..”But I’m as Good, once, as I ever was”
So sings Toby Keith, who has come to understand the difference between competence and performance. Years ago I owned a book by Marina K. Burt and Heidi Dulay written for teachers of English as a second language (ESL) in which they demonstrated that learners often do not perform to their level of competence. Learners make “goofs” not errors in this situation. Teachers and lecturers do the same.
We often know how to do things better than we do them. I know this from my own perfomance. But what I also know is that some of those “goofs” may be intentional. We may choose to settle with imperfect delivery,or imperfect material. We get tired. We get lazy. We do not want to admit it because we dazzle the learners. Back in ancient times when I was a college student in Hawaii, my friend Jon stumbled on a quotation by an American religious leader of the early 19th century whose message was essentially this: the greatest sin that clings to people is that they fail to do the best they know how.
But what is exciting is that with thoughtful preparation you can do the best you know how, and when you do, your presentation really zings. There is a wonderful vibe that comes from the audience. THere is an uncanny hush over the group. And its like a little voice in your head or heart or where ever you feel things, says, “They understand what you said, and they believe its true and good for them.” At this moment you feel the real joy of teaching. Better than an adrenalin rush, there is a peace within. Thats teaching!
But remember you did the best you know how. The audience responded and out of somewhere came that zing and that peace. It was not you alone, so do not get big headed.
What do you think? Got the zing? Felt the peace?
I’ve found that the “thoughtful preparation” that you mentioned really is the investment that brings about the valuable dividends. I teach online genealogy as part of the community education program for the local community colleges district. The course is an eight-hour one, over the course of four weeks. Even though I use (pretty much) the same lesson outline each time, it pays off to review, tweak and prepare my lessons ahead of time, every time. New information becomes available online continually, I become more educated in genealogy research, and I learn from both my successes and failures as an instructor in previous classes…all of which I bring to each new quarter. I can honestly say that at the end of each quarter I tell myself, “That was the best class ever!”
I also work for my public school district (my “real” job) as a paraeducator. The best teachers I’ve worked with (and I’ve had the priviledge to work with some nationally-recognized ones) tell me that they never truly teach the same thing twice…they go over their material and their instruction techniques beforehand, tossing what didn’t work and fine-tunig what did. When I started applying these steps to my genealogy instruction, things started zinging!