Posted in education, mindset

Teaching, especially beginners

In the media, and in conversations with believers of said media, you will learn that anyone can be a teacher, that “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach,” that passive learning from a video is the same as learning from a dynamic teacher. Basically, teaching is not a skill.

I’m here to tell you they’re wrong.

Now, there are some people who will learn from whatever you put in front of them. But we can’t make the exceptions the rule. (And typically, this applies to only one type of learning—the same person rarely can learn both book skills and kinesthetic skills from non-interactive instruction.)

There is value in connection. This is true in all parts of life, not just teaching. Why do you think, in certain situations, we’re trained to see people as “other”? It breaks our connection and makes it much easier for the people in charge to pit us against them.

There is value in being able to ask questions. If you went to college, surely there was a difference between a large lecture and a more intimate class. Or — there’s a reason for office hours (beyond asking for a better grade that you didn’t earn).

There is value simply in body language. A large portion of the feedback I get in classes I teach (to any age) is from body language and facial expressions. Sometimes it’s clear right away that what I just said isn’t making it. Or they’ve checked out and whatever I’m saying isn’t being received.

All that said, teaching beginners is a further specialization.

Every skill has technical language that goes with it. If, as the teacher, you aren’t aware of these words (that you’ve been using fluently for years, maybe decades) and define them ahead of time, your students are going to be lost. (Have you ever had a conversation with a person in a different field who isn’t aware of their field-specific acronyms?)

Human brains (again, any age) don’t absorb everything in one pass. It’s going to take more than one explanation of some of that vocabulary before students get it, and longer than that before they’re also fluent. Different students will remember different details first.

Skills need to be broken down into component parts, and those parts need to be offered in a sequence that makes sense.

And flow of information needs to be regulated. Too much too fast and your students are lost. The skills might seem simple to you, but how many years of practice with the skill do you have? Offering way too much information over and over doesn’t help most students to learn. If you’re in a position of being overwhelmed and the same volume of stuff comes at you repeatedly, does that help you to get a handle on it? If yes, it’s because you pick out one or two things from each wave and incorporate just those. Which is what you, as a good teacher, need to do for your students.

This is why people who teach preschool and kindergarten have a harder job than people who teach high school. Sure, we all know the content for preschool and kindergarten (probably?), but we definitely can’t all teach it.

Respect good teaching (whether it’s in a school, in a training, in a workshop—context is irrelevant). Remember that teaching is a skill, it’s something you get better at over time with intentional practice, and no, not anyone can do it equally well.

Posted in mindset

The disintegration of shopping the perimeter

Have you heard the advice to “shop the perimeter” of a grocery store to find the foods that are more likely to be “real food”? That the highly processed stuff tends to be in the aisles (and there are so many aisles!), but produce and the like are around the edges? Seems like good, simple advice.


Due to poor planning, I needed a carrot and a head of garlic. Due to life choices, I live in an area with many grocery stores, though the ones I typically shop at aren’t the closest one. Because the things I needed were available at any grocery store (I think), I went for efficiency.

I’m not sure why this day and not prior, but I was overwhelmed and amazed by how much junk food there was. In the perimeter!

From the front door, I had to walk through the bakery to get to the produce. Front and center was a huge table of pink baked goods, where you can work on cultivating your own cancer for the cure.

Beyond the bakery, on shelves under the produce stands were various candies, chocolate-covered things, etc.

A large display for bulk candy was at the back end of the produce.

The divider between the produce and the aisle next to it was “fruit drinks” and other crap beverages.

And this was the produce section.

Disheartening is a massive understatement.

While we’re all implicit in our own food choices, life in the US certainly makes eating well more difficult than it otherwise could be.

There are grocery stores where this kind of layout is not the case (including the places I normally shop), but mainstream America doesn’t shop at Health Food Stores.

We can do better. We need to do better.

Posted in know better do better, mindset, podcasts

Sunk costs

A while back, I was listening to Akimbo by Seth Godin and something really stuck with me. He’s said this in previous podcasts, but, like most things, it took repetition before it hit.

It’s about sunk costs—things that you’ve invested time and money into, but that the time and money shouldn’t be part of a current decision (though, because we’re emotional people, it often is).

I went to school and now I’m thinking about changing careers. But I spent all that time and money on school!

“It is a gift from the you of yesterday to the you of today.”

The you of yesterday gifted you with education, with whatever else came from those years. But standing here today, what do you want to do?

This is especially applicable to getting out of unsavory situations, whether they be relational or monetary. Instead of thinking about how much you already invested, look forward, find a path, and follow it.

Maybe it’s continuing on the same path, but make that decision without the burden of the past.

Of course, the advice is also simplistic and there are variables that come into play in some cases and on and on. But the basic premise is solid. And if you peel away layers of your arguments as to why you can’t change paths, how often do you get down to sunk costs? (Often. Not always. But often.)

Eliminate those arguments, and help yourself move forward.

Posted in audience participation, connections, know better do better, mindset, motivation, parenting, thoughtfulness

Our part in creating sustainability

I hate planned obsolescence.

I hate cheap shit.

I hate the “everything disposable” mindset.

I hate WalMart and the Dollar Store.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to pay tons of money for everything, necessarily, but we need to find a way back to well-made things that can be kept for a long time, repaired, upgraded, etc.

It’s better to pay more for a thing up front that you can keep for a long time than to pay half as much that you’re going to need four of in the same time frame.

(And in the case of handheld technology, it’s neither cheap nor long-lasting.)

In order to do this, we need to

1- Buy less stuff. Especially with average incomes as they are and cost of living expenses continuously on the rise, buying higher-quality but more expensive stuff isn’t going to work at the same volume.

2- Be OK with stuff not being the newest. This example pops into mind. When I was a kid, we had an Atari. It was awesome. And then Nintendo came out, and we wanted one of those. We didn’t get one, because we already had a gaming system. So sometimes friends came over and we played Atari, and sometimes we went to their house and played Nintendo.

3- Share. People seem to do this more out of economic necessity, but there are lots of things that we don’t all need to own our own. We bought a giant umbrella thinger when The Kid was doing track last year. A friend’s daughter was doing swim over the summer. Instead of buying an umbrella, they borrowed ours. It worked perfectly. Unless we needed it at the same time, there’s no reason for us both to own one. Less money outgoing. Less storage space. Less trash later. True for many occasional-use things.

Can we stop going to the Dollar Store and buying lots of junk because we can and it’s cheap? Can we stop buying clothes that we’ll only wear for one season? (Kids excepted, because they grow…)

It’s a big shift. But it will help us mentally (less stuff = less stress about stuff—spoken from a place of privilege), it will help us economically, it will help us environmentally. It will help built community (for sharing, and for playing each other’s games). And maybe it’ll bring work back here from overseas.

You in?

Posted in know better do better, mindset, parenting, socializing, vulnerability

Singing out loud

A few years ago, I was driving, The Kid accompanying in the back seat. The weather was nice, the windows were down, and he was singing.

It didn’t matter that the windows were down. It didn’t matter we were stopped at a light and the people next to us could hear him. He was just singing.

I admired him for that and decided that I would try to not care, either.

Because really … who cares what some random stranger(s) in the car(s) next to you thinks?

(The answer is, apparently, most of us.)

Sometimes I can turn it off—the caring what people think—sometimes I can’t.

Because it doesn’t matter what they think. Whether they like my music, like my singing, like my voice. I’m not singing to please an audience when I’m driving—I’m singing because I love to sing and it makes me happy.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a birthday party, and the playlist was 80s music. I knew almost all of the songs and could sing at least the chorus if not the whole song.

And so I did.

Not if I was talking to someone, of course—that’s rude—but waiting for my turn in a dice game? Waiting for a slice of cake? Helping clean up? Why not?

And you know what? It felt pretty good just to sing along and not care. Sometimes people joined me, sometimes not.

Another piece of that? Whenever I’m out and about and see a person who is happy singing or dancing and not caring that people can see or hear them, it makes me happy, too.

Spread joy.

Good music on in the grocery store? I’m singing. (Doesn’t happen that often, but more than never, now that I’m more often the target demographic.)

Do it! What do you have to lose?