Before You Teach

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.

Learn a Different Perspective

I don’t think it’s a secret that I believe in continuous learning. Right now, I’m taking a course online to become a certified life coach. I have worked with people most of my life, as a coworker, a trainer, as a mentor, and as a manager. I like working with people and helping them to learn new ways and best practices.

I honestly believe you’re never too young to learn; and, you are never too old. Although I have done coaching most of my life, with the new courses I am taking, I have had several aha moments. It is always good to look at what you do in a new way. Taking a different look will usually give you a fresh perspective.

When you look at learning something new or learning something in a different point of view, the question is not money. Instead, the issue is time. I know we’ve talked a lot about time versus money this week. Yet this is very true. I have bought courses for thousands of dollars. I have also taken classes for between $10 and $20 that were almost as good. And, I have enjoyed free courses online which were really able to help me to understand the basics.

Even if you don’t have a computer, that is okay. Your local library is a marvelous place. Libraries have books they will loan you for free as long as you bring them back on time. And, there are often programs and classes at the libraries which could help you to learn.  All you need to do is block off the time you need to meet learning head-on and learn something new.

Have a great day.