I have been lucky to have found many mentors in my professional life who have inspired me to do a better job and in the end to become a better person. During my stay here in Canada I had a chance to reconnect with Adnan Alam, who was my boss at Kunsan National University in my final year in Korea. He continues to work at the university but lives close to my home (about 45 minutes away).
Adnan is the personification of professionalism in the classroom. He studied to be a secondary school teacher and worked in some tough schools in Toronto. While working with him, he showed me different ways to become a better teacher for adults (18-22 year olds).
In the early days of teaching at the university I made a grave mistake. I was frustrated with a class. They were being unresponsive to any questions or tasks I was doing. They simply wouldn’t talk. I ran out of my material very quickly and I was panicking. With more than a half hour left in the class I let them go home. Adnan came to see if I wanted to do something after class, as the students left. He was angry and just said over and over again; “this is bad.” I felt horrible, not because I was in trouble but because I let him down. After this incident, I always over-prepared for my lessons. I talked to him about ideas for tasks and activities to make my classes more interesting for the students. In the end I became a better teacher because of him.
When I worked there, I always maintained a “professional relationship” with him where we weren’t friends and I wouldn’t want to be because of the working conditions. I have the same relationship with my current mentor at my workplace. Since leaving we have become better friends and I learned a lot about him like the fact he was married once. When he was 18 years old, his father forced him to earn a living by working. He worked in many horrible conditions and became very independent.
We talked for about 5 hours and it was a lot to take in. I am still learning from him even though we are working in different countries.