Starting and ending a class session

Don’t you hate it when you don’t know what to say or how to say it?

You notice a girl. You want to talk to that girl. How do you start the conversation? You need to talk to someone about a problem you’re dealing with. It’s important that you’re heard and want to say it just right.

It’s strange. You want to say what you want to get across but have zero clue on how to get there. I go through this at the worst possible time and place – Mondays at 8 a.m. in the front of a college classroom.

In all the time I’ve taught my class – seven months – I still don’t know how to begin a lecture or end one.

It’s just so odd. I tried jokes, I tried asking questions I would think my students could answer. “How are we today? Tired? Excited? Sleepy?” are the go-to questions. I end up getting some strange, bewildered looks. I wish, just once, they would tell me that my hair actually is on fire or that my fly is unzipped.

It is one of the more unusual things I have to do; I didn’t realize I was my own opening act. I don’t have that much time to warm up the audience. I jump right in … to the shark tank. It’s so abrupt. I ask my canned questions, take in the silence and jump right into whatever I have planned for that day. From there, I usually have a handle on what I say. It may be in bullet point form, but I can get ideas and lecture notes across that way. I’m able to storm through about 30 to 45 minutes this way, occasionally asking questions or even answering them.

By the end of my lecture, I’m all talked out. When I reach the last bullet point or PowerPoint slide, I run out of things to say. When I run out of things to say, I just say, “Goodbye class.” My students awkwardly make their way out the door.

Similarly, I’ll just end this post right here.

Update: The esteemed Louis C.K. also has some thoughts on this. He essentially says what I wish I said:

“I don’t know how to start shows. It’s just a problem that I have. I never figured out to come out and just start talking, because the first thing you say onstage always feels stupid. Because there’s no REAL reason for me to talk to you. I don’t know you and you don’t even know each other, you’re just facing the same direction and that’s all you have in common. It’s like talking to a girl at a bar because you’re attracted to her and the first thing you say is just going to be dog shit coming out of your mouth.”