Roxanna Elden

Professional development isn’t the only place where you can develop professionally. If you’re paying attention, the elements of good instruction can be found in many contexts, including experiences that are already a part of your life. The real-life situations below don’t involve a single PowerPoint slide, and they might improve your teaching more than an hour in your school’s auditorium.

Comedy clubs. If you ever attend an amateur comedy contest, you’ll notice that beginning comics face some of the same classroom-management-style issues that pop up in your classroom. Sure, audience members are adults, but they’ve been drinking, and drunk people can be a lot like kids: They have short attention spans, and they don’t always realize how loud they are talking. Just like good teachers, experienced comics can make “owning the room” look easy. That’s because they’ve had years to practice fundamental skills like timing and body language. They’ve also developed seemingly spontaneous responses for the guy yelling, “You suck!” from the back of the room. Just remember that every top comedian was a beginner once. So was every master teacher.

Just like good teachers, experienced comics can make “owning the room” look easy.

Workout classes. Group exercise classes can teach us a lot about motivation. After all, how often do you see people doing Zumba or boot camp moves on their own? If you attend a workout class that you like, ask yourself what the instructor does to raise the energy level of the group and keep everyone focused. How does she keep exercisers from slacking during a workout? How does she keep you from skipping class? Answering these questions lets you build teaching skills as you build muscle tone. (You overachiever, you!) Another thing workouts teach us is that motivators vary from person to person. If you prefer to work out solo, or if you only hit the gym during New Year’s resolution week, you can probably relate to the introverted or reluctant students in your classroom.

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