When people outside of work find out that I spend a lot of time teaching groups, they often ask about the more challenging situations I encounter. “What are the biggest pitfalls? And how do you recover when you run into these problems?” I tell them, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Some time ago, I attended a presentation from a nationally acclaimed photographer about the ABCs of photography. He expressed the idea that photography is a form of communication, and like language, has its own alphabet. While language uses letters to communicate ideas, similarly, photography uses assembled elements to create meaning in a visual format.
In the middle of sharing this deep philosophical explanation about how to effectively communicate through photography, he was interrupted by a question from the audience. “Are you conscious about ensuring all the elements are present before taking the shot?” Interesting question, but not as interesting as his answer. He explained that he used to take a photo, realize it hadn’t turned out the way he’d expected, and he wouldn’t be able to understand why. But since then, he’d learned to bring the photo to a mentor who would then look at it with him to figure out what to do differently next time.
His answer caused me to reflect on my many classroom experiences. I’ve had my share of less than desirable outcomes. And one of the most frustrating things is knowing a class hasn’t turned out well, but not knowing the reason why—especially early on. I came to the conclusion that we ought to be doing the same thing with our classes that the photographer was doing with his photographs. We need to take a mental picture of what’s going on so that we can analyze it and do better. We should take stock of the classroom—prior to running into a problem. What’s happening with the group? What are people doing or not doing? How is the physical space set up? Is it conducive to learning? In essence, what do I notice that cues me to stop and reframe before moving on?
Then we can share these mental photos with mentors. We can compare the not so good ones to the better ones and figure out the difference. Most especially, we can use them to cue ourselves for better outcomes in the future.
Good luck! And remember to post those mental photos on the VitalSmarts Trainer LinkedIn and Facebook groups.