A good recipe is determined by the right ingredients. (Trust me - one time I tried to make brownies and accidentally used baking soda instead of sugar. Ingredients matter.) The right combination of these right ingredients can make an excellent, nourishing meal.
I think the same is true for teaching. Good teaching (or presenting) is determined by the right ingredients. Here are three we can't skip:
Substance is essential for good teaching.
Any teaching or presentation that is worth listening to has to have something to say. It has to have substance. Content is essential. There's a place for books on teaching technique and methodology (a bit more on this below), but these should never outweigh or drown out the truth that WHAT we have to say is the foundation of everything else. The scary reality is that we can package poor content in smooth technique and we can draw a crowd. But for any of you who teach: Let's be more responsible than this. Let's draw people because of compelling content - not just shiny packaging.
Teaching with substance requires the preparation of study. We need to dive into our material in such a way that our teaching is an accurate overflow and representation of our prior study.
Shape is essential for good teaching.
Another essential ingredient for good teaching is shape (or structure & organization). The best teaching shouldn't be like cooking spaghetti - where you're just throwing ideas out against the wall and hoping that something sticks. The best teaching is more like being a tour guide - walking people through the presentation in such a way that they're taken somewhere, and providing steps by which they can understand and grow in the material being taught. This requires shape and organization and intentionality.
The first step towards "good shape" in teaching is having a clearly stated objective for each lesson - having a destination you're pointing people toward. This objective should flow out of the "substance" ingredient discussed above. A second step towards shaping the teaching material is simply asking four key questions about the objective: (1) "Why is this important?", (2) "What will advance understanding of this?", (3) "How can we apply this?", and (4) "Where will this take me?"
Style is essential for good teaching.
Finally, let's not forget the importance of style in teaching. Content is king (see above under "substance"), but it's not a dictator. Strong content should be surrounded by and supported with excellent style and varied teaching methods. We're not "Charlie Brown teachers" carrying on in a boring monotone - as teachers, we should want to be personally "captured" by the content we're teaching and do everything we can to make the truth we're captured by contagious. Ultimately, I believe we need the Holy Spirit for this. But even as we depend on God to guide those we teach (and us!) towards truth, compelling teaching methods and an engaged style that fits our personality can be a tremendous support.
Take one of these "essential ingredients" of teaching - how will its presence strengthen a presentation, or how will its absence hurt it? Am I missing any other "essential ingredients"?
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