How to Prepare for Teaching at an International Convention

What did I get myself into?

World Balloon ConventionOK, you get the call that you will be one of the few accepted to teach at an International convention. You get overjoyed that it is you that will be there! You are selected! You get to share! What do they want you to teach / what do you want to teach? Alright now what level are you going to teach your subject at? Beginner? Regular? Advanced? Figure out at least four classes to teach so that you can have something that people want to learn! Keep them different so that you can fit in with what the other teachers will want to teach – well, so there is no duplication in the subjects taught in the convention. Not an easy task but not too, too difficult.

Next your work really begins. You have to decide which way will the people attending (which we will call student) will learn the most. The decision between hands on or just as a lecture is a big one. The student will want to twist right along with you. But, can they grasp it easy enough so that they can keep up with you or is it more difficult and you will be getting students to slow down the class by asking how to do the simpler twists that they haven’t learned yet. This last thing occurs a lot when you teach, because nobody considers themselves to be a “beginner” skill level. They feel they have done parties and events and can make around 10 or more different items so they aren’t “beginners” – They are in the “regular” level that is open to attend almost every class! Trust me, I am not putting any of the students down! The reality is, there are more attendees in this skill level than we or they think. BUT they are doing the right thing by attending the convention. Where else are they going to learn from the teachers that they have heard about in the magazines, the different web sites that talk about the teachers and from attendees at other conventions? Where else are they going to learn how to improve their business and their skill level?

So now you have all of this on your mind when you are putting your class together. Subject, Hands-On, Skill Level, what kind of balloons and how many are you going to need in the class, and is there going to be a handout.

Now your joy becomes, “what the heck did I get myself into?” It is something that crosses your mind when trying to put your class together because of all the work. Well, for me, it doesn’t last too long, especially when what you will teach is something that is “new” to the balloon community or at least something that a lot of students want or need to learn.

So you have gone through and decided the subject and the skill level. Is it hands on or not? Are you going to be able to get the lesson across in the time allotted AND through all of the balloon squeaking? Are you going to have to teach the basic twists? One of the ways I have learned how to get through that is to have a couple of willing students to help other students get through the twists and catch up to the point you are teaching. The other way to deal with it is to just announce that you won’t stop and teach the basic twists. Unfortunately, this is a good way to keep on track and get all of your information across. Some of us (ME) get side-tracked very easy and you have to constantly go back to where you left off. This is distracting and hard to let the students learn. A little side-tracking can be fun, but don’t let it overshadow the lesson.

OK, all of this is somewhat decided. Now you need to make yourself an outline of what you are teaching so that you don’t miss anything. I hate to leave some little thing out that is very important but something that is natural to me but new to others. This can happen so easily because everybody’s style is different. What you have done all the time is something that others might not do at all. You have to be aware of that.

Alright, you have decided the subject, the skill level, hands-on or not and you have made your outline. That’s it right?” Nope! One thing that I do is to make sure I am available to the students after the class and around the convention so that I can answer questions and help them out with what they learned in my class. That’s not the end of it but it is pretty much what the preparation entails so that the message gets out and you have budding experts running around and sharing what they know!!

That, I think is what it is all about. Sharing what you know so the balloon community grows and the product gets even better!!!! My biggest influence was and is Marvin Hardy and sharing is what it is all about. I love to teach and happy to get to teach at these conventions and see all the bright new faces and the friends that I don’t get to see often.

Now, how do you survive the convention?  Next time!

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