Presenting is a skill. Some people are naturally gifted at commanding a room; they engage and interact with a room full of people with ease and confidence that commands respect. Some people work hard at this craft and little steps are made through hard work, practice and preparation. I am in the second group. I co-led my first IB workshop in September of 2017 and was lucky enough to have been partnered up with an incredibly supportive co-lead. She became my sounding board, my listening ear for reflections, my emotional supportive friend while I took a risk. But most of all, she was one of the best coaches I have ever met. I left that workshop with a list of ways that I wanted to improve, but this list came from me and while I told her about them she just nodded away and told me to keep in touch.
From that, I took it upon myself to improve and jumped at any opportunity to get better at the skill of presenting. I presented at 21st Century TeachMeets, the Hong Kong/Taiwan PYP Network PD, at my school (CDNIS) and at EARCOS. In the last six months I have seen my hard work pay off. Last August I was asked as an independent consultant to lead a 1 day workshop at the Australian International School of Phnom Penh (and recently was asked to come back this August), a 2 day category 3 IB workshop in Auckland, and this past weekend at the 21CLHK conference. Each time I get better and I learn new tricks to make it better. Here are the three big take aways from this past weekend’s workshop that I will take to my next workshop:
- Tell stories of risk and failure. No one is perfect, and any educator out there knows of at least hundreds of interactions, situations or lessons that have failed terribly. Own up to them. This past weekend I included a picture of a lesson I did with my Prep class (5-6 years old) last year regarding tents. My objective for the lesson was for students to understand interdependence (one of the related concepts of the unit we were studying) and I thought it was a great way for students to learn that you need to work together to build a tent. It was an epic fail because:
- It was a windy day and some of the tent pole bags immediately flew off. We were on the roof of the 14th floor.
- The students enjoyed the poles as a separate entity than together with the tents. They swung them around their heads, played sword fighting with them, then ran around trying to tap each other with the ends.
- As I looked around at the carnage of tent covers, poles, pegs and incredibly happy and delighted students I came to the realisation that the lesson was not going the way I had planned. They had never put tents up. And they were 5 years old. Looking back upon the lesson, it was funny. And now it is even funnier. The lesson absolutely flopped. But lessons that flop are funny.
2. Move the classroom from the participants facing the front to a circular learning environment. Or more specific, allow for the participants to engage with each other and as a presenter be part of the audience. Educators often talk about a flipped classroom approach, or differentiation, or agency within a classroom but we don’t often find these approaches connected to professional development for adults. This past Saturday I gave the participants time to discuss some ideas then asked them to share with each other. At one point, about six participants were having an in-depth conversation with each other while I sat down in the back. The conversation went on for a good 5 minutes while everyone else was engaged and listening, including me.
3. Educators are innately supportive. It’s our role to be kind and caring to students, but educators are also instinctively kind and encouraging to other educators. This past Saturday I was surrounded by 35 other educators from across Asia who chose to come and see my presentation. There was a positive energy and vibe in the room from the start and it carried throughout the hour. So, the next time I am ready to lead a presentation I will remember this (after my Superman pose of course) and come into the room with a level of positivity that reflects the others in the room.
For those who missed out on my presentation, please see the slides below!