While pursuing acting in Los Angeles in the late 1980’s, I once heard a seasoned stand-up comic advise a novice comedian to, “Tell every new joke as if you’ve told it a million times, and tell every old joke as if you’ve never told it before.”  Not only was it revelatory advice for comedy, but I think it’s true for education as well.    

We have to provide our students with the wonder and the spontaneity and the magic of a lesson–even if we have taught that lesson every year since The English Renaissance.

On the other hand, we need to have the confidence to present new material as if we are intimately familiar with the content, the expectation, and the outcome.  Better yet, we need to teach with the attitude that, even if we’re not entirely sure where the lesson will end up, we have the confidence that it will be someplace cool and worthy and full of really excellent learning.  That’s what a comedian does when she works out with new material–riffs on a topic until she mines comedy gold. And much like a teacher, a comedian must practice in front of real live people, even when it doesn’t go so well.

So where is the Zen in all of this?  

The Yin and Yang of this approach will increase your sense of peace and equanimity in the classroom and provide your students with a sense of security because no matter what lesson you teach, you will be confident in your approach, the material, and the outcome (anticipated or not) and your students will be confident that you know what you’re doing and they will trust you to help them find those moments where both you and they can be truly present in their learning.

And if you’re lucky, you might just get a few smiles and laughs along the way. TZT