01: Lessons from Learners

After the lesson is planned, rubric is determined and seats are filled, there comes a moment of positive magic: When the instructor connects with a class. It is when each steps through a portal, learner and teacher together, and the world outside disappears. The line between teaching and learning becomes blurred and all are transported for a moment. Here, the curriculum gives way to an experience that is communal and genuinely interesting. I call this “teacher’s high”. It is wonderfully addictive and the reason I fell in love with teaching.

My subject-matter expertise lies in small business development, business plan writing and first year launch. I have been teaching adults of varying ages in this area for just over five years and have supported the launch of several hundred businesses. The program I teach is highly experiential where the student plans their business and then executes the plan with the support of the instructors and cohort.  Not all are successful, mind you. Like most things, there exists a curve where some are wildly successful, most are sustainable and profitable, and some just fall flat. Whether or not they survive rests with the business owner, but what I hope they take from the lessons are a spirit of entrepreneurship which can be applied to nearly every pursuit in life.

Beyond teaching, I have had a small business of my own since 2003, started much the same way as my students do: Bootstrapping. I also had very little experience in business and no idea what I was doing. Over the years I had many successes and failures which I pull from for my classes. Students seem to enjoy the stories and sometimes ask me to “tell that story again”. I tend to embellish for dramatic effect and it is likely I may be doing that now.

Outside of the classroom, I spend time with my family hiking, going to swim practices and working on home improvements. I enjoy long runs early in the morning when I can fit them in, talking with friends over a glass of wine and stopping at lemonade stands to chat with young entrepreneurs.

After over a thousand hours of lesson delivery,  I have realized that overwhelmingly the best lessons are when the learning is bounced around among students, leaving the instructor to act as a skillful and subtle guide. Through comments and questions, feedback and assignments, students have helped shape future curriculum for others, thus increasing accessibility of entrepreneurship as career option.

My intention for this course is to become more available to student feedback and expeditious in actually DOING something with that feedback. Through simple, structured and intentional tools I hope to simplify student feedback channels and implement a routine where feedback learning is implemented.

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