Recently, I came to the realization that I was approaching each and every teaching opportunity as an experiment. As opposed to a set way of leading a discussion, I needed to different styles at each and every opportunity.
I think I had come to the realization that the style to which I was accustomed – a bunch of texts are brought and the group discusses them in order on the page(s) – was just not working well. It simply was not as engaging of a modality for my constituency, primarily university students and young adults (20s-30s). Whether they did not want to look at all of the texts or though it a bit much, I have recognized that the style needed to change. (One possibility is that the university students are dealing with their own classes and readings for classes, so they want a space to relax and not have to engage so cerebrally.)
Granted, I am most comfortable in that style: that’s what I was used to in rabbinical school and it also allows me to demonstrate to them how certain readings of the texts are to be [understood]. Furthermore, I am a very visual learner, so written/printed texts laid out in front of me are ideal for my comprehension. However, that doesn’t seem to be the best for my constituency.
So, some of my experiments have been either simply discussing with them about the topic at hand, such as my Hanukah discussion with the Hillel at CSUF or yesterday’s discussion with Long Beach Hillel. Granted, for that style of discussion, I need to know the material and texts well enough that I don’t need them in front of me, so this modality only works for certain topics.
Another style is to have the text(s) in people’s hands and have them go around and engage with each other. An instance of this is last weekend at the tenth annual Jewlicious Festival, where I spontaneously to have the participants rotate in pairs in discussing elements of the text and had them come back together to discuss it as a group. This style encourages people to meet others and to engage more deeply with the text.
Now that I have begun experimenting and trying out a different style each time I now teach, I am looking forward to seeing what I learn what is more effective and what is less effective….