Learning how to teach badly


Learning how to teach badly

Sometimes you and I do not teach well. It happens to the best of us.

We come away from the class feeling we did not do the subject, the students or ourselves justice. Maybe we pitched the level wrongly, we lost the attention of the class, we clearly didn’t know the subject deeply enough, were not sufficiently prepared. It was a bit of a mess.

Of course, feelings sometimes do not reflect reality. It is natural for mood to go down after the excitement of teaching. Unfortunately, the reality is sometimes that we did not do well. So, what is the best response?

  1. Firstly, don’t be downcast. The greatest among us don’t deliver greatness every time. In case you did not notice, you are a fallible human being and prone to making mistakes. This is a good reminder that you are not so wonderful. Sometimes we fashion our own thorns in the flesh and impale ourselves on them, but the result is the same, hopefully; humility and relying on God.
  2. Secondly, remember the sovereignty of God. Sometimes when I have taught or preached badly, people have come up and thanked me for blessing them with what I said. We are dealing with a God who has a sense of humour, the sort that puts us down and yet makes us laugh. Just don’t rely on it.
  3. Thirdly, analyse, analyse, analyse. How can you fix it if you do not know what went wrong? Was it the level? The relevance? The knowledge? The style? The mood? the structure? The amount of interaction generated? The visuals? The preparation? The staleness of the material? Were you just too tired that afternoon? Put in place systems and attitudes as far as you can to avoid that particular problem again (at least for a while).
  4. Fourthly, don’t worry too much about student reaction. Most never did think you were perfect anyway so they will not be surprised. They would only be surprised if you were in denial about your mistakes. Maybe a few of your special supporters in the class would like to think that you are perfect but they especially need to see that making mistakes and acknowledging them is a greater perfection than pretending there have been no mistakes. Next session why not tell the class that you felt you did not do the subject justice last time and say why, then teach as you should and could. They will go out that day with a good lesson for their ministry, richly illustrated by someone they like.

The question is not whether we sometimes teach badly, it is when we teach badly, do we do it well?

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4 Comments on “Learning how to teach badly”

  1. Dr Marvin Oxenham Says:

    Love it! Here’s to good bad teaching!

  2. Brian D. Dix Says:

    That was me last week after my class. But in spite of myself, my heart is rejuvenated by Moses’ prayer:

    “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak,
    and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
    May my teaching drop as the rain,
    my speech distill as the dew
    like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
    and like showers upon the herb.
    For I will proclaim the name of the LORD…” (Deut. 32:1-3a)

    Thanks for the good reminder, Graham.

  3. KiwiAllan Says:

    A helpful reality check, thanks Graham. I’ll still keep the sackcloth and ashes on hand.

  4. perryshaw Says:

    I need constantly to remind myself that we are between redemption and consummation – that we will never reach perfection in this life. Also I am amazed at the grace of God – that sometimes students learn the most in my more mediocre classes. Thanks again Graham for the reminder – and for the practical suggestions.

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