Saturday, June 6, 2009

For Teachers: Make a Plan, Then Improvise - On Purpose!

After teaching for 30 years, I know it works to have a lesson plan for where you're going. It doesn't work, however, to be too attached to how you get there. You have to stay open and improvise (when isn't it that way?).
I shared an extraordinary session with my "Public Speaking for Professionals" class at UCLA Extension a while back. There are nearly 30 enrolled and, at this particular session, only 3 were prepared. I fought a shotgun impulse to make the others wrong and remembered my objective of having them all know how to prepare, rehearse and deliver effective presentations. This particular night was vital to that process, so I sent the 3 prepared students into a second room to rehearse together while the remaining students stayed in our classroom putting the assignment together. One by one, as they completed this ground work, they joined the prepared group in the other room to rehearse. Meanwhile, I circulated, answering questions, coaching, managing both groups and the time. Eventually the majority of the students had trickled into the second room to rehearse. At this point, I put everyone to work in small groups with each other, integrating some new instructions from me, coaching each other and polishing up their presentations. As I continued to circulate, I could see, hear and feel that they were benefiting from all the coaching they were giving and receiving - they were in great shape and we were on track! This process took up almost all our time and only four speakers got to deliver their presentaitons to the whole class, with the remaining scheduled for the following week. But now they were all prepared and the challenge would be to keep it fresh. This evening has been experiential, exhilerating and fun. We arrived at our destination because we went with the flow and improvised - on purpose.

Beauty before me, Beauty behind me,
Beauty to the right of me, Beauty to the left of me,
Beauty above me, Beauty below me,
Beauty all around me... I am on the perfect path.

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