By Sarah Sloane
Everybody has to start somewhere. For most of us, we begin to present classes and workshops because we’re known for a particular skill set or a certain type of knowledge, and we teach what we know. Eventually, though, many of us come to the conclusion that we don’t want to just teach the same thing, over and over – we want to do something different, or expand our offerings, or just break out of the rut of being a “one trick pony”.
What do we do when we want to grow as an educator? Some people consider going back to school, or taking (often pricey) classes to help them get more credentials, but that’s not a possibility for everyone (nor is it even a good idea, depending on how much energy you want to give towards your experience as an educator). There are, however, some amazing things you can do without breaking the bank (or your schedule)! Here are some basic concepts for ongoing growth & improvement that you can use.
1. Read. Read everything you can get your hands on (and find interesting) that relates to sexuality. Read synopsis of things that you think you already know about. Read a review of things that aren’t that interesting. Every new piece of information that you learn has the potential to change how you teach, and to inspire you to teach something new.
2. Learn basic presentation skills, either by taking classes in it or reading books. Passion about your topics of choice will only get you so far; what makes an effective presenter is the ability to communicate information to others in a way that helps them learn & apply it to their own lives.
3. Go to workshops. Seriously. When you keep an open mind, you can always learn something new. At a recent educator’s series that I co-facilitated, a newer presenter taught a brief class on flogging – a topic that I normally get bored with pretty quickly. However, they had a technique that they demonstrated that I had never thought of, and I could immediately see ways to use to improve my ability to use a flogger. Look! An old dog CAN learn a new trick!
4. Be mentored. Ask someone to teach you the basics of a new skill, or the finer points of one that you already have. Work with another presenter to hone your abilities. Have friends edit, make suggestions, and give guidance to you when it comes to writing your bio, your handouts, and your class outlines. Even if you are always the “go-to” person, working with someone else can help expand both your range and your depth of knowledge.
5. Mentor someone else. Teaching one-on-one rather than one-on-many involves a different set of skills, and has more of an exchange of information than a usual classroom setting allows for. Often, people that mentor find that it improves their own skills – both as a technician, and as an educator.
6. Ask for feedback & ideas. I often get more inspiration out of comments, questions, and resources that attendees at my classes offer than I do out of my own reading. The ability to integrate the experiences (and lessons) of other people into our work allows us to offer a far wider perspective than we would otherwise be able to.
7. Stay humble. No matter how fantastic your skill set is, there is always room for a new technique, a new way of looking at things, or a better practice. As soon as we think we know it all, we close ourselves off to new experiences and risk becoming obsolete. And really – nobody wants to be “that person” that knows everything and eschews any other way of thinking.
8. Network with other educators. Nothing helps us plan our next steps like knowing what the options are, and our colleagues (whether non-professional or professional) are the ones who are already thinking about the same things we are. By sharing our experiences and asking each other questions, we can become better at finding our own direction & developing classes that we’re excited about.