Posts Tagged ‘teachers’

There are many reports out there telling older workers that no one wants them, or that they will have a lot of difficulty finding a job. One such report in U.S. News two years ago listed misconceptions about older workers, such as short terms on the job if they planned to retire soon; higher salary expectations; and reluctance to report to younger bosses (http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/planning-to-retire/2012/05/18/why-older-workers-cant-get-hired). Fortunately, a number of articles since then have refuted the myths (http://www.recruiter.com/i/truth-and-lies-about-hiring-older-workers/), detailing why hiring older workers is a very good idea.

Brian Solis, an expert in social media public relations whose work I use in my classes at Marylhurst University quite a lot, reminds us that one of the things Baby Boomers bring to the office is a “raw work ethic.” He gives an excellent guide to Millennials navigating the workplace in this article: http://www.briansolis.com/2014/04/millennials-guide-surviving-corporate-america/ – and advocates for mutual respect between the generations.

Group of business people sitting around a table compressed
I teach a lot of older workers, and I’m one myself. Let me weigh in for a moment on some of the great, practical attributes older workers bring to their jobs – and by “older,” I mean more than Baby Boomers. I also mean workers aged, say, 35 to 70 or so, encompassing at least a couple of generations:

• This isn’t their first rodeo; nearly all older workers have either held a job recently, or are holding one now while they’re going to school. I’ve always said that when I tell my adult students to turn left, they turn left; when I tell them to march straight ahead, they do; if I say it’s time to jump, they jump as high as they can. This comes from knowing what it takes to hold down a job; they know how to follow instructions. They will readily ask for clarification and the rationale for those instructions, which I always appreciate; they want the whole picture.
• Older workers have learned to take criticism – constructive or not. They’ve developed fairly thick skins over the years, and if they need to hear something negative in order to improve their performance, then so be it. They’ve learned not to take everything personally, and often that comes with plain old experience.
• No, older workers are not as enamored with social media, but they know how to use those social media outlets in a very important way – as an implementation of sound business strategy, not just as a forum for chatting. Moreover, older workers are keenly aware that social media tools are just that – tools for communicating. Actual communication depends upon content, response, and a two-way conversation. It doesn’t depend on the latest online innovation.
• Older workers know that what is fast is not always better.
• Older workers tend to be loyal to their employers. For the most part, they aren’t job-hopping, looking for the next, exciting opportunity somewhere across the country. They work because they need to work, even up to and often beyond the age of 70, and because they like to work and value the feeling of being needed. They are often content with part-time jobs and flexible schedules. We live in a society that does not value us as we age. What a waste. We have vast repositories of information and experience to pass along. We are the storytellers.
• As much as older workers know that fast is not always better, they can be extremely fast at the jobs they’re assigned – because they’ve done all this before. They know the drill. If a senior public relations practitioner takes three sheets of information and writes a press release from that information in about half an hour, it’s because she knows how to cull out the information that isn’t really relevant, isn’t all that important, and doesn’t help make the point. That ability to cut to the chase comes from years of experience, and from years of developing a mind that thinks strategically and is capable of seeing the consequences of decisions.
• Older workers make great mentors and teachers to the younger generations coming up through the ranks. Having a huge amount of energy is great for any business, yes; but so is having someone with a steadying hand on the tiller, who can help steer a ship that might start to careen off course. That larger perspective is a valuable and steadying influence.
????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? • Finally, older workers know how the world works. They don’t tend to be so singularly focused that the changes in society and the world around them are surprising or a mystery to them. They’ve been out there dealing with people and situations and circumstances for a long time, and the result is that they understand the needs of their employers and of other people.

Hire an older worker. You’ll get great value for the dollar.



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I’m about to start teaching my two seminars in social media and public relations again for Marylhurst University, and although I’m always really excited about these classes, they also take the most amount of research and preparation for just about any class that I teach.  The social media world changes so quickly that I’m generally in a small panic just before the first day of class, hoping that what I present is both timely and relevant.  Then I remember that in these particular seminars, we’ll all be teaching each other; my job is simply to present the road map for how to get where we’re going.

Nevertheless, here I am on New Year’s Day researching again, and grateful to fall back on some of the best social media minds out there.  For example, just before Christmas Deidre Breakenridge posted some tips on engaging with Twitter and Facebook: http://www.deirdrebreakenridge.com/2010/12/how-to-engage-on-facebook-and-twitter/.

And Brian Solis, who is not just brilliant but a lot of fun in his presentations, has written a post titled “Once More, with Feeling: Making Sense of Social Media:


I start to relax a little when I realize how many sources are out there, and how many more sources my students will no doubt contribute to the class.  Online learning becomes a team effort, and we all move forward together: that’s one of the best things about it.  Rather than serve as some kind of authoritarian instructor, which puts almost unbearable pressure on me, I can simply open a few doors for my students and encourage them to walk through; they get it almost immediately.  Empowered, they go beyond what I realized what possible in any given class.

I’m also re-doing a client’s web site, have plans to re-do my own web sites – one for my private consulting, one for my particular service to our troops and veterans – and I swear, this year, I’ll be more consistent about blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Plaxo.  I do find, as some of my colleagues do, that after and eight- or 10-hour stint on the computer each day, I’m not always amenable to chat time or computer games.

Meantime, I’m preparing to teach another Marylhurst seminar on the law and ethics of public relations and a class in public relations writing for the University of Montana.  My students range from traditional college-aged students (up to their early 30s or so) in Montana to mostly older working adults at Marylhurst, with a few younger exceptions.  Without fail, these students really want to learn – but they also have vastly different learning styles across the generations.   One of my over-arching goals is to help equip all of my students with some of the skills they’ll need to compete in today’s difficult economic climate.  That’s not an easy task, for any of us; I research and write, they read and write, we talk and discuss and collaborate and dig in.   But by the end of each term, there are those students whom you know are going to zoom for the stars.

And that keeps people like me chugging right along… so here’s to 2011 and the adventures that I know lie ahead!

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In recent months, I have heard from too many friends and too many students entering my classes that their high school teachers – and sometimes college instructors at other institutions – graded the work they did in their English and writing classes by content alone, with no attention paid to grammar, spelling or punctuation.  I don’t know what their teachers thought they were doing.  Did they think the business world pays no attention to how content is presented?  Did they think that a garbled, misspelled, clumsy message was going to carry professional weight?  Did they think for one moment about preparing their students for the job market?

I’m furious at teachers who have done this, and not for my own sake.  Granted, I spend more time than I would like doing some remedial teaching to students who shouldn’t need the instruction by the time they get to college.  But most of all, I’m furious that these teachers have betrayed their students. 

Add to that the fact that the schools are forever asking for more money in order to succeed, and I really start shaking my head in disbelief.  Maybe they need more equipment in science labs, or for band instruments, or sports, or shop, or any of a number of other classes that use equipment.  But all you need to teach a decent use of the language is pen and paper.  A dictionary.  You don’t even need a computer (Shakespeare didn’t have a computer; neither did Homer, or John Steinbeck – or the writers of the U.S. Constitution.).

You need an instructor who cares about a well-crafted sentence; you need an instructor whose love of literature and love of communication comes through in every class session.  You need an instructor who is willing to take the long way around, with no shortcuts.  You need an instructor who understands that how the content is packaged is as important as the content itself; that it’s important to tell students about subject/verb agreement, about run-on sentences, about fragments, about the need for a subject and a verb, and a modifier that isn’t left hanging as if ready to fall off a cliff.

Does that take more money?  No, absolutely not.  It takes instructors who know the language and have a passion for the language as well as a desire to help students be the best that they can be.

That a full third of our area high school students don’t graduate is alarming and indicative of this same trend.  In addition, our local Oregonian newspaper reports that most students who take classes in English as a Second Language don’t learn English.  A dear friend back in Montana used to prepare his college students for a semester studying in Vienna by taking them out for beer once a week and allowing only German to be spoken there for several hours.  Immersion still works.  If you have a few basics, your ear will pick up the rest, and pretty soon you’ll be speaking the language.  When my friend Magda, from Poland, lived with me the first year she was in the U.S., she would call home every Saturday morning, and after a while I came to know what subject was being discussed. I could figure out when she was talking about school, about work, or about other family members.

Why, then, is it so darned difficult for teachers of English and writing to hold students to standards that will help them succeed on the job?  Why is more money necessary?  Why can’t a given instructor simply tell a student, “No, you can’t use a plural form of the verb and a singular form of the noun.  They have to both be plural or both be singular.””  What’s so hard about that?  Are teachers afraid of hurting students’ feelings?  Why?  Isn’t it going to hurt a whole lot worse when they lose a job – if they get hired in the first place?  What on earth is going on here?

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I love teaching.  I think I’ve been working toward this a lot longer than just the past five years I spent planning and then getting my Master’s in Communications Management at Syracuse.   I find a renewed gratitude toward the parents whose love of the language set the bar pretty hard in terms of trying to achieve something on my own; a renewed gratitude toward them as well for the introduction to Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, with their wonderful satire; and to Danny Kaye, whose wit and facility with words remains unmatched. 

So now, when I work with anyone who does not understand or know the delights of the language, I feel both irritation and sorrow: irritation at the teachers and parents who failed to teach them how to communicate effectively, and sorrow for these students whose worlds remain narrower than they should be. 

Someone told me last week that his high school teachers and his college professors graded papers on content only, and did not pay attention to grammar, spelling or punctuation.  How on earth does this serve the student?  Are those teachers trying to spare hurt feelings?  What about the hurt feelings that come from being unable to find a job that requires a certain degree of literacy?  What about the hurt feelings that come from being fired once it has become obvious that the person cannot write after all? 

Doesn’t anyone tell students anymore that it’s not just content that matters?  Why?  Let me tell you why: if you can’t present the content in a professional, non-distracting way; in a literate way; with as much elegance of style as you can create; with a clarity of vision and singularity of purpose, which spelling, grammar and punctuation enable rather than defeat – then the message doesn’t get through.  And if the message doesn’t get through, what are you there for?

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