Academics don’t necessarily make great teachers. Often, they’re not even effective teachers.
Because many of them have a tendency to intellectualise the process of teaching.
But teaching isn’t meant to be that artificial. You can’t just rely on memorising “theories” and “methods”, and then applying them like it’s an academic paper or something.
Personally, my bullshit-o-meter (TM) would always go off during staff meetings if I heard a “teacher” start using terms such as “the spotlight approach” or “a scaffolding approach” when discussing teaching.
Usually, when they would say things like that, it was pretty obvious they had no clue how to interact and engage with their students. So, instead, they would rely on artificial approaches.
Not surprisingly, these “teachers” had a habit of delivering some of the most uninteresting and unengaging lectures and tutorials of all time … OF ALL TIME!. And students weren’t shy in expressing that opinion either.
Teaching and public speaking
In a way, this reminds me of the “techniques” people are taught when they want to become presenters and public speakers.
Instead of being encouraged to develop a natural, genuine and engaged style, people are often taught (and pay huge sums of money for this “privilege”) to focus on the following aspects instead:
- wear formal dress
- have a good introduction
- make eye contact
- have open posture
- use hand gestures
- exhibit positive body language
- consider your vocal tone, breath control, and vocal range
- control your facial expressions
- control your nerves
If the above sounds familiar, let me break the news to you…
The above is bullshit of the highest order, taught by people who either aren’t very good themselves (so instead they rely on artificial “theories” and “methods”), or people who ARE actually very good, but have no clue as to why.
Following the above “methods” to a tee, memorising them, and then constantly doing them consciously will (surprise, surprise) make you a self-conscious and artificial presenter.
Self-conscious + artificial = zzz.
Being self-conscious and artificial makes it impossible to actually connect with, and engage, your audience (regardless of whether you’re a teacher or other type of “presenter”).
More importantly, it’s also not much fun – for anyone.
I’m not saying that the above points (eg. positive body language, etc) aren’t important though. Clearly they have an impact on how a presentation or a lesson is perceived by the audience.
But they need to happen naturally. They shouldn’t be consciously forced.
The only way to develop a natural approach is to simply focus on your AUDIENCE instead. You need to adapt to the dynamics of your audience, feel their energy, and CONNECT with them. Tell them something interesting. Make it fun and entertaining.
But you can’t do that by memorising “theories” and “methods”.
If you do, you’ll never be in the moment with your audience or your class. And they won’t be in the moment with you.