LESSON: Figure out how to compensate for your weaknesses
One of my glaring weaknesses as a professor is an inability to remember student names or recognize their faces outside of class. One time in class, a student walked up to me and said: “I saw you on campus yesterday, and you didn’t even say ‘hi’. That was rude!” I desperately tried to explain that names and faces are hard for me to recall on a huge campus.
So now, when I walk around a campus of 30,000 students, I’m compelled to wave hello to everyone I make contact with. “Hi, how goes it?!” or “Hope you’re doing well.” Four out of five of them are looking at me, like: “Do I know you?” or “Who the heck are you!?” But that fifth person, the one I should know, appreciates the hello. So I’m walking, smiling, waving, and babbling. All over campus. It’s either that, or stare at my feet as I plow towards the lecture hall.
Take Away: You know you’re imperfect - learn how to compensate.
LESSON: In stressful moments, lean on your strengths
I learned this lesson in the first class I ever taught, Introduction to American Government. I thought that we should begin at the very beginning of the text, with a discussion of the Founding Fathers and the Federalist Papers. As I started talking, I repeatedly said to myself: “You don’t know anything about this topic beyond what you read last night.” After forty five minutes of panic, sweat, and utter confusion, we took a 10 minute break. In that time, I decided to go straight to the Bill of Rights, a topic of strength. The rest of the session went very smoothly.
Take Away: Students crave value – give them your unique perspective on what you know best, not a mere recap of yesterday’s homework reading.
Excerpts from: Unlocking Your Rubber Room: 44 Off-the-Wall Lessons to Lighten and Transform Everyday Life
© 2009 Perry Binder, LLC