Manners: Teaching

At some point in everyone’s life they should teach someone else something. Whether you are showing someone how to do a math problem, change a tire, or fly an airplane: this is one of those things that you need to do to appreciate.

Anyone who says “those who can’t do, teach….” they never had a good teacher.  A good teacher can take you from where you are today and lead you (kicking and screaming when needed) to the other side of the world and then leave you staring at the wonders – and wondering what else needs to be done.

There are a few things that anyone who teaches needs to learn to do. These are skills as much as anything else I’ve ever learned:

  • Talk with your audience, don’t talk to them:

If your students are bored – they aren’t learning. Get them involved. There is always a way to put an activity in for learning. Even if it’s giving instructions and letting students muddle through. Lecture is the worst form of learning. I feel like I should repeat that three times.

  • Try to think on their level

One of the most frustrating things teachers have ever done to me or in my presence is to assume knowledge. It’s hard not to do! (I used to assume people knew what “go to the start menu” was…. then I worked in IT) But the best helpdesk – the best teachers – can talk at the level of their audience without condescension. Remember, there was actually a time you didn’t know it either. Also keep in mind that you don’t know everything and while you were learning this thing, the person in front of you might have been learning a totally different skill set.

  • Context is not optional:

Context changes the experience entirely. If the student asks “why do I need to know this” or “why is this important” or “when do I use this” – you should be able to answer. If you can’t answer it, you need to be asking the same question to everyone around you until you can get an answer. Sometimes that answer is as simple as “everyone needs to be reminded of the rules and we want to give you a forum to ask questions – we’e just calling it training.” Most of the time if you aren’t in a professional setting, you should make sure you cover the context.

  • A test is not the end:

Testing is often used as a “result”: you took the training, you passed the test. In my opinion, good learning means the person will use it again. if the person learns to sew a hem: will they need to sew hems regularly or are you just helping them out this once? If it’s a “just once” thing; do they need to learn it? Any good teacher will tell you REAL learning is how it is applied. Look at the people who should know what to do at a yellow light….

So yes, teaching someone is a form of manners. If they don’t want to learn – especially an adult – they aren’t going to retain much except resentment. That said, if you have knowledge and you aren’t sharing it… why not?