If I were king of the forest

Years ago, I remember seeing a book on courage and teaching.  I didn’t think much of it at the time.  However, as I reflect back on my teaching experiences, I can see how this book might be an encouragement.

The first time I walked into the classroom, there was a mix of emotions.  This is it!  I am a teacher.  I am going to give a presentation that will not only wow my students  but will instantaneously make them knowledgeable.  Apart from the hours of preparation and the naive expectations, I might have succeeded if it were not for the simple fact that a class of students and a culture of passive learning need to be engaged.

There are some tough groups of students to reach and teach.  I say reach because students require a connection on some level.  Without that, “teaching” may only get you so far.  Anyways back to the point at hand,  I had not realized early in my career what a mob mentality a class of people could have.  The more work I put in and demand from students, the more little mistakes seemed to magnify distress.  One seemingly contradictory point or confusion on the part of a class and the wolves will smell blood.  This is an intimidating environment.  We’re imperfect people.  We’ll make a mistake or two in our careers.

Here’s a few things that I have kept in mind to try to mitigate the feeding frenzy.

– Prepare but don’t over prepare: This allows space for students to wow you with their questions and challenge you to learn also.

– Have a catch phrase in your tool box, eg. “I don’t know the answer to that question.  I will look into it and provide a response at a later time.”

– Set a proper attitude: one of my residency mentors said it this way “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”  Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemy.

– Be patient: Communication with one individual is complex enough.  Multiple those challenges by the number of students you have in the classroom.

– Keep the conversation going until you have clarity: Most curricula are so jam packed that dialog is not possible.  Our culture does not value margin.  But, if we don’t ask questions of the students, how are we to know if we are truly being effective?  We all know the metrics and measures that are used have significant limitations.

More could and probably will be said on this in future posts.  But, as you engage your classes, take courage.


– the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous (Courage. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved October 11, 2013, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/courage)

– I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. Nelson Mandela (http://www.brainyquote.com)

– Courage is not the absence of fear.  Courage assumes fear…Courage is the willingness to strap on your fear and move ahead.  Andy Stanley The Next Generation Leader