Truly Powerful People (137)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

It is 1984 and I am teaching my first acting class to high school students in a summer theatre program. I am certain that I do not know what I am doing and am more interested in hiding than in confessing my disbelief in myself (I would learn later that great teachers know that they know nothing so there is nothing to hide); I am still under the misguided notion that a teacher should be the answer-man.

I have been preparing for weeks and although I have a degree in acting, although I have just spent a year in an intern program for actors, although I actually have lots of thoughts about what to teach actors, I am still convinced that I know nothing and need to pretend that I know something of value. I have meticulously constructed my first day so that there will be no room for questions (questions are dangerous when you have to be the answer-man). My plan leaves no air for breathing and no chance for uncertainty: control is the driving force and agenda of my plan (education based on the teacher’s needs and not on the student’s needs will always lead to a culture of control).

The students enter the room for the first time and I am immediately thrown out of my plan, knocked off my center, standing naked in barren land of what-do-I-do-now; what I had identified as the beginning point, the zero point, is still too far advanced for my students. Control is no longer the problem; I actually have to begin where they are, not where I assumed they would be – which is to say that I have to start asking questions. I hadn’t considered that their zero was different than my zero. In the first 5 minutes of my first class I was required to say, “I don’t know, let’s find out.” What a gift!

By some divine wisdom I knew enough not to force them down a road of meaninglessness coverage of material based on my need to control their destination. We started where they were. We pursued questions that were relevant for them. We had a blast and everyone learned – especially me.

These are the lessons from my first class – they are life lessons:
• Know nothing.
• You have to be knocked off center to grow.
• You have to be willing to stand in the discomfort; to deny the experience is to protect yourself from learning
• “I don’t know, let’s find out” is the where the juice of life is. It is also the key to great teaching and learning.
• Cultures of control (internal and external) are signs that the essential intention is lost in a jungle of fear. What you are trying to hide is the thing that most needs to be seen.

Pay attention to what you are trying to control; release your grip and you’ll always find the love.

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