Yesterday I was talking to a friend about a discussion group we led together. He wanted some feedback, so I was making some suggestions and some compliments.
There is a comfort that comes with experience. I’ve been teaching, formally, in some way for much of thirty years. (Whoa. That, my friend, is terrifying to realize). I’ve used outlines and notes and textbooks and overheads and powerpoints and whiteboards. I’ve known what I was talking about and I’ve been in situations where I’ve completely made it all up. I’ve trusted God and I’ve completely forgotten to ask Him for help.
It was a revealing and ultimately challenging paragraph to write, to realize how long I have been teaching. My first formal class lecture was as part of an internship in college teaching during the summer of 1980. Since then I have taught college for money. I’ve taught at least a few lessons with every age from first grade up (and know that I’m much better when I am with adults).
What is challenging? The realization that I spend much of that time coasting.
Because I know that I can teach, that I can write, that I can communication, I often don’t spend time sharpening those skills, learning how to do those things even more effectively. I use the skills to generate content without looking at improving and sharpening and updating and replacing the tools.
If I were to quit coasting, to start pedaling again, what would I do?
- I’d build a simple checklist about writing posts that would include rereading everything one last time before hitting publish. This is teaching. Both in style and in content, what is here and at 300wordsaday.com shapes me and you.
- I’d start teaching a handful of people about teaching. It would force me to look at the craft of leading a discussion, of creating questions, of listening to hearts as well as words, of finding stories, of translating. I do these things, but I haven’t thought about how to do them recently.
- I’d create a story about story that would help me explain to people who want to tell stories more effectively (to tell stories like Jesus did) what that means. Maybe there isn’t a story there. Maybe there is an outline, a metaphor, a system, a photograph, a mindset. But the pursuit of the story would become a way to leverage my own thinking.
- I’d look closely at how teaching can happen 140 characters at a time. Many of us know that it can. Many of us are helping each other grow in understanding with fragments of thought. But if one were to be intentional about it, what would that look like?
Why that limit of characters? That’s how many characters those of us who use twitter can type at a time in each message. But that’s not a study of learning limited to twitter. All of us have those kinds of bit of time in many off-line situations as well. So how can small bits of intentional interaction shape ideas?
- I’d thoughtfully examine the intrapersonal infrastructure necessary to do the work in those first four points. I love that sentence. It so intentionally is vague. Here’s what I mean. What habits of time and attention and conversation and relationship are necessary for me to accomplish those projects? What do I have to teach myself to say ‘no’ to? What do I have to teach myself to say ‘yes’ to?
So that’s what I would work on if I were to stop coasting. I should point out that for me, much of that work would be directed toward spiritual formation, though I know that it would probably help with other kinds of learning as well.
Any of that interesting to you? Any of that something you want to understand, too? Any of that something you know well?
Want to go on the ride?