Tweet from Troy Temple, professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:
“Presentation is to communication what location is to real estate.”
As I’ve spent much of my post seminary life teaching or writing Bible studies or curriculum, with the latest endeavor being Treasuring Christ Curriculum for Providence Baptist Church, I’ve learned many tools of the teaching trade – without actually being a teacher in the “classroom”.
1. Message is crucial. Yes, by all means, this is the most important aspect of anything you write or teach. Whether you are teaching chemistry, algebra, or lessons from the Sermon on the Mount – you must have your matter accurate. I think we learned this from the master teacher of them all: Jesus. Everything He spoke was truth.
2. Presentation, presentation, presentation. With this, I’m primarily talking about two different things, which I’ll discuss separately: activities (engaging with learning styles) and presentation (or the speaker).
Engaging with Learning Styles. I took a few education classes in college and then had education as my emphasis in seminary. I learned over the years and many books later learning style varies from person to person. Especially in writing TCC, I knew I needed to rely on experts (those who had been in the classroom for years or had children/teenagers) for activities. I didn’t want to use the same resources or learning activities every week. Every student has different learning styles. Some students (of all ages) learn by hearing, or some by doing, or writing, or being active. There are so many different ways to teach a subject, why stick with the same way every week? A saying that I heard often while doing Young Life in college was “its a sin to bore a kid with the gospel”. I think this goes for every subject, but ESPECIALLY the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Think about different questions as you are preparing a lesson each week (whether you use written material or produce your own):
1. How do you learn? Is that the only learning style you have incorporated into the lesson?
2. Have you included any time to be up out of a chair?
3. Is there anything a learner can touch, feel, eat? (Tactile)
4. Do you include adequate time for discussion and interaction?
5. In this world of technology, have you included any graphics, artwork, media, etc?
For me, to answer these questions, I usually stick with lecture and discussion, with some forms of media brought in. So, writing learning activities for younger children came into my job description with TCC, I had to ask others for help. There are some talented people in my life who were a big help and made TCC what it is too! But we can’t only teach in the style in which we learn. We can’t only continue to learn in one way. A greatcharacteristic of growth in a person is seeing, teaching and learning new and different things.
This topic of learning styles/activities doesn’t stop when you get to the adult years. All adults do not learn by lecture. And unfortunately, that is most of what our adult learning is boiled down to. Have a class that incorporates group discussion (for more than 5 minutes) and allows for application of the text. This not only gets your audience thinking but also helps you as a teacher. Many times a question an attendee has asked has opened the floor for honesty and relevance and application.
Presenting the Presenter. This is HUGE too! For TCC, one would never want to read the curriculum if we just kept it in Word format without any graphics at all. But, we brought on a graphic designer and resource artist that made the curriculum appealing for both teachers and students. But, I want to focus more on the presenter.
1. Be excited about what you are presenting. This will come across in how you are talking about your given subject. Are you excited and eager to share what you have to say? If you aren’t excited about it – then do you really think other people will be excited. I had a biology teacher in high school by the name of Mr. Musick. I STINK AT SCIENCE! But, he made me at least be interested in the subject, so did my Matter and Energy Prof Mr. Edgar. We flew paper airplanes. So cool. But, I had a US history prof named Bruce Morgan and he taught that subject in such a way that made me want to be a teacher. He was incredible – just because he loved the subject and it showed!
2. Look the part. When giving a presentation – look like you care. I speak at women’s events all over the southeast and when I do, I ask the person in charge what will the attendeed most likely be wearing. You don’t really want to show up all dressed up if most of the attendees are in sundresses or jeans and t-shirts. If you are female, wear makeup, put on jewelry, have those cute pair of shoes that go great with your outfit – and by all means, dress modestly. I learned this by the time I graduated seminary. All people care in some part as to how their presenter looks. We are a visual society. When I went and took a test in college or seminary, I dressed up, just a bit. I wanted to look the part of a smart student – it usually made me do better on the test. And if I was giving a presentation, I took even more time with how I looked. This made me look respectable and someone who the audience needed to listen to.
3. Know Your Subject. Be prepared. I used to write down everything I was going to say. I think that is now one of the most boring ways to present. Some folks stand up there and read their manuscript without ever looking up and read it in a monotone voice. PLEASE don’t do this – no matter what age you are presenting too. Practice, write an outline, ask people for advice. This comes with practice. Also, if you are going to have a time of Q/A, know what you are talking about if you give an answer. Have resources that will back up your answer. This comes in handy when talking about ethical issues or when talking with parents who want more help in discipling their students. And if you don’t know the answer, be humble. Tell them you will find out and actually follow through.
How have you learned to be a better presenter? Have their been presentations you would rather never hear again?
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