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Years ago, I had to face the music. I just didn’t really know how to teach. I didn’t understand the mechanics of teaching and learning.
Don’t get me wrong. I went to college and earned my Lutheran Teacher’s Diploma and then off to seminary to receive my Masters of Divinity. I had gone through the classes and learned all I could. My teachers and professors were excellent—they did nothing wrong. I learned a lot of information and thought through different models of instruction. The world is filled with them, they are useful, and they work for a lot of people.
Out in the field of parish ministry, though, I struggled. As a parish worker, I was often confronted with all sorts of educational challenges. From Bible studies to Sunday School teachers meetings, to youth group, confirmation classes, and beyond, the educational demands piled up. Sometimes I’d be able to sit down and create an excellent lesson plan. Sometimes I’d do my research on fun activities and illustrations to go with a Bible point. Other times, though, I was caught flat-footed. I’d have to go into a devotion, youth activity, or confirmation class without the kind of kind of preparation that was needed.
So what did I do? I did what so many of my fellow brothers and sisters in ministry do in similar situations. I just copied the patterns of instruction I’d always done. Instead of thinking through the careful lesson design my instructors taught me, I waffled. I would lecture or talk or just wing it. My listeners (usually) politely put up with me when I was unprepared in a challenging situation, but I wasn’t fooling anybody. They knew I wasn’t prepared and was making it up as I went. At times, things worked out and my learners liked it; other times I just bombed. Regardless of the outcome, I knew I could do it better.
So I made a choice and went back to school for more education. I dedicated a lot of time to think of ways to help other parish educators wrap their heads around how to overcome challenges similar to mine.
Did I figure it all out? Of course not! I did, however, after years of reading educational texts and trying things out, come up with a system. It helped me think through the mechanics of teaching and learning. This wasn’t so much a template for lesson planning but a model for guiding my thought process as I engaged in teaching in the parish.
Over the next few blog posts, I’ll share this framework that, I believe, may be useful to you parish educators out there. This is especially for you pastors, DCEs, and leaders who struggle with the vast variety of teaching challenges that cross your plate each week. Hopefully, these will help you think through the mechanics of teaching and learning with whatever group you’re leading.
There are four steps involved in the simple mechanics of teaching and learning:
- Direct Learning Focus
- Create Learning Experiences
- Facilitate Learning Feedback
- Consider Learning Outcomes
In the next post, I’ll briefly unpack these four steps. In the following posts, I’ll start giving some examples of how you can get the most out of teaching in the variety of tasks you are given. Until then, feel free to reflect upon or share your own stories of getting caught off guard when given a teaching task. Blessings.
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