[I can sympathize with this: Too Cool for Shul at Modern Uberdox]
I don't claim to be any sort of expert on teaching, but I have 15 years of experience in adult education across a pretty broad range of subjects and audiences at this point, and I do think I've absorbed some good lessons along the way. Here are four items, about presentation rather than content; feel free to add, or challenge, in the comments:
Make sure your enthusiasm is visible I learned this one when teaching a challenging, iyun series; after one class, one of the participants commented that I had clearly enjoyed that one. I realized then that I had not been very enthusiastic in presenting previous classes; I had been too caught up in the difficulty, and in insecurity about possibly making a mistake.
כמים הפנים אל הפנים, feelings are contagious. Human beings like to interact with human beings who are having a good time; people who seem stressed, tired or anxious make us feel likewise. Make sure people can see that you are having a good time.
And if you aren't having a good time, it's time to find out why and do something about it.
Over-prepare, but don't over-invest I am a strong believer in over-preparing, coming to class ready for tangents and questions that may never materialize; it's best to know the topic well, and have much more to say than you will ever get to voice. However, this comes with a risk – that we become attached to our content, on which we have worked so hard, and so we end up trying to cram in far more than we should. Our explanations lose clarity and our ideas are not expressed in a compelling way, and the result is a negative class experience. A rabbi should not become so invested in his material that he loses sight of the basic goal: Education.
And as anyone who has ever been in a class of mine knows, I violate this rule regularly.
I don't know, I'll check Never feel forced to answer a question on site; it's okay to do research and then get back to people, whether in matters of halachah, text, history or philosophy. This is also good because it generates post-class communication, which I find enhances the entire experience and helps create lasting relationships. It also demonstrates tangibly that the class is more than an intellectual exercise or fulfillment of a job responsibility; it matters.
Interactive! The people who come to classes may be doctors or lawyers or plumbers, teachers or mechanics or psychologists or accountants or businesspeople or middle managers or taxi drivers. Whoever they are, their lives are interactive – they are used to talking and listening and analyzing and responding and questioning and advising.
People may be accustomed to sitting in a movie for two hours or in front of a television for an hour, but human beings don't listen to other human beings talk at them for 45 minutes or an hour. Interactive is the key – icebreakers, questions, invitations to analyze.
What would you add?