Imagine having to do something day in and day out, not feeling appreciated, having the feeling that something costs you more energy than it gives you, the feeling that you’re not good enough, that you’re not doing the right thing and that you’re not made for this. Would you keep doing that particular thing for years?
I'm a firm believer that you have a choice in everything you do, it might not always be an easy one but you do have a choice. The feelings I described, was exactly how I was feeling every Monday for two months straight. The first block of this current school-year was rough, it was bad. I had 30 students enrolled, the largest group ever in my program Improve your Business, and at first I felt good. But right after the first class that feeling changed into something completely negative. The group was way too big and the fit was not right at all. After every class, I had the feeling that this would be the last block that I would be teaching at the University. Why would I be doing this for fun if I have a choice? I’m not one to give up easily or to stop in between, not only because I have an agreement but also a duty to finish things. So at the end of the term, I had a decision to make: will I continue or will I stop?
While I experienced the first term as very negative I did try to get some good lessons from this. For example, while I always ask the students for feedback at the end of the period (to see what I can improve or keep the same), I changed that into asking feedback after every class. At the beginning of every class I would ask which student would like to give me tips and tops. That student would write those down and after every class they could substantiate their answers. This gave me a chance to act on those insights right away or to take it into account for the next group. Sometimes the smallest things that can be as harmless as not doing an energizer during that class, can affect a group. But the feedback I got is that these energizers are very valuable and that they’re really missed when we don’t do them. So I made sure to do a super fun energizer every class! Another point of attention I got was to split the explanation about the theory up in smaller chunks and not to give it all at once. So next time the students have to make a strategy for their start-ups, I will explain what a mission and vision statement is and let them write those out first before I start explaining what business goals are and so on. So I will implement that next time!
I try to learn from every situation even if it’s the worst one ever, that way I will never have the feeling that it was all for nothing. Some things I learned in the past 5 months is that this way of teaching is not for everyone and that is okay. While giving up is an option, sticking it out and finding a way to make it work might not be the easiest option but it’s one that taught me a lot. Sometimes it’s good to move on from some things if it’s not giving you enough (or some kind of) satisfaction. And when one of the students, who partly participated in the first block and started over in the second one, said that the students this time around were way more focussed which made her feel more inspired, I did somehow feel validated that it wasn’t all my fault. Students said that they really liked this way of being taught. At times they found it weird to have so much freedom, but at the end they did understand why I would not fill in all the blank spots for them. It allowed them to think differently and push themselves further than they’re used to. They gave me many insights which will make my classes become even better and yes I will continue teaching for the time being…until it doesn’t feel right any longer.
Something that also became very clear is that the way I used to measure success or what I would see as being successful changed. Of course it depends on what you're doing, but I remember that when I first started teaching I would measure my success by the amount of students that would enrol in “Improve your Business”. But I definitely take that back now. In the first block of the current year, so many students enrolled that the quality of the classes deteriorated. Of course this had to do with various factors. I wasn't able to have personal conversations with every individual student, which didn’t allow me to challenge them. Some of the students were there with the wrong intentions, just to get their credits but not to think differently. They didn't trust the process and questioned every last thing they had to do. They were used to getting taught in the traditional way, but weren't open to a new way of teaching. But it’s not all about them, I changed. I became less patient, easily annoyed, classes started to look more like school and less like workshops and I started to doubt myself. And this behaviour affected the students that were willing to learn and that were excited to do things differently. At that moment I realised, I rather have 10 dedicated students that want to be challenged than a bunch of students that aren’t. It’s not about the quantity, it’s definitely about the quality of the students.
I would love to hear how you measure your success and what you define as being successful. Or if you’re less focused on being successful: what are you currently doing that doesn't make you happy, but you keep on doing it because you feel like you have no choice? I would love to hear from you.
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