Community Colleges Serve Their Community
I would like to share some thoughts about teaching non-traditional subjects such as meditation, yoga, salsa dancing, photography, etc. at a community college. Since I have been teaching Practical Tarot for a little over 12 years at Santa Monica College (“SMC”) as part of their Community Education program, I felt it might be a good idea to share my thoughts and insights with others who may contemplate teaching something nontraditional (or other non-credit classes) in the future. If you want to know how to submit a teaching proposal, every community college has specific guidelines posted on their website. If they accept your proposal, the college will promote your classes along with their other classes each semester. You should promote your classes too. If you know of a community college in your area, check out what classes they offer for the community; maybe you can teach something they might be ready to embrace. Even if the college already offers a similar class, see if they need an additional instructor, or you can develop a slightly different class they might consider. Why not check out several other community colleges to see if they are open to your idea. Do not give up. You never know when someone may decide to stop teaching a class and your proposal might arrive at the right time — they may be looking for someone just like you to fill a spot. Timing is everything.
Credentials, Information About Classes and Class Schedule
When you submit your class proposal and provide the college with all of the information they request, which includes a description of your class and a short bio, you should have a website or blog that provides them with additional information about you, your background and qualifications. If you don’t have a website or blog, you can get something up and running in a matter of weeks. Most people want to take a class from an instructor they feel connected to. Make sure your marketing and promotional materials properly reflects you, your style of teaching, personality, etc. Prospective students will check out your site when they are looking for classes after they receive a new catalog from the college. Some people may just be looking for a class like yours and Google you. Feel free to check out my Tarot Classes page on my website for ideas, if you need them.
Once you are on the college’s teaching schedule, make sure you include your class information on your website or blog and link your class information to the college’s registration page. Make it easy for potential students to register.
If you intend to teach a class that meets more than three times in a semester, you may run the risk of cancellation due to low enrollment. To avoid having a class cancelled, make sure your first class does not start the day after a holiday — New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and be mindful of religious holidays, too. Always make sure there are enough weeks in a semester to teach your class, especially if your class meets more than four times in a semester. On occasion, you may need to account for a skip date due to a spring break or some other college hiatus.
SMC wants their community education instructors to provide their students with marketing surveys so they can evaluate their marketing efforts. I distribute and collect them on the first day of class. I look at them before I turn them in because I want to know if my efforts helped. When you work with a college that promotes your classes, you should view your relationship with them as a partnership and help them promote, too. If the college you work for provides their instructors with marketing surveys, use them. If they do not provide them, why not create a survey of your own and share it with the college. If you need a sample form, let me know and I’ll send you a redacted one.
Be aware of your community college’s refund policy. If you notice that one or two students disappeared after your first class, this might be because the student had confidence issues, or they did not like your style of teaching — perhaps they had different expectations of what they wanted to learn. Some students have work conflicts that turn up; they may want to complete your class, but it just doesn’t happen. Why not reach out to them and see if you can accommodate them in the some way. If you lose students after the second or third class, it may be because of work, family obligations, illness or planned vacations.
At the beginning of each new class, I introduce myself, tell my students a little about my background and what they can expect to learn in the class. I ask them to introduce themselves to one another, tell me what their experience with Tarot is (if they have previously studied or are newbies), and what they expect to walk away with from the class in six weeks. I always ask my students to call, email or text me if they are running late, or if they are going to miss a class. I structure my classes so I review the previous week’s material at the beginning of each session; this makes things easier for students to catch up and not miss any material. If they miss two consecutive classes, there is not much I can do due to time constraints — several of my classes are 6 weeks in length (three hours each session). If someone needs to leave early, I usually like to know at the beginning of the class so I can accommodate them accordingly.
Testimonials and Evaluations
SMC wants their students to fill out instructor evaluation forms. I hand them out on the last class and I review them before I turn them. Evaluations let me know what worked for my students and what didn’t. A teacher’s ego likes to be stroked; sometimes the reviews do that and other times, they provide constructive criticism. The information the students provide in a evaluation help me become a better teacher. If they provide me with some suggestions that I can incorporate going forward, I will. Of course, there are some suggestions I opt not to implement because of my class objective.
Every class I teach contains a a mixture of people from all types of backgrounds, careers, lifestyles and experience. They provide a unique blend of energies. Over the years, friendships have blossomed and continue outside of the classroom because of the students’ interest in Tarot and the bonding that occurs when they read for one another. Many of my former students have also become my friends. I highly recommend teaching community education classes or attending them because it will enrich your life.
I hope this information inspires you to think about teaching a class — or just taking one at your local community college. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me. I love to share my knowledge with others.