Game Changing

Having given some thought to the way my first “dry run” went, I decided to make some adjustments.  I also had a gratifying and validating discussion about these changes with one of our fearless Jedi leaders, Sara.  I determined that I had allowed my natural, convivial manner to overrun the lesson plan I had chosen, and that I needed to concentrate on what was lacking (steering the direction of the exchange) my being more didactic in my approach and lend more of a lecture style to my instruction.  While not abandoning my “authentic self” as I so lauded in my response to “The Courage to Teach” article to which we responded, I wanted to challenge myself to  distance myself somewhat from the conversation in order to meet the goals of my lesson plan.  Also taking a suggestion from our meeting that followed the initial session, I decided to make a rigorously organized lesson plan (even if it does only cover ten minutes).   I had also determined that the practice of technique would require narrowing my focus as closely as possible, so I chose to focus on a lecture based format that would only cover a small facet of what we will actually be attempting to convey.  I also resolved (this time) to go entirely low-tech.  Using Scout and speaking at the same time was more of a challenge than I had previously anticipated.  This is certainly a balance I want to address, but first I prefer to move out of my comfort zone on a more personal basis. I realize that I enjoy technology not only as a useful tool, but am also tempted to use it a buffer, and tend to get bogged down in technical rabbit holes.  This is fine for exploratory sessions, but for the purposes of our experimentation, I think it is most important for me to get ahold of time management and sticking to the subject intended for the session.

As a side note I greatly enjoyed today’s  observation of Karlie and Brett’s wonderful co-teaching session.  They set the bar high.

Reflection on The Courage to Teach

This was a splendid and inspirational article.  It jives very well with my personal interpretations of Taoist philosophy, particularly in its emphasis on the value of integrity as an intersection of authentic, realized relationships.  This point is particularly salient in bringing together the ideals of courage born of compassion and vulnerability with techniques that thereby “reveal rather than conceal” our character as instructors.

What captured my attention most was the section on mentoring.  It got me to thinking about my own mentors and how they (as the reading says) appeared at crucial times in my life and changed my personal and professional trajectories in ways I could not have imagined at the time.  I spent some time remembering my first mentor, a third grade English teacher Claudia Isaacs.  I was shy and easily embarrassed then, and when we had to give our book reports in class I remember being petrified.  I was also sure that the other kids would see my terror and make fun of me.  But I got through it, and afterward she complimented me.  Again, after class she called me to her desk to discuss my reading choices (I had given a report on The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis) and she encouraged me, saying I had a gift for writing.  No one had ever told me so before, but she seemed so wise and spoke sincerely to me, and then gave me an “extra credit” assignment to write about another book I loved.  Rather than seeing the extra work as a punishment or a burden, suddenly it became an opportunity as well as a compliment.  I do not remember much of the content that was covered in that class (well, hopefully I remember the content but I don’t recall the occasion of it being taught).  But her kindness and enthusiasm became a part of me that day, and I probably did pay closer attention in all my classes because of it.  I have been blessed with several other great mentors since that time, some of whom dazzle me with their intellect, others who impressed me with their sheer delight in teaching and learning.  It is humbling and fills me with a deep sense of respect and responsibility in my interactions with others as I try to learn the techniques of teaching.  It reminds me of another old Taoist analogy:  That a voice coach can teach all the exercises to overcome impediments and imbue the voice with discipline, but in the end each singer has to sing his or her own song.