Getting more opportunities to teach (& learn)

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

December has been a busy month of writing, editing — and teaching. My priority at work is Poynter.org, but I try to teach on the side when I can. I find that my reporting informs my teaching and vice versa.

After I teach a session, I often write a related article. Similarly, I refer to articles I’ve previously reported/written when I’m teaching. This is especially helpful when I teach social media sessions; rather than just talk about different social networking tools, I can draw on my reporting to show how other journalists are using these tools and then share related tips.

Just before my talk at Providence College. (That's my college's "Veritas" -- aka "Truth" -- seal; it's all around campus.)

Just before my talk at Providence College. That’s my college’s “Veritas” seal that’s all around campus. Seeing as it stands for “Truth,” it seems like a fitting seal for a journalist.

In the past week, I’ve had a few different teaching opportunities: I gave a talk at Providence College (my alma mater) about how young journalists can make themselves marketable; I taught a social media session in a Poynter seminar for newsroom editors; and I coached a group of Tampa high school students on how to improve their school newspaper.

Whenever I teach at Poynter, I read the seminar participants’ evaluations to see what they thought about my presentation. A lot of times, participants will say, “This was great! I didn’t know about X social media tool. I learned SO much.” Other times, they’ll say, “It was good … but I already knew how to use all these tools.”

That’s one of the challenges of teaching social media — trying to reach people who have really different levels of familiarity with social networking sites. I’ve taught groups that include people who don’t know how to tweet and people who tweet every day on top of using Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr. How do you accommodate everyone? I try to keep the sessions pretty advanced so that even the participants who are already well-versed in social media can learn something. And I always try to introduce the group to one new tool (like RebelMouse) that they might not be as familiar with.

One other piece of feedback I got from the Poynter session I taught last week: “She was too quiet.” That line stuck with me because it speaks to a deeper issue involving my self-confidence. When I’m confident and at ease, it’s easier for me to project my voice. But if I’m nervous or doubting myself, I tend to mumble and get quiet. I realize this about myself, but I don’t always know how evident it is to others.

Hearing this feedback reminded me that I need to stand up straight (enough with the slouching!), speak up and trust that I know my stuff. I’ll practice later today; at 4 p.m. ET, I’m leading a Webinar for GateHouse Media. Should be fun!

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