Those of you who follow the Thursday Doors series knew this was coming. It has little to do with the doors, and surprisingly, it has little to do with my lecture. Oh, don’t worry, (or perhaps I should say don’t be too quick to rejoice) I’m going to sneak a little bit of that lecture in.
The first thing that I want to do is to dispel the notion that I am some kind of noteworthy academic type who wanders the college circuit giving guest lectures. I’ve written before about the fact that I, along with a group of other business folks have been serving as mentors in an undergraduate Management Information Science (MIS) class for several years. If you’re interested, you can read more about that here. I’ll try to not repeat anything from that post. I have also benefited from the kindness and service of mentors in my life. I’ve written about that, too. The professor of the class in which we served as mentors made the following request:
“Can any of you guys fill an opening for a guest lecturer this fall?”
Several of us asked for more information. The exchange between me and the professor should help you put my role into context:
“What’s the subject?”
“This would be for my graduate level class on IT Strategy. You can talk about anything that might relate to the topics covered in the study guide.”
He attached a PDF copy of the study guide.
“I could talk about the way our strategy is influenced by other factors in business, like my budget. Would that help?”
“That would be perfect. These guys need to know how things work in the real world.”
In the real world.
I hated that expression when I was in college.
Every time I heard someone use that expression, it carried the connotation that I didn’t know jack. On several occasions, that expression was proximate to the phrase “college boy” and it was being used to limit or prevent my participation in a project. Often times, a project for which I had been trained.
There are two ways to deal with experience and the specialized knowledge you have acquired: you can keep it to yourself and use it to your advantage, or you can share it with others.
I guess there’s a third way: you can proceed through life without thinking about it, but I’m going to ignore that because I’m hoping to convince you that you should share it with others.
At one point during my “lecture,” I put up the image at the right. Yes, I use the same high quality illustrations at work as I do here. My point was that “your technology strategy has to be influenced by the context in which it has to be implemented.” When I showed that, the professor interrupted me. He asked the class if they remembered a previous lesson. He started asking them questions, jogging or attempting to jog their memories from undergraduate classes they had taken. He was drawing parallels that I barely could imagine existing between the concept I was attempting to illustrate and the vast body of knowledge he has in his head.
I was impressed!
We often think that teachers, regardless of academic level, have an easy job. With few real working hours, lots of days off and covering the same ground year after year. I’ve heard people say, and I’ve probably said it myself, that “once they prepare a curriculum, they’re pretty much set for life.”
Wow, that is so not the case.
The real world that I was trying to expose these students to was not lost on the professor. He had done research, he had read, he had adapted his curriculum to reflect the ever-changing real world. Although many of the concepts in his study guide looked familiar to the ones I had learned when I was in graduate school, the application was radically different. I was speaking to this class as a way of reinforcing the lessons they already had learned. Or, maybe ones they were ignoring because they couldn’t imagine how those lessons would ever would matter in the real world.
Lessons, at every educational level, are planned, practiced, delivered and reinforced. We, those of us in the real world, can help with that last task. As parents, we help with homework. We volunteer to chaperone field trips. We go into early grade classes and read stories. Later, we participate in Career Days. These are all things most parents are familiar with, but it doesn’t have to end when your kids go off to college or directly into that real-ish world.
I wouldn’t recommend mentoring or lecturing in a classroom where your child is a student, Oh the embarrassment, but I bet there’s a campus within easy driving distance where you could share some of your experience, insights, and skills. I would also bet that you will be impressed with the quality of the educational experience you participate in and that you will feel better about yourself and the educational process and professionals when you are done. That, plus the benefit of saying “I was asked to be a guest lecturer”, it does feel kind of good.