Charla Day

“Charla” loosely translates into “workshop”.

Today I spoke for 35 minutes in Spanish in front of a group of 21 of my peers, superiors, and local Guatemaltecos with whom I am working. I covered three main points during this 35 minute period. All of us in my group broke apart the different parts of “how to teach” into:

1) How to get to know your audience and what they want out of you
2) How people learn / experiential learning
3) How to maintain the attention of your audience with activities
4) How to organize a class or workshop
5) How to review effectively and evaluate

I was the lucky one to go first with “how to get to know your audience”. My three main points were:

1) Teach them only what they want or need to know; the topic must be interesting and of importance
2) Make sure your participants understand why they are learning, why your topic is important
3) Teach them at their level, not above or below and take time out of your class to figure this out

My introduction was fairly brief and straightforward, and my icebreaker was really good. We played a game where everybody sat around in a circle in a chair with one person in the middle. The person in the middle needs to introduce themselves and say one thing that is true about them (I ate pancakes for breakfast, I am wearing white shoes, I have a younger sibling, I like tamales etc…). If that thing is true for anybody else sitting in a chair, they must stand up and switch seats. There will always be somebody without a seat who then needs to introduce themselves with another thing about them. This was a perfect game to begin with as it was easy to explain and after the first couple rounds everybody started getting into it and getting pretty competitive. Then it started to go downhill.

In all the classes I have given I rely on question-answer activity to keep myself going. I don’t like standing up in front of a bunch of people lecturing. But when you have an audience who 30% can’t understand what you’re saying, 30% don’t know the answer to what you’re saying, and are 40% shy… well, you don’t get a lot of answers. I’ve been told that Guatemalans have an incredible respect for teaching, for learning, and for the whole process; I’m wondering if they just didn’t want to interrupt me while I was talking. Next time I will remember to make it very clear that I rely on their responses to fuel the charla. I need their answers and feedback to make it interesting for them to learn, and usually I learn something new also.

A big part of my charla relied upon their responses. It’s the only way I would be able to tell

1) what they want or need to know
2) that they understand why they are learning
3) that I’m teaching them at their level

It looked so great on paper, but when I don’t have the participation of the audience it all falls apart.

I can’t believe I actually was up there for 35 minutes. It felt like 10, honestly, I can understand how people get carried away while talking in front of an audience. I also felt like I was just flying through my points. I prepared 19 note cards and I felt like I was talking faster than I could flip through them. This was also the first time I prepared note cards for a speech. Usually I just practice enough, or maybe have a sheet of paper to look down at if I forget where I am. In English it’s usually easy enough for me to just be comfortable with the material and speak naturally. I’m glad I prepared the note cards in Spanish. I’m glad I took my time with them, used different colors for words of more importance (I often seem to forget that one most important statement I’m supposed to make), and practiced. I liked the whole experience. I was not nervous at all. I knew if I got stuck all I had to do was read off of my note cards: it wouldn’t be very entertaining but the concepts would be conveyed and my grammar would be correct. I’m also glad I did not need to do this. I like talking in front of people about my ideas. I think my ideas are great. I think everybody should listen to me talk; the world would be a lot more intelligent. Or, the world might be a lot more confused. Yeah, probably the latter.

In general, I think the next time I give a charla will go a lot smoother mostly because I’ll be prepared with how to interact with my audience (hmm, that’s what I was supposed to be teaching!) and hopefully it will be on a topic of my choosing. I like teaching in general, and I like teaching how to teach because I think I’ve learned a lot of useful methods over the years through work, volunteering, and even classes. But I also think I could prepare a much better charla over a topic that I’m really passionate and knowledgeable about, especially if I had an audience that was equally passionate. But I completely understand that here we just take what we’re given in terms of audiences, and I do like the practice in preparing a charla based on a topic I’m not entirely comfortable with. Because I’m sure this is going to happen to me a lot over the next few years. I learned an incredible amount throughout this whole process that will only help me in the future, and I did not embarrass myself. Two reasons to celebrate. Tonight, I think I’m going to celebrate with a 10:30 bedtime. I know, I lead the wild and crazy life.

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