What do I get from leading a LIFE Institute course? For me, it’s all about exploring a subject that I find interesting. I’ve never offered the same LIFE course twice. The satisfaction comes from putting the material together the first time. As a volunteer LIFE course leader (aka “moderator”), I see no financial reward. There is some personal satisfaction that comes from presenting a successful course, but the big reward for me is being able to wrap my head around new and interesting material. For me, one of the best ways of learning a subject is to teach it.
That was obvious to me well before I had anything to do with The LIFE Institute. I never wanted to give the same course more than once. Back early in my career when I was being paid to “profess”, I sometimes had no option but to offer two sessions of the same course in a single term. Those were always unsatisfactory experiences. That aversion to presenting the same course a second time has persisted into my 3rd Age retirement. And now there’s no employer telling me that I must offer any course a second time.
Early on, I didn’t really recognize what made a LIFE course successful. As I understand the history, the very earliest LIFE courses were closer to discussion groups “led” by a volunteer who moderated the discussion. That can be a very successful way to have material presented, but it critically depends on substantial prior understanding on the part of (almost) all participants. That can be the dynamic behind a book club or a current events course. Such subjects are effectively presented as moderated discussions. And the approach is low cost, with almost all the work coming from unpaid LIFE members.
Moderation can be very successful, but only with the right subject matter. For better or worse, I have only a very limited interest in leading moderated courses. I want to explore and explain new material and that doesn’t really work through moderated discussion sessions. I also didn’t initially recognize what’s required of a successful LIFE course. Simply, every LIFE course should be Educational, Engaging & Entertaining, with the caveat that the balance of these three “E’s” will be different for each course and every course leader.
This was a new awareness for someone like me who grew up teaching university courses. But it does make sense. Courses in school, college or university, or professional courses, normally provide meaningful extrinsic rewards for successful completion. It means something (to others) to get a degree or to win professional recognition. The rewards with LIFE courses are primarily intrinsic. The course experience, for the participants, is what is most often of greatest importance. It’s less about covering enough material and more about providing an engaging and entertaining experience for participants.
It feels like I’ve found an approach that works for me and for those LIFE members who are drawn to the courses I lead. I’ll keep plugging away at subject matter that interests me. As but one example, this coming term (Spring 2018), I’ll be presenting a third course that has JS Bach as its central focus. First I presented Bach and his Contemporaries, then Bach and his Successors. Now it’s Bach Again,with the focus on what makes Bach’s music so fascinating and so reusable. I suspect it has something to do with the soul satisfying way Bach weaves together patterns, much as the best oriental carpet makers found soul satisfying ways to weave together patterns in their rugs. As humans, we are deeply pattern sensitive creatures. We see patterns, we think patterns, and we can learn to hear patterns, especially the soul satisfying patters of JS Bach.