Another month has zipped by and it is hard to see where it has gone. Mind you I am becoming more acutely aware of passing time as the joints start to react to the unusually cold nights and early mornings here in the West. Weeknight woodworking has ground to a halt with the winter chill in the garage. Maybe I need to find a big heated basement with a house for a roof.
The LOC for Perth 2011 has been in the forefront of my mind this last few weeks as I wrestle with trying to fit a gallon into a pint pot ( all right, 3.79 L into a 473 ml pot, but it doesn't roll off the tongue the same way, does it?) in devising a couple of sessions for the meeting. It is very hard to translate a vision into a reality when there are major time constraints. Do I specialise and narrow the ambit down or take a more broadbrush approach? Do I aim to be interactive or didactic? Do I structure the talks so each builds on the one before or allow each to stand on its own?
The easy option would be to simply invite speakers to give a talk on a topic and leave it at that but is that the best way to learn? At times like this, it would be really nice to have had some training in teaching, particularly adult education. Sure, I have had a lot of experience teaching but that doesn't, of itself, make me a good teacher. I certainly have a strong vision of what I want to achieve, but, to achieve that vision, I feel I need to break the mould and step outside the usual boundaries. That of course means more work and the taking of risks. It is also something of an experiment.
As a scientist, I believe experiments are good. We can theorise until the sheep come home, but until we test the theory it is all rather a waste of time. We can only advance by trying new approaches. Sometimes they work, and we wonder why it wasn't tried before. Sometimes they don't work, but we hopefully learn from those "failures". What is the price of failure for those attending? I guess an hour and a half that could have been spent doing something the audience think more worthwhile. Then again, there is no need to hang in there if you are thinking it isn't worth the time.
We face similar conundrums on a regular basis. Creating new lab reports - do we stick with the tried and true or introduce new indices into the report that will hopefully improve the quality of interpretation once those reporting have been educated? Hiring staff? Choosing equipment? All require decisions with significant risks attached.
At the end of the day it comes down to confidence in your decisions. If your vision is strong enough and you believe in your ability to pull it off and manage the risks, then the sky is the limit. Advancement requires you make the decision, implement it and deal with the consequences.