Thursday, January 31, 2013

Life As a Genealogy Instructor

I love teaching, especially genealogy classes. It is stressful, time consuming, unpredictable and very rewarding. The hours just to put together a presentation and then having to update before every lecture can never be truly measured. Unlike other presenters, I do not practice the presentations out loud. Every class with me is unique, open to questions and sometimes sidetracked as those are answered. Somehow the time is magically consumed, but we manage to end pretty much on schedule.

There is also great enjoyment in observing others teach genealogy classes. Often I am there to discover their style of teaching, and what I do and don't like about that style. The students also are interesting to watch as you see how they absorb the material being presented. We all have different learning styles, some of us are auditory learners and others are visual learners. That is why it is so important to incorporate different mediums in the course of teaching.

The tools I use in teaching are Power Point, a printout of the slides, and a written handout for the participants. The goal is to provide a visual outline of the presentation, which also keeps me on track. The handout is so the class can follow along and not have to keep notes for the entire presentation. My goal is to provide the Internet links, the titles of books and other resources that will assist them in their research. On each handout is my contact information and my blog for things posted there. Not everyone likes Power Point and this week a student in a survey requested I not read what is on the screen. Unfortunately due to my lack of memory, these slides are used to convey the important points that will further the discussion. It is important to balance the amount of text slides with screen shots, so as to break up the monotony of the slides. Most presenters observed use the same technique, yet in different ways.

My first chosen major in college was Elementary Education and the required classes served me well even as my major was changed to Family History. The required assignments in classes helped me to develop my teaching skills. In one class we were actually video taped and then analyzed the results of our teaching as a class. Being adaptable to the teaching situation is one key point in successful classes. Teaching in church positions, in school settings with my children and in volunteer civic positions was all part of my development.

We are not meant to be perfect teachers. Improvement over the course of time is important. The use of evaluations and participant comments are great tools in further development. For every negative comment received there are always more positive comments. Be aware that some people may just be having a bad day and you might receive the brunt of their frustrations. Not every person is willing to do evaluations, so we need to be appreciative of those who are and learn from their comments.

My average of presentations is about twenty a year or two a month. This year is off to a good start. In the last two weeks I taught four presentations, two of which were the class. With the variety of complications that can arise these classes were some of the most difficult. Teaching when one has a cough or is sick is very challenging. One class in hindsight should have been canceled. Every time when teaching I say to myself it is only for one hour and I can do this. The pre-presentation nerves are awful. It is great to teach in places that one is familiar with, even better when there are friends in the audience.

This week when walking away the sense of success buoyed me up. In mastering my new projector and laptop set up, being early and relaxed, with materials set out, a bottle of water beside me, the class was ready to go on. Overall genealogy class participants are a patient, understanding crowd, who are very eager to learn. You too can have successful opportunities to be a presenter. It does take confidence and if you need to practice find a good friend to provide feedback. We all have valuable information that can help others in their genealogy pursuits and teaching is a fantastic way to share.

1 comment:

  1. Susan, this was an excellent post. I agree with every part of it, especially in attending lectures just to see how others teach, and the response of the audience. A good teacher will be aware of the interest level of the audience, and will know when to "switch gears".

    Great writing!