Back in December 2012 I wrote a post titled “A Change of Seasons” where I announced my new role as a Computer Technology instructor at Clark College. Six months later I am here to share with you some of my experiences of teaching Introduction to Programming and Problem Solving, PHP, Advanced PHP and HTML/CSS Fundamentals.
Public speaking != Classroom teaching
One of the biggest misconceptions that I had about teaching was that it would be a lot like speaking at a conference. Man was I wrong about this one. While I did employ many of the techniques that I learned as a public speaker, the classroom is and in particular “classroom management” is a totally different animal. In the classroom you are always “on” and are constantly engaging students while at the same time other students engage you. My typical classroom instructional time was 2 hours x 2 times a week for each one of the four classes I taught. For those of you math majors this works out to 15+ hours week in the classroom.
Classes extend beyond the classroom
When I went to college back in the 1980’s you attended lectures and labs. Once in a while I went to my instructors office during office hours for extra help. While I do offer office hours students rarely came in for assistance. From what I can tell this is primarily do to the fact that many of them work or have other obligations. What they did attend and which worked very well was on-line extra help using Google Hangouts and GotoMeeting. A few students preferred communicating using Skype.
Getting out of my comfort zone
This is the first time I wasn’t doing something that had the words “IBM” or “Lotus” in them. Rest assured that my students now do know a lot more about IBM and Lotus. What I was teaching them were skills and languages that were not tied to a particular vendors products. My goal was to make them “developers” rather than a (fill in the blank) developer. You can fill in the blank with any vendor name that you like.
Being named as a winner of the “Exceptional Faculty Award”
Last week at the 2013 Clark College Commencement ceremony I received along with 4 other faculty members the “Exceptional Faculty Award”. Here is what was written about me in the commencement program:
Bruce Elgort has only been teaching at Clark since winter quarter 2012, but already he has made a huge impression on his students, “I was worried when I started his class that I wouldn’t be able to learn the material or properly grasp the concepts, but after I was in Bruce’s class for an hour, I felt confident and comfortable and able to learn anything,” wrote one nominator.
While Elgort is relatively new to teaching in a college setting, he has a long career in computer technology. He has worked for major technology companies, including Sharp and Underwriters Laboratories, and launched his own successful software company. When he teaches courses about programming, HTML, and PHP coding, he brings real-life experience from the work world into his classroom – a classroom that extends into the virtual realm through help sessions conducted via social media. “In today’s hyper-connected, ‘always-on’ world, the ability to extend the physical classroom is something that has become an integral part of all my work at Clark,” Elgort says.
The Clark College Exceptional Faculty Awards are presented annually to full-time and part-time faculty members. Nominations can be submitted by Clark College students, faculty, classified employees, administrators, alumni, Board members, and Foundation directors. The awards are made possible through an endowed trust fund established by the Washington State Legislature and the Clark College Exceptional Faculty Endowment Fund, which was established in 1993. That fund provides recognition of exemplary work performance, positive impact on students, professional commitment, and other contributions to the college.