Catalyst

Learning from Life and Leadership

An Experience With Stock Cars–What It Taught Me about Teaching

Most of the times, vacations are a time to kick back and not think. But the best vacations cause you to experience something and learn from it.

Such is my current vacation. While visiting my daughter in North Carolina, she suggested we visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I’m not much of a

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stock car racing fan but it was different so I decided to go to Charlotte and go through the place. I was overwhelmed with the experience.

The hall is a phenomenal recreation of a race track, portraying the changes of cars through the ages and the banks of tracks. But what struck me was the “experience” given. You got to make decisions about configuring cars, working on a pit crew and driving a race car simulator. We closed up the place and could have spent another couple of hours.

The day gave me pause for reflection. NASCAR did a fabulous job of doing three things.

They educated me about stock car racing. I learned how changing springs changes the driving of the car. I now better understand the complicated “points system” used to determine a champion each year. Through exhibits and fantastic multimedia, they presented their story in a compelling manner that transcended the stereotype of red-neck hooliganism.

They gave me the experience. The hands-on experience unleashes something inside. When you put your hands on things, you understand it.

They made me want to be a fan. I doubt I’ll follow every race, but I am more inclined not to flip through the NASCAR race on Saturday afternoon TV now either. I can enjoy the experience.

But those  three items are part of training and teaching. Whether you teach material or train a skill, you still have to do three things.

  • Appeal to the senses. Let them see and read, and slowly understand. Show how complicated things (like springs) have practical value. Good teachers bring lessons into lives of students.
  • Provide an experience which is enjoyable. Let people get their hands dirty. Too many Bible teachers (for instance) say, “sit down, shut up and I’ll teach you this.” But let people dig into the text for themselves and they may not get the same depth but the experience lights the fire.
  • Make people want to do it again…and again…and again. I’ve watched countless people suffer through classes, presentations, and speeches, The glance at watches waiting for eternity to pass into forever. If you do the first two well, the third will follow. If it doesn’t have a measure of fun, no one does it again!

Now, I’ll listen for the thunder of the V-8’s revving their engines and long for the smell of gasoline. It’s all because of the experience of a vacation afternoon.

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