I say it often: Teaching is pretty much the Family Business. My mom was a school nurse in East Chicago, Gary, and Hammond for 30 years. My mother-in-law taught elementary school for 21 years, and now in retirement is a classroom aide in Las Vegas. My older brother was a civilian instructor for the Navy during his 30 years in the Army reserves. And my uncle (an engineer and then a lawyer) taught middle school math while he was in grad school.
It’s what we do.
My oldest son has his heart set on police work, which is cool. I personally think he’d make a great history teacher, an area of personal interest for him. But in the meantime, he is (among other things) a Life Teen Junior Core Member at our parish. So, he’s doing a little teaching, usually in small-group settings but often addressing a room full of high school students after Mass on Sunday evenings.
So Sunday morning he’s preparing a talk he’ll give to high school students later that night about “accepting difficult teachings”.
No pressure, right? Also, somewhat ironic.
Staring at a blank google doc that stays blank is very frustrating. Especially when the clock is ticking.
It’s his talk and he’s gotta write it, but… Can I help? Because 900 performances a year for 14 years has to be worth something to somebody. And, teachers gonna teach.
So, hoping to give him some guidance on building a coherent and compelling talk, I pose two questions: “What’s your takeaway for them?”, and “How do you want to hook them in at the start?”
He settled in on using some anecdotes from a concert that we (and several of the kids he’d be talking with) all attended the night before. A comment made by the lead singer while introing a song really stuck with him, and I suggested that if that line spoke to him, it probably would resonate with his audience too. It was a common experience that they could all use as an anchor. He was wise enough to see that would be a great tool for getting buy-in for his talk.
Now that he’s on a roll, I dish out a handful of tools from my Blog Writing 101 bag:
- Type words and phrases as they come into your head. before they evaporate. Don’t worry about complete sentences, or even punctuation. You can flesh it out later. Get the important points down and go from there.
- Use all your resources. Life Teen publishes a guide book with suggestions for each Life Night. Is there anything in there you can take and run with? Especially with the more technical parts of your talk?
- Develop a theme or conceit. Is there a phrase that summarizes your point? A little repetition can be a valuable tool for getting a point to stick.
- Write like you talk. The Talk has to be in your voice. I could tell it sounded like him just by peeking over his shoulder and reading a few lines.
- Get another set of eyes on it, especially for proofreading (grammar and spelling).
- And one from my radio days: Read it. The whole thing. Out loud. You’d be amazed how a clever turn of phrase on paper turns into a tongue-twister when spoken aloud.
He’s been in their seats, just a few years ago. He knows what kind of Life Night talks kept his interest and what kind went in one ear and out the other. “Would I want to sit and listen to 10 or 15 minutes of what I just wrote?”
Lastly, we talked visuals. Wifi is a recent upgrade to the Life Teen Center, so he had the option to punch things up with media. He ended up using a piece of the VeggieTales episode “Dave And The Giant Pickle“, and this one:
Writing themes and persuasive essays was not my son’s idea of a good time in high school. But here, a few years later, given an opportunity to tell a story that mattered to him, he put together a solid presentation.
He came home Sunday evening feeling like things went pretty well.
Cool. I was happy for him. And glad I could lend a hand.
Because Teachers Gonna Teach. In and out of season.