Monday, December 15, 2014

Talking ≠ Teaching

In many cases, either extreme of a possible scenario is equally bad.  For example, being overly cautious about failure vs. being overly fearless are both dangerous.  And you wouldn't want to hit so hard that something breaks, nor hit so lightly that no one can hear you, right?

There are, however, some exceptions to both extremes being bad.  One of them is about talking when teaching.

On one extreme, I can take someone who's never played taiko or done karate before and get them going, without having to say one word.  I know I can work on general stance, how to punch, how to strike, basic patterns, etc.  I bet you can do it with taiko too!  Granted, you won't get much in the way of details or nuances because you're pretty limited, but you can still make some good progress.

Now take the other extreme, and have me teach someone by talking a ton.  And talking and talking and talking.  Explaining this, commenting on that, sidebars here and experiences there.  Some people do learn better by listening, but there's an overload point for every listener.  Also, time listening is time spent not doing.  For taiko, doing is crucial.

I've been on the other side of this before - being a talkative teacher - where I had SO much information I wanted to get across, and the only way I knew how to do it was to talk!  And people responded by blinking at me, either trying to process or wondering how to politely ask, "what?"

It took me a while as a teacher to realize that talking does not equal communicating.  Communication is about imparting or exchanging information, while talking is simply a delivery mechanism.  If no one's there to pick up your delivery, it gets left at the door.  Or something.  Many students with an overly-talkative teacher eventually stop listening.  It's not because they want to be disrespectful, it's because they no longer know what's important information and it's too tiring to treat everything as important, so they go into "gonna wait until we start doing stuff" mode.

As I said earlier, doing is really important in taiko.  It's often far, far better to have students try doing something even if they've got issues to fix rather than to expect them to "get it" on the first try because you've explained it "well enough".  Odds are, with the latter, you're going to have to repeat yourself because people forgot some of what you said.  If different people are forgetting different things, you could very well wind up repeating most of what you said - defeating the purpose of saying so much in the first place!

Some people can say little and communicate a lot.  Those are awesome teachers.  Most of us have to talk more than that because we're not at that level yet!

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