Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Be a Tour Guide

During our travels, we did a lot of sightseeing that involved having a “tour guide.” When we went to Jewel Caves National Monument and Wind Caves National Park, both caves required tour tickets to get in the caves. When we went to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, we had a guided tour by the park ranger. All of these sites were wonderful to see but I was really impressed with the difference the guides made. I guess as a teacher, I’m always critiquing the guides and comparing it to my teaching. I noticed when the guides were excited about what they were showing, it really showed when they talked about their subject. The ones that really enjoyed what they were doing knew their subject and facts about their subject and were willing to answer any questions that you had. At one place, the ranger talked in a monotone as if he had memorized this talk. He didn’t add anything else and I didn’t feel encouraged to ask any questions. Of course, I didn’t enjoy that place as much as I did the others. I’m not sure one place was any better than another because the subject matter was different, but I enjoyed the ones where the ranger was a great tour guide. All of this reminded me of things that I learned in college about teaching and how some of them really did apply (sometimes I wondered how much of the textbook learning was really relevant in the classroom.)

Know my subject. This is really important because the people listening to me will sense if I know my subject. It will show in my voice and in my body language. If I don’t know my subject, my voice and actions will not be as confident. My audience will not have confidence in what I am sharing with them. There is also something appealing about listening to someone who you feel really knows what they are talking about.

Organize what I am saying. If I jump around from one topic to another, it won’t make sense. If the audience can’t follow what I’m trying to tell them, they will shut me out. They will look at the things that I’m showing them but it won’t be as meaningful to them. I think it’s important to make sure that I link each new step to the previous step. If I don’t, sometimes it takes too much energy from the student to follow along so they give up.

Add personal stories. When I add personal stories that connect the subject to my life, it makes it more interesting. People love personal stories. It also makes it seem more real to audience. When we saw historical sites, they almost seemed fictional but if the ranger shared his own personal story about it, it made it interesting. I understand that they might not have lived during the time of the event, but even connecting it with when or how he learned about it or how it affected him made a difference. When I told my students where I was when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, they seemed in awe because to them, John F. Kennedy didn’t seem like a real person. Here was someone who had seen and heard him when he was alive.

Open to questions. Allowing questions is so important. If I don’t leave enough time for questions, it seems like I’m afraid that someone will ask me something I don’t know. If I don’t know the answer, the students respect me when I tell them I don’t know but I will try to find the answer for them.

I realized after being with these guides that being a teacher is just like that. Being a teacher is like being a tour guide. I am taking the students on a trip and I am their tour guide. When I teach them about history, I am taking them on a trip through time and I can either make it an interesting visit or make it a horrible time to endure so it is so important how I present the information. When I teach about a subject, I hope to be successful and if it takes being a tour guide, then I’m more than willing to do so.



Tammy Worcester said...

How true! I love the analogy!

mindelei said...

That's funny because that is the analogy I use with my students. I tell them how our journey is like a vacation and I'm the guide on their tour. I won't always know everything, but I'll certainly help them find out. Plus, they can always use my expertise on what we're discovering together!

loonyhiker said...

@Tammy: Thanks for reading!

loonyhiker said...

@mindelei Glad to hear that! I guess great minds think alike! :)