Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Coaching Practice is getting Bigger & Wider in Diversity. The latest being in a reputable fashion school! An insider's view on how I teach and coach.

An Invitation to Teach
Recently, I was invited to teach at a prestigious and reputable fashion school. This school has churned out many top fashion designers in our country, most notably Bernard Chandran. I accepted the offer to teach because the head principal is such a wonderful lady and easy to work with. Usually, most of my students come from extremely serious industries such as engineering, IT and banking. But the fashion industry proved to be an interesting choice to me.

Most successful first class I ever conducted
The students from the school were extremely creative in their fashion sense. But of course, most creative people usually lacks in communications skill. Here's where I come in. My first class with the fashion students turned out to be super successful. The attendance for my class has even surpassed the seating capacity! Of course, there were a few late comers, but everyone were very cooperative and attentive. There were students from China and Japan in the audience too. I suspect the school might have promoted the course I teach with the exposure I bring along in my past acting track record, for example the last commercial I appeared in:

The Socratic Method -  To Learn, you need To Ask
Aspiring stars from the fashion industry
I foresee this group of students I'm teaching to be great stars in their own rights. From my observation, creative people from the fashion school are more hardworking and focus in executing certain tasks that I've designed for them compared to say, students from the IT schools. I believe these fashion students are motivated firstly by their passion of what they do. I believe they also come to their senses when I successfully made them see how important it is to have good communication skills, especially when they are selling their clothes to their buyers in the future. Primarily, I used the Socratic Method, which is a form of inquiry and debate between individuals with opposing viewpoints based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideasAll the students there were willing to learn, even when some of them can't even understand English, especially some Malay students, they still strive to pay attention and learn. Very impressive.

Be receptive to the audience
Being receptive to your audience is key
In a large audience, sometimes an inexperienced speaker may find him/herself lost. Discipline is important in both areas - first knowing your flow of topic and at the same time receptive of the "messages" sent out from the audience. Like during my class at the fashion school, my mind is separated into not 2, but 3 critical areas. Because it's simpler for a speaker to divide the large crowd: first being the audience, second is the students performing on stage and third the flow of topic at hand.

Listen and Analyse
As a speaker, many times I can learn something new from my students too. You have to know that your students are human beings after all. They deserve as much respect as you do. Hence, listening to their presentation is important to determine the level of their understanding of the lesson. Analyse only the results, not the person. From analysis, only then the speaker can share the insights derived from each performance, which is totally different from the next.

Insights shared are insights multiplied
Use the white board!
Immediately when an insight come to mind, I will usually write it on the white board. A wonderful insight can come suddenly even when the students are performing, hence a quick mind and agile hands to write are mandatory in ensuring each performance is able to come to a useful conclusion for all the other students (audience) to learn from. Remember: nothing written, nothing gained.

I'm your friend even when I'm teaching/coaching you
Talk to your student like a friend
As most of my past students would willingly testify, I treat each one of them like a friend. No doubt I am their teacher/coach, but I never place myself higher than them. It's easier for both of us too when we treat each other like a friend, because then, the student will feel more comfortable in expressing their thoughts on certain topics. Being clear and free from judgement are vital aspects in sustaining a friendship, that apply to my relationship with my students too.

A funny moment in my students' performance
As a coach, I never restrain myself from laughing, especially when my students' performance merit for that type of response. Laughter is a wonderful remedy to ease any tension and boredom in a class. Sometimes my students don't even realise what they did was funny, and as a teacher, you should respond accordingly. That way, your students felt their performances are affective to the audience and managed to make an impact, no matter how small or big. Your response as a teacher will encourage them to try harder.

Learning to communicate and cooperate
with others who are "different" from you.

Make sure your students make friends with each other and end with a handshake
In a large class, most of the students may not know each other as well as they should. A good teacher will design tasks that will encourage the students to mingle among themselves. Like the class I taught at the fashion school, I purposely arrange students who are completely different and stranger to each other. Like in the picture, I place the Malay girl with a Chinese girl together as partner. True understanding is achieved when one is placed in a completely unfamiliar territory.

Even when performing on stage, give space for absorption .
Finally, give time to your students to absorb
As a teacher, I can give information at lightning speed. Depending on how fast the students absorb, I will usually give them time to think and discuss first. Personally, I believe no matter how much information I may provide, it is still best for them to perform on stage. Once they do that, it occurs to me that they will almost always get the point and learn faster that way. As they say, action speaks louder than words. I don't just teach, I make sure you take action.

All the ingredients ready to become the total package
Even fashion designers need the total package to succeed in the extremely competitive fashion industry, and not just for artistes. In a way, fashion designers are artistes too, if they choose to see themselves that way, which they should! Here, I have already imparted my best knowledge in coaching this new group of fashion students, with the hope that one day soon, they will be stars, like they truly deserve to be.