Being an instructor is not just about being a subject matter expert. It’s not just about educating, or coaching, or even facilitating learning.
It’s a performance art.
I was a stage performer all of my youth and into my mid twenties. Dance, theatre, music - stage performance was interwoven into the foundation of my life. In high school, when the emotional climate was far too much for my empathetic body to handle, I would escape during study periods to the empty auditorium and play the grand piano that sat backstage. The stage was my refuge. It was my home.
I notice patterns, and I’ve found that many things I used to do to mentally prep for a performance have transferred over to what I do right before I teach a class. One of the main things is that right as I’m about to speak at the start of class, I center myself, tap into a sense of gratitude for the opportunity I’ve been given, and smile. I usually start with a greeting, and ask how everyone is doing. I might as well be holding a guitar and be about to play a show. I still have a sense of presence, the responsibility that underlies that, and the weight of what it means to be the lead or focal point of a group. Although the setting has changed and the people in front of me are paying quite a bit more than what the cost used to be to hear me sing, the essence is the same: my students expect and deserve a good show. Would you go see a band perform again if the last time you’d seen them, they were unenthusiastic, unreliable, or ill equipped to perform? Not likely.
So, here’s my point: as an instructor, you are making the choice to enter a role where consistency is a necessity. In life, the people around you might forgive you if you can’t always be at your best, and that’s good. We need for others to flex for us and we need to do that for them. But when it’s your job to be a stage performer, even without the stage, you don’t get to slack. You bring that enthusiasm and remind yourself everyday why the opportunity to teach is a gift. Even when it gets hard, or when you feel like you’re not reaching all of your students, just keep being your best self. Because whether you like it or not, everyone’s watching and they deserve to see you shine.