Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Benefits Of Saying Yes

Most of us, by nature, stay well within our comfort zones. We worry about what will happen if we don't. We worry about failing, looking stupid, being upset, getting nervous. It can take a huge amount of courage to do things we wouldn't normally do, and yet the benefits of stepping outside your comfort zone are so enormous that they easily outweigh the alternative- which is that nothing different happens at all.

I have decided, now I'm in my fifth decade (!)  to say YES to opportunities that present themselves, even if they are a wee bit scary. I don't want to reach my end days with regrets for things not done from lack of courage. It's good to push yourself, to do things outside your comfort zone, because if you don't, you never learn what you're capable of. It's healthy, see? Most of the time you come out smiling and your confidence raises a notch or two as a result. I always think: if other people can do it, then it can't be impossible, so I can do it too.

I'm toying with the idea of lecturing in conservation when I've finished my degree.

I often get mistaken for a teacher, which makes me smile. I figure the Universe is dropping hints, and I am listening.

To that end, I gave my first proper, solo, two hour lecture to the first years at college on Tuesday. It took me three days to prepare it and in the end I had a serviceable and reasonably thorough power point presentation on the Ecology of butterflies and moths, with life cycles, scientific terminology, flight seasons, larval food plants and IDs all listed. 

I learnt some new things while I was writing it. For instance: did you know that Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) make up 10% of all known described species in the world?

TEN PERCENT! That's HUGE.

And did you know that a Blue Tit chick requires 100 caterpillars A DAY to survive? It's not uncommon to get 10 chicks in a nest- that's ONE THOUSAND CATERPILLARS A DAY!!!! SEVEN THOUSAND CATERPILLARS A WEEK!!! And that's just one nest!

I may have got slightly over enthused and amazed by those facts when I was telling the class about them.

Have you ever talked to a large group of people who are all sitting waiting to listen to what you have to say before? It's a strange experience.

It promotes adrenaline. It also apparently renders you incapable of producing certain words sensibly that you've spoken confidently for the entirety of your life. I blame my mate Harvey who calls 'Butterfly Conservation, Butterfly conversation, which is what I did. I've never called it that in my life before. In the end, I gave up trying to say it properly because the word just wouldn't come. I referred to it as BC after that instead, which worked, and everyone smiled. Mysteriously, I could say conservation perfectly well again afterwards. Funny thing, the Brain.

Murd Wuddling (see what I did there?) aside, I really enjoyed it. I had worried that I might not have enough information to fill two hours, and that the thirty students listening (ages 18 to late fifties or so) would be bored, that I might be monotone and mundane and dull to listen to. 
I'm used to talking to the public about flutters in an informal setting, and I did do a bit of in class teaching about the transect to this group a month ago, but that was only 40 mins, was mainly me showing them pictures and talking about the logistics of the transect and it was also shared with one of the senior lecturers. I have never given a two hour academic presentation by myself that was part of a degree course before. I tried not to think too much about that and just enjoy talking about what I love: fluttery folk and why they matter, and hoped to inspire 30 people to do likewise. 

And it seemed to work. There were questions, and answers, and some jokes, and suggestions, laughter in the right places, lots of writing down as I was talking, and even some offering of bits of knowledge from them too. There was a feeling of lightness in the class that doesn't always exist in lectures. I finished with an ID test and was amazed when two of the students got full marks and more than half the class got 15 out of 20- and this for a group who really don't have much butterfly knowledge.


They are a lovely bunch: when I finished, they all clapped. So I bowed. And they laughed. I gave the two with full marks in the test a chocolate frog each and we joked about which species it was (Common Frog, I said. Obviously).

They told me it had been great, that they now understood things about flutter ecology which before they hadn't, that it had piqued some of their interest to learn more and to go looking for flutters this summer, that the explaining of scientific terminology far from being patronising (as I had worried) was what they had wanted and needed, and (best of all) they assumed I was already a teacher used to giving lectures and expressed astonishment when I said I wasn't (they also said I should have got paid for it, which made me smile) :o)

Afterwards, a young girl I have never noticed in the class before because she is so quiet, told me she'd never done as well in a Test before as she had in mine. She beamed. I was so proud of her. I find that young girls don't use their voices much in lectures- too many older people in the group perhaps, who already have the confidence to speak and own their own words, so the younger ones worry that they'll sound foolish if they offer their thoughts. Three of the people who offered answers to my questions were from the young lasses part of the class. I feel very strongly about the education of women and encouraging younger women to find their voices and use them, so this too made my heart glad. Go, Girls!  

And d'you know what's happened since then? Offers to give more formal talks have begun to find their way to me. Which means more people will know about butterflies and moths and why they matter and what they can do to help them. It's All Good, you see?

You know what I'm going to say don't you? If you've got the chance for a challenge but you're worried you might not be up to it- Go For It. What's the worst that can happen?  If it all goes horribly wrong, you can go home, pour an enormous glass of wine, laugh it off and you need never do it again. But it probably won't go horribly wrong- it's much more likely that you'll discover something beautiful you never knew was there.

 

CT :o)

 

33 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post. I'm so thrilled for you that it went so well, and it sounds as though you quite enjoyed it too. I think you're a natural at imparting knowledge in an interesting and enlightening way. I hope you are able to follow this path, it does sound rather perfect for you. Well done on taking this step. I found your post very inspirational. CJ xx

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    1. Thank you CJ, that's so kind of you. xx

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  2. OK, first I have to say this - with love! - did you not realise that you have been teaching all of us all about butterflies and moths and plants and and and for all these months!!! You are obviously a natural born teacher of all things ecological!!!! I hope that it all goes really well for you and that you love doing it!!! If you have found your niche run with it is what I say. The speaking to groups thing is amazing and I totally get what you are saying, it is a mix of terror and thrill at the same time isn't it, you so want to share, and yet are nervous at the same time, it is a rush, but a good one! Most of all, do what you love and enjoy! Thank you so much for all that you have taught me already!!!! xx

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    1. Thanks Amy, that's very kind of you. I guess teaching a formal lecture to degree students is different to what I've done before so it was a challenge but one I really enjoyed. It was lovely to get good feedback from the group too. xx

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  3. I can only echo the comment above - I have learned a great deal about the natural world from reading your blog. I think part of what makes a good teacher is passion for their subject - and you certainly have that!

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    1. Many thanks, Stephanie, that's much appreciated. x

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  4. Oh CT that's wonderful! Your posts are always filled with warmth & information you're obviously a natural at teaching & how wonderful that you plan to put your degree to good use. Speaking to groups becomes easier as time goes by believe me! I do wonder after I've spoken at training days/staff meetings how far this shy girl has come(me). Go for it girl, you certainly have it in you x

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    1. Thanks my dear- very kind and a lovely vote of confidence. xx

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  5. It is all VERY good, well done you! I'm so pleased for you and for your teaching group because the importance for having a good enthusiastic teacher cannot be under estimated. When I was at school and Uni, the difference between the lectures who were passionate about their subjects and those who were just putting the days in until retirement was acute. Amy is so right, you have indeed been teaching us all this time and very generous to do so. x

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    1. You're so right about enthusiasm, it makes all the difference. It's infectious I always think. Thanks for your kind words about the blog- much appreciated. Hope your revision is going well- I still haven't started mine and the exam's in a fortnight! xx

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  6. This was all very lovely and congratulations to you. Keep doing what you are doing, accept all life's challenges, for you only go through this life once and make it all count. That is what I have been doing for 72 years and continue to do so. Every day to me is an adventure - its always out there if you want it and one usually finds it even when not looking. My Mom said "If you find something you love in life, run with it". I been running ever since. ha,ha There are no excuses not to explore and learn - isn't that mostly why we are here on this earth - explore, learn, teach (pass it on or pass it forward) Them's ma rules, eh. Have a wonderful day and because I read your posts, I know more now about the fluttery side of life that I ever thought I would. Cheers and have a lovely day. Lilly

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    1. I always think of you as a bundle of energy, Lilly! And quite right too- life is for living. I loved what you said about life being to explore, learn, teach, pass it on or pass it forward- that's just lovely. Am so pleased you enjoy the blog xx

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  7. Hey CT,
    I would like to echo CJ and Amy. You are a natural teacher. Your love and enthusiasm, combined with your incredible knowledge just oozes from your wonderful blog. You've taught me so much. I'd much rather turn to CT for advice and clarification on all things nature, than anything else!
    Leanne xx

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    1. Thank so much my friend- I am blushing here :o) You know you're always welcome to pick my brain! xx

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  8. Bloody well done, at 42 and a fairly unsatisfying career I want to do Communications stuff but it is hard to get into!

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    1. Thanks Si. I am 42 as well- it's a good age for sorting stuff out and going firmly forward :o)

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  9. What a lovely, inspiring post! Good for you CT, I do hope you go for it as I know you'd make a brilliant lecturer. :-)

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    1. Many thanks, Deb. I really appreciate your kind words. x

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  10. You sound like a fantastic lecturer! I am a total believer in going outside your comfort zone. And you are so right about the quietness of quiet girls. Every time someone somewhere connects with them something good happens. I think you will be good at that.

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    1. Many thanks, Elizabeth- much appreciated. I think older women should help younger ones on their way when we can.

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  11. Before I read some of the comments, I was going to say how much you have inspired me just through your blog, the way you write and show what you have found is easy to follow and most new things I have learned from you .. Then I read the comments and see most of us feel the same way.

    I am so glad it went well as you have a lot to offer, say "yes" to it all, you never know were it might lead..Well done.
    Amanda xx

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    1. Thanks my dear :o) I am very touched that everyone feels they are learning through my blog. If it serves to help British wildlife then it's all to the good.
      I learn from your blog too and am always inspired by your wonderful photographs xx

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  12. That's fantastic news CT. It's not easy talking in public, some people have it and some don't. If you have it...you should use it as I think it's a gift. I used to give talks for Macmillan and enjoyed it.

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    1. It does take some practice but I think you do also have to have a basic flare for it. Do you still do public speaking?

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    2. No, I think I still could though and maybe there'll be an opportunity of a job with this type of teaching/training coming up...so I might say yes too!

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  13. how absolutely brilliant!! i'm not at all surprised that it was a success...because, as everyone else has commented, you are indeed a natural and passionate teacher -- and that really does make a difference in the learning -- what a lucky group to have you!!
    xo

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    1. Thanks my friend. It's been lovely to hear how everyone feels about this blog. It's sort-of evolved by itself into what it is, which is something you'll understand, I know :o) x

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  14. A wonderful post you entrance us with your knowledge and enthusiasm so I am not surprised that your teaching went down so well. Lovely to hear what affect you had on that quiet girl, it must have meant so much to you. Sarah x

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    1. Many thanks Sarah, I'm just so pleased everyone is enjoying the blog and also that the lecture went well! x

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  15. Good, very good - hopefully you'll be invited somewhere near to me and I can come and hear you. You're going to influence and inspire many. Congrats and I do agree, though am frightened often, you do have to push at the edges.

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    1. Thank you Jennifer. It is good to go outside your usual boundaries sometimes :o)

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x