Updated: Sep 18, 2019
(Originally written May 22nd, 2018)
This morning I read an article about "how not to teach whitewater kayaking." The article was written by a female instructor that had learned a few lessons in her first four years of teaching kayaking. The article was fun to read and very insightful. She shared some of the many mistakes she had made before she knew any better. Her first "blunder" that she admits to was not bringing an extra paddle for emergencies. She lost her paddle one day after going through some rapids but was able to recover it. From that day forward, an extra paddle became a permanent fixture on her "gear list."
The next couple of lessons she learned, I have to confess... I have committed myself. Apparently telling a group of beginner-level paddlers your horror stories, is not a good idea. Some may feel excited about the mishaps in adventure while some may cower in fear which may cause them to panic in crucial moments. She then writes, "Instruction isn't about you and how you've survived, it's about empowering your students to persist through their own challenges, not carry yours in the backs of their minds." This lesson is so true! It's easy to talk about how you came out alive. How you didn't die. How you survived to tell about it. Like a man that just returned from a trip in the mountains that is now sitting around with a few buddies and sharing about his close encounter with a grizzly. Some will say, "Wow! That's crazy!" while secretly wishing that it had happened to them, while others will say, "I'm glad that wasn't me. I could never have done that." Today, I came across a quote that embodies this very idea: "It always seems impossible, until it's done."
There will always be risk in growth. The author of the article adds that it's easy to limit those we teach to somehow try to keep them from taking risks. The challenge is to find the balance. Without challenge, participants get bored, while too much challenge puts people at risk of injury or worse. As a guy, I have regular bouts with thoughts of inadequacy. "I'm not like..." or "Man! that guy has really got it together," are often the thoughts that trip me up and keep me from challenging myself from taking on the grizzly and coming out alive.
Furthermore, the final point of the article struck me the hardest. The instructor encouraged other instructors to "remember that even though you're leading, you aren't infallible either." She then added, "The best part of learning to teach is to never stop being a student yourself." As I have pursued different jobs or adventures, many times I have felt inadequate or unskilled. I often felt that I had to "fake it till I make it." As a result of these ongoing bouts, I discovered that I don't have to feel discouraged or inadequate because I have the capacity to learn. The ironic truth that I have found, is that even the people we look up to and respect are also looking up to others and thinking, "I'm not where that person is in the journey-of-life," and often feel guilty or even defeated.
Victory has come to me in these thoughts, "You may not be where you want to be -but you're growing. You have the capacity to learn. Be patient with yourself. Remain teachable."