Before You Teach

Frustration

There’s a sign in a Boy Scout camp down in Alabama, and it says:

You can’t teach what you don’t know

like you can go back to where you ain’t been

Poor grammar aside, it is a truism. To teach one of the most significant requirements is that you actually know what you’re talking about. And yet, it is not the only requirement.

To teach others, you need to meet them where they are. After you have the connection, then you can guide them to wherever they need to go. Failure to do so would mean a collapse in the transfer of knowledge. And that could happen no matter how knowledgeable the instructor is.

The greatest thing you could have in teaching others is to know and understand those you are working with. Until that understanding occurs, more likely than not, there merely groups of people trying to search for something in the dark.

The question becomes if you are writing a course, how do you really know your audience and what they need? The answer to that is easier than you think. You need to go out and interact with them.

Many people miss the step because they think it can’t be done or is very hard to do. Yet, is one of the easiest things in the entire training process. To know your students, you just need to go out and communicate with them, be with them, empathize with them. Then, you will know how to teach them and what they need to learn.

Where and how you may ask? If you’re teaching people, who build computers, go to the factory and be on the line with those people for a while as they build the computers. If you’re writing lessons for vets, go to veterans organizations and military bases, and maybe a bar or two near those places.

Coffee houses are great places to learn about other potential students and what they have to live with on a daily basis. Restaurants, parks, charities, organizations, and meet-ups are just a few of the places you could go to talk to people and learn something before you teach others.

Worried you’ll be ignored? Say hi a time or two, and you may be surprised. Offer to buy somebody a cup of coffee, and then listen to what they say. Watch their mannerisms. Their timber and emotion in the voice will tell you where the pain points really are.

When you teach somebody something, you are actually offering them a better way to deal with the pain point. Students need to know something which you are going to teach them so they can do something better. And that relieves the irritation, pain, or worry.

In doing this preliminary work, you are actually removing your own worry, stress, and pain points. Because once you have done this learning about your students, you have made your own work of teaching much easier to accomplish.

Author: Mike Balof

Mike Balof, MEd, develops intensive, interactive courses which have helped contract manufacturing and nonprofit institutions. He taught youth and adults seeking employment to better represent themselves, leading many of them to successful careers. Mike taught in corporate training, teaching adults and high school students to build computers, work as a team, and to identify and fix problems using a myriad of tools from Total Quality Management(TQM), to 8-D, to Six Sigma. Mike now turns his talents to helping fellow veterans reach their objectives and desires through continuous performance improvement. As we start to live in a post knowledge world, where a doubling of common knowledge shrinks from months to days, our essential skills will include how we interact with those around us. Mike believes there is hope for growth and opportunity for everyone. Everyone has the opportunity to retool and find the career they want. Mike strives to present students of all ages, abilities, and means with a full plate of options for learning.

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