Last time I journaled I wrote about my experience as a photography teacher to adults and gave 4 Ideas to Teaching Well. And there I promised to talk about the one thing I work hard not to do that breaks learning down. Are you ready?
I don't think you're ready. Are you?
Okay, here it is: thinking it's about you. Teaching is about the student, not about the teacher. And when we teachers make it about us, when I make it about me in the classroom, it shuts down most (if not all) learning opportunities for the students there to really succeed.
I can create a safe environment where I am a guide, a mentor, not a competitor or an idol.
Let me offer an example:
Let's say I'm teaching a beginning photography class to adult learners. Before we even imagine our way into the classroom let's think about what it took for those 10-15 students to give up their Saturday morning and drive to the classroom. Likely some had thoughts like, "Why bother? I'm not going to get it anyway." And not only did they fight their own internal battles, they gave their money to be there. That's one major difference between adult learners and youth learners--the adults invested their hard earned money to show up.
Already before we're all nestled into our classroom places a lot of work has been done by my students. Then, imagine me standing up and introducing myself, listing all my accomplishments, all my abilities, all my successes. If you're already doubting your abilities to learn, or your capacity to understand the things I'm covering, what does that do to your ability to stay engaged?
Sure, there may be a few who thrive on antagonism and competition, but the rest likely do not.
So how can I help them? I can make it about them when we come together. I can help take down the wall barriers they've been fighting not to build their whole drive over. I can create a safe environment where I am a guide, a mentor, not a competitor or an idol.
But how will they know they can trust you? How will they know if you're an expert in your field, you ask? Because they will experience it. They've already bought in (literally and figuratively) by showing up. They are coming vulnerable, let me not cause them to regret it.
Here's how I introduce myself and keep the focus on my students: after going around the room and having them share their names and why they are sitting in that chair this morning, I introduce myself last. I answer only the same questions I asked of them. And we move on. I've found this creates an environment of compassion, camaraderie, and a freer tendency to engage and ask questions.
Next time I'm going to share with you the teaching system I use to create curriculum and lessons that impact and engage my students.
In the meantime, tell me about your teaching and learning experiences. Share in the comments. I'd love to hear from you.
The other day it dawned on me I have been teaching for nearly a decade. Most of that time it's been teaching photography, and a short stint substitute teaching at a jr/sr high school while in college. Never having pursued a formal educational-education like a number of my friends, I kind of fell into teaching.
And I kind of fell hard. An opportunity was offered to me, I tried it, I liked it, and I realized I had something to offer. As I share with a number of my classes I love teaching the technical side of photography because after working through my dyslexia and learning all the dang math photography requires I was able to offer what I learned, in easy to understand terms (a lot of metaphors...a lot), and people responded.
Just last weekend I had a student get so excited at the end of our gentle introduction to photography lighting with an accessory flash that she just about burst out of her chair exclaiming, "I get it!" That made my whole long day worth every minute.
Now that one of my rolls has changed from "Lead Instructor" to "Educational Manager" at one of the last mom-and-pop photography retailers in Southern California, I'm looking at teaching from a new perspective. Now I'm hiring teachers.
It's made me think a lot about what I'm looking for in an instructor, what's important to me to make sure my students are safe and given an opportunity to learn in their classroom. As I've started the process four things have come to mind that I look for:
"Teaching is about the student, not about the teacher."
Let's start there. Next time I'll talk about the #1 thing I see (and work hard to prevent) in teaching environments that breaks learning down.
In the meantime, tell me about your learning experiences. Who were your best (most creative) teachers? How were they different? What is your best teaching tip? Share in the comments. I'd love to hear from you.
While listening to Charles Hazlewood on NPR's TED Radio Hour I was intrigued by his metaphor of trust in leadership and creative collaboration. Simply, he observes that good leadership requires trust of 1) yourself and your own ability to add value, and 2) the other players.
This ability to trust gives the opportunity to unlock the full potential of the others' creativity. It becomes a beautiful collaboration--it gives life. When trust isn't present, or the leader only imposes their own ideas, the creative process disintegrates and breaks down. I've experienced both kinds of leadership, and the former has helped me uncover my own value, abilities, and contributions--ultimately making the whole team or effort or organization stronger.
What if Jesus leads us like this, longing to unlock the full potential of life and truth and creativity instilled within us? I wonder how much more we would accomplish if we fully comprehended God was conducting us with full joy and confidence, awaiting our creative contribution or idea? What if God is the benevolent conductor of life, instead of a dictator forcing us into a metronomic life?
I'd love to dialogue with you. If you'd like to dialogue, too, share in the comments below.