Learning Happens at Any Age

By Marcos Lopez – Business Analyst at Santex

Marcos Lopez spends some of his time outside of the office teaching Physics classes to adult students. Read more about his rewarding experience.

For what reasons did you start teaching Physics classes to adults?

Mainly because it is an experience that allows me to learn and grow. The fact that they are adult students makes the approach, methodology and type of class unique from most teaching experiences. My students live a reality that has nothing to do with the common student, and attending classes can be a challenge if you are located in an area that’s far away. I like being able to help those people.

Did you have any prior teaching experience?

I began to teach classes during my last year of college, at the local Institute of Computer Science (AES) first to children, then to adults. I spent 5 years of teaching all kinds of people –  adolescents who were forced to go, workers who needed to learn to use the computer, and to an elderly lady.  She was unable to write, and needed to communicate with her son who lived in another country via email, (it took an hour to write just one line of an email). That was such a rewarding experience. I was also Teaching Assistant for a course on methods and techniques of Scientific Research on the Phonoaudiology at UNC for 10 years.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a teacher?

Yes, always. It is an area where I feel comfortable and that I have the skills necessary to carry out the complex task of transmitting knowledge to another person. I like to ensure that the student understands what I’m teaching and has enough confidence to ask me anything (not only about the subject in question, but what anything that they may need to know).

How many students are in your class?

Last year there were 12 at the start, which ended up being 8 in the end. Making the time for class is more complex for adult students. The goal is to try to keep them in school and not let them leave and go back to their old ways. It is a big step to finish secondary school, no matter what your age is. It’s never too late!

How much time do you dedicate each week to preparing for these classes?

Generally, each week you should review the theoretical content that will be explained in the following week’s classes – how to put things into practice and that it is applicable to the students. They have to be able to process and apply the information in some way, because sometimes the context and the content may be totally new to them. On Saturday mornings I usually do this type of planning.

What do you think is different about teaching older adults than teaching someone your own age?

The need to overcome setbacks in life is an important factor. The students want to prove to themselves that they can overcome this hurdle in spite of the passing of the years and the reality in which they live. We are talking about my superiors, very respectable people, accepting life’s circumstances and talking to me, the teacher, with great respect. They have a lot of issues outside of the classroom, and many times I as a teacher must support them and listen to them. They may be day-to-day situations, that make it difficult for them to get to class. If they can’t find a babysitter, it may be that they talk to me about it and I end up teaching class with a baby on my lap. I want my students to be present in the classroom without distractions. They need to be able to have their hands and minds free so they can take notes and process the information I’m giving them. It’s a really gratifying feeling.

 

In what ways does the study of Physics complement your work as a BA?

The two are not specifically related, but being a  teacher enables you to improve the way you communicate with others. You become attentive to the behavior of the people you interact with, which enhances the way in which you communicate. Above all, it helps you stand in front of an audience and know what to say and how to reach them. This same idea can apply to the online meetings I participate in with clients and the teammates for my software development projects.

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