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AND FINALLY...


LAST STAND ❝


A VIEW OF THE WORLD WITH A WITTY QU IP OR TWO!


Tom Salinsky reflects on why it’s easier to teach new skills to children


U


sually, when I’m training, if I ask for a volunteer to help me demonstrate something


to the rest of the group, it takes ages to get one and when I do they look a little ill (see last month’s column). But sometimes when I’m running a workshop, I ask for a volunteer and I see a forest of hands. Sometimes people will be out of their seats before I’ve even finished the sentence, that’s how eager they are to be my volunteer. But there’s only one group of people I know who reliably behaves like this: children. If I face a room full of eight-


year-olds and say: “Can I have a volunteer?” they start going: “Me, me, please pick me!” All they want is to have lots of goes. Tat’s their mission. Tat’s their metric for success: how many goes did I have? Adults approach this situation very


differently. We would much rather watch somebody else do it first. During which time we can analyse it. See if we think that is something we would be good at. Run a sort of simulation in our im- aginations: what would that be like if it was me doing it? And then, if we think we’d be successful, we are prepared to have a go. But if we don’t think we’d be successful, we’d rather have no go at all. Children want lots of goes.


Adults want one perfect go. But you don’t get one perfect go. You have to keep having lots


38 | August 2016 | @TrainingJournal


of goes, because it’s the only way to learn and that means not being so invested in the quality of any one go. Here’s another example. Let’s say that at the fairground there are two rival coconut shies. One offers you three balls for £1. Te other offers you only one ball for the same £1. Which will you give your money to? Most people would say the first one. Not only is it better value, you don’t really expect to be able to knock off the coconut with your first ball. With the first ball, you’re really just gathering data. But if you are a foot to the left with your first ball and six inches to the right with your second ball, then with your third ball you might hit the target and take home your prize. Now imagine I’ve said you can


have three goes at demon- strating something in


Adults want one perfect go. But you don’t get one perfect go


front of the rest of the group, or only one. Now most people will choose the second option, because this doesn’t feel like three opportunities to gather data, it feels like three opportunities to be embarrassed or humiliated. But the best workshops feel like a


lab, not a test. A place to experiment and try new things without needing all our goes to be perfect. Children know this instinctively, which is why it’s so easy to teach most children new things, and so hard to teach some adults.


Tom Salinsky is an actor, improviser, writer, teacher and trainer. He is also a director of the Spontaneity Shop. Follow him @tomsalinsky


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