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Teaching: Expect the Unexpected

Nobody wants to be caught off guard when teaching. Nevertheless, we have all had those “uh-oh” moments when the discussion went further than what we had planned.

Sometimes this is un-avoidable. Other times, a little bit of planning can prevent this from happening.

When planning to teach a lesson on a particular passage of Scripture, try to anticipate the possible questions beforehand. Don’t just plan in lecture form what you intend to say.

Try to imagine the kinds of “unplanned” things that students might bring up. As these things come to your mind, write them down. Don’t include them in your lecture, just be prepared for them. This could end up saving you some time in the event that potential “rabbit trails” emerge, in that you can deal with them fairly quickly. This could also possibly spare you some embarrassment in the case that you are not prepared to handle a student’s question.

Remember, just as you have questions for them, students may have questions for you. It is all part of the overall learning process. So, as you plan your lesson, plan for the unplanned things as well (controversial issues, theologically challenging topics, etc.). Perhaps only then will you be truly prepared to teach it.

Also, remember that it is okay to say, “I don’t know.” Students aren’t particularly concerned with whether or not you are an expert; they just want you to be trustworthy.

It is also great to have some study materials on hand so that if someone asks a question that you don’t know the answer to, or wants to go deeper in a way you had not anticipated, you can explore the idea as a group. In doing so, you not only give them the answer they were seeking, but you teach them that they, too, can study on their own and find the answers to their questions.

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