Getting into a teaching mindset

Being mindful about the teaching mindset

I wear many hats at AgileSparks — what you might call a T-Shaped sparkie… Every week I can find myself wearing the consultant hat, the marketer hat, the thought leader hat, the trainer hat, the conference speaker hat, the head of business in the United States hat and probably a few more that I’m forgetting. Switching hats requires a context switch which we know is tough but also requires a mindset switch.

Specifically, what I found over the years is that going into a teaching mindset is something I need to pay some extra attention to. This goes beyond making sure I’m comfortable with the materials I’m going to deliver, reviewing the facilitator’s guide, etc.

Patience Patience Patience

What do I mean by a teaching mindset? For me personally patience is the most challenging aspect. I’m considered impatient even among-st us fast-moving impatient interrupter Israelis. I frequently get where a student is going with a question way before they even finish asking it. I have to be mindful of that and patiently wait for the end of the question/statement before I attempt answering. Since starting to force myself to wait I found that something like 90% of the time I guessed correctly about where the student was going with his question. Not a bad statistic but worth it to wait even for that 10% where I learned more by being patient.

More importantly, people from many cultures struggle with these interruptions. Since starting to force myself to wait I also noticed another phenomena. Some people actually EXPECT to be interrupted at some point and if you just patiently listen they sort of keep going on and on reiterating their point as if waiting for you to get it and start answering rather than finishing and risking a white space…

Smile Smile Smile

In many cases when delivering a class you’re teaching people you haven’t met before. They don’t know all your shticks. They don’t always know when you’re joking or serious. Give them some other cues ! My personal approach at trying to be funny is very dry. I got the feedback that I’m hard to read. So when going into a teaching mindset I try to add some cues like smiling when I’m trying to make a comment aimed at being funny.


Teaching requires you to both deliver materials effectively as well as be the facilitator for the class. Monitoring the energy-level in the class and adjusting pace, tone, activity type, all while focusing on delivering and answering questions. I love the technique of asking the participants to help out. Whether it is by assigning “Rat hole”, “Sold”, “Park it” flags that everybody is encouraged to use, or whether it is by asking for feedback about the pace frequently — at a minimum after every lesson/module/break. Combining a short discussion of pace (e.g. thumbs up for too fast, sideways for just right, down for too slow) with a review of where we are from an agenda/objectives perspective is even better — as it gives everybody all the information so we can all try to adjust if needed.

What are YOU doing to get into a teaching mindset?

I’d love to hear from you — the reader. Do you have a teaching mindset checklist? Is it similar? What else do you try to be mindful about? Let me know in the comments!

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