What The Best Teachers Do

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NaBloPoMo 2018:  What I’m Learning

The post last night was a long time coming, maybe.  It took longer than I thought it would to actually write, edit, and publish, but it poured out in a flurry of energy that has built up over several months.  I received immediate feedback from members of my Counsel of Wisdom, supportive and encouraging, gratifying.

As I thought more, I realized that my best teachers growing up practiced emergent design and strategy.  Imagine you teach the same subject, the same skill, the same content, year after year.  Your approach is to do it the same way, expecting the same result.  Would you not get bored?  And if you’re bored, no question your students may want to gore their eyeballs out with their writing implements.  In medical school my classmate and I met a physician in his office for a lecture on his area of expertise.  We sat across from him in his big armchair behind a mahogany desk piled high with papers in disarray, the sun shining through the window at his back.  He spoke in a slow, bass monotone.  The words that dribbled forth practically fused together, such that I strained to distinguish and make sense of them.  And I kid you not, he literally put his elbow on the desk and rested his face in his palm while he spoke, as if he may have a near death experience from the sheer dullness of it all. That was not his best teaching moment, I’m sure he would agree.

My best instructors, on the other hand, engaged us learners in real time, with rapt energy.  They asked us what we knew about the topic, encouraged us to consider and describe how core principles applied in real life situations.  In classrooms, my best teachers were both goal-oriented and open-minded.  They had a clear learning objective but held the map only loosely. They allowed space for the learning journey and path to unfold before the class, always with an eye on the destination. We learners all got to choose the way, and we still ended up where we needed to be.  And every time I bet it was a little different for the teachers, so it was fun for them and they always learned, too.  I know that’s how it feels for me.  That’s what keeps any of us engaged and improving, I think—the confidence of knowing we hold the reigns coupled with the excitement of not knowing which new trail our class will blaze to apprehend the learning.

My Counselor friend described it as, “The map becomes a new and storied journey with each iteration of participant-cartographers.”  Is she not eloquent?  I have invited her to write a post with me soon.

Coach Christine reminded me, “What you describe is coaching at its best – the fundamental philosophy of the coaching I’m trained in is, the client is naturally creative, resourceful and whole. Not broken, doesn’t need fixing.  Capable of digging deep to find the answers within themselves, and /or where to find the help they need.”  Creative, resourceful, and whole.  I had not heard or seen those words in this context in a long time.  So grateful for the reminder—Thanks, Christine!

What are you teaching these days?  How might you hold your leadership map more loosely and allow those you lead to point to a new or different way?  What might you all gain in the process?

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