Tag Archives: Toastmasters

Moments of Enjoyment

I am a Toastmaster. I have been a Toastmaster for about six years. A friend of a friend asked me if I’d like to attend a meeting back in 2011 “for a kick”, and I was immediately intrigued and then addicted. If you’ve never been to a meeting, I encourage you to attend as a guest. You may not be bitten by the bug, as I was, but you’ll probably have a good time.

The founder of Toastmasters, Ralph Smedley said, “The simple fact is that we grow or learn or work better when we enjoy what we are doing, and this is the secret of success in Toastmasters.” Maybe that’s why I’ve always taken to it on at such a deep level.

I’ve recently been preparing for a presentation, and I’ve had to go over a lot of information about Toastmasters. That’s where I read the quote. It made me reflect on my own philosophy about teaching college and university students. I’ve long said, “It helps if there is some entertainment value while you’re teaching.” This is not to say that it has to be a party or that you have to put on a show, but a congenial atmosphere and classroom activities that are planned to provide as much enjoyment as possible help.

There are any number of ways to help students enjoy themselves. Here are three:

  1. Small group work. I had a manager watch one of my lessons years ago. One of his suggestions was to have students work in small groups at some point during the lesson. After an initial eye roll, I decided to give it a try. It really worked. They seemed to appreciate the change in atmosphere and in focus. As an extra added bonus, I got to go back to the manager and tell him that I’d taken his suggestion (and that I’d done it reluctantly) and that it had worked. I thanked him.
  2. Allow time for student to talk amongst themselves. In my experience, expecting students to sit quietly throughout an entire class is a fool’s errand. I’ve found that if I let them talk sometimes, their need to talk doesn’t get bottled up. Every once in a while, I allow them to talk a bit. It feels like that allows them to get their talking out during the appropriate times and it’s less of an ‘ask’ for them to stay quiet for the rest of the lesson.
  3. Tell stories. I feel like there’s a whole blog post (or a series) on story telling. I’ll get to that. I’m a storyteller. My father is a storyteller. I come from a long line of storytellers. They illustrate points. They engage students in a way that mere facts and figures do not. Also, my stories are a peek into who I am. I am a bit ‘exotic’ because I am an American in a Dutch school, but do not underestimate your own exotic qualities. Even if you are teaching in your hometown, you are a different generation. You have experiences that your students have not. You lived through the Nineties (or Eighties or Seventies or…)

Do what you can to make your classes enjoyable for your students.

Share your ideas, tips and tricks.

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Getting Honest Feedback from a Peer

When I was doing my teacher training, I was assigned to watch two colleagues (of my choice) teach a class and then have two colleagues watch me teach a class. It was extremely informative to watch – and to be watched.

After being watched, I sat with each of my colleagues, and they gave me feedback. I like feedback. Even though sitting through one class is just a snapshot (so many things can accidentally go wrong OR accidentally go right during one class), I knew that what they saw in that class said something about how I generally was in class. It was indicative of how I regularly reacted or acted during a class.

I had a manager who used to watch my classes periodically. He was fairly honest, in that way that Dutch people have with being honest and always made a point to give me an equal-ish number of ‘Tips’ and ‘Tops’, which is a Dutch thing.

My Toastmasters experience (oh how I love to talk about Toastmasters!) has been instrumental in getting me used to giving and receiving feedback. I am so used to it that I’ve come to prefer honesty to not-quite-honesty. When someone tones down the feedback in order to spare my feelings (in any area of life), I feel cheated. I’d like to hear what it is that they think I am doing ‘wrong’ so I can decide whether I want to ‘fix’ it. Many times what I’ve decided to do is an actual choice.

I would love to have an ongoing relationship with a peer who would give me honest feedback on how I am in class. Of course I think I’m good, but it would be helpful to see if someone else thinks that. My classroom is my kingdom. I am the one who makes the rules, the one who sets the pace and sets the tone. I am the one who fixes things if they go wrong. We’re all like that. We get used to doing things our way, and we’re convinced that we’re doing things the right way.

Some people might feel a bit like “Who am I to tell you what to do? It’s your classroom.” You’re a person with an opinion. And if I ask for it, I want it. I look back on my last group of colleagues and I wonder who among them would take the time to watch my class, be able to say, “Why did you do that?” and thendiscuss it at some length.

But I’d love that sort of discussion. I’d love to have that mirror held up to my performance and be picked at. It might be slightly painful, but what if it helped? What if I said, “Wow. That is a good point. I’m going to re-think the way I…”

That would be good, right?

I know I’d be honest with a peer if they asked me to give feedback. I’m firmly from the school of “This is going to pinch, but you need to hear it.”

Feedback is a good thing. I teach my students to give feedback (when it comes up). I wish it were more a part of the system once you’re an actual teacher. I wish we had (or made) time to do it. It would keep us on our toes and would keep us learning.

Do you give feedback to your colleagues in any formalized (or informal) way?

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