Our LEADER team trickled into Macedonia one by one from different parts of the world. I was the first to arrive. After backpacking for 7 weeks in Israel and Eastern Europe I was a bit travel-weary and was happy to have the night to myself. Once I had showered and unpacked, I flipped through the welcome package from our site partner, Macedonia 2025 (MK2025). I was surprised to find the LEADER project was heavily featured as one of MK2025’s capstone events. When we met with MK2025’s site director a couple of days later she told us the LEADER project is one of the best business courses available in the country. Then I read through the bios of our 42 students. Many of them had MBAs or specialized degrees in economics, accounting, and marketing. Ok so... no pressure! Having finished MBA classes eight weeks earlier naturally I had already forgotten everything I'd learned. I couldn't imagine how I was possibly going to teach these people anything. But I was motivated to try.
Our first teaching day was heavily administrative. We spent four hours talking about the case method, introducing ourselves, and having each of our students introduce themselves to the class. I felt confident it was an important part of everyone getting comfortable in our classroom, but I didn't feel we’d exactly captivated the students. The next day wasn't my teaching day (each day two of our team of four instructors taught – one for the lecture, one for the case), but I went just to sit in class, get to know the students, and see how our classroom norms were shaping up. I was SO nervous. But watching the students’ eagerness to contribute and my colleagues’ skills at running the classroom made me more comfortable. Tomorrow it was my turn. Marketing lecture. I could handle that.
I went home (after our requisite post-class culinary plunge of course) and worked until the wee hours of the morning tweaking my slides, practicing which parts would be interactive and which would be more lecture-based. I tried to remember how I felt a year earlier before I took my first marketing class. I reminded myself to be comfortable with silence, and resolved to be challenging but supportive. Then called my husband, snuck in a few hours of sleep, and woke up feeling excited. Here goes!
And go it did. Having worked as a camp counsellor for years I was used to standing in front of a group (although I was usually singing ridiculous camp songs involving a great big moose or the like. I wasn't sure that would play well here.). I paused, planted, and projected: “What the hell is marketing, anyway?” Apparently I swear a lot as a teacher. But I think it broke the ice and made the students more comfortable to see that I was being myself. It turns out I'm a pretty bossy teacher too (not a surprise because I can be a pretty bossy everything in life). I’m not sure my style was ideal for every student, but it helped manage the classroom of students eager to talk over each other. Nonetheless, off we went together, the students and me. They took the material everywhere I hoped they would and some directions I didn’t anticipate. Thankfully my Ivey training had prepared me more than I gave it credit for. Knowledge came rushing back as I needed it and the students and I explored market analysis, marketing strategy, and marketing tactics in 90 minutes or less. They were champions. And I was hooked. We went on to explore more complex cases and lectures as our two weeks went on. I could tell they were gaining knowledge and confidence with each passing class. And so was I. When I got to watch some of their business pitches on the last day in front of a panel of highly respected Macedonian business leaders, I got a little teary-eyed with pride.
LEADER is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever participated in. I am so grateful to Ivey for giving us the knowledge, the LEADER program for giving us the opportunity, the students for challenging and trusting us, and MK 2025 for supporting us on the ground. Finally, I owe a big thank you to my colleagues Matt, Anna, and Jeremy for being great teachers not only to the students but also to me, and for making this experience such a blast!