you do that when your topic isn’t “welding a miter joint” but “changes to a network outage procedure”? When the very nature of your job is procedural and does not invite debate or discussion or even learner activities?

I don’t know that I’ll find the answers in time, or at all. I don’t know that this is the right place for me. I am a trainer, not a teacher. This course isn’t for people like me – but is that my hopelessness speaking, or is it the honest truth? Am I giving up too early; chickening out – or is my assessment true? How much time can I funnel into something that has no (as far as I can tell) practical application for me?

I don’t know what to do. I would be angry at myself if I gave up too soon, but at what point do your reasons for doing so outweigh the fear or failure?

If it makes any difference, VCC also offers a Business and Technical Writing Certificate that I really want to take. It’s not a diploma, but I’m fairly certain I can live without one of those seeing as I’ve done so quite admirably since not graduating high school.

What’s the bigger issue: that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, or that you’re chewing concrete? Yes, the mouthful is large – but you’re trying to eat the inedible. What’s more pressing? The magnitude or the content?

You know, I’ve never dropped out of anything before.

10 thoughts on “a big mouthful of concrete

  1. Right now this course isn’t very applicable to you. If you handle procedure, then the law of the land is what you say it is and by god if someone doesn’t want to learn it or abide by it, then its their own fault when the hammer of Thor or the lightning of Zeus strikes them down.

    However dot dot dot dot this can be a huge leap for you to be a Corporate Trainer that trains people on things other than procedure, maybe one day you wont work for the company whose name starts with an R and this course could be the stepping stone for you to make more money.

    This course alone wont mean much in the immediate future, but say you learn a bunch of ITIL Modules, now you can build a course and train people on the importance of ITIL, or maybe you take all of your technical documentation and training and build a course instructing people on the importance of proper documentation and build of up their skills and knowledge by following best practices.

    Imagine what this could allow you to do 5 years from now, we are now leaving a recession and will enter another cycle of economic growth and you will have incredible bargaining power in a few years, try to see how this will grow you into the next level.

    The last thing to keep in mind, if deep in your heart and your bones something tells you this is wrong, trust that feeling but school is always tough so make sure its not a mental block first.

    Good luck.

  2. Nothing you learn is ever useless. I took a GED test in the Army because they said “anybody who doesn’t have a high school diploma get on that bus after chow”. I passed the silly thing and was later able to take a couple of semesters of college and, ultimately, enroll in trade school (both of which would have turned me down without a high school diploma or a GED).

    After I went to work in Saint Louis (MO. 1975) I took a Motorola Training Institute correspondence course because my boss at work told me it would be of specific use in my job (communications bench technician). I took it because it didn’t cost me anything and it was an easy course which I maxed. Later in life, having that MTI course on my resume landed me a darn good job. They didn’t care that I was second in my class at one of the toughest trade schools in the US; they didn’t care about my First Class FCC license w/Radar endorcement or my Certified Electronics Technician (Communications Specialist) ticket. I was hired because I made a good grade on the MTI course. Why? The MTI course was the only training the guy who hired me had ever had and he trusted it.

    Lisa got interested in Google Wave (let her know if you want an invitation) and, subsequently, all things google. She studied up on it because she was curious. Yesterday, all of a sudden, she needed a simple website that she could quickly teach a nearly-newbie to maintain. Today, at work, she remembered reading about Google Sites. Right now we’re “folding up out tent” at 6 AM but the site is finished and she’s a happy camper.

    I helped by having dinner on the table when she got home and baking her a dark-chocolate-pecan cake, sweetened with xylitol instead of sugar because I’m trying to give up sugar; made with spelt flour, brown rice flour, homemade baking soda and soy milk because she’s allergic to hybridized wheat flour, milk and the corn starch that’s in store-bought baking soda. The pecans, Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa and Guittard extra dark chocolate chips (very low in mik byproducts) were all the ‘real thing’.

    Me, I’ve always enjoyed being an innovative cook. Who’d have guessed I’d marry a woman who’s afflicted with severe food sensitivities? It’s been a very handy aptitude for these last few years.

    When I was in high school, to satisfy my curiosity, I read a couple of books by some folks whose names were Masters and Johnson. I can’t even begin to tell you how that’s paid off for me.

    Take the class because the credit and/or the information may come in handy.

    Do a good job of it because you can.

    ….

    or not *shrug*. Either way I love you and I think you’re wonderful.

  3. I am probably only saying this because I’m a boss, and therefore I see things from that perspective (We Are Always Right!), but if your boss asked you to take the course, I’d personally stick it through.

    Like J says, while it may be that it doesn’t seem too applicable to your current position, try to think how it could apply 2 positions down the road.

    Maybe there is a Grand Plan for you and your boss sees something in your skillset that will let you expand beyond a job that is “procedural and does not invite debate or discussion or even learner activities”. Maybe he/she wants you to do work with a user community or something? Who knows, I’m making stuff up.

    … or, your boss saw the title of the course in some brochure that came to the house with the Courier and said “Hey, you’re an instructor. Take that!”.

  4. Not sure if you were soliciting advice or not, but there WERE a lot of questions, so I’m going to go out on a limb and offer some advice.

    Firstly, with any university program, there are courses that no one, for the love of jebus, can figure out WHY they are required. Perhaps you just got lucky and hit that one first off?

    I have a degree in Education. I received it 15 years ago and haven’t been in the workforce for 8. And I use the skills I learned from it every day. I suspect a lot of what you will learn will be useful, even if you don’t have to grade anyone. You’ll learn how to make your training more applicable to different people, AND learn how to approach a difficult subject from a different angle if your audience doesn’t seem to be “getting it”.

    BUT, I also have some issues with sticking with something just because you’re supposed to. I think maybe some research into the rest of your program (do you have a program advisor?) might waylay some fears about the usefulness of your course. I’d also have a talk with your boss before you quit in case there were plans for you that you didn’t know about.

    My two cents

  5. There are always seeder courses. There are always courses that do not seem applicable. Consider it a learning experience. About 3/4ths of my degree was qualified as that.

    Plus, it’s only been 4 days.

    • No weeder courses here – it was 30 solid hours of how to design a curriculum for adults in a classroom setting. Interesting, valid, informative – and not applicable to my job. :)

      • I would stick with it. What’s the worst that could happen? End up teaching a class full of kindergarteners?

        Wait, that could be awful.

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