Most of the folks who read this blog know that I teach a few classes from time to time at the local college in my neighborhood. And I’ve referenced several times how the college has a program where if you teach at least one course in a semester, then you can take one course for free that semester. Well, I work for a nonprofit organization during the day for my full-time job and – like any good nonprofit organization – we try to maximize any offer for free or reduced-price, high quality services that come our way. This is especially true when it comes to professional development for our employees. In fact, most of my colleagues attend one or two day seminars in an effort to broaden and enhance their existing professional skill set. Attendance at those seminars and conferences costs money and those expenses are, of course, picked up by the company.
As you might imagine, though, my situation brings a bit of a twist that my colleagues do not have to consider. In my case, I can fulfill my professional development requirements by taking classes at the college where I’m a part-time adjunct professor. It’s a good situation for everyone involved. On the one hand, my company gets to have me improve my professional skill set by taking graduate-level courses in a subject matter that is related to our profession. On the other hand, I don’t just audit the courses. Instead, since the tuition and fees for the courses is in remission for me (i.e. I can take the courses for free), I’ve actually enrolled in different graduate-level programs and received new academic credentials from taking these classes. For example, even though I already have a master’s degree from a top tier university, I utilized the tuition remission program at my local college to earn a cost-free Public Relations Specialist Certificate in 2010 (more commonly known as a graduate certificate). I’m currently enrolled in another program that is cost-free for me where I’ll earn a Post-Master’s Certificate in Curriculum Studies in May.
My company gets my professional development needs attended to at no cost to them, I maximize the benefits that the tuition remission program grants me by enrolling in graduate-level programs and earning additional academic credentials, and everyone goes home happy at the end of the day without spending a dime.
Well, maybe everyone doesn’t go home happy at the end of the day…
Remember that in addition to teaching at the local college, I work a full-time day job that I love. I’ve written in other blog entries that I own and operate two small businesses, too. And I’ve also written about how I instruct courses for an all-online college and I spend whatever free time I can muster by volunteering for my church via the Knights of Columbus and for my fraternity as a local alumni advisor and a national program instructor. Suffice to say – I’m a pretty busy guy. And I’m not writing this in act of self-pity or in an attempt to generate your sympathy for my nonexistent personal time. Not at all! Instead, I’m writing this to lay the foundation for the realization that I came to the other day which prompted me to write this entry in the first place.
And that realization is that with all of the obligations I have in my life I think I need to put at least one of them on hold for a little while. And without question the one constantly frustrating and time consuming activity that bungles me up is taking these graduate level courses to fulfill my professional development obligations for my job. It’s not that I don’t want to increase my professional knowledge or that I’m frustrated because I have to take professional development courses. On the contrary, actually – I do want to learn more and be a better professional in my industry! My issue, however, is the method by which I’ve been engaging in that professional development. Utilizing the graduate courses is a great way to save my company money and a great way for me to maximize the ability to earn cost-free academic credentials. The drawback, though, is that the rigor necessary to properly complete a graduate-level course is much more strenuous than simply attending a one or two day seminar to fulfill my professional development goals. Graduate courses require the completion of homework, writing extensive papers in an academic format, preparing group projects with individuals who are unaware of the obligations on my time, doing research in areas that can begin to border on irrelevant for my profession, etc. And they also require a weekly time commitment to sit in a classroom and engage my instructor and classmates as a good student.
Being a student is a lot of work!
So I think that when the current program that I’m enrolled in is completed this coming May, it will probably be time for me to take a break from being a student. I’m sure that it won’t be a long break because I get the itch to learn almost as soon as I’m not enrolled in any programs. Plus, I don’t like leaving loose ends behind and both the graduate certificate and the post-master’s certificate could be viewed as stepping stones to additional master’s degrees (I’ll have completed half of the credits required in both the Master of the Arts of Education and Master of the Arts in Communication programs). Being 15 credits away from a second and potentially third master’s degree is something that I’m sure will eventually drive me back into the classroom, but my more immediate need is to provide a small bit of relief in those obligations that require a heavy time commitment.
Once I complete the current program, I’ll probably begin to plot out a course of action of the future. I’ll likely begin unwinding myself from some other volunteer commitments that I’m involved in that aren’t noted above. And I’ve been meaning to reduce my overall working schedule (not at my day job, but rather with the part-time teaching), too. And, of course, finding some housing and health stability in my life are both big goals that I need to achieve much sooner rather than later. After I at least have a road map to success in some of these areas, then I think it’ll be a good time to start considering getting back into the classroom as a student (and let’s be honest, getting a doctorate is going to have to be on my agenda at some point in the future). In the meantime, though, I’ll be fulfilling my professional development requirements for my office at one and two day seminars!