On Being an Idiot

I am in the process of taking one (and maybe more down the road) of the creativity classes I teach to small groups and trying it out on the web. This is nothing new of course. “Webinars” and virtual learning are a fact of life these days. I’ve been teaching and doing collaborative meetings in the technology realm for over a decade. Both of my kids, when they moved up to Vermont, did their final year of high school all on-line, with teachers and fellow students spread all over the world. Skype, over the past few years, has become my preferred way to stay in touch with people in my life. A fair number of my clients and I have never met face-to-face, but work entirely over collaborative software like “Go To Meeting”. I sell more paintings on-line than I sell out of galleries. I have a few thousand readers on my blogs, far more than I would likely have had I focused on a more traditional print path to publication. Technology is my friend.

And yet, when it came to the creative and spiritual side of what I teach, I have drug my feet. I’ve been positively pokey. A total Luddite. And this week, as I have actually begun the background and back office setting up of these classes, I have been asking myself why I have been so slow to move this part of what I do to the web.

I have come to the conclusion that while I don’t like to admit it, I have been showing my age.

People of my generation did not grow up on the web. Heck. I remember dial up. Heck, I remember when there was no web. Nada. Zip. I have adopted new technologies in work because… 1) I am something of a geek, and…. 2) It made my work easier.

That was it, I think. It was work. But when I move to teaching creativity, or spiritual things, I tend to think of them as personal. Intensely personal, and have somehow missed that over the past few years, particularly in the last two or three years, it has become a larger part of my income and yes… my work.

Because those topics are so dear to my heart, when I teach or coach them, I value the one on one interaction, the ability to feel the energy in the room and respond to that energy in modifying my approach according to what is happening in the room, according to the energy, questions, looks on a face, the ah-ha expression, the bewildered gaze. I’ve gotten so I can do that pretty well in one on one virtual meetings, but part of me is afraid of doing it poorly in a virtual classroom.

Because I take teaching seriously. I think it’s important. So much of what and who I am is because of great teachers. Some were in classrooms. Some in churches. Some never held the title of “teacher” yet the hours spent over coffee and conversation were teaching times indeed. With all these examples of great teachers in my life, I have come to understand what the best teaching is. It is NOT primarily about the transferring of facts from person to another, which is the traditional model of teaching.

There’s a place for that traditional model, but the best teaching, the teaching that stays with us and makes a lasting difference is something different all together. That hyper-effective teaching is all about pulling things out of the students, of helping them discover and think differently. It’s about my having the right questions, and providing an emotionally safe place to explore those questions and thoughts and in effect teach ourselves.

Doing that is a dance, not a lecture. Whether I am teaching or coaching, it’s a dance that has me sometimes leading, sometimes following according to what I feel coming from the other person, from the class. It’s a constant journey of paying close attention to everyone else to adjust my side of the dance and help the other person find their path to what they need from our time together. I have been teaching as part of my work and part of my vocation (not to mention parenting) for a long, long time. I’m pretty good at that dance, at listening and noticing when I am with someone.

Of course. I am also an idiot.

Because I already do a lot of consulting/teaching/coaching virtually. It works. It is not the same as doing it in person, but it works. I am an idiot because I am comparing virtual meetings and teaching to regular teaching and they are not variations on a single thing, but rather, two entirely different things altogether. And it takes a different set of skills and approach to do things virtually than in person. A different kind of preparation.

The kids and young people of today know this. It’s the way their world works. It’s not a case of which is better. They are just different.

You’d think I would know it. I adopted blogging over the traditional path of publication a decade ago. I began using Go To Meeting for collaboration about the same time. And each of those were different things, but effective and in the end, great, tools. I should have learned that this is just fine by now.

So why have I resisted moving these two subjects to the web?

Perhaps because they are so personal. For me, I have learned, creativity and spirituality are big, big parts of who I am. They and the energy from both of them, are essential to my sanity and to my emotional and spiritual well-being. Somehow, in my 60-year-old brain…. these things were different. Too personal to trust to the great big impersonal web.

But you know what? I was, as I often am, wrong. Or rather maybe I was not wrong, but maybe that difference is OK. And so, once again, as I have had to about so many things, I have had to learn to stop comparing. Yes, it will be different, but it won’t be a case of worse or better. It’s just a thing. Just a different way, and as most differences play out different is OK. It will be great for some, and less great for others. It won’t replace my face to face coaching and teaching. I will grow for doing something I have avoided. My students, assuming I have any takers, will grow too.

It will be OK.

That’s the lesson I see to have to learn again and again. Take the chance and it will be OK. It may not go according to my plan or vision, but it will be OK. And the less I judge, both myself or anything, the more OK it will be. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and I only learn it when I force myself to move past my comfort zone. Over and over again. Because I am an idiot. And because the great stuff is just on the other side of the scary stuff.

And so, once again, I will. Am I scared? Yep. Am I doing something I know I need to do, kicking and screaming in fear? You betcha.

Will it be OK? (He takes a deep breath.)

Yes. And it will be for you too.

Be well. Travel Wisely.

PS – in case you are wondering, the class I am developing is “Crafting Your Own Creative Recovery”, for people who feel life has swallowed their creative lives and want to reclaim it. Stay tuned for an announcement, or drop me a note if you want to know more.

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