teacher

I Had An Epiphany. But It Was So Counter-Culture, I Initially Kept It To Myself.

Some months ago, after some conversations I had, I had an epiphany.

It could explain, at least in part, some of the nagging doubts I’ve been having throughout this year.

This is what I realised about myself, and I wrote it down in these words:

I DON'T want to touch as many lives as possible.

Before you frown any deeper, there is a second part:

I want to deeply impact a very few.

Splash

For so many years, I keep hearing advice about increasing my reach so I can impact as many lives as possible.

For example, I hear of music stars who record a single song and, because it reaches so many of their fans so quickly through so many channels, they earn a tidy income from the exposure. Their fans convert the people around them into more fans, advertisers can’t wait to sign them up for endorsement deals, and they get invited to exclusive events and perform on ever-larger stages.

It’s all about gaining leverage and using it to get yourself out of exchanging time for money. In the music star’s case, the recording of the song required spending time once. After that, it constantly ‘works for’ the star.

music

It sounded logical. And it was.

And I kept hearing this, especially from well-meaning fellow educators and trainers, especially those I knew from networking events and meetups.

Yet, there was always something about it that didn’t sit quite right with me. I didn’t know what it was, until recently.

It was the ‘volume’ of people that I was being told I had to reach that was bothering me. But why? What could have brought this on?

As I dug a little deeper, I was reminded of the times when I just started being a trainer and got affected by less-than-stellar feedback. Though these incidents didn’t happen often, every time they did, I felt bad.

Eventually, I learned to remove my focus on the negative feedback because they were the tiny minority. Most of my feedback was good. Some were great!

Good Feedback

Why should I have to feel low if I had already tried multiple times to engage the student who ended up deciding that he/she didn’t want to be there in the first place and was adamant about keeping a bad attitude about it?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on those who were eager to learn and apply themselves?

And these were the memories that made me realise that I had known all along that what I wanted to do was to focus - very sharply - on the very few upon whom I know I can have the greatest impact because we were compatible and we found each other at the right place at the right time. Sounds almost like a love story, doesn’t it?

Neon Laser

I was then reminded of three students that I taught. Two of them went on to pursue education paths in the subject matter that I taught them, one locally and one overseas. In recent conversation, they expressed their gratitude for my being part of their decisions to learn more.

Another one became my colleague - a fellow trainer - teaching the same types of courses that I do even today.

Out of the thousands of students I’ve had, of whom I still keep in touch with a few, these were three that pointedly remind me about why I do what I do.

This is what I want to keep doing - to find the very few for whom I can deliver the deepest impact and help them effect the greatest change.

Doubtlessly, it will entail a certain amount of ‘outreach’, but this recent realisation has sharpened my focus and it will feature strongly in my goals for the upcoming year.

2019 Begins

Nature Nurtured - Listening to Mr. Subaraj Rajathurai

On Monday night, at the SG100 Foundation Meeting, our speaker was Mr. Subaraj Rajathurai, a lifelong naturalist and a wildlife consultant. Honestly, I can think of very few professions cooler than that.

When he took the platform, I could feel the passion behind his words as he told us about his humble beginnings and the immense work he had done to push for the conversation of what we now know as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, amongst other little-known but no-less-massive efforts to preserve Singapore's wildlife and its habitats.

He highlighted some of his favourite animals and showed us that Singapore, despite being a tiny country, has some of the richest biodiversity in the world due both to our geographical location (close to the equator) and the age of our rainforests (older than even the majestic Amazon).

When he came to the topic of rapid development and urbanisation of Singapore, he emphasised that he saw this as a necessary part of Singapore's growth, though he was firm in his belief that it needs to be done in a responsible manner and with respect to the natural environment.

To this day, he works in his favourite classroom - The Great Outdoors - both as a teacher and as a student. He gives guided tours, conducts nature programmes, and does field surveys alongside other researchers and nature enthusiasts.

Mr. Subaraj is a man I highly respect. He lives his life in the pursuit of learning and passing on what he has learned, and he encourages others to do the same.

He reminds us that we cannot live apart from our natural environment, that if we care for nature, nature takes care of us.

Thank you for sharing your life and your passion, Mr. Subaraj. Through your words, I am inspired.

Mr Subaraj

Advice on Becoming a Public Speaker from Dr. Andrew Goh

A little over a week ago, I had an opportunity to speak to Dr. Andrew Goh. 

I told him,

"Dr. Andrew, you may not remember me. A few years ago, I asked you for advice on becoming a public speaker. Today, I am well on my way. Thank you for your advice."

I then gave him two copies of The Introvert Teacher, one addressed to him and the other to pass on to anyone he wants.

This was the advice he gave to me. The elaboration is my own:

1) Volunteer to Speak and Practise

At the start, the only way to get known and gain recognition is to speak whenever you have an opportunity.

Also, you are going to need the practice and volunteering yourself will help you to figure out your niche topic, which brings us to...

2) Have a Specific Topic

It's all too easy to take on any and all projects that come your way. 

However, being a generalist can be confusing, especially for those who are looking for speakers on a particular subject. It also makes you less memorable to those who have already heard you if you tell them that you can do 'any topic you need'.

People look to experts. Establish yourself as one.

3) Once Established, Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Speaking Fees

At some point, you are going to have to be paid if you intend to embark on speaking as a career.

This can and does happen organically but the surest way is to ask.

Start by getting the organisers to cover your travel expenses, even if it's just a taxi ride.

From there, as you gain confidence, ask for more. Be reasonable. You probably shouldn't ask for 10 thousand dollars per hour if you only started speaking 2 months ago (unless you're already some sort of celebrity) but, hey! If you get it, that'd be quite an achievement.

Still, be firm in your requests. If you give in too easily, you are only shortchanging yourself.

Thank you, Dr. Andrew, for being a teacher I look up to and for taking the time to advise me.

With Dr. Andrew Goh

Celebrating Teachers' Day at the 132nd APTS Meeting

On 31st Aug 2017, I presented The Trainer's Toolbox at the 132nd APTS Meeting. 

Though it was targeted at newer trainers, the veteran trainers affirmed that they learned something as well. Now, before you think that they were just 'being nice', allow me to explain how the meeting went.

As a new initiative suggested by the committee of APTS, member speakers will give a presentation that will be subject to evaluation. Feedback will be given at the end of the presentation so that the speaker can be alerted to any possible blind spots and areas of improvement. This was all explained beforehand so the member speakers will know what they are getting themselves into.

I started my presentation by expounding on apples as fruit associated with knowledge. With that information in mind, I had a small gift for each trainer present. As they, too, are teachers, I gave each of them apple-flavoured candy. I had considered actual apples but I found candy to be more portable and less perishable.

The presentation proper continued, as I covered points on how to make any training session impactful by utilising specific techniques and taking certain actions.

Though my presentation went slightly overtime, it was well-received and I was applauded for keeping a consistent, polished delivery.

This was deemed worthy of comment as most of my fellow trainers agreed that, should they have known that they were being evaluated, they would have been more than a little distracted.

In turn, I assured them that it wasn't anything close to natural talent but a result of constant, dedicated practice over many years and that they, too, can achieve similar results.

The areas of improvement mainly revolved around the content I was using - how certain areas could be clarified further, certain parts could be more concise and other parts could be expanded. 

There was also a very useful bit of feedback on providing more audience-related examples. As the audience that evening would be trainers, the examples and stories to be presented could be more related to training and improving oneself as a trainer.

All in all, it was a fruitful (pardon the pun) evening and I am glad that many of the trainers took something useful back with them. If possible, I'd love to give another presentation.

After all, one can never get too much practice.

With David Lee