I've sat on both sides of the classroom- instructor and student
I can honestly say that the best classroom environments are the one where the questions fly freely.
I debuted the first class of an entirely new series last night- a new style and a new set of students. And while I've been teaching for years now, new always brings challenges.
But you know what helps?
When students ask questions.
I want to encourage you to ask at least 3 questions in every class you take.
Well, when I'm sitting on the student side of the room, I don't always hear things correctly.
Maybe the person next to me moved their chair or whispered a comment. Maybe a bird flew past the window. You don't have to have a raging case of untreated A.D.D. to get distracted by the world around you.
It happens. Life happens.
What I've found is that if I miss the key point of what my instructor is telling me, it's sometimes hard to catch up. I often miss even more important points when I spend too much time muddling over what I missed.
I'm paying for that information, so either I raise my hand for a second shot at the info or the class looses value.
It's okay to ask for a repeat.
Here's another thing that I notice: sometimes what the teacher says doesn't match up with my real life observations or experience.
If the instructor has spent 20 minutes talking about how we can mix orange and green to get beautiful blues, either I mis-heard the word "blue" or he needs to make a serous clarification.
Instructors aren't infallible and it's okay to question the premise. If I'm confused, I'll bet other students are too.
It's okay to raise your hand and ask what everyone else is thinking.
But here's the crazy thing that I've learned from the instructor's side of the class room:
I'm a better teacher when you ask questions
1. Sometimes what's in my brain is NOT what comes out of my mouth. My mind is usually whirring away on 14 other matters.
- Is the classroom too warm or is it just me?
- I should break in 10 minutes but not before I get this next point made.
- The tag in my shirt is really annoying.
- Whoops, my screen saver just came on.
- I need my YG67 back soon, who did I just loan it to?
- Stacey looks confused, should I stop and explain better?
- I need to sit down soon but if I do, will I look lazy?
- There's a customer lurking outside the door, should I acknowledge them?
- Why did I wear this shirt? The tag is killing me.
- Get dog food on the way home.
- Oops, I forgot to mention the thingamabobber, I need to mention it soon.
- New Girl, what is her name again?
- Betsy is tapping her foot, is that normal or am I boring her?
- If I whip my shirt off and rip this damned tag out with my teeth, will anyone notice?
So yeah, sometimes I say YR63 instead of YG63. You need to call me on that!
2. There's this pesky thing called professional bias. Just because I've spent the last twenty years obsessing on art doesn't mean you have. It's hard to put myself back in a beginner's shoes and sometimes I don't even realize I'm talking over your head. Stop me before I blather on too long!
3. No one explains everything perfectly the first time. If my example doesn't make sense, you do me a favor by pointing that out. You help keep me from repeating that mistake in future classes.
4. You know things I don't know. This happens a lot! I don't know craft products nearly as well as I know art products. I also tend to do things from scratch, the hard way without shortcuts. I appreciate it when students say "you know, there's a tool for that, made by the X Company, would that work?" I love to learn new things and when it comes to product info, more is good.
5. It's a class, not a lecture. Classes are a participatory process that should bend according to the needs of the students. Classes are a service, not a product. You shape and improve that service by asking questions.
So asking questions is a good thing, but why 3 questions?
Well, maybe not always 3 questions. It depends upon the environment. If there are 50 people in the classroom, obviously the instructor doesn't want 150 questions flung at them.
But here's my theory of three:
The first question puts you on my radar. You're telling me that you are mentally tuned in.
The second question tells me where you're at. A beginner question indicates that I need to speak plainer and use less jargon. Complex questions mean I can skip the piddly stuff.
The third question kicks the dialog process into a higher gear. You're learning from me, I'm learning from you. Good information pops out during sidebars, stuff that isn't on the syllabus and unplanned tidbits are the gems that make live classes so much better than online videos and tutorials.
In keeping with my theme of three, the top 3 questions from class last night were:
- What you're saying is different from what So-and-so said in her last video tut. Why are you doing it this way?
- I did just what you said and look, it's not working. Can you show me again?
- Can I put you in my pocket and take you home with me?