Classes have begun. Well, of course classes have begun; it’s September. Outside the pubic school system though, classes are continual. Before graduation, education was something scheduled for nine months out of twelve. After graduation, testing and learning are daily events. That was true before graduation too, but summer vacation fought hard against learning. One of the signs that it’s time to listen and learn again is when things don’t seem to be going the way we expect. Considering the planet and the economy right now, there’s a lot of listening and learning that needs to happen. Luckily, There are a lot of people taking both roles.
I helped teach a class this week. Art and Photo Book Making was an evening’s event put together by Joe Menth (co-owner of Fine Balance Imaging with Nancy MacFarland) and me. Joe talked about the how of making the book: image quality, file management, creative options, etc. I talked about the why of it: gift vs. sales, price and cost sensitivities, sale distribution, etc. We had a good enough time and a large enough audience that we’ll probably do it again. Stay tuned. While Joe taught his section I sat and learned. I don’t know if our roles switched when I was talking, but there’s always that possibility.
People amaze me. Give anyone enough time and eventually they’ll get to a topic that they know better than most. Even kids can be experts. Ask most parents about who is the family’s computer expert. It probably isn’t the oldest person in the room. When I was in school though, we were taught to sit there and be quiet. We weren’t even allowed outside the school grounds for lunch. Everyone ate in the cafeteria. The local Dairy Queen would’ve loved it if we could only walk from our parking lot to theirs every noon. Nope. For the most part, we sat there and listened. I won’t try to tell you it was all right and proper. Some classes were chaos and some were physically dictatorial. But in any case, the flow of information was well-defined. It took years for me to loosen up and realize that there were things I could teach the teachers.
Teachers must be taught. At some point, a person stands into that role, whether through a desire to teach, in response to a request, or sometimes by chance. I’ve fallen in to teaching. I enjoy public speaking, at least after the first five minutes of wondering how it is going to go this time; and I’ve learned to recognize that there are things I know better than most. Being an expert isn’t as important as having an interest in the topic, an interest in the audience, and an audience that wants to learn.
Karate taught me that. When I started, I was respectfully impressed with everyone with a black belt. Even before I had a green belt though, my instructor (Shobayashi Karatedo Kyoshi Jerry Gould) put me in charge of a class. He says. I do. But what was I supposed to do? There was no time for hesitation, so I mimicked what I’d seen in class. I started with the basic meditation, which purposely went a little longer than usual, and the basic exercises. By the end of that, I’d decided to step slowly through some of what I’d already learned. I stayed within my comfort zone and eventually made it to the end of the class. They liked it. How could they? I wasn’t a black belt. I barely knew more than they did. Some even knew more, but about different aspects. Ah, so that’s why he had me teach the class.; so I’d learn that knew something and that there was no reason to fear being up front. Or it could have been that he needed a break.
Writing this blog is a continuance of that realization. I am not an expert, but I also acknowledge my experience, my openness, and my lack of fear within topics that are burdened with taboos. Money is central to our culture, society, and civilization, but talking about it in the first person is discouraged. Yet, someone has to say something, even if it is merely to be a starting point for someone else’s discussion.
New Road Map Foundation (where I am currently the board Secretary) exists as a resource for people wanting to learn about money and their relationship with it. Personal financial literacy, integrity, and independence are not taught in schools, so someone has to do it. Most people are self-taught simply by living and learning. Too many give up. There’s no comfortable place to talk about it, or no one to talk with, and they don’t see authority figures as role models. New Road Map has stepped up a notch and, in addition to hosting forums and classes for people want to learn more, New Road Map is teaching a class in how to teach financial literacy, integrity, and independence. (Sign up soon. I think there’s still room for the Training The Trainers session in New England. Oh yeah, and it’s free.)
Our world is changing rapidly and old ways and perspectives are being replaced. I suspect that we each have the capacity to learn the necessary skills and healthier world views, but experience alone is a drastic course. That’s one reason why I applaud teachers, whether they are in the school system, working independently, or working informally on a personal level. If an audience wants to learn, then the biggest hurdle has been cleared.
A friend of mine (Steve Smolinsky) has a concise way of saying that, but I’ll add more words because I enjoy typing, “Pay Attention. Add Value. Have Fun.” Go check out his web site and his blog for his expansion of the description (and hire the man for some lucrative consulting gigs.) For me, Pay Attention, is at least partly listening to what people want and understanding their situation. Add Value is that simple act of making sure that everyone involved gets something positive out of the interaction. Have Fun, is obvious, and ask yourself how often it is overlooked. I’ve sat through enough lectures to know that it is possible to have a class that includes none of those elements; yet, believe it or not, even karate classes can include all three. Make it un-fun and even if I learned something, I doubt that I’ll be back. Make it fun, and as long as I learned something, I’ll probably come back for more and probably bring a friend.
Classes have begun, and I suspect that most of the people reading this post graduated from school and are in the midst of the continuing adult education program called life. We know that learning never stopped. And now it looks like it’s time for us to learn a little quicker, probably from each other as we all become teachers teaching teachers. We’re all in this together.
PS Don’t forget, I’ll be teaching my class on Modern Self-Publishing on September 28th at the Langley Center for New Media. Now, can someone finally teach me to do a better job of promoting my own work?