I once attended a group that was collectively reading through a nonfiction book. One week, the leader hadn’t liked that week’s chapter, so she started in the usual way when we are assigned to teach things we don’t like… or when we’re poorly-prepared:

  • Leaf through the chapter and show bent page or markings.
  • Make sure the pages don’t look unread.
  • Ask, “What did you like about the chapter?”
  • Wait through the long silences of polite people or those looking to us for a good starter question.
  • Share some personal concerns from the week to distract.
  • Spend two hours, yes two hours, and leave without really accomplishing much related to the group’s purpose.

In that group, each week wasn’t much better from that point. Sure, meeting together motivated us all to keep reading the book (always a good thing), but if you asked me what I learned from the group… not much. As I drove home I the last day, I thought, “This group could’ve been so much more!”

This past school year, I mentioned off-hand to a college class that I didn’t have a PowerPoint … and they started cheering. I paused, surprised. But I paid attention.

The thing is… I shouldn’t have been surprised. Nancy Duarte and others have been saying for years that we need to carefully construct our presentations.  We can’t keep using them to put words on the screen, expecting students to copy them over to their notes. Presenting could be so much more!

We learn all of the time. And most of us teach all the time, just not in a classroom. We give “teaching” other names – coaching, supervision, presenting, workshop leading, and even “being an example.” We teach when parents nurture their children, supervisors guide employees, marketers talk about a product or company, and coaches work with young people. We even teach when we write blog posts.

But if we aren’t attentive, our teaching can fall flat. It could’ve been so much more!  And we’re left uncertain whether and what students have actually learned. Like my small group, it’s worse when students leave wondering the same thing.

Look at your schedule for the next five days and ask these 5 questions:

  1. Where do you see “teaching” moments on it?
  2. Where can you give an extra 30 minutes of preparation in advance of those moments?
  3. In what ways could you engage the listeners’ hearts and minds at the beginning?
  4. In what ways can you be creative, maybe with a new method, in how you help others?
  5. Where will you spend 15 minutes to evaluate how well it went for your listeners (not for you) afterwards?

Just this pause plus these five questions will help provide an immediate boost of confidence and creativity, but will also help you be more in your teaching.

Photo by PTICA10