When I taught English as a foreign language I was horrified at the start of my first year when one of the teachers I worked with taught his students the phrase ‘winging it’ in the context of him ‘winging’ his lesson with them as he hadn’t prepared. When I first started teaching I would never had done that, how could I wing it when I had a class full of students looking at me expecting a planned lesson?
However towards the end of the teaching year I found myself there. I was the one winging it. I’d done countless marking and written evaluations that week — and other such excuses for these situations — and there I was, stood in front of my class with a chunk of lesson time remaining. I looked at them, I glanced at our lesson topics and then… then my lesson really did fly. Instead of stalling or resorting to just chatting with my students I taught a revision segment on comparative adjectives which was still going strong when the bell rang.
It felt different from my usual teaching, I felt like I was in control of the lesson, pushing it forwards with the answers at my fingertips as I watched my students engage and enjoy themselves. I could see what I was doing in that moment, where I was steering things, I knew my stuff, I was confident, I wasn’t winging it I was flying.
Since then, and I think before then I’d just never named it before, I’ve often found myself in a similar groove. As I work or play with my kids or talk about subjects that I feel passionate about or enjoy time with my family and friends there are moments when I’m no longer consciously thinking my way through what I’m doing I’m just getting on and doing it. It’s like I’m on some kind of conscious auto-pilot where what I know is making everything move along smoothly and I’ve no need to pause and collect my thoughts.
The more I ponder this feeling the more I don’t think this is a coincidence. As we learn new skills like teaching or parenting, as we become more informed on subjects that we are passionate about or begin to perfect work skills we seem to earn the right to have things run like clockwork. Often it can feel like every thing we do is an uphill climb, more challenging that what’s gone before and forever testing us as we push forward to achieve more success in a chosen field. We rarely take the time to appreciate that with every newly acquired skill another one that we’ve been honing for a while is suddenly there at our fingertips for daily use.
So now I would say that I do ‘wing it’ quite a lot. The more that you strive to learn the more you earn the feeling that you are flying through the things you do know very well indeed.