I have on occasion been told that I should teach something – Tarot, CPR, child abuse awareness, either because the speaker thought I would do it well or because my job required it of me. I can do it. In fact when I have been a presenter/trainer at various professional functions I often receive excellent reviews. I am a show-woman; a performer who feeds off the positive vibes I receive from satisfied attendees. However, I have always resisted pursuing teaching in a more structured, formal setting and I have never fully understood why. I do enjoy teaching but feel no need to become a teacher. Today was a chilly, rainy, grey day here so I found myself with some time to ponder this quirk.
One of my biggest obstacles is that I do not feel I have the expertise in any specific field to teach others about it. I have never been one of those folks who believes that as long as I am a few lessons ahead of my students then all will be well. I’m not criticising teachers who do use that approach (more power to you), it’s just not for me. I have a tendency to shoot from the hip; to wing it when I present a workshop. This can only work if I have enough knowledge and information in my brain that I can draw upon to supplement and enhance my notes. I can improvise but only if I’ve got a solid foundation upon which to stand which means I need to feel I have a full grasp of the information.
I’m also fairly undisciplined. I have neither the inclination nor the patience to create a curriculum. My approach is usually to created a bulleted outline of all the information I wish to be sure to present and then weave my ways among those points with some verve and theatricality. I admire teachers who can sit down and create lesson plans and curricula but I cannot. In the past this failing bothered me. It made feel unworthy. Today I realized it’s simply because my teaching style is more in line with my overall personality – fiery and rather erratic.
If you ever look at a flame, even one that appears to be steadily burning, it flickers and twitches in an erratic pattern. Even when it seems at its strongest, it can unexpectedly die out. It is one of the reasons we cannot leave fire unattended – its erratic, unpredictable nature. Today I realized I am a bit like that flame. I can glow and dance with brilliant and mesmerizing intensity and then suddenly I’m burnt to embers with nothing left to give. That can be entertaining in a friend and even enjoyable in a one-time presenter. It’s rather frustrating in a teacher with whom one has signed up for a semester worth of courses; at least it would frustrate me to be taught by someone using that style.
Teaching styles seem to vary according to personality type. I’m sure there are teachers who are very watery & cuppish in their energies; appealing to students in a spiritual and emotional way. I’ve had several teachers who approach their job from a very theoretical, analytical viewpoint – all that swordsy air energy, as well as many that have a practical, down-to-earth approach to presenting their subject matter to students. I suppose it’s even possible that the different teaching styles are drawn to specific subjects – for example I would not be surprised to find that many teachers drawn to hard sciences have a very swords-ish approach to teaching, but that’s just a broad generalization and guesswork.
So I have decided is that I may pursue or stumble into teaching opportunities in the future and I need to be careful and cautious in how I handle them. If I am asked to do a one day workshop, I can probably handle that with a minimal amount of stress on my part. Being a guest speaker or substitute presenter would probably offer the same kind of acceptable stresses and benefits. Where I would be ill-suited, and thus unfair to potential students, would be presiding over a long-term series of classes or workshops. I may be able to handle such an assignment but I do not believe I would be at my best and thus the students would be ill-served. I am fairly comfortable stating that I know my strengths and I know my bullshit. If I ever set myself up as a tenured professor type in any topic I think I’d have to call bullshit on myself. Of course that’s just me, everyone else’s mileage may vary.