It’s finally over. I’ve just finished mentoring for a year-long programme on mobile journalism, and boy has it been a trip.
For one, impostor syndrome was hitting hard, as my bulk of experience in lifestyle, marketing, and fiction felt out of place among the other mentors, who were powerhouses in journalism and news reporting.
But the good outweighed the bad, and I’ve now come out of this programme having learned more about myself as an educator, and you know what? I actually think I suck. A lot.
Don’t believe me? Let me convince you.
My jokes are fake
“Since we’re talking about SEO, do you guys know where to hide a dead body? On the fifth page of Google search results, because nobody goes there! Ha ha!”
I memorise jokes like that right before class, then I act as though I came up with that in the spur of the moment.
“Why did the SEO cross the road? Because he wanted traffic! Ha ha!”
Yeah, they say that humour is the best way to jazz up a presentation. Sit through mine and I’ll prove otherwise.
I depend too much on notes
If I’m using Google Slides, I’ll probably have a separate screen filled with presenter notes longer than War And Peace. Part of the reason why is because of my aforementioned jokes.
I never used to be this way during the analogue days. Back then, all I needed were a couple of words to recall swathes of information.
I’d write these words on our ‘Powerpoint’ slides, which consisted of mahjong paper and illustrations shoddily drawn with permanent markers, visible only to me.
So if you’ve ever attended any of my classes, I’m going to have to apologise for duping you into thinking I’m smarter than I actually am.
My ‘fun activities’ are actually just me buying time
In a perfect world, I’d have my classes all planned to the tee. But surprises do tend to crop up, mostly in the form of companies wanting a certain subject to take longer to complete, for whatever reason. Maybe they think more equals better.
So I’ve often found myself stretching my two-day syllabus across two weeks.
Those Kahoot! games? Yeah, I just needed to fill up a spare half-hour. That sharing session? Another hour. I think my fellow educators will understand the bind of finding yourself with too much time to spare in class, especially with last-minute notice.
You think you’re getting frequent breaks because I have your comfort in mind? Nah, that’s just me buying even more time.
Maybe other teachers don’t have a problem with this. I’ve always been an underwriter when it comes to my fiction, so perhaps that reflects in the way I teach as well. Why say more when you can say less?
Sadly, it seems like the world isn’t geared for people like me.
I’m too generous with my praise
You know what’s the weird about praise? It’s that the more you hand it out, the more people take it for granted.
Maybe it’s just me overcompensating for my lack of skill, but I find myself always opting for positive reinforcement whenever I can. I mean, I want my students to have fun, right?
But if approval was a currency, mine would be worth less than the Zimbabwean dollar, especially when compared to the stricter teachers alongside me.
One mentor—we’ll call him James—was notorious for being a hard-ass during my days at the hairdressing academy. And just one nod from him used to mean tons to the students.
“Did you know that James said my blowdry was great?”
“Wow, I really must be improving, because even James said it looked decent.”
“James didn’t scold me, so I guess that’s good.”
And there I was, telling people that they’d put forth a good effort, only to be told that it didn’t matter because James said it wasn’t enough.
I see teaching as a skill… and rely too much on it
“Teaching’s a skill of its own, man.”
That’s an excuse I always have on standby, for when my employer—or students—find out that I’m a hack.
Truth is, I can’t know everything there is to know about a certain subject, and I’m bound to come across a question I can’t answer. When that moment arrives, I already have this answer rehearsed and ready to go:
“I’m a teacher first, because you can be technically sound but still suck at teaching.”
Thankfully, I’ve not needed to use that excuse yet.
I see your boredom, but can’t do anything about it
Students (myself included) typically think they can let their minds wander without the instructor knowing. Ha. Instructors see everything, from that doodle in your notebook to the micro-naps you’re taking in the back of the class.
And don’t think it’s less obvious on Zoom either, because I see how the glow on your face changes from white to blue, and that reflection on your glasses looks pretty similar to Facebook’s feed.
There are times when boredom is inevitable, however, because try as I might, I can’t seem to liven up the Rules And Regulations For Shopee And Lazada module.
But yeah, I see you, and I just thought you should know.
I ask too many questions
Criminally easy questions, too. Because, as it is in blogging, engagement is key.
I wouldn’t say that this makes me a sucky teacher though, but I do suck at holding the silence long enough to wait for an answer. Three seconds of silence is enough to get me asking the follow-up, “Anyone?”
The best practice is to bask in the silence until someone speaks up, because believe it or not, the students also feel the burden of quiet.
But I’ve learned that I don’t handle Mexican standoffs that well. And speaking of lessons, here’s my biggest takeaway that I want to leave you with.
It’s much better to be sought after than to pursue
While I admire and enjoy the art of teaching, I’ve realised that it’s much better to do something so well that people naturally gravitate to you for answers.
Which is why I’ve been grateful for the e-mails I’ve been receiving on how to find a career in writing, or how to grow a blog—subjects that I finally feel comfortable speaking on, without having to search for dad jokes beforehand.
And that’s taught me to first answer my own questions before I even try answering other people’s. Perhaps what’s most important is that through teaching, I’ve learned how to learn.
You don’t need to be a teacher to be a part of my community though. There, I share more lame jokes, observations, and interesting learnings such as this one. Also, you’ll get a free guide on how to grow your blog!