Giving Back: Teaching the Next Generation
As I began my career in the nonprofit world, I had one desire. My personal goal was to obtain a doctorate degree. I knew I had to obtain my master’s degree first, which I did soon after receiving a bachelor’s degree. I was blessed to have been a graduate assistant at a graduate school. Since I was the only graduate assistant at the time, I had unlimited access to faculty, staff and administration. I watched how faculty taught both undergraduates and graduates, and how they created syllabi and bibliographies. I also personally got to know faculty members—I saw their various personalities, teaching styles and ways of interacting with students inside and outside the classroom.
When I received my master’s degree, I was working full-time in the field of development for a university. As I began working for my second university, I decided to become an adjunct professor at another university in the area. For some reason, I felt I wanted to expand my career experiences beyond administration to include teaching. I taught undergraduate courses in advertising, communications and general studies.
I did not receive formal training on how to teach. I watched others and attempted to learn best practices from the many courses I took throughout my academic career. I worked with some outstanding professors and others that were a disappointment, to say the least. One thing I personally wanted all of my students to achieve was a blend of theory and practice.
Fast forward to last week in Bourbonnais, Ill. I had the honor of teaching 17 students—all Salvation Army officers. Each day of the intensive, five-day university class focused on different topics, covering community relations, public relations, government relations, board development and volunteer program elements, plus various fundraising and friend-raising elements. Various, timely practical applications introduced a great deal of theory. The students were graded on various aspects, including homework, class discussion and applications to what they had learned via various modes.
Officers in the class rank included lieutenants, captains and majors. Their Salvation Army experience ranged from two to 18 years. This class, which is mandatory for officers, included several sets of married couples. The Salvation Army encourages husband-and-wife joint appointments to various settings, including what is called Corps. A triangle concept of saving souls (spirituality), providing social services (practical programs benefitting those in need) and fostering community relations (building relationships and finding time, talent and treasure to make Corps development a success) provided special emphasis.
To be an excellent instructor, one must have total joy in the teaching process. When you do not have formal training, you must learn a variety of techniques to facilitate student learning.
Try these methods to make your teaching experience enjoyable for students.
- Use a variety of techniques and technology, such as PowerPoint presentations, videos, lectures, boards, guest speakers and the students themselves, to make the process engaging and to avoid a boring class.
- Encourage question-and-answer sessions and open discussion between students. Find out what is important for them to learn. Provide resources for every topic covered and open the door for student research. Constantly ask for feedback on what you want them to know to make sure they absorb knowledge.
- Show how theory and practice blend together for maximum effectiveness. Use tools, such as a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis, to prove points. Many students at the graduate level have work scenarios. Help provide answers for them to consider.
- Make sure you have enough quality materials to cover the subject matter at hand and that you maximize each student’s participation.
- Get to know your students on a first-name basis by the end of the class. Have them write, speak and work as teams to solve problems.
I was mentally tired but happy when the teaching week ended at Olivet Nazarene University. I received emails and comments from my students that expressed appreciation for the work my assistant instructor and I did for this class. Those moments alone brought me the joy of teaching at the college level.
I asked every student to use as least one new idea from the class going forward in their demanding jobs. If they use that one new idea, all of the hard work and preparation for teaching this class will be well worth it.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.