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I Gave a Bad Lesson Today




I am constantly critiquing myself. I give a lot of good lessons. Lessons about which I feel I did really well. Lessons I'd give myself an "A" for giving; not an A+, mind you, which almost never happens. But As and A-s. And I'm a pretty harsh grader.

But today I gave a C+ lesson that I may have recovered and turned into a B+ lesson, if only by recognizing it early enough.

The details are unimportant, but basically, I found myself talking about something that was probably priority #3 or #4 for the guy. It had to do with hand speed, when really his focus is on his turn and hip drive/slide. He asked a question, and rather than my usual vocal "That's not something we need to worry about now" (or some variant of that), I answered it. Then when I was done I recognized that I'd said too much, that it was unrelated, and I backtracked a bit by saying something like this:

"Look, I just made a mistake, so I'm hoping you can overcome that by forgetting all of what I just said, because it's not related to what I'm trying to get you to do today." Then I spent extra time really simplifying even further and re-iterating the two things I wanted him to focus on quite a bit. More than I might usually do (and I repeat things a lot in a lesson).

I think that being very critical of myself is important, and today I slipped into one of the things I'm most likely to slip into: giving away too much information. It's not about the "giving away" - it's about how if the student is only going to remember three things from a lesson, I don't want one of those three things to be the irrelevant stuff where I just talk about swing theory or something that's not super-specific and super-fitting for them right then.

I'll probably follow up with the guy later on, too, to re-iterate the two thoughts I want him to focus on even more. 🙂

So, a bad lesson in my mind. The student was happy, but I was beating myself up in my head.

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I think we've all been there. Perhaps not with regard to a lesson. But (in my world) missed an opportunity, maybe misread a clients needs, got into the weeds on a subject that doesn't interest the customer.... what ever. I think the important thing is that you recognized it. AND early enough where you still had a chance at correcting it. I think the follow up with the guy will be important and I'm sure he'll appreciate the effort. 

The fact that you are continually critiquing yourself is a good sign. You still like the job well enough that you are not just going through the motions. I wise man once said "Life is too long to do a job you do not enjoy." 

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5 minutes ago, criley4way said:

Props to you for being that focused on not what you teach but on teaching itself.

Thanks. I have about three dialogues going on at all times when teaching: what I am saying to the student, my self evaluation, and a third track of "next step" type things.

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The fact you posted this and recognized this says a lot about you not only as an instructor but as a person. Kudos Erik. Should be more like you. 😀

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It sounds to me like you did a pretty good job of salvaging it. Constantly repeating what you wanted him to focus on should end up being what sticks out in his head when he thinks back on the lesson.

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Interesting. In Harvey Penick's "Little Red Book", there's a section about him teaching Betsy Rawls, who is in the LPGA Hall of Fame. At one lesson he was trying to teach her 2 or 3 things at once, and she balked. She told him to concentrate on one or two things at a time and save the third for later! 

Betsy Rawls was a Phi Beta Kappa student in physics, which means she was a pretty smart cookie! Penick realized that if a person as smart as she was couldn't absorb everything he was trying to tell her, he should slow down!

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It's hard to be a teacher. Very hard. You have to "know your students" (at any level, any age, any subject). What works for Tom, doesn't for Tim. I have been doing it for years and no matter how good you think you are, something or someone will come along and remind you of how much further you need to go.

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I can only imagine what it's like.

I know that when I go out for a practice session, with perhaps 1 single thought in mind (start arms down before should turn thru target, or stop hands with shoulders) it is amazing how many other "brilliant ideas" try to insert themselves into the process. Especially once I start making crisp contact.

That with myself.  Controlling the flow of information and thoughts with a receipient must me 10x harder; trying to preempt those other distractions and guide them to concentrate on only 1 or 3 things.  Specific things.

Edited by 3jacker
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I'd likely have to ask myself, 'why did he ask that specific question at that specific time'?  Was it truly a digression?  or did he need the info to cement what you might have been working on?  or......was he not understanding the focus of the lesson so much that this seemingly out of place question come up due to misunderstanding?  In all cases, I need to figure out why he's not on the same page as me and fix it.

I teach high level competitors another sport and handle these things this way:

1 - reset - I remind the student of the focus of the specific lesson.

2 - understand their input - Then I ask them why they asked this specific question while noting (I belive) it's not really related to today's goal.  (is he just interested? does he think it relates to today (and maybe it might for this specific student and I didn't know)? does he think we're doing something else?)

3 - placate - I'll give them something on the question no matter what so they don't fixate on not getting an answer. 

4 - respond and focus - If it's a true digression, they get the short answer and commit to go into detail when we reach that topic (and maybe it's time for a little break).  If it indicates they don't understand the current topic clearly, then I use the detour to fix my presentation to be more clear and we continue.

Edited by rehmwa
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1 hour ago, rehmwa said:

I'd likely have to ask myself, 'why did he ask that specific question at that specific time'?  Was it truly a digression?  or did he need the info to cement what you might have been working on?  or......was he not understanding the focus of the lesson so much that this seemingly out of place question come up due to misunderstanding?  In all cases, I need to figure out why he's not on the same page as me and fix it.

I didn't provide many details, so you'd have no way of knowing… but no, it wasn't any of those things. It was a question related to his stuff, but then I just kinda kept going into unrelated things. Good information, and relevant… if you're talking about just swing theory and why people flip and synchronization and Key #2/#3 and so on… but yeah, I just kept going too far and rather than giving him a thimble of information, gave him a coffee cup.

2 hours ago, rehmwa said:

1 - reset, 2 - understand their input, 3 - placate, 4 - respond and focus

Yeah, pretty much.

Except sometimes I just say "you know what, that's not really relevant right now, so let's focus on this." A lot of people are actually happy to not have to get the answer.

Some need it, it gnaws at them, and I'll usually just tell them after the lesson.

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I absolutely love coaching.  You can see the types that also feel that way.  I wish it could be my full time job frankly.  You learn more teaching something, IMO, than when being taught.  So exchanging techniques and examples with others that are really good at it is a big win for me any time I get it.  Thanks for sharing.

And, you know, sometimes, the best of us just need to brain dump.  It IS your passion.

and as for "needing that info as it 'gnaws' at them" - you can guess which student I am...  😀  After a taste of the extra stuff, you can't just cut a person off.

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As a teacher, I understand exactly where you're coming from.  It's called "reflection."  The fact that you are reflecting on what you did, and how to do it better, means that you are better than the vast majority out there.  I can't tell you how many times I've thought, "ooh... that would have been so much better if you'd done it this way" or "well... it's a good thing admin didn't walk in during that." 

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