Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Teachers are great students, contrary to popular belief. The Civil Defence people came over to teach us staff how to save lives in an emergency, but I also got to see how fantastic lessons are conducted as well.

We ran three modules in one afternoon: fire fighting, CPR and first-aid. They could have been dreadfully dull as they involved us learning procedures for dealing with various types of emergencies, but we had a ball of a time instead.

Some things the trainers did right:
(1) Invoked self-interest -- we saved our lives and those of our friends too
(2) Liberally used self-deprecating humour -- they didn't take themselves or their content too seriously
(3) Delivered only core ideas -- just enough theory for background understanding but not to confuse or bore us
(4) Lots of stories -- we could vividly visualize the situations we had to respond to
(5a) A variety of media -- text and visual...
(5b) A variety of practical activities -- contextual and tactile
(6) Highly participatory, spontaneous presenter-audience interaction -- non-threatening environment giving free-rein to questions and responses from both parties

But most of the enjoyment from this afternoon's session was due to (6). We staff may have been bored and tired, but we were fully participating in the lessons anyway. We asked as many questions as the trainers asked us, we answered questions voluntarily even if we didn't know if our answers were right (we didn't take it personally if we were wrong, sorry B-lo), we threw observations, comments and questions as they occurred to us even if it meant interrupting the presentation. We took every opportunity to engage, sometimes even make the trainer eat his words (like making him confess that Chapter 1 in the Training Manual had some outdated information).

We had a great time, 'cos we wanted to learn, and more importantly, we wanted to play and have fun with the trainers and their programme. That, I think, is already half the battle in creating a lively, constructive learning environment -- the learners themselves having a good reason (whatever it is) for attending class.

Ha! Everything I learned about teaching, I learned from a firefighter.

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