Saturday, February 19, 2011

Teaching as an art form

Something I have wanted to do since I was a Senior in college was to teach design at the highest level of public or private education. Essentially, to be able to teach people who were solely in front of me to learn from my experience. It started for me when I was a design lab administrator in college, and I found I was easily and comfortably able to teach other students things I knew. Even if it was in small doses, it was tremendously gratifying to me.

A couple of years later, I found myself in my day-to-day job as a Junior Designer at a prestigious Chicago-area design firm (pounding out 65+ hour work weeks with 2.5 hours of total commute), and I realized two things—one, I really hadn't learned nearly what I needed to survive in my industry while I was fighting through the Northern Illinois University Visual Communications program, and even more frustratingly, two, is that what I had learned, I didn't really feel as though I knew why I had learned it. So, the top design school in the Midwest didn't teach me enough, and what they did teach was vague and oblique to the point where I had no idea what the real practical application was. Great.

At that point, I realized that I wanted to go back someday for a Masters in Fine Art, to allow myself to teach college-level design, with real-world applications.

Fast forward 20-odd years, and I still have not returned to acquire my Masters degree, and as time goes one, lifestyle congeals, family is built and a career plods forward, and making the drastic move to return to school for another degree fades further from my reach.

When we started talking about the ideas and philosophies behind SquarePlanet, one of the keystones of the business plan was to be able to develop workshops around teaching what our careers had given us both in experience, and changing the way people think, work and behave with presentations. When we realized how important presentations are to anyone—business, educational or social, we started to focus on the fact that NONE of us are truly taught how to create or develop a presentation, let alone design slides or stand in front of your peers with in idea to promote.

Wait a minute—everyone knows (or thinks they do) how to use PowerPoint, craft messages, and stand up in front of people to talk, but no one was EVER really shown the right way to do this? Really? I think we might be on to something here. This is not intuitive stuff here, yet how many times have you seen people take this task feebly into their own hands, and throw away a massive opportunity?

This past Thursday was the very first SqP Presentation Boot Camp workshop. Boot Camp. Really? Well, yeah. The idea is that we ALL need to have what we know to be the presentation status quo needs to be stripped down to nothing, erased from our collective memories, and started again from scratch. A clean wipe board, if you will.

Our first 1-day school was not without hiccups and rough spots, but for the two of us to be able to get in front of a group of people who really wanted to be there to learn, it was not only an awakening for our class, but it was honestly one of the most rewarding things I have done in my career, and I can't wait to do it again.

With very few nerves or jitters, I was very comfortable in freely giving my experience and knowledge—even in such a small dose—to an eager audience. It was immeasurable joy for me, and it really was something that I enjoy doing. I know Brian enjoyed the day, too, and I really believe that our first students got something valuable from the day.

I'm looking forward to the March 17th school already, and I can't wait to get up in front of our workshop again.

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