It might at first blush sound odd for a teacher or conductor to say, but I don’t much like being the center of attention. I do love actual teaching (most days) and leading ensembles (pretty much all the time), but when faced with a choice of being with a group or being with one or two, or just being alone, I’m hard-pressed to choose the group.
When leading means putting a foot forward, I often experience a sense of inertia until I’m comfortable.
Recently, I put a foot forward in terms of teaching from the scriptures. It felt somewhat uncomfortable — because I’m out of practice, not exactly by choice, and because I’m new here — but I did it, anyway. It was, in fact, a snowy day.
My second snow-shoed foot actually followed, this time. In the 10 years that have transpired between Missouri and Wyoming, I’ve learned a little something about how to frame things and how not to tick people off.
I enjoyed the two-week teaching experience and put a lot into it. I would evaluate myself with an A for the first class and a B or B+ for the second. I’m guessing my average “course evaluations”¹ (if such existed) from the students who experienced those classes would be high to very high ratings, although not everything was understandable or understood. Since then, I’ve had another guest teaching spot and did maybe A- work there.
But I am thinking it will be better not to put another foot forward in terms of leading worship or even just teaching songs. My feelings are too raw, my opinions, too strongly held; my abilities and experiences, too much in the spotlight.
And so, I’m drawing the foot back again. It’s warmer when it’s not out there in front.
Addendum, approximately three weeks after having written the above:
I’m not very bright. I put the foot out there again. And I was encouraged to leave it out there and put one foot in front of the other, so to speak. So I started teaching a Wednesday evening class on Mark. I am as convinced that I need focus on one of the gospels as I am that this study will help others. Both the first class and the future prospects seem to have been enthusiastically received — even by one or two countenances in the room that strike me as not being on the same wavelength as I am. The very next day, though, I was hit with a rather severe discouragement from a longtime friend. I don’t say this with the sardonic manner of Dana Carvey in the old SNL “Church Lady” character: Do you think it might have been Satan?
¹ Student course evaluations in college courses are, at best, overrated. At worst, they are farces. While administrations and regents and education boards and other business people (read: non-educators commissioned by overblown, ill-conceived structures to make educational decisions) find them to be valid means of holding educators accountable, the evaluations rarely offer enough real insight to offset the damage they can do in terms of institutional effort, to name one aspect. Course evaluations contribute to students’ collective sense of entitlement as “paying customers,” and this paradigm spells trouble. Course evaluations may provide a moment for the most appreciative students to pay kind compliments or to affirm something good, but they often just help students “mouth off.” I was once told by a then-somewhat-respected administrator, “Students can ruin you.” The wine of sour grapes flows freely during the completion of course evaluations. Course evaluations can engender the false impression that any picayune student’s under-informed opinions about anything might actually have something to do with education, credentials, teaching, or learning.²
² Dear A.A. in S.G., whaddythink of that rant? 🙂