One of the philosophies that I regularly pursue in my professional and personal life is a dedication to lifelong learning. Forcing myself out of my comfort bubble and into new experiences that stimulate my own learning and growth is something that I find both rewarding and challenging.
Recently, I undertook an opportunity to work with a new company, Learn From Neighbor, where I was asked to teach an interest class to a group of adults on a topic that I considered myself an “expert” in. Trying to think of an interesting subject that you are qualified to teach to a group of peers is quite a challenge, but after much consideration I decided that a mixology course might be right up my alley.
Now, my kindergarten days are typically filled with Dr. Seuss, counting by fives, and tying shoelaces, so the thought of teaching a group of adult students how to shake and stir their way to professional-level cocktails was quite intimidating in comparison. I can teach the alphabet with relative confidence that I won’t make any errors, but correctly relaying the detailed history of alcohol consumption in America seemed like a much more daunting task. I also felt uncertain about what the teacher-student relationship would look like between myself and a group of adult students. Surely they wouldn’t find it as endearing as my usual audience does if I referred to them as “friends” or “boys and girls.”
Ultimately, teaching this course proved to be far less challenging than I had imagined. As the trusted mixology expert in the room, I was aware that a professional rapport existed between myself and the students, but I was also able to connect with the students on a more personal level than I have ever experienced before. Their questions evolved from asking why a Moscow Mule is traditionally served in a copper mug to how my husband and I met – a story that I could never share with my kindergarten friends. My concerns about remembering the complicated course content quickly faded away as I described different types of whiskey to a room full of nodding heads, and my faithful assistant – my husband – was crucial in heightening the course experience as he tirelessly prepared classic cocktails for the students to sample.
One of the most meaningful realizations I gained from this experience is that deep inside of myself exists an “inner teacher” that I can truly depend on. No matter the subject matter or classroom setting, I have the ability to generate excitement, curiosity, wonder, a sense of community, and fun learning environment for diverse groups of students. And not unlike my kindergarten classroom, I even received a few hugs at the end of the day – a gesture that many teachers understand as a genuine and humbling measure of success.