|This picture has nothing to do with this post. I just like it.|
"What is desirable in a person is kindness, and it is better to be poor than a liar."
One of the big challenges of teaching is to provide instruction - especially correction - without adding humiliation to the mix. And, while this is true at any age, I think it must be especially true with adult students. Especially adults who are taking professional development or special-interest courses.
Remember when I wrote about "conscious incompetence"? It is a horrible feeling, being aware of one's own lack of skill. The word uncomfortable doesn't begin to describe it.
Yesterday, I took a course in media relations. It was a very good course, with lots of practical exercises and critiques. Most of us in the classroom had many years of communications experience and even actually had some media experience as well. But one person had clearly been thrown in the deep end.
As we individually prepared for our radio interview, the teacher, Carl, saw that one student, let's call her Nancy, was flushed and had written only three or four words on her paper. Her body language spoke dejection. He spent a couple of unobtrusive minutes with her, quietly working through the problem, then allowed her some time to finish the task and pull herself together.
When it was her turn to record an interview, he let Nancy choose whether to go first, last or somewhere in between. He gave her space and time to feel comfortable, so she could do her best, so she would be able to learn rather than feeling stressed (which effectively blocks all incoming information). When it was her turn to be critiqued, he was encouraging but also provided constructive pointers.
I happened to leave the classroom at the same time as Nancy, and I asked her how she felt about the day.
"Well, it wasn't easy," she said, "but I'm glad I did it. I feel like I learned a lot and will be able to apply it to my job."
Today, I reflected on how I witnessed his caring and kindness towards one student who faced a bigger mountain than the rest of us. It could have gone differently. She could have left feeling wounded, and we bystanders could have felt embarrassed for her, perhaps angry on her behalf. Instead, we not only learned some skills for dealing with the media, but we also shared in a very positive human experience. It felt good to be part of that, even if only on the periphery.
So, thank you, Carl.