Embracing the New

I hate when I put unnecessary barriers up. And yet, that was exactly what I was doing. I had agreed to teach the Annual Giving course for UCLA's fundraising certificate program,Barriers ! (with a splash of colour !) and I worked long enough in higher Ed to know there would be hurdles to jump before I actually got into the classroom. I thought that would be ok. I was ready for it. And then I found out that I had to take an online class to help me navigate the "Learning Management System" used by the university--and, as part of that class, develop my syllabus and begin planning my classes.

But I'm not teaching until January, and in my world that means starting to figure it out sometime late December. Besides, the course I have to take is online, and despite teaching one for the past dozen or so years, I am not a fan of online learning.

At first I tackled this as I tackle all new things--I jumped in without much thought and started swimming around. I could, I thought, figure this out without actually having to sit through videos of lectures, reading notes, being linear at it all.

And, as I usually do when confronted with something new, I fought it.

I even went so far as to email the director of my program saying, "I can't...I'm too busy." And I am ashamed at using that ridiculous excuse.

He, however, though many years my junior, is obviously much more mature than I--and probably used to dealing with prima donna adjunct faculty.

So after ranting and railing, I (again, what I always do) calmed down and took a deep breath. "What," I thought, "do I really need to do?"

And so I cleared a few hours and sat down and linearly (and if you get the feeling that I am not a linear type, you are right. My husband accuses me of constantly flitting, and he is 100% correct) went through the program. Not in depth this first time around, but looking to see what was expected--and what I could expect. What did I need to do and what was the timeframe for doing it?

OK, I thought after my first foray. I can do this. And so, fortified with yet another cup of coffee, I started. And got hooked. I rather liked the things I could do. Found myself enjoying thinking about my class both with a long view (how did this lesson fit with the others) and the shorter, what do I need to do in that class to get this concept across? And while I opted to keep my classes simple--more in class than online--I was intrigued by all the bells and whistles I could, if I thought it would enhance the learning, learn how to use.

By the end of the class, I had my syllabus pretty well done (at least for a first time teaching this course) and almost 50% of my lessons complete. And I know that as I work on the remaining half, I will make changes in what I've already done, and want to make a richer, more interesting course.

Which is the point of this all. I think that the course I originally thought I would teach--similar to the trainings I do but with more time, homework and assignments and, yes, grades--would be absolutely fine. The students would walk away with the tools to develop and run an annual giving program. But now they will have more. A better understanding of how it all integrates and a sense of how to utilize these skills for other aspects of fund development.

All in all, embracing something new turns out to be embracing something potentially terrific.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to improve fundraising results and activate their boards.  Learn more at www.janetlevineconsulting.com.  While there, sign up for the newsletter and email Janet for a free, 30-minute consultation