When teacher becomes student

Lately I’ve been working on a project that has required me to challenge certain skill areas and to learn new approaches.  I love learning, I love being challenged and at the same time I often dislike being taught.  I love the journey of learning.  Sometimes this journey can be a rocky road when the teacher or the process doesn’t work with mine.  This difference can be a further learning process or it can be a disaster.

The first round of this process was that, a disaster.

It was quite confronting and confounding for me.  All my triggers were being hit and I was in an interesting place of completely and totally doubting my self and my skills.  How did a process of learning shift from providing growth to actually pulling away what self confidence I already had.  I found I was battling myself, cheering myself on, having little it’s going to be ok chats.  Interesting?

Currently I am in round two of this process and it is a much more positive and constructive session. I have been more aware of what I am feeling instead of just feeling and my teacher has also been aware, available and accommodating.

Because I’m not in the tidal wave of panic on a little dingy called self doubt, I’ve been able to reflect a bit more on what happened in the first round and compare to the second round.

For example here are thoughts I jotted down out of frustration during the first round.

  • ‘Don’t tell me it will all be ok, I’m scared, you know how to do this no wonder it is easy for you.’

  • ‘Yes, you can say don’t worry about screwing up, but I am worried about screwing up.’

  • ‘Maybe I should say this, no that, maybe....oh crap I don’t know.’

  • ‘I should of followed my first impulse and didn’t.  Stupid me.’

  • ‘Everyone else makes this look so easy, clearly the problem is me not getting it or being good.’

  • ‘Yeah, yeah, I get not to worry and it sounds great but how do I DO the exercise so I get it right.’

  • ‘There is so much I don’t know, what if I get called on what I don’t know?  How do I deal with that.?

It’s obvious all of the above examples come from fear.  My fear of not understanding, not being able to do it, not getting it right, not being good.  In short, my intense fear of failing.

For someone who has worked along time now in embracing failure and teaching people to fail happily, it was a great wake up call. 

The wake up call has two parts.

1/ for me to remember what I hold true in improvisation and to trust, challenge and implement it in more areas of my life.  To use my improvisation and to remember the great gifts we receive when we push through the fear, take the leap and learn from the what comes next. 

2/ It was a great reminder of what I ask students in a workshop to embrace.  It has been a long time since I’ve felt that ‘fear’ with improvisation.  What I felt in this new learning, is what many of the participants may feel in their new learning.  I should never take it for granted that this is an easy journey.  It was good to feel that. 

It is also a reminder that the teachers attitude and outlook can make or break the class.  You can have all the great quotes and exercises but without the ability to create that safe place, that environment where students can fail openly and happily, without you giving permission and enjoying the journey, without you being able to unlock their fear and help them toss the fear aside....all the quotes and exercises become intellectual and the fear will still be ever present.

In this current project when I was supported and given permission to fail, ask, play, try, build, break, banter, explore, discuss..... I began to open up, learn, trust the process, the teacher and myself.

On paper both sessions had the same tasks and topics.  The first was focused clearly on teaching the subject without me really being a part of that and as a result I learned that I may not do it well.  The second was about teaching subject by embracing my needs and giving me permission as a result I learned I am ready, capable and excited to try.  Mistakes be what they may!

Again in reflection, as I was going through my fear of learning, so was the teacher.  Fear feasted on more fear and it built to what we both feared, disaster.  With permission, came trust, exploring and learning for both of us with lots of laughter.

So teachers of improvisation maybe this list is useful to remind yourself you have permission.

As a teacher... 

  • I don’t have to be perfect, just present.

  • I don’t have to have the answers, just be willing to hear the question and explore.

  • I don’t have to teach them everything, just start the journey.

  • I don’t have to be a brilliant teacher, just available to what the participant needs.

  • I don’t have to have all the answers, just be open to the questions.

A teacher's purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.  ~Author Unknown


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