Practice What You Teach

I walked into the classroom, put down my man bag, and started shuffling papers. A few colleagues walked by, peeked their heads in with a quick “How’s it going?” My boss hollered a hello from the hallway.

The kids filed in slowly and took their places; they liked to sit in the same chair every week – that’s interesting to me; as if that particular chair offers familiarity or a comfort to them.

I was intrigued by their sweetness, the smiles on their faces and their impeccable manners. 3 out of four are from Asian nations, some are a bit English-challenged but it’s not a barrier to our discourse.

I felt a sense of anticipation and excitement in this room, and I was sure it wasn’t going to wane as the weeks go by. I had done exhaustive preparation, re-doing my lecture Powerpoint dozens of times, looking for the perfect words to deliver to these men and women.

I was preparing to be a teacher that night, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

My Wednesdays began at 4am. The dress for the day was a pair of jeans, a Miller Lite-logoed blue shirt, a Dickey’s coat, a Fox Racing hat, steel-toed work boots and a pair of textured work gloves. I rode shotgun on the beer truck starting at 5:30am, and by two or three had delivered hundreds of cases of beer to shops and stores on the Peninsula – San Bruno, Millbrae and Burlingame. A character was encountered at every stop, shopkeepers and delivery check-in folks whose demeanor ranged from prickly to downright cheery. I greeted them with a smile and a hearty hello, and say something like “Beer time! Where do you want it?”

I got dropped off at the warehouse, job complete. My legs ached, hands were little beat up, arms tired. I likely schlepped more than a ton of product with my driver.

I headed to San Francisco where I had a window of time to wind down. I would take a bath or sit in the hot tub, decompressing and recalibrating. I’m about to transform into a new character, from a working-class laborer to an educator.

I put on a suit, no tie, pocket square and lace-up black shoes. Yesterday I noticed the pants are actually now too big for me. I looked in the mirror. 30 pounds lighter than 6 months ago, I noticed for the first time my appearance has changed. I made a mental note to reward myself with a new suit soon, eschewing those traditional baggy dress shirts for something slimmer and more tailored.

I grabbed a cab and headed into downtown San Francisco. Next stop –  a coffee shop for a double cappuccino, dry. I opened the laptop and did the last revisions on the Powerpoint deck, polishing words and adding images.

I’m fatigued, but energized mentally. I was looking forward to this night.

It was 7:04. The rest of the class entered the room in a wave. I took roll, looking up to the students one by one, trying to burn the image of the faces with the names.

I took a breath, stood up and said “OK, let’s do this!”

Module 2, COM 611 was underway.

I was fidgety during the class, sitting, standing, walking to the back of the room, pointing to the projections on the big screen, scratching adlibs on the whiteboard, glasses on, glasses off…

I told them “I’m here to help you change the world.”

We talked about digital media, and the broadcast platforms that preceded it. It’s a history class at its core, but I often reference things current, musing that the video quality of I love Lucy in its original form for a long time was astonishingly superior to most newly posted YouTube videos. I reminded them to humanize the Internet by occasionally taking time to create content that requires polish and prep. I told them about my experiences in the media business. I told them about the beer truck. I told them personal anecdotes, some deeply personal. I weaved in and out of the pages of media history with challenges to them;

1) Believe in yourself.

2) Complete the dreams in your head with real-life action

3) Change the world.

I gave them an assignment for next week. “Create a one-minute story, original material; a beginning, middle and end. Read it aloud and record it. Email it to me and I’ll share some in next week’s class. I’m not interested in your vocal presentation, I want to hear the voice inside your head. I want to hear the power of your words.”

The students filed out, a few stopped by the desk in the front of the room with questions, and moments later, the room was quiet.

I gathered the materials and the thumb drive. Walking out the front door of the now-quiet school, I met the bustle of traffic and a gaggle of students mingling on the sidewalk. This long Wednesday was over. I learned as much today as I attempted to teach, floating in two parallel universes, encountering an amazing array of people and absorbing a few new anecdotes.

I now have no particular place to go.

I disappeared into a cab, tempted to tell the driver a bit about this most interesting day, but avoiding conversation, looking out the window as the world blurs by, alone with my thoughts.

John Scott is an instructor, online learning coordinator, and the career services manager for the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University San Francisco.  His book “Destination:Reinvention” is on sale now in the Amazon bookstore.  Grab a daily reinvention tip at 

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