Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How I teach - 1

For those who will teach and for some puzzled course attendees, I want to do a series of posts about how I teach.

First, the goal is not to teach. Or, more clearly, the goal is neither teaching nor learning, but results (ie, more than just action, but actual results from action). Results for you, for your team, for your customers. That is the only goal that counts.

If you think I 'fail' as a teacher, and yet you get results...to me I have succeeded. Such 'failures' I will take any day.

OK, so I conduct the class in such a way as I think best will lead to the most results for the most people.

Right away you see certain 'philosophical' or fundamental issues have been addressed with certain assumptions. Assumptions that we have developed over many years of experience, but assumptions nonetheless, as we are far far from omniscient.

For example, we don't assume that everyone is the same. (In fact, closer to the opposite.) Nonetheless, at any moment, in overly simple terms, only one style of teaching is going on at that moment.

Second, I don't assume that the brain is the most important part of the human being. The soul, the spirit, the heart, the guts, the will, and many other parts are also important. There is increasing evidence that they are more important. At least in terms of real results.

Third, we have a theory, based partly on Piaget and others, that the mind resists changes to its fundamental constructs of the universe, of how 'things work'. And we have a theory that lean-agile-scrum is a fundamental paradigm shift in many of these constructs. So we are subversive. There, we have admitted it openly. We are trying to sneak up on your brain. But in a good way. Not to rob you, but to give you a gift more quickly.

Fourth, while lean-agile and scrum particularly are very simple (like all great things), at the same time, they are very complex. We hold the perhaps arrogant view that, at least vis-a-vis lean-agile-scrum, we are smarter than you. (And that's why we are leading the course, and not you.) So, while we get you active and talking, there are, sometimes rather indirectly, some things we are trying to tell you. We might wait for you to discover them on your own, and we might wait for monkeys at a typewriter to eventually write Hamlet. But, frankly, while we have some exercises where you discover things for yourself, for everything we are not that patient. Given that we only have 2 days for the basic course. So, we "tell you". (Some might call it 'lecture', although you might not. In any case, a different kind of lecture than most are used to.) Yes, yes, yes; we know all the problems with that. But we actually think that some people, if we add jokes and other tricks, actually stay awake, actually listen, and actually learn this way.

As Yogi Berra said, if people don't want to come out to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them. Meaning: If they don't want to learn, fugetaboutit!

Also, we frankly are not clever enough to come up with enough exercises that can be done quickly. And, having felt 'played with' (in a bad way) by some of these kinds of games ourselves, we are sympathetic with those who are naturally skeptical of games. So, we still do some games and exercises, but maybe not as many as others. Instead, we use other tricks.

It perhaps bears saying at this point.... What we teach are not ideas that we invented. We feel we have been blessed to share the wisdom from men and women on whose shoulders (as the metaphor goes) we stand. It is a great wisdom, from the gods one might say, and we are humble about our real ability to pass it along as accurately as it deserves. And yet, despite the jokes and playfulness, which in some eyes might imply lack of caring, we value this wisdom very highly. And we think reaching the inner secrets of this wisdom is difficult. Realizing in a full way the most benefits is very very difficult. And, paradoxically, as with all great things, it is in fun and with great ease that the most benefits are realized. Trying too hard does not help. As any baseball player knows, we must simply swing the bat, and just let happen what may. So, the main point here is a certain kind of humility.

More later....

And your comments and reflections on this are solicited.

Note: The picture is of Carolyn Eyles, an award-winning teacher in Canada. Google her.

1 comment:

Andrew Fuqua said...

That's encouraging, Joe. People learn in differing ways. I might not be as good a presenter as some others, but I can help someone with my particular anecdote or experience or turn of a phrase that others do not. Or by being in the right place at the right time could help someone that others have missed. Bring agile to the masses.

Not unlike being a witness -- someone may be able to relate to my particular life experiences better than that of any others and this may lead them to Christ.