How you can share talents with adults eager to learn

Do you have a skill or talent that you enjoy sharing with others? Have you ever thought of offering it as a course in an adult education program at your local high school or college, YMCA, Jewish community center, or senior citizen center?

Today more adults than ever before are willing to pay to learn subjects like cooking, calligraphy, woodworking, ballroom dancing, investments, bridge, managing time, and developing supervisory skills. Many buildings have facilities where furniture refinishing, reupholstering, woodworking, and mechanics can be taught. They also may have kitchens for gourmet or ethnic cooking, cake decorating, and candymaking.

The prime qualifications required for teaching adults are:

* Enthusiasm. Let your own interest in your subject shine through in your teaching.

* A good working knowledge, gained from practical hands-on experience, of what you wish to teach.

* A genuine interest in people, a willingness to meet them where they are, to answer their questions patiently, and to encourage them in their efforts.

If you have these qualifications, your next step will be to reach the individual who has the power to hire you. In your local or regional high school make an appointment with the director of the adult education program. The program or recreation director is the one to approach in the Y, Jewish community center, or senior center. These organizations are always interested in new courses that will enrich the lives of their members.

I taught my first class of four writing sessions free of charge to adults in a senior citizen complex. This afforded me a no-risk situation for trying my hand at teaching. After that trial run the program director set aside funding to pay me to conduct eight sessions the following autumn. This continued twice a year for over 10 years.

If you plan to offer your course at a local college, you will want to contact the director of the Division of Continuing Education, which offers credit-free courses. Don't be intimidated at the thought of teaching at a college. As you won't be offering a course for credit, you do not need a college degree to teach it.

Work up a brief resume covering your qualifications to teach the subject. The resume can include, for example:

Objective: State here what it is you wish to teach.

Educational background: It is usually only necessary to list courses or self-instruction that pertain to your particular area of expertise.

Awards (or recognition received): If you have ever been cited for outstanding work in your field or have received prizes or awards, include this information.

Teaching experience (if any): Perhaps you have imparted your skill or knowledge to a church group, an organization, or a youth club, or conducted a seminar, or led a workshop in it.

Related activities: Have you attended conferences in your field? Acted as a judge? Served on a board or panel?

References: Include here people who know and respect your talent. Be sure to ask their permission before using their names.

You do not need to include where you are currently employed unless it relates in some way to your ability to teach the particular subject you are offering. It is well, however, to include your business telephone number in case you need to be reached during the day.

You may be requested to supply a syllabus for your course. This is a detailed outline of what you plan to cover in each of the sessions, and, although it isn't always asked for, it is helpful to you in shaping the content of your course.

From a brochure issued by the organization you plan to apply to, you can determine its time slots and types of courses. Within the semester framework there is usually considerable flexibility in scheduling adult education classes. Some run for four sessions, others for six, eight, or ten.

If you have pictures or samples of your work, be sure to bring these with you , also. You are doing a selling job, but remember that the person interviewing you is as eager to find new course material as you are to offer it. Payment is usually good for teaching these courses, and it's a bonus to be paid for sharing a skill or talent that you enjoy.

An appealing title is one way of attracting students to your class. It should be brief but telling. And your description, although only four of five sentences , depending upon the brochure requirements, should never promise anything you are not going to deliver in the class. Be as specific as possible in your write-up, giving readers an accurate picture of what you expect to cover and, indirectly, what they can expect to learn.

Class numbers may run anywhere from eight to 30 or more depending upon the type of course being taught and the willingness of the director to let a course run even though it may only break even. If your subject matter dictates a small group, make this known to the director who will then indicate in the write-up of your course that enrollment is limited.

Programs are usually scheduled six months in advance with copy for the brochure going to the printer in late spring for fall sessions and late fall for spring. ''Spring'' semester at a college can start as early as January, so do not be fooled by the term ''spring.'' Thus, if you wish to teach in the fall (and it's best to start with the beginning of the school year), you should approach the director in early March, following up your letter or visit with a call by mid- to late March. If you succeed in getting yourself into the program and your class draws sufficient students to make it ''go,'' you will undoubtedly be invited to teach in the spring semester, also.

One fact is certain, once you're aboard the adult education train, you will find yourself looking forward to each new class of adults with eager anticipation.

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