I was about to experience one of the worst teaching examples of inclusion ever.
The auditorium was packed. I was sitting in my seat with my palms sweating and a cage full of butterflies in my stomach, which were threatening to escape. I was nervous and completely out of my element.
I’d really stepped out of my comfort zone by pushing myself to take a coaching clinic – not as in career coaching but rather sports coaching.
I’ve always felt more comfortable with my nose in a book than on a sports field but at the time I was working for the YMCA and figured it would be a good addition to my skill set.
Just as I was losing the wrestling competition with my butterflies, someone came into the class late from the door at the rear of the auditorium.
The instructor motioned us to all stand up, turn around, point to the person and yell ‘you’re late.’
I’m not making this up. And it got worse,
Once we were up practicing our coaching skills all I could think of was “don’t put your hands in your pockets, don’t put your hands in your pockets, where are your hands? Ack get them away from your pockets!”
I stood there awkwardly with my arms like a stick person, stiffly stuck out and raised. And anytime my hands would waver near my pockets I’d stifle a yelp and hold them gawkily out again.
This was exhausting.
Why the heck was I obsessing about where my hands were? Good question!
What was I supposed to be learning? How to coach.
What was I actually learning? How to shame participants and how to make them feel unwelcome and not included.
Can you guess the reason behind the pocket thing?
Of course not, because it was some random torturous thing the instructor made up in his mad mind. For some reasons, which had nothing to do with coaching, if you got caught with your hands in your pockets you had to do 10 pushups in front of everyone.
I was mortified about that prospect. I wasn’t sure I could even do 10 pushups and I certainly didn’t want to try in front of everyone. So I went back to focusing on where my damn hands were. Which made it very hard to focus on what I was supposed to be learning.
A couple of decades later, I’ve now designed and delivered workshops for thousands of participants in and from more than 120 countries. Make sure people feel welcome so they can sink into the learning is always my first step.
I call this making learning accessible.
Next week I’ll share 10 examples of how to do just that.
In the meantime go on and learn, laugh and lead.
Find out more about how culture affects access and inclusion issues.
Butterflies in your belly? Take advice from this sweet video (warning: earworm will follow, aka it’s super catchy).
Culture is such a big part of access and inclusion, next week you’ll be able to download my cultural iceberg worksheet and complete it for your own culture. But in the meantime, before I give you 10 examples of how to make learning accessible, get ready and brainstorm: how have you seen learning made accessible?