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Back to school.

Back to School

When I told my grandfather I'd been offered a part-time teaching position at a local university, he was delighted.

"Ann," Grandpa said, "they'll be paying you to learn."

Grandpa was right. They were paying me to learn.

For almost two years now, in addition to my full-time job as internal communication coordinator for Hallmark Cards, Inc., I've been teaching part time at the Kansas City, Mo., campus of Webster University. Webster, a St. Louis-based university with campuses in 48 locations around the world, uses practicing professionals with academic credentials as professors. I teach in Webster's new masters of communication management program.

Part-time teaching is time-consuming, and it won't make you rich. But teaching offers benefits that can make it very rewarding.

Teaching as Learning

Communicators are natural teachers, because we already know how to gather and present information--the basic elements of teaching. And teachers' techniques for involving students--things like discussion, dynamic visuals, humor and concrete examples to illustrate abstract concepts--are the same techniques we communicators use to engage our audiences.

But teaching helps us develop new communication skills and hone the ones we already have.

For example, teaching can help you develop your public speaking skills, because it requires you to present your ideas in a clear, organized, interesting manner. And that practice will improve your presentations to audiences at work, like clients or the board of directors.

Teaching can also help you become a better manager. In the classroom, you can learn to motivate, give feedback, help people develop new skills and provide career-development guidance. And providing in-class critiques of students' writing assignments can help you become better at giving constructive criticism to your colleagues.

Teaching adults is also an education about other business organizations. Students, with their varied experiences, teach the teacher. This is particularly important for organizational communicators.

"I've taught burned-out nurses, people who were living through the AT&T divestiture and people who work for very small businesses," says Anne Baber, ABC, director of corporate communication at United Telecom and a part-time communication professor. "Their experiences broaden my perspective about what makes an organization tick or not tick."

Keeping Up with Industry Trends

In today's ever-changing world, communicators fall behind if we don't work to learn about new technological developments, current issues and the latest research in the field. As in "Alice in Wonderland," we have to run to stay in place. Teaching can help you keep up with the latest trends in the industry.

"Part-time teaching is a superb way to keep up with the practical developments in my field," Baber says. "I do a lot of research in preparation for each new semester. Students benefit from knowing the latest trends, and so do I."

Teaching requires this research--you don't want to walk into a room full of expectant students without having done your homework. Reading professional journals, interpreting recent research and keeping abreast of the most burning industry issues are necessary to develop course materials.

A Good Counterpoint to a Full-Time Job

Teaching balances "doing" in a nice way.

We don't think about theories of good writing when we're writing, we just write. We don't reflect upon communication models when we plan a communication program, we just plan. Teaching forces us to reflect on the theories behind the practice; it gives us a chance to analyze what we do every day.

"I feel that I've brought so much back into the job from teaching--new insights, a wealth of knowledge and a new commitment to the profession," says Baber. "Teaching is a good counterpoint to a full-time communication career."

Teaching can also be a good credential.

For example, Baber's teaching experience at the high-school, undergraduate and graduate levels helped her land her two most recent jobs. Her employers wanted her to give writing and editing workshops to editors, managers and other employees.

Teaching can also add oomph to your resume, help you get recognition as an expert in your specialty or give you credibility as a consultant. And you can use teaching as a springboard for developing other professional projects, such as writing a series of articles or a book based on lecture notes or tapes from your class.

Teaching encourages you to use the best techniques and procedures on the job. For example, you can hardly bear to neglect the five-step model of communication planning after you've stressed its importance in the classroom.

Teaching can also be a refresher course in communication theory and philosophy. Try reading a public relations textbook now, with some practical experience behind you. You get an entirely different perspective from what you got as a student.

And gathering information and organizing it for presentation gives you a deeper understanding of that information than simply reading it.

Educating the Marketplace

In the often-misunderstood world of organizational communication, teaching offers us an opportunity to explain our profession.

"I'm convinced that we need more education focusing on corporate or organizational communication," says Baber, who has taught courses on employee communication and media relations. "I know from my own experience that the traditional focus of universities virtually ignores our field. I had to teach myself what organizational communication was after I graduated from one of the top J-schools in the US."

Cyd Slayton, vice president of marketing for VPR, a Kansas City video-services firm, and part-time communication professor, says she teaches in part to educate people about the value of communication.

"I don't in my business 'sell' corporate video, corporate film or audience research," says Slayton. "I educate the marketplace so people can see whether it might fit with their goals and objectives. With teaching, I get to practice educating the marketplace in the classroom."

The Money

The going rate for part-time teachers in Kansas City is about US $1,500 for a nine-week course. At 34 hours of class time, that's about $45 an hour. But that doesn't count time spent outside the classroom preparing for class, grading papers and tests and talking to students individually. And it doesn't count the time it takes to plan any new courses you might teach.

As you can see, you won't get rich teaching part-time. Still, the extra money is a nice supplement to the salary for a full-time job, and could be especially helpful for self-employed or retired communicators.

And in today's unstable world of corporate mergers, buyouts and downsizing, teaching can provide a sense of career security. Baber, who is hoping to use teaching as a transition into retirement, says that teaching makes her feel less psychologically dependent on her regular job for her livelihood.

"I know that I have the credentials and up-to-the-minute experience to launch a second career," she says.

Teaching Is Its Own Reward

While the money is nice, teaching, with its intellectual and personal challenges, really is its own reward.

Teaching someone to write a good feature story is nearly as fulfilling as writing a good feature story yourself.

It's fun to share your knowledge and experiences. Standing up in front of a classroom full of adults who are hanging on your every word is a heady experience. And for a communicator, having someone take notes as you talk is a nice turn of the tables, too. Professional communicators also prize the immediate feedback that the classroom offers.

"I love the student evaluations," Baber says. "In a job you can go for months and months without hearing, 'Hey, you're doing great!' It's nice to get a pat on the back, to see that people do recognize what I'm doing."

Besides, as my grandfather would say, with teaching, you get paid to learn.

And that's rewarding, indeed.
COPYRIGHT 1989 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on tips on teaching; communicators who teach school part-time
Author:Wylie, Ann
Publication:Communication World
Date:Jun 1, 1989
Words:1270
Previous Article:Illiteracy in the workplace.
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