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Bethel U Teachers Manual

by Hilary Mullins

Thank you for teaching a class for Bethel U--our students and our community thank you! In case you have not taught before--or you just want a reminder and reaffirmation of the principles and spirit at the heart of teaching--we offer you this manual. In the spirit of Bethel U, it includes nuts and bolts teaching information
as well as suggestions that can help with community-building--ideas that can help you and your students connect, not only with your subject, but, just as
importantly, with each other.

The reason community-building is emphasized here is because Bethel U is the brainchild of the Bethel Revitalization Initiative, and community-building is one of its
primary aims. In fact, Bethel U was originally conceived not so much as a vehicle of education but as a way for people to connect. And what better way to
connect than through sharing things we love?
But last year in the Bethel U surveys we handed out, we found that where Bethel U teachers by and large felt more connected to the community, people taking

classes did not. This year we want to bridge that gap. We want everyone involved in Bethel U to come away feeling more connected, be it to one person or twenty,
fostering a sense of community we can keep building on year after year.
So welcome! We're glad you've joined us!

Photo Credit: David Aiken


The first question to ask yourself is this: by the end of your class, what do you want your students to know? What do you want them to be able to do?

Next, consider what kind of format will work best for the kind of info you will be sharing. Do you need to give a step-by-step how-to? More on that below. Or will
you be giving a good old-fashioned lecture? If this is your approach, think of breaking up your information in 20-minute chunks with discussion or group work if
that suits your subject. More on group work in a bit.


In case you're not sure where to start with a lecture, let me offer this approach. Often when people don't know where to start, it means they haven't settled on a

form that will suit their info. The trick is making deliberate use of the various kinds of forms that we naturally use all day long not only for talking but thinking. For
instance, one form is a list: you could make a list of the five most important things people should know about your topic. Another form is story--a personal story or
perhaps a historical narrative. And another is compare/contrast: here you take two similar but different things, using those similarities and differences to illuminate

points you want to make. And let us not forget the tried and true problem-solution format. Or the fact that folks teaching fun stuff in the gym or at the crafts table
are using a form as well: they're doing what English teachers call a process analysis, describing a process step-by-step. But a process analysis doesn't have to be
a how-to or demonstration: there are other situations where you might want to describe a process--any kind of process!--to convey a particular point.

These are all large forms as it were: they can basically shape an entire presentation. They can also be used in any kind of combination that suits the topic you're

teaching about and the aims of the class. But there are many other smaller forms too you might naturally reach for as you go along, and here is a (non-exhaustive)
list: examples; stats & facts; descriptions; definitions; analogies (i.e., explaining one thing in terms of something more readily understandable, eg: the brain as a
computer); cause & effect; quotations; and metaphors & symbols.



Cause & effect


Stats & Facts.








How-to or Process Analysis



After you work out the forms you want to use for presenting your info, the next thing to consider is the order of information. What will you say first? Second?
Third and etc? Just as jokes don't work as well when you get them out of order, lectures make better sense when your information is lined up one way than in

another. That is, people will follow you better when you have a logical order of information that builds to the larger point or vision you're trying to get across. It's
as if you're taking them up a ladder: each rung should follow from the one below it.
The other thing to think about as you're building your 'ladder': use transitions! Use words and phrases like "The
first thing we're going to look at today is" and "The next consideration in this process is."
The important thing to understand here is that just because the connection between the rungs seems to you to be
just as obvious as it could be, doesn't mean it will be obvious to your students. Bridge the gap for them: point
explicitly to the next rung. That way they will stay with you as you move on up the ladder.

(Oh, and by the way, there are many, many other ways to connect the rungs for people. If you want some more
ideas on how to do it, look closely at the beginnings of my paragraphs in this manual, and you will see what I

What happens without


Using a deliberate order of information like this with transitions is just as important in demonstrations. So if you're mapping out a how-to, consider very carefully
what your students will need to know and/or do first and second and third. For instance, in an origami class, a teacher might have students practice certain folds
first, whereas in a painting class, a teacher might have them practice a particular brushstroke to begin with. And this do-it-in-order principle applies throughout the
class: that is, it's crucial to take people up through your steps in an order that makes the process unfold logically and manageably for them.
And no matter what kind of class you're teaching, consider alternating chunks of content in 20 to 30 minute pieces. Of course this doesn't work for all content,
but in general, it's a good idea to use rhythm and alternation of what you're asking people to do. For instance, you might present information for 20 minutes, then
pair folks up to apply this information in some way through an exercise.

Speaking of group work, I promised we would come back to it and so we have. There are two reasons why I hope you will use it if it suits your class. The first

reason is that it's simply fun!--and helps people connect. The second reason is the collaboration group work fosters can be more fruitful than people working on
their own steam by themselves: fact is, together, we generally learn more! And that's another thing we're all here for.


When you're teaching adults, one of the most important things you can do is encourage them to connect the new info you're giving them to knowledge and

experiences they already have. Neuroscience tells us this not only deepens our understanding of the new info, it forges new synaptic connections, linking the new
info with previous info in our brains. This makes the new connections--that is the new info--more durable, something folks are more likely to retain down the road.

So if you would, take some time as you're planning your class to think about how what you're teaching connects up with experiences and information people might
already have, and how you might bring that out in the course of the class.

For instance, early on in a public speaking class, I might ask people what their experience with public speaking has been, and then I might tailor some of the info I
give later to apply to those situations. For example, I might ask a student if they can think of some visuals that could have helped with that presentation they
mentioned, and we could discuss this. But this is just one example: there are as many ways to do it as there are classes at Bethel U!

Another lesson from the brain scientists: repetition is a good thing. Repeat your key points: every time you do, those new synaptic connections light up. And that's
a good thing: the more you get folks' brains dancing this way, the more they will retain what you're teaching them.
Another way to get people's brains dancing is to use visuals. Use pictures, graphs, or drawings that
enhance and deepen your content. Seduce the eye! As a public speaking teacher, I used to think visuals
were add-ons, just a bit of indulgent flashiness, but as it turns out, we really do comprehend material
that's presented through two sensory modalities better. And again, we retain it more too.
A word to the wise though: if you want to use Power Point slides, avoid the common trap of showing
your script on the screen and reading from it. Instead, put shorter phrases on your slides, like headers or
key words and phrases. And don't bother with graphics that are superfluous; that sort of thing clutters

the field. Just like words should be succinct, so should graphics. Make them count: make them relevant to
your point.
Another word to the wise: avoid reading out loud from a prepared text. I know how tempting this is, but
any ease it brings comes at a steep cost: reading from a text absolutely flattens connection between a

speaker and her content AND a speaker and her audience. Even if you might stumble a bit, it's still way
better to just talk live to the people in front of you.

Try drawing simple figures!

If you're extra worried about losing track as you go along, put extra time into creating

detailed notes for yourself, writing out a clear and detailed order of information mapped out
on the page. And make your font or handwriting big enough so that even when you're

nervous, you'll be able to make it out with ease. Another trick along these lines is color

coding. All in all, the general idea with notes is to use anything that helps you keep track of
where you are, what you want to say, and where you are going next. Because the more

connected you are to what you're talking about, the more you can connect with your class
and convey what you really want to say to them.

Mark Twain's Lecture Notes--really!!

Conveying your info though is only half the job. That is, in my own teaching, the disconnect
between what I thought I said and what people actually seem to get never ceases to amaze

me. So I recommend checking in with your students, both as you go along, and when you get to the end of a session, using specific questions to check their

comprehension, particularly questions about the key things you want them to grasp. Ask a talkative student to sum up what you've said, making it clear you're not
quizzing them, just checking to see if you're getting your message across. Then ask one or two more folks to do the same and listen carefully to what everyone

says. Don't beat yourself up if they haven't gotten what you intended: human communication is as riddled with holes as the backroads in spring! Be humble. Make
a bridge across the gaps by listening carefully and clarifying accordingly.

In the same spirit, encourage your students to ask questions: tell them there is no such thing as a stupid question. Since they're not likely to believe you, tell them
again. If you mean it, they will begin to trust you and some of them will take the risk of

revealing what seems to them like their ignorance. The fact is however, in my experience
anyway, most of my students' questions are not reflections of their failures of

comprehension, but again reflections of something I have not sufficiently explained. In other
words, their questions are almost always very useful opportunities for me to clarify some
particular murkiness in what I have said.
Oh, and consider whether you want people to ask longer kinds
of questions as you go along or whether you'd like them to hold back until a Q&A period at
the end.


First off, if it's at all appropriate, have folks wear name tags and introduce themselves right at the start of your class. You may also want to guide their
introductions so that what they say is relevant to the class. For instance, here's a list of questions you might have them address:
What's your connection to Bethel?
Why are you taking this class?
What kind of background do you already have with what the class is about?
What do you hope to learn in this class? What do you hope to be able to do with what you've learned?
If this format doesn't fit your class, we hope you will still consider taking a little time to making it easier for your students to connect one way or another, even if

they just do it by socializing after class is over. One quick, fun thing you can do to facilitate this is to
have everyone add along with their name on the name tag a simple stick-figure type of drawing of

something they love, something that represents what they identify with. Then you could perhaps go
around the circle, with everyone briefly explaining what their drawing means.

If you're teaching a class that has people up on their feet and moving around, you may want a more
active ice breaker, so I've included two more at the end of this manual. They're good ones, but what
they don't include is asking people what they specifically want to learn, and, depending on what

you're teaching, you may want to integrate that question somehow into the ice breaker you use too.
But no matter what you do, remember, in the end, it's all about connection: connection with the topic and connection with each other.
Speaking of connection, if you only take one point away from this manual, have it be this:
smile at your students! They want you to like them. So see them; make eye contact. Consider

the people before you provisional friends, folks whom, if you knew them better, you might really
like and enjoy. This does more than you might imagine for everyone present, yourself included!
And here's another small but still crucial point: watch out for turning your back on your class.
This can happen, for instance, when you are writing on the board. And make sure if you are

writing on the board, that everyone can see what you are writing there. The trick is to create
a circle for the duration of the class and to connect with everyone in it, even if by simply
looking at them.
Of course, a great way to strengthen connection in your class is to use groups, as I've already
talked about. Fact is, when groups work, the spirit they generate is palpable, heartening, and

Photo Credit: Biz Farrell

Yet another way to strengthen the circle is by deliberately setting the tone of your session. Of course, as I've already mentioned, smiling and looking at your
students goes a long way towards this, but the other half of the trick is connecting with your topic as well. You wouldn't be here teaching at Bethel U if you

weren't jazzed by what you're teaching, so go ahead and let that excitement shine through you! The light will catch your students as well, a kind of kindling that
will light their own fire.
And you can continue to build that fire by guiding the content of your class just as deliberately too. That is, at the beginning of the content part of things, plan to
tell your students what the point of the class is, what you hope they will learn. No need to be subtle: it doesn't work in this setting, so sing your point right out!

Write it on the board, write it on your chest. And before you get started with the content of
your class, give your students a quick overview of what will be happening. This helps them
get on board with you.
And just as openings are important for getting folks on board, endings are important for
closing things well. One thing that works if you have mainly spoken content is to make

your ending a kind of bookending of your opening. So, for instance, if your class has been
primarily informational, you could sum up the content, and give folks a take-away point that
in some way echoes what you said in your opening. Again, subtle isn't effective.

On the other hand, if your class involves doing, reflect on that in some way. For instance,

in a craft class, you could leave time for students all to see each other's work. Or in a class that's an activity, you could end in the circle again with some variation
on your ice breaker as a closing. Never underestimate the power of the circle to draw people together in a powerful way before they head back out to their own
places in the world.

Another way to close involves asking people to share their responses to the class. You could ask what surprised them, or what was their favorite part, and why, or
what they learned that they think will be most helpful to them. You may be surprised by what they say! And if you're interested in using the class to hone your
teaching skills, you could also ask them what they think you might have done differently and what was done well. I do recommend though doing this first and
ending with something that sums up the class in some way for them, helping them to integrate what they've learned for the road.
A final consideration: at some point before your class, check out the room you will be using if you're not already familiar with it. Consider the seating: are there

enough chairs? Will you have people sit in a circle? Around a table? And check out any props or equipment you might be using: be sure all systems are go. Many

of you may be used to public speaking already, but if you're not, you might find it useful to go to the front of the room and imagine the people there in front of you.
This makes that moment when it's first actually real a little easier. Which means you can do what you came to do: connect!


I haven't used these myself, but people I know have, so they've been vetted. And if these don't suit, I hear there are many more online.
The first ice breaker requires some open space to stand in and three balls (or something similar like a hackey sack) that can be tossed around the place without
breaking anything.

Have people get on their feet and into a circle. Stand in the circle with them, and, handing the ball around the circle twice, have everyone call out their name when
they get the ball.

When the ball comes back to you, have everyone cross their arms, then toss the ball to someone in the circle, calling out their name. They will have to uncross
their arms to toss the ball to someone else, calling out that second person's name. The second person will do the same thing, and you will all keep going, till
everyone's arms are uncrossed.

At this point, toss in the second ball, following the same procedure (except that now everyone's arms will be uncrossed). After a little bit, introduce the third ball!
And keep going till it seems people have gotten each other's names down.
Hurricane is played in a standing or sitting circle. There is one less chair or "spot" in the circle than there are people playing.
The game starts with one person standing in the middle of the circle and everyone else sitting around the circle.
The person in the middle says something about themselves--for instance, "I have two brothers." If the statement is true for anyone else in the circle, they have to
leave their seats and try to get to a different empty seat before it is filled. The person left without a seat becomes the next person in the middle.
Once everyone has been in the middle, wrap up the game by grabbing a seat for the last person there and then go around the circle, with everyone saying one new
thing they learned about someone else there.

Photo Credit: Biz Farrell

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