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

40 comments:

  1. Do Mi, you've done it again! You are so wise, and give word so well to those amorphous discomforts I sometimes feel. I will ponder this blog entry because it speaks to me so much!

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  2. Janet, I'm so glad this is helpful! I'll look forward to hearing what wisdom comes from inside you as you think about this...

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  3. So, I followed you here from Haviland, and wound up reading your entire blog, and um, I may be in love. You have such a warm and intelligent writing voice, so clear and bright, and you present your ideas with honesty and a positive spin. I'm really looking forward to keeping up with this place now. And the name and the concept behind it? Completely brilliant - I love it.

    ...yes, this entire little comment is nothing but a compliment. Because I like telling people who are awesome that they are awesome. :D

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  4. Wow, Ty, I'm speechless! I'm so glad you like it (and me). I'd love to hear your responses to any of my posts.

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  5. Do Mi,

    I'm with Ty on this one... Being in your blogspace feels so warm and welcoming, and wise and funny and true.

    As someone on the cusp of teaching, this series of posts is just the thing I need to read right now. Thank you for sharing!

    Right, off to read the third installment...

    x

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  6. Ditto! I like it here. I think I'm going to stay.

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  7. oh, yeah, and the thing that scares me about teaching, is having to prove that I have something worth listening to. I'm working through this thing right now where on one hand, I won't have to prove myself to my Right People. But on the other, if my Right People believe in me without cause, that shows a distressing lack of critical thought

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  8. Oh Shanna, how interesting! I'll have to think about addressing this particular fear. But my instinct is to say, Trust your Right People! They have the Right idea in trusting you!

    Also, talking to the monster that wants you to prove something might be useful...

    Thanks so much for your comments!

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  9. My biggest fear is when I start a workshop for the first time or with a group that I don't know anything about. I'm always sure that I won't know enough or that I'm not prepared enough to remember what to do. When I've got enough exerience with a topic under my belt, then I'm pretty ok. But those new topics or first-time workshops make for a LOT of sleepless nights.

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  10. Well, at the risk of sounding like I'm just throwing complements, I have this to say: It is very encouraging to hear that someone like you, Do Mi, at times experiences fear of teaching. I say that because you do it so well. The workshop that I took from you about 11 or so years ago was what truly taught me how to index. It was worth more than the USDA course I took and all of the studying and even hands-on experience that I acquired before the course. You're that good. So the fact that a teacher like you can be fearful is quite encouraging to me as I experience it, too, when teaching, writing or indexing a particularly difficult book. Thanks for this post!

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  11. Wow, Kevin, thank you so much! Hearing that my teaching made a real difference in your working life is the very best thing you could tell me. And you just proved my point--the fact that I get scared is actually helpful to students!

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  12. Fear is our friend? oy, what a thought, Do Mi! But you're right, you're so right. Thanks for posting.

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  13. So glad to have found your blog, Do Mi! I've been teaching in schools for 20 years but still find the prospect of offering my own classes intimidating.

    My field is gifted ed and creativity coaching, and I've been wanting to do a teleclass on a topic that people seem interested in but I haven't seen covered by others much. Guess what I came up with--imposter syndrome. Now you've gone and done it first and better, but at the same time, through this blog series, you've convinced me why I should still do it anyway. :)

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  14. @Sue: Yes, you certainly should!! I'd love to be on your mailing list. Can you keep me updated?

    @Pilar: I know, can you believe it? Thanks for commenting!

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