Tag Archives: Teaching

TELL ME THURSDAY: Your Public Speaking Fears

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m working on a talk I’m doing next week and I could use your help!

Research has shown that most people would rather die than speak on stage. I can see how that’s possible!

Tell me: What are the challenges you face when speaking in public?

5 Reasons why Teaching & Speaking are like Kayaking & White-water Rafting

“You never paddle the same river twice.”

My uncle–the adventurer extraordinaire Anton Carag, Jr.–was in the middle of briefing our family about kayaking and white-water rafting when I stopped to write what he had just said. I had a feeling there was a deeper lesson in there somewhere.

Fast forward to today. I was busy developing a workshop that I’m giving next week to some students from the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde. As I was working on the talk outline, I realized that public speaking and teaching are both a lot like kayaking and white-water rafting.

1) Every river experience is different, just as every speaking opportunity is different.

If you’re someone who teaches and speaks on a regular basis, it’s easy to lose your passion and just go through the motions. And when I lose my passion, I often end up preparing less and I’m tempted to simply “wing it.” But just as every river explorer has to enter the river alert, focused, and ready, a teacher and speaker needs to enter every teaching space with the same attitude.

2) Preparation will be your best friend.

Practicing the fall

Before we started kayaking, we were given life vests and helmets to wear. After we put on our gear, Tito Anton briefed us on safety measures, then we were placed on kayaks near the river bed where we each had to practice falling.

To tell you the truth, I was relieved at this exercise. For starters, getting dunked into the river helped me get used to the cold water temperature, and it helped me simulate the experience and realize that it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.

In the same way, preparing and practicing a talk or a lesson can help lessen fears and help you prepare for possible obstacles. Am I boring myself in this portion of the talk? Then chances are my audience will start yawning, too. Do I need to insert a video or an activity to keep them engaged? Practicing and simulating helps me anticipate possible roadblocks and adjust as needed.

3) When you hit obstacles, you have to keep digging.

The river has a lot of rapids and boulders that can cause the raft or kayak to stop, fly, or flip. My first instinct would just be to stop paddling and grab on to whatever I can until the obstacles pass.

However, we were taught that when those rapids come, all the more we need to paddle harder. Or sometimes they would call out, “Dig!” because the intensity of the paddling that was required looks a lot like digging.

In the same way, it’s easy to just trail off and change the topic when you hit roadblocks in teaching or speaking. Your students or audience look like they’re tuning out, their eyes glaze over, and blank looks or confused faces stare back at you.

Instead of getting discouraged or resorting to rushing through the material, all the more we need to seize the opportunity to keep digging. It could mean asking questions to try to untangle what’s confusing the audience, or it could mean thinking of metaphors or analogies that will help the audience grasp your point better. Of course, the best time to do this would be during the preparation process, but in case you encounter obstacles in the middle of the action, don’t stop and don’t give up. Just keep on digging.

4)  Speaking and teaching can make you nervous and anxious, but it can be fun and exciting. Although you won’t get to experience that until you put yourself out there.

If you read my blog last week, you know that I wasn’t very excited at the thought of white-water rafting. I’m not a fan of open water, much less raging rapids. But now that I’ve tried it, I can say that I’m really glad I did. I had a lot of fun and I enjoyed going through the adventure with my family. It was definitely an experience to remember.

The Happy Survivors!

In the same way, I’ve often found myself absolutely dreading upcoming talks and workshops. But I’ve pushed myself to keep on doing it because, for starters, I’ve been blessed to be able to learn from teachers, mentors, experiences, and books, and my heart is to share the knowledge to help others. And I can’t help but feel joy when a student tells me that they learned a lot (or something like that). It makes every moment of anxiety and every hour spent preparing worth it. Besides, I’ve also learned that feeling nervous is normal. It helps keep me grounded, too!

5) You’ll want to pray all the way.

I’ve realized that it’s all the same with kayaking, white-water rafting, teaching, and speaking: the Lord will be my strength through and through. I stake my confidence on Him more than anything, because my skills and preparation could possibly fall short, but He never will. :)

Are you a teacher/speaker/adventurer? Is there anything else you can add to this list?

Special thanks to Tito Anton Carag and his awesome team from Adventures & Expeditions Philippines, Inc. (AEPI). If you’d like to know more about having your own Cagayan Valley adventure (kayaking/caving/rafting/watching the circadian flight of bats), you can contact AEPI at (078) 844-1298, 0917- 532-7480, or aepi@whitewater.ph. We had a great time taking in the beautiful sights, eating the delicious food, and experiencing the life-changing adventures! We flew to Tuguegarao via Cebu Pacific Air, but our flight home was canceled due to bad weather, so we took a 10-hour bus ride back to Manila via G.V. Florida Bus Transport. Despite the long trip, the ride was very comfortable. Their buses are new, the restroom was clean, and we got to recline and watch movies on-board. If you’re looking to save money, it’s a great alternative. Here are some other photos from the trip:


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What are you doing with your talents and gifts?

When I think of giftedness, I think of Howard Wong.

You know, Howard.

You don’t know Howard?

Well, you should.

This is Howard. This Malaysian boy is 3 or 4 years old in this video, which I think was taken this year. (You can find the awesome excerpt below, but if you want to see the full version, you can watch it here)

My reaction: “GET OUT. No way. IS THIS REAL?”

Did you react the same way?

Well, apparently, he is the real deal. This is Howard at 3 years old:

Did he just wake up this way, you ask? Well, this is Howard at 23 months:

And before you fall completely off your chair, this is Howard at 18 months.

Howard is talented. He is gifted. But he, too, started somewhere. At 18 months, he was drumming to “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”, and 3 years (or so) later, he was drumming to Joan Jett. No matter how gifted he was at 18 months, he kept on drumming. And because he kept at it, he evolved from being gifted to being PHENOMENAL.

Every person has his or her own gifts. Can you run really fast? Speak eloquently on stage? Climb mountains without fear? Invest your finances wisely? Cook a delicious dinner? The list never ends. Some gifts may stand out more than others, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that every gift is special, and we all have at least one.

Everyone is gifted with something, but not everyone becomes phenomenal. I remember a tweet I read from leadership speaker and author Mark Sanborn: “Every day your skills are changing. They improve through use and intentional practice. They decline through lack of use and misuse.”

When you use your gifts and when you develop them through practice and with the help of a mentor, your gifts are enhanced. You create art. You make an impact. You bless others. I may not know Howard, but just watching his videos brightened up my day. His gift blessed me.

What are your gifts? Do you practice and develop them? Do you even use them? If this is the first time you’ve asked yourself these questions and you have some spare time on your hands, then you might want to try coming up with a Gift Growth Plan.

  1. Think of 3 things that you’re really good at. How would you know? Doing them comes easily to you, you enjoy doing them (they’re also called “strengths” because they make you feel strong), and people have recognized the gift and complimented you on it. Are you organized? Are you creative when it comes to crafts? Are you good at graphic design? Chances are that you have more than 3 gifts, but for the purpose of being able to focus, let’s work with 3.
  2. Plot out how you can use them or practice them more often. If it’s already part of your job, ask yourself where else you can contribute your gift. Maybe you can do some volunteer work that makes use of your specific gifts. Believe me, there are organizations out there that need what you have to offer.
  3. List down the resources that can help you use or develop your gift. Ask yourself: What do I need? Is there a class I can take? Do I have a good friend who can serve as my mentor? Do I need supplies or equipment? Write them down so you know what you need to work towards.
  4. Create action steps. Don’t stop at what you need or what you lack. Give yourself some “next steps” to act upon. Obstacles can be overcome by chipping away at them.

If you need a guide, you can download a sample Gift Growth Plan which I created for a fictional person (if you prefer mind-mapping, you can download this sample). But please don’t be boxed in by the templates and the methods–the point is just to get the wheels in your head turning again, so you can get those creative juices flowing!

You know what else struck me about Howard? The sheer joy on his face while he was drumming. In the course of using, practicing, and developing your gifts, don’t forget to have fun, too! More than anything, this is why I encourage being intentional when it comes to using your gifts: because when you use your gifts–especially when you use them to help or serve others–you feel “more alive.” And isn’t it pure joy to feel fully alive?

This Eric Liddell quote from the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire comes to mind: I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” God smiles when we use the gifts He gave us!

Before I end this, a note for the parents: it’s never too early to help your child recognize and develop some of their gifts. Howard Wong is proof of that. Try doing this exercise with your kids too!

Do you have a gift/strength that you get to use regularly? How does it make you feel?

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How to make an impact when teaching, speaking, or simply sharing

I have two more talks lined up this month, and when I prepare for a talk, I put a lot of thought into my outline or mind map for the talk. I don’t get too picky about every single word that I’ll use as I speak, but I do make an effort to make sure that my outline or mind map makes sense, and has some “flow” in it. I put myself in the shoes of an audience member, and I wonder if the information I plan on giving is sufficient, relevant, and helpful. I think about how to use creative illustrations and activities, and then I go back to what I have to edit some more.

In other words, as much as possible, I try to put a lot of time and effort into it. While the methods may differ, I know that most teachers or speakers would do the same thing. And whether you’re a seasoned speaker or you’re someone who makes presentations once in a blue moon, I think you’ll be able to relate to this.

Yesterday, as I was looking back on my old journals, I came across an entry I wrote after attending a talk by a man named Dr. John Ridgley. I don’t remember exactly what he does, but I know he’s a speaker and he talks about sharing an unchanging God with a changing world. He’s an Australian man who looks like he’s in his 60s, and he lived (or still lives) in India. One of the experiences he shared with us was when he came face to face with Mother Teresa, he was so blown away and speechless, that all he could say was, “God bless you!” (I think I would’ve done the same thing!)

I remember that he was a powerful speaker with a lot of funny anecdotes, but there was one thing he said that really stood out for me, and it was this:

“You can make an impact without saying a word.”

As I look back on this, it got me thinking that we can spend hours, days, and even weeks preparing for a lesson, talk, speech, or presentation, but sometimes we forget to factor in the most important part: what we do when we’re not in front or under the spotlight–what we do before we even begin.

There are many different things to think about: do we show sincerity, openness, humility, politeness, integrity? Do we practice what we preach?

I think those are all extremely important, but for today I’ll focus on one that I think is difficult to fake when you don’t have it: PASSION. I’ve found that people respond to passion. If you’re not passionate about the topic you’re talking about, then chances are, your audience won’t get passionate about it either. When you stand in front and you share and show your passion, you get the audience excited about sharing that journey with you.

So let’s say I have a topic I’m passionate about…great! But admittedly, there are days that no matter how much I love the topic, I can’t seem to come up with the passion I need. Do you ever have those days? Here are my two tips on what to do when faced with passion roadblocks:

1) Take a break. A car has to stop for gas, it just doesn’t run forever. Every so often you have to check on the oil, the brakes, etc. We kind of run the same way. Without stopping for a break, you won’t be able to check what needs attention until it’s too late. Take a break–the length differs, but do yourself a favor and take a step back, assess yourself and your life, and fill yourself up with what you need. Alone time? Family time? Vacation time? Sleep? Acknowledge it and go for it.

2) Pray. It may sound simple but it’s the one thing I can do that can make a huge difference. There are times when I feel like I’m beyond repair, and no amount of break time seems to bring back the fire and passion I once had. When this happens to me, I pray and I ask God for help. At the end of the day, I want the students to walk away with something that helped them or added value to their lives. They should not have to ‘suffer’ because I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. So I pray for strength, energy, clarity of thought, and I pray for excitement and joy to rise up within me so I can share that excitement and joy with others. When I acknowledge that it’s not about me and I invite God into the process, His grace more than makes up for what I lack.

Writing this all down helps me remember, and God knows I need the reminder! I hope this helps you in some way too. :)

7 Important Lessons I Learned as a Preschool Teacher (A guest post by Carisse Escueta)

Carisse & me on our unforgettable Napa Valley adventure (circa 2008)!

There are few people I know who can match the patient, calm, and quirky nature of my dear friend, Carisse Escueta, which explains why people (especially children) are instantly drawn to her. In many ways, she can be likened to Mary Poppins, because she is pleasant, charismatic, talented, and without a doubt, one of the most incredible visionaries and dream-igniters that I know.

Carisse also happens to be the catalyst and leader behind our non-profit organization, RepubLIKHA, which was created to empower the next generation through music. Prior to starting RepubLIKHA, Carisse spent several years working as a preschool teacher. In honor of Children’s Month, she shares with us some precious insights (with cute photos!) that she picked up while working with kids:

7 Important Lessons I Learned as a Preschool Teacher
by Carisse Escueta

Teaching very young children is supposedly no easy feat, and teaching over 30 of them for three hours is close to impossible. Somehow I was able to do it for 5 years with my sanity intact! At the end of my teaching career I realized that I learned quite a few things myself. We are not as different from children as we think. Here are some of the lessons my students taught me.

  1. "Teacher I want to read!"

    Learning is relative. Children will pick up on the strangest things. You might be trying your darndest to teach their letters and numbers, then they’ll start asking you about cupcakes and spaceships. Let them be excited about it and go with their flow. It reminds me that we are all unique and have different views of the world.

  2. Be very specific in your praise. Children are still discovering what they are good at. It helps to tell them EXACTLY what they did well, and why it is praise worthy. It could be how they put their things away neatly or how they played a game really well despite losing. Whatever it is, be specific! We all need to know the good we are able to do in this world no matter what age we are. That being said…
  3. Don’t be afraid to show that you are upset. We all need to learn how to voice our concerns and handle someone’s disappointment in us. We mustn’t raise a generation of people-pleasers but children who are unafraid to speak up against things that are not right. They learn how to do that from us.
  4. Playing is necessary. The job of a child is to play. Let them explore, get mud on their feet, and stink up a room with their sweat. Playing is what helps them understand their world better, relate to others, solve problems, and discover who they are. It’s okay, let them play! When I find myself stuck in a rut, I go out and play too. There is a joy in knowing you are able to be yourself regardless of the circumstance.
  5. Talking is necessary too. Kids live in a lonely world; many activities don’t need human interaction (gadgets, tv). I take it as a good sign when a classroom is noisy; it shows that children are engaged. Most of the time we don’t let children talk enough. I have learned to be quiet and let them speak. Interesting results!
  6. Laugh. Have a sense of humor and don’t be afraid to look silly. Kids are champions at laughter. No wonder they’re so happy! Laugh. It’ll make everything better, you’ll see.
  7. Patience is a miracle worker. Sometimes I receive kids who cannot even spell their name, but by the end of the school year are reading and writing non-stop. Never give up on someone just because they aren’t moving at the same pace as you (or the rest). My kids taught me to focus on the eventual good that comes with determination. Don’t give up on yourself!

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Carisse is grateful for the opportunity to guest on Lizzo’s awesome blog. You can find her (alone) lost in bookstores, zoning out while listening to music, or finding ways to make P100 stretch over a week. She would also love it if you visited www.republikha.org. You can also email her at carisse [at] gmail [dot] com :)

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Tell Me Thursday: School Talk!

For today’s Tell Me Thursday post, I decided to do something different: I asked friends from different backgrounds (music, TV, radio, sports, publishing, business, etc.) to share their answers to get the ball rolling!

Today’s Tell Me Thursday question is…

What is one topic or subject you wish they had taught when you were in school?

Andi Manzano: “Character building & responsibility :) I wish school taught me how to do things my own way and not just all purely memorization.”

Benjo Marquez: “The one class I wished they taught in school was skateboarding. Hehe! No, that is a tough one. In hindsight, I wish they had taught us how to handle money and understand the concept of making and spending money.”

Christian Bautista: “During grade school or high school, I wish they had guided us thoroughly to know our strengths and talents–where we are good at –to guide us better in choosing the right course to take in college, or to know our possible profession in the future.”

Kelly Williams: “I wish they taught Tagalog/Filipino for the obvious reason. It would have surely helped me tremendously the past the 5 years :)”

Myrza Sison: “Although I don’t think I’m deficient in it (I hope not!) I wish they taught EQ or Emotional Intelligence in school so that everyone could have learned how their emotions affect their actions and how they can manage their emotions effectively. Lots of problems in the workplace and society are caused by conflict brought about by people’s EQ deficiencies and could be avoided if everyone just knew themselves a little better.”

Owie Burns: “I wish they told us WHY they were teaching us WHAT they were teaching us. I guess some would say it’s a given that what they teach you in school WILL come in handy one day — but as kids (given so much info) you don’t really see what it’s all for, UNLESS someone actually says so. I honestly would have paid more attention in class – not because I had to, but because I knew it would be useful one day, someday.”

Paolo Valenciano: “Media / film class. if they think an art class or a music class is necessary , why not give the kids an option to choose between art, music and film… since media plays such a major part in our society.”

My answer? I wish they taught us more about time management and budgeting. Both are always expected, but I feel like the topics aren’t taught adequately enough. Oh, and I wish they taught us how to conduct lie detector tests without having to use a lie detector machine. Wouldn’t that be fun? :)

A gazillion thanks to Andi, Benjo, Christian, Kelly, Myrza, Owie, and Pao for ‘guesting’ on the blog and answering today’s Tell Me Thursday question!

Now it’s your turn. :) What is one topic or subject you wish they taught in school? Serious, quirky, or random answers are welcome!

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A powerful insight about grace

USC professor and author Dallas Willard

Early this year, I had the privilege of seeing and hearing philosopher, professor, and author Dallas Willard speak in person at the Catalyst West 2010 conference, where he was interviewed on stage by one of my favorite authors and speakers, John Ortberg.

This session was one of the highlights of the conference for me. Willard is not only brilliant and deep, he’s incredibly funny and witty, too. A guy named Jake Ishmael even tweeted: “Dallas Willard makes Yoda look like an idiot.” Sorry to all the Star Wars fans, but I have to agree!

Willard had several Twitter-worthy statements, but there was one that still resonates with me today:

“Grace doesn’t make us passive…
We have to understand, grace is not opposed to effort.
It’s opposed to earning.
Effort is action. Earning is attitude.
You can’t mix God’s action with you with
the idea that ‘I’m earning this’.
That’s the wrong basis for the relationship.”

You can view part of the interview here: (the part about grace begins at 1:54)

While I was doing my research for this post, I came across a transcript of some remarks given by Dallas Willard at the C.S. Lewis Foundation Summer Conference at the University of San Diego. I think it just changed me. If you’re a teacher, you might want to read it.

Since I don’t know how to reach him, I’ll just say this here: thank you, Mr. Willard, for opening my mind and speaking to my heart.

What can you say about effort vs. earning? Does this insight help you?

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Practicing what you preach can be easy (or easier!)

Okay, here’s the truth: practicing what you preach isn’t easy at all. I should know, I’m a teacher, and I struggle with this a lot.

You know that saying that goes, “Those who can’t do, teach”? I’ve always thought that was a little harsh. But there is a sad truth behind this: sometimes it’s just easier to teach what you know than it is to actually convert knowledge into effective action. It’s easier to talk about leadership than it is to lead an organization, it’s easier to talk about discipline than it is to stick to your resolutions, it’s easier to preach about self-control than it is to exercise it, it’s easier to talk about compassion than it is to give away the money you’ve worked hard for, and it’s definitely easier to talk about financial stewardship than it is to stop yourself from buying things that you don’t really need. It’s a constant struggle. But it CAN get easier.

This is what I’ve learned: when I need to practice what I preach, I need to be honest with myself and admit that I need other people. Sometimes I need a leader for direction when I’m lost and confused, a mentor for guidance when my blind spots are getting me into trouble, a co-worker for support when I’m feeling overwhelmed, a teammate for their ability to do what I cannot do, or a friend who can pray for me when I feel like giving up. Different problems, different roles, one important truth: it gets easier when I open myself to other people.

But what does that look like? How does that work on a practical level?

I’m a big fan of taking baby steps. In this case, I would probably start by being honest with myself that I need someone to talk to, then I would find that person, then I would say these three simple words:

“I need help.”

I think it’s the fear of rejection, or the fear of feeling vulnerable or powerless that stops people from saying these words. I know that these fears have stopped me time and time again. But I also know that each time that I swallowed my pride, put aside my fears, and said those words out loud, grace followed–and flowed–and I had no regrets. Well, that’s not entirely true. Most of the time, I regret not asking for help earlier. :)

Who are the people or what are the strategies that have helped you practice what you preach? Do share!

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Words I’d like to teach to my future kids

There are some words that I’ve known and used all my life but I didn’t really fully understand. I don’t want it to be that way with the kids that I hope I’ll have one day. I’d like to have the chance to sit down with them and talk to them about words and ideas that I value, in the hope that, as they grow up, they would value them as well. I want to be able to help them define these words, instead of letting the media or their surroundings confuse them on what these words really mean.

Come to think of it, there are so many words, but I stopped before my list went any longer. Here are the ones that came to mind:

And just in case you can’t see the graphic, here are the words again:
Bless • Blessing • Compassion • Dream • Faith • Family • Forgive • Generosity • Grace • Gratitude • Honor • Hope • Humility • Invest • Joy • Justice • Laugh • Lead • Learn • Listen • Love • Mercy • Patience • Perseverance • Preserve • Purpose • Respect • Serve • Service • Stewardship • Success • Trust • Understand • Worth

Until that time comes, I’ll just have to practice! Tomorrow at Kids Church, we’ll be talking about another valuable word: DEVOTION. :)

How about you? What are the words you’d like to talk about with your kids?

It is a great privilege…

…to be around these people. I only wish there was more time.

Maraming salamat II-KTM! :-) The opportunity to share LIFE with you has been one of the best blessings.