Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What's Scary About Teaching, Part 1

So, you’ve realized that you have treasure inside you to share. You’re going to write a book! Start a blog! Design a workshop! Coach people!

And the next thing that happens? You’re terrified.

I have been terrified, at least briefly, every time I decide to teach a new thing.

When I think about this fear, I can see that it takes various forms. Let’s break it down here. Because your fears are totally normal—and they don’t need to stop you.

I’m grateful to Havi Brooks’ Blogging Therapy series for helping me to think about some of these. And by the way, if your plan for sharing your knowledge includes a blog, you must go read that series.

I’m not perfect at this process I want to teach. I make mistakes. I’m an imposter.

Ahh, yes. The imposter. There are a lot of us floating around. This one especially got me when I was teaching time management. Every time I lost something, every time my undone tasks seemed to be attacking me like the birds in the movie, I would feel like, um…somebody who shouldn’t be teaching time management.

But listen to this. I started my time management workshop with the movie poster from The Birds. I talked about how it feels to be overwhelmed by wild tasks and ideas. Everybody identified. I got a big laugh.

Then I promised people that I would help them tame those wild things and make space in their lives. And they were with me, ready to listen.

I start my indexing workshop by saying this:

So I’m starting a new indexing job. I’ve got my page proofs on my rack. My indexing software is fired up. I have my red pen and my cup of tea. I read the first page of the book—and sometimes, I have no idea what to do next.

It never fails—whenever I say this, the room collapses in amazed laughter. Beginners and experienced indexers alike, everyone has been stuck like this. And everyone is amazed that the expert at the front of the room gets stuck just like them. When I go on to tell them that I’ve figured out how to get through these stuck places, I’ve got the audience in my hand.

You’re only an imposter if you’re supposed to be perfect. And who said that? Nobody wants you to be perfect. Here’s what they do want:

  • They want to know you’ve struggled in the same way they’re struggling. That you’ve made the same mistakes they make. That you understand. 
  • And they want to know that you can help them.

That’s it! Your fears will actually help you to gain their trust!

They’ll think I’m a know-it-all.

I bet that if this is the form your fear takes, you’re a person who has been resented for your abilities. You’ve been in situations where everybody was supposed to know the same thing. Um, like school. And if you were the one who knew it, who raised your hand, they all hated you. It was so not fair.

Well, you’re in for a lovely surprise. Teaching is going to be so healing for you.

You’re up in front of a room with an audience that has come to learn something from you. You’re the author of a book that people are seeking out in the bookstore. You have something to offer. People want it. They are thrilled that you know it. And the more confident you are, the more comfortable they will feel. You’re helping them.

Your knowing it all is a gift.

Okay, more scary things coming up in the next post…

Please join me in the comments! What scares you when you think about teaching?

Here are the other two posts in the What's Scary About Teaching series:

What's Scary About Teaching, Part 2
What's Scary About Teaching, Part 3

Monday, December 20, 2010

Knowing Without Knowing

This is the third in a series of posts outlining the Digging for Treasure process. I told some of my own digging stories here and here.

There’s Treasure In There

So you’re good at something.

You’ve been a therapist for forty years. A good one. And you have a lot of stories. You figure you have a book in you.

You haven’t been painting that long, but your batik watercolors are getting into local shows. People admire your unusual technique. And the art store asks if you would teach a class for them.

You’ve been running an award-winning, smooth-as-silk customer service department for a long time, and you’re getting ready to retire. You’d like to pass on your tricks to the person who will end up with your job.

You were injured in a car accident. It took two years to finish the process of insurance claims and treatment. There are so many things you wish you’d known at the beginning. You don’t want anyone to have to go through this terrible experience without guidance.

You use mindmapping for all of your notetaking and brainstorming. So many people say, “Oh, let me see! I want to learn how to do that!” that you’re wondering whether there might be a market for a mindmapping workshop.

In your spare time you’re always helping your fellow social workers with their Excel spreadsheets. You start thinking that teaching basic Excel classes might earn you some extra income.

You have traveled all over the world by yourself. You’ve had wonderful adventures. It drives you crazy when people put off traveling for lack of a companion. You want to let them know how easy and possible it is.

You are realizing that you have something marvelous inside you. Your knowledge. Your treasure. And you want to share it.

But you don’t know where to start.

It’s Buried

When you know how to do something really well, your knowledge of it is subconscious, intuitive, habitual. It’s almost as if you have muscle memory in your brain.

In learning theory, this is called “unconscious competence.” It’s the fourth stage, after unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, and conscious competence. (Whew!) And it’s a good stage. It means that you can get on with things. If you’ve made a thousand pies in your life, you don’t have to stop and decide which ingredients to get out or what to put in the bowl first. You just go to the kitchen and make a pie.

But if you want to pass on this competence, you have a problem. You won’t be able to teach it or write about it unless you can verbalize what you do. And your learners won’t be able to take it in unless you’ve broken it down into chunks.

Unexpected Gifts

In order to teach, you have to dig your knowledge out of your subconscious and organize it. I was thrilled to find out that a learning theorist in Great Britain named David Baume has written about the exact thing I’m describing. He says that after unconscious competence there is a fifth stage—reflective competence. I love that he uses the same digging metaphor that I found!

…looking at my unconscious competence from the outside, digging to find and understand the theories and models and beliefs that clearly, based on looking at what I do, now inform what I do and how I do it. These won't be the exact same theories and models and beliefs that I learned consciously and then became unconscious of. They'll include new ones, the ones that comprise my particular expertise.

Yes! This process teaches you new things. It also enables you to use better the patterns you discover.

When I am stuck in the middle of a book index, I go for help to my own chapter about being stuck while you're indexing.

When I wanted to teach people how to lay color pencil pigment on paper, I figured out and named the different strokes I was using. Then, planning my first drawing of a gorilla, I asked myself which stroke I should use and realized that I needed to invent a new fur stroke.

If you go through this process, you will become even better at your thing. I promise.

How Do I Do It?

How do you get from unconscious competence to being ready to teach? Here are the steps in the Digging for Treasure program I’m developing.

1. The Survey: Figuring out what you know and want to share.

2. Open Observation, or First Digging: Observing and capturing what you do.

3. Treasure Sorting: Watching categories and patterns emerge.

4. Jewel Gathering, or Second Digging: Going back to observation to find the details and stories you need.

5. Map Design and Getting Real: Finding an order for your material and preparing to share it.

I’ll go into more detail about each step in my next posts. I hope you'll join me!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Digging for Treasure: At School

A few days ago I talked about the first time I dug for treasure—figured out how to take my subconscious knowledge and turn it into something I could teach.

Here’s another dig. (I'm loving the image of the carefully tended hole in the dirt, the string sections, the notebook drawings, the sieves, the precious finds...I guess that's an archaeological dig. Can I have two kinds of treasure in my metaphor?)

My partner has a little nonprofit elementary school, the Drinking Gourd School. I wish you could know how amazing it is. It’s a place where kids don’t want to go home at the end of the day. Where they make amazing strides in academics because they’re working on exactly the right task for them. Where kids who need lots of practice to learn feel just as good about themselves as kids who learn really fast. Where you can see a six-year-old mediating a conflict on the playground. Where the teacher knows each child in depth. Where every adult who visits says, “I wish I could go here!”

When it was time to hire another teacher for Trisha’s school, we realized that passing on the philosophy and teaching program of the Drinking Gourd was not going to be simple.

This learning culture came out of Trisha’s brain. She has spent her whole life developing these methods, which don’t exist in any other school. She holds in her mind a vast amount of information, concepts, routines, systems—and the attitudes that underlie it all.

It’s not written down anywhere.

I have been Trisha’s sounding board for twenty years, and I knew a little bit about what she was doing. And I realized that this was the same kind of situation as my indexing workshop. So I offered to help.

How does one go about such a huge task?

We started with the teeny tiny tapie. Yes, okay, it’s my digital recorder, but we call it the tapie because that’s what they had on Get Smart. (But I don’t have a shoe phone.)

Anyway, every day after school I would turn on the tapie and Trisha would brain dump. Everything interesting that happened that day, in no particular order. And anything else that crossed her mind. We did this every time we drove in the car, too.

Transcribing the tapie sessions gave me masses, absolutely masses of information. Finding a structure to contain all of this treasure was fascinating.

It turned out that Trisha already knew a lot of the categories things needed to go in (otherwise known as sections of the training material). They just appeared as soon as I asked her. Some really obvious ones like how she teaches reading, writing, and math. Some not-quite-so-obvious ones like empowering girls, homework, and how to use the physical environment.

So we had the beginnings of a structure.

I started to label each little paragraph of story with a category or point that it illustrated. Like this:

Child: Look look look! I read 40 pages at quiet reading today! Trisha: interesting. What's the story about? Is it happy or sad? What’s the exciting part? Are you at the end of the story or are things still happening? Child: the part when they had to escape from the dinosaur was really exciting! But I don't know where they're going to go next. Trisha: all right, well now I can tell you did some good reading! [reading: valuing content not just quantity]

Of course, some examples didn’t fit easily. I didn’t have any category to put them in. They got labeled “Where?” Some others fit into five categories at once, so I just listed them all and we decided later where to use them. We kept discovering new categories.

Once we had some categories, she started to do brain dumps about particular subjects. “Okay, Trisha, tell me everything you can think of about… recess.” I typed and typed, filling in sections with details and examples and instructions. She read over and edited what I wrote. And the more treasure we dug out and sorted, the more we understood how it all fit together.

And the most marvelous thing? The threads that run through everything Trisha does. The biggest one was individualization. We knew it was important. But we didn’t know it was going to turn up everywhere. We found out that at every moment, as she plans, teaches, evaluates, she is thinking about the individual differences and needs of each child. We realized that this focus, which lots of education people talk about but which almost never actually happens in the classroom, is the core and magic of her approach. The huge glowing jewel in the middle of her treasure.

I ended up writing a whole training manual.

And now our new teacher is shining in her classroom.

Related posts: My First Dig

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Monsters and Mind Explosions

When it stops

I was talking yesterday about what it’s like to have a mind explosion.

And then sometimes the mind explosion is suddenly gone. Yesterday morning I woke up with the beginnings of a cold. Yuck. I slept a lot all day. I skipped chorus practice. And I couldn’t think. I was telling myself that the thinking would come back when the cold calmed down. That these things come and go. I was sad.

Yesterday is also the day when I had just written my first blog post that is directly about my new Thing.

And I noticed that a monster had arrived. The Nobody Wants to Hear From You monster. Because I’ve been reading the wise and marvelous Havi Brooks, I knew how to how to talk to it.

So last night I felt sick, went to bed early...and wrote to the monster.

Me: I’m going to have a teaching business! I have a blog! I have so many ideas and people are going to love them!

Monster: No you’re not. No-one wants to listen to you. They’re saying, “Oh God, there goes Do Mi again. Why does she think we want to listen to her?”

Me: Okay, Monster, that feels really hurtful. Also, I know it’s not true because…

Monster: It’s true it’s true it’s true!!!!

Me: (deep breath) People are always telling me that they value my ideas and that what I do is an inspiration to them. Some people aren’t interested, and that’s okay. They’re just not my Right People.

Monster: But, but what if those people that hate you say mean things? You know there are people that hate you BECAUSE you have something to offer. Like that girl in high school.

Me: I know that that is their stuff. But right now, I need to talk to you. When you yell that at me and remind me of people like that, it makes me think about them instead of about my Right People.

Monster: I’m afraid you’ll forget about those mean people! Then you’ll be taken by surprise when they attack you. That’s happened too often. I don’t want you to be hurt.

Me: Okay, I get that you don’t want me to be hurt. But you’re hurting me yourself!

Monster: That’s better than those other people hurting you.

Me: ????

Me: I am able to protect myself much better now than when I was a child. I understand so much about people’s hurts and how society makes them feel bad about themselves. I don’t always manage, but I’m working hard on separating their stuff from me and not letting it get to me.

Monster: Grhmph.

Me: If I promise to make a safe way to explore—maybe a soft and comfy exploration bubble?—will you try letting me do it? So if the mean people attack me I won’t get hurt?

Monster: I guess.

Me (Havi says this sometimes works): Do you want a cookie?

Monster: Fig newton??

And then—remember I’ve gone to bed early feeling sick—whee! I couldn’t sleep. More blog posts, more teaching content, part of my song verse, and an insight about my partner’s school! The waterfall was rushing again!

These creative periods do come and go. My mind probably needs a rest in between. But I think often when I stop, am stopped, it’s because of monsters. I plan to keep talking with them.

Please join me in the comments! Do you get stopped by monsters?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mind explosions and millwheels

Mind explosions

Sometimes I have a mind explosion. I have so many ideas at once that my brain feels like one of those lottery-ball containers. I can’t write the blog posts, teaching content, song lyrics, business ideas, new independent indexing projects, and guitar practice systems down fast enough. It’s exhilerating and a bit overwhelming. It’s the happiest I ever am.

Ever since I started mentally preparing for Barbara Sher’s Big Cheap Weekend (amazing amazingness) a few weeks ago, I’ve been in and out of this state. And I’ve been thinking about what puts me in it, what puts me out of it, do I want to be in it all the time.

All directions at once

Did I mention that I’m a scanner? I’m capable of getting this excited about any number of areas.

For a long time now my primary creative energy has been going into music. Learning guitar! Performing with my incredible duo partner Paul! Writing (gasp) songs! It’s incredibly satisfying and I’m in it for the long haul.

When I started thinking about my Digging for Treasure program, I worried that the energy I put into a new teaching endeavor would take away from my music.

One night my brain turned on and I went to bed with ideas for how to teach this new stuff spilling into my head almost faster than I could notice. I was empowered. I was knowing I could do this.

And in the middle of that teaching idea rush…a song appeared. Lyrics and a strong piece of melody. A really good song.

One rush of creativity opened me to another. I really do live in my whole house.

Ashes and millwheels

Another issue with these rushes of mind energy is that they are so….rushy. Like a huge flow of water coming down from the mountains over a waterfall. So much power, so fast. Will it sweep me away? That might be fun. But maybe not.

And I can’t sleep.

So I’ve been thinking about how to visualize the energy in a way that can be contained without making it go away. I really don’t want to make it go away, I just want it to let me sleep and come back in the morning! Or be steady and long.

Sometimes I try to bank the fire. In the old days the fire was always going (you didn’t have matches to start it again, you had to use flint or borrow a spark from a neighbor). At night you banked it down with ashes so it would last all night and you could start it up again in the morning.

Last night I thought of that waterfall running a millwheel. The water keeps on rushing by, but meanwhile the wheel is slowly, deliberately, work-fully turning. Grinding grain.

I’m going to live by that river for a while now and see what gets made.

Join me in the comments! Do you have mind explosions? What brings them on? How do you handle them? 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Digging for Treasure: My First Dig

I’ve been thinking about teaching a lot lately, and especially the question of how you can know something without knowing exactly what you know. I’ve been through that with a few subjects. The first one was book indexing, which has been my main career for the last twenty-four years.

Oh, I know how to do this!

When I had been indexing books for about ten years, I realized suddenly that I felt competent. I liked the indexes I was creating, and so did my clients. I felt excited and powerful as I read books and figured out how to make the information in them accessible to readers. I started going to indexing conferences, and discovered that indexers were my people. I totally enjoyed talking about the ins and outs of indexing with other people who actually understood what I was talking about. I remember heads in a restaurant turning when a tableful of us shrieked with laughter…about cross-references!

Something to offer

Other indexers were noticing my competence too. People were starting to ask me questions. To my surprise, I had a lot of opinions. (Um, no-one who knows me now would be surprised!)

I went to all the workshops at the conferences, but I was frustrated. There seemed to be a lot of talk about mechanical issues like punctuation, prepositions in subheadings, and cross-reference placement. Now this stuff is important, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not interesting. How to figure out what the author is really saying, how to create appropriate wordings for ideas that take a paragraph to explain, how to connect almost-but-not-quite-the-same concepts in the index—that is interesting. No-one was teaching about that.

A workshop? What?

So I wrote my first article, about the special challenges of scholarly indexing. I thought maybe I could actually give a workshop, but that was so outrageous that I didn’t tell anyone about it. I swear! But right after that, a chapter of the indexing society called to ask me to give a workshop for them. I said, “You know, I’ve never given a workshop before?” They said, “Oh, that’s okay. We loved your article and you’ll do a great job. Teach about anything you want. And we’ll fly you to Texas and put you up in a hotel.”


I was terrified. What on earth was I going to tell these people for a whole day? I knew I was a good indexer, but I didn’t really know what was good about what I was doing. What was I doing, anyway?


So I started to observe myself while I indexed. For several months, every time I made a decision, I made a note about it. I watched myself making headings, subheading, and cross-references, choosing wordings. I also watched myself getting stuck, changing my mind, wondering if I really knew how to do this, finding answers.


And something magic happened. I found out that there were patterns in what I was doing. I started with a mass of details, lists of mixed notes growing in my computer. And it was as if a scaffolding, a structure, rose up out of them all by itself. I found categories and names for the steps of my indexing process. Some of the concepts I identified had not been named before. Those concepts and my names for them have become my permanent contribution to my field.

Wow. Yes, I’m a bit proud of myself.

Something else magic happened. My indexing improved. The more I could identify the patterns I was unconsciously following, the better I became at following them. When I got mired in a tangle of words and concepts (something that happens to every indexer), I had to narrate my way out of it. And when I got stuck again, I found I had written myself a guide.

Wow again.

Oh, and the workshop went great. But I’ll talk about that another time.

I have taught a few other things over the last years. I’ve helped other people figure out how to teach what they know. And I’ve realized that the process I go through, of observation and structure-making, is something that lots of people might be able to use. I’m going to call it “Digging for Treasure.”

More to come!

Please join me in the comments! Ideas:

What do you know in this subconscious way? What would it be like to try to teach it?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Remembering Crayons

I’ve been trying and trying to think of a very profound First Blog Post that expresses the ultimate theme and mission of my blog.

(waiting-room music)

Okay, enough waiting. I want to be expansive on this blog. And when I am feeling most expansive, the first thing that happens is that I can really see what’s right in front of me.

It’s crayons. My sweetheart and I were doing a puzzle of a closeup photo of Crayola crayons, and off we went into memory land. The speckled quality of the soft paper wrappings. The contrast, specific to each crayon, between the paper color and the waxy smoothness of the crayon. The way the color felt going on to the paper. The blending. The boldness of taking the paper off and using the side of the crayon to make a big wide swathe of color.

The few-and-far-between days when you got a new 64-color box. Sixty-four colors! And the box had an actual crayon sharpener built into it!

The magenta. The (oh my gosh) green-blue (not blue-green, that was a whole different color).

The time we did a mural about colonial times at school and I got to color the fire. The other kids were drawing big log cabins, fields, and animals. I spent my entire time on this little picture of a campfire. The excitement happened when I realized I could use red and orange and red-orange. The smooth waxy surface getting denser and shinier as I smooshed the colors together. The fire, dark on the inside and yellower on the edges, springing to fiery life under my small pushing hand.

Most kids these days draw with colored markers, which are quite marvelous for their color saturation. But I remember crayons.

Maybe that’s why I grew up to love colored pencil!

And I’m grateful for color in my life. There.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Four Directions for a New Blog

Hello, east.

You have fresh air to clear my mind. Please wake me up. I want to see wide and far. I want to use my powerful brain to connect and analyze what I see. I want to notice my monsters when they appear.

I promise to keep breathing as I step out into the world.

Hello, south.

Your energy is a roaring fire right now! I'm hoping you can turn into a smooth steady hearth, the kind that produces lots of embers to cook on. I want to keep thinking and writing even when I'm tired or overwhelmed.

I promise to feed you.

Hello, west.

My feelings swim in your healing water. I want to talk here as a whole person. I want to share my struggles and confusions and joys. I know that you can be a trickling stream as well as a giant ocean; I can drink and dabble my feet. Or I can swim in you.

Some of my monsters live here. When they visit me, I promise to listen to them and see what they need.

Hello, north.

It's funny that you're my favorite, even though I often feel annoyed with my body. But I do ground myself in your earth. I am silent in your night. What a relief.

I know that my thoughts and feelings and energy and brain are part of my body. I promise to rest, eat, move, and listen.

Oh, it's a circle.

Here I am in my circle. Around me are a high grassy hill dropping off into sky, a warm fire, a lapping lake, and a deep green forest. This space is small enough for safety and big enough for all of me. And for all of you.

I plan to think, feel, and play here. Welcome to the circle!

Friday, December 3, 2010

About Me and Welcome to My Whole House!

Hi! I'm Do Mi Stauber. Welcome to My Whole House! It's called My Whole House because it has so many different rooms. As Barbara Sher says, I am a scanner--I'm never going to do just one thing, though I do as many things as I can really well.

So in this house you will find rooms for teaching, music, art, indexing, time management, miscellaneous obsessions...and rooms I haven't even discovered yet. When it gets confusing to have so many interests, I remind myself that I live in my whole house. I hope you'll enjoy exploring it with me!

If you identify with this scanner idea, I recommend that you seek out Barbara Sher. Read her book Refuse to Choose as well as The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine. And start doing everything you love!

Some more things about me:

I've been a book indexer since 1986.

A what, you say? Well, if you have a nonfiction book like a textbook, there's an index in the back where you look up what page things are on. I write those. It's a wonderful job because every few weeks I get to immerse myself in a completely new subject. Music appreciation, the experience of being deaf in Japan, the encyclopedia of Islam, how to teach reading. I get to use several different parts of my brain at the same time. And I get to be a gateway to the knowledge readers are looking for.

I sometimes teach and speak about indexing. My book, Facing the Text: Content and Structure in Book Indexing, has become a standard text. I have won the highest award in the indexing field.

If you'd like to find out more about the book or about my indexing services, go to my indexing website.

I'm a musician.

I joyfully perform in a duo with Paul Kuhlmann, blending our voices and instruments to make energetic, intense acoustic music. We're called Two Doors Down. We sing songs by a wide range of artists, including Bob Dylan, Girlyman, Dave Carter, and the Indigo Girls, and original songs by me. We met at a weekly informal folksinging group, drawn together by our love of harmony, our fascination with interesting chords and evocative lyrics, and our joy in intensive practice.

You can find out more about us by going to our Facebook page. You can see some videos by going to the "dmstauber" channel on Youtube.

I'm an artist.

I work in colored pencil. I call my pieces "intimate landscapes," because I focus on the closest details. My subjects include both animals and natural surfaces like trees and rocks. When I look at a stone or bark surface with that awed attention, it speaks to me like another being. And when I look closely at the skin or fur of an animal, it becomes a landscape.

If you'd like to see my art or buy originals, prints, or cards, go to my art website.

I'm a teacher.

It seems as if every time I learn how to do something, people start asking me to teach it to them. Sometimes this even happens before I've even learned how to do the thing. I believe that everyone should try everything that looks fun to them, and I enjoy figuring out how to get ideas and skills across. I've taught indexing, art, time management, software use, and anti-bias education. These days I am developing a program called Digging for Treasure. It will help people go through a process I've done many times now: understanding and organizing your knowledge so that it can be shared with others. I'll be teaching this process through individual coaching, live workshops, and teleclasses or webinars. I'm very excited! Stay tuned for more details!

I look forward to connecting with you! Email me at dmstauber@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter at @dmstauber.