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I’ve talked about learning and teaching a few times before on the blog.
But my favorite way to teach someone requires no effort.* In fact, it’s anti-teaching. It’s not via a textbook
It’s called crisis.
A few years ago, while on staff at a school, we had a twice a year performance that the students put on. They would perform, produce, and do most of the work. We had established a very high production level, which required me to be heavily involved.
The next year we wanted to get students involved way more in production and making it happen. So I spent a lot of time training the students on how to run things. How to set it all up, what to do when things go wrong.
And then I left.
During rehearsal one day, I stepped out and went to my office. In less than 10 minutes of leaving, something went wrong. The students text me saying they needed help, they couldn’t figure it out. I read the text-and continued doing what I was doing. About an hour later, I returned to the scene of the incident, to discover everything was running great. When I didn’t answer-they figured it out themselves. When forced to figure it out on their own-they discovered that they could.
The only reason I was able to do this, was because I was in that same situation a few years before. I spent the year preparing the students. It was showtime. Problem after problem would happen and the students couldn’t solve it. I was frustrated that things were breaking, and I would jump in and fix it. While complaining to my boss, he said something that has stuck with me ever since-and changed how I teach and train:
“Sometimes Crisis is the best teacher”
Maybe that sounds a bit unfair at first, or maybe it sounds heartless. Why would you allow someone to experience pain, if you know you can stop it? Why would you allow something to happen, when you have the solution, the answer?
To be clear-I don’t believe we should allow someone to step into a life threating situation when we can help deter it. It isn’t about encouraging people to be dare-devils, but it’s training them. It’s helping them realize their potential. Helping them realize, they have what it takes. That when it comes time for them to step up, that they can in fact-step up.
Maybe it’s easier for me because I have a streak of laziness in me. It’s easy for me to delegate, to hand something off. In this case, I realized I needed to give them space, so they could move to teach and training themselves. And it worked.
I think parenting is a bit like this (I’m clearly an expert after 5 years of experience). When your kids are born your only goal is to keep them alive, and out of danger. At some point, you have to shift to giving them freedom. You have to
You have to allow them just enough freedom to learn, without endangering them. If you always intercede whenever they’re about to make a mistake, they’ll never learn to take responsibility, and you’ll never learn to let go.
I see this trait in my wife and how she’s raised our now 5-year-olds. When we’d go to the park together, I would hover around them to constantly make sure they wouldn’t fall or step off the opening at the end of the ramp (why does every toddler’s play area have a section that can
My wife would repeatedly tell me, they’ve got it. You’ve got to let them play on their own. She explained to me how when she’s by herself with them at the park, she can’t physically be there to catch both of them at the same time-so she taught them-don’t step off of here. If you do, you’ll get hurt. And then she stepped out of the way. She let them explore and be kids. They would trip and fall down, but they learned on their own. She has mastered the art of giving them just enough freedom to learn and explore, but not enough that
So how can we do this in our everyday life? It’s hard to step away.
We’re admitting that things can operate without us. We’re admitting that we’re not as important as we think we are.
If things can run smoothly without me-then what purpose do I serve?
We serve a huge purpose. We’ve walked through the experiences before. We have battle scars and stories to tell.
We can share our experience and equip and train but ultimately we have to get out of the way so they they can learn from experience.
Not our experience-but their experience.
*As I think about it more, it actually does require effort-in fact a lot of it. To spend time training someone and then to step away and let them learn to solve problems on their own, to not try and micromanage their every decision because you’re afraid they might