Adventures in Online Cross Cultural Teaching Part 1
If you teach or lead groups of people, whether children or adults, in classrooms, corporate, non-profit, or congregational settings, you have probably felt like you have been playing ping pong with your best hand tied behind your back for the past few months. We who teach are grieving the transformative moments that can happen in the shared space of a physical classroom. In those spaces, we work hard to cultivate not only ‘aha’ moments within individuals’ minds and hearts, but gracious learning communities which spur each other on to growth. I have been reflecting on how we can still forge community and catalyze transformative learning experiences even when seemingly reduced to tiles. I offer my zany experiments in hopes they may encourage you and that you might be able to transfer the essence of an idea here, if not necessarily the specifics, to the good work you are doing this fall.
As a professor of preaching and communication I am particularly keen to build a sense of safety and freedom to experiment. It is a vulnerable act to get up in front of a group and speak about what matters. One on hand, the public speaking act is less frightening when one is merely speaking into one’s screen while seated. I saw no trembling hands and heard no quavering voices in my summer courses. But I knew that by the third session of the Effective Communication for Ministry course I taught to students in Malaysia and Singapore, they would be asked to share a Word of Witness, testifying to how God met them in a challenging season, and inviting us to trust the God who met them. This is a risky assignment, and I need them to trust each other for it to succeed. How to build that sense of community? This summer, I put my money on outrageous silliness.
First, I briefly introduced a classic model for a persuasive speech: Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. Many of you know this basic flow from Need to Satisfaction (or Problem to Solution), moving to Visualization (painting a vivid picture of the good that will come if hearers adopt your proposal/purchase your product), culminating in a call to Action. I told them they would be selling items to each other, inviting them to pretend they had somehow come into a large supply of these items and were genuinely convinced they would transform the lives of their fellow students. I tucked in the element of Testimony since it is so central to my understanding of powerful persuasive speech. Monroe’s sequence begins with getting attention, but I figured I had that covered with the items themselves! I called the name of a student, showed him or her a slide, gave a whopping 15 seconds to figure out what problem this item could solve, and then asked them to sell us the item for a minimum of two minutes. These were my favorites:
I will add that I modeled the vulnerability inherent in this exercise by going first. I invited them to pick a number, and then I bravely sold that item--I believe I got a tacky tiara. Then it was their turn. I had no idea how this would go—would this silliness transfer across cultures? Would they rise to the occasion or pack it in?
To my relief, what ensued was utter hilarity. The students bravely embraced the challenge, convincing us that our lives were on the brink of destruction because we lacked chicken tutus or squirrel finger extensions. They painted glorious scenarios of the better futures we would enjoy if we bought an under-the-desk hammock or a napping hat-- NOW! We laughed uproariously, deepening connection and affection between us in the process. Laughter was a gorgeous gift, an injection of lightness and grace into a somber season.
How can you inject laughter into a team meeting, class session, or congregational gathering this week?
What other practices might serve to build joyful collaboration among the teams, online classrooms, or congregations you lead or participate in, this fall?
Rich and Lisa Lamb