September 11, 2014

Learning to Teach

I’m not a good teacher. I lack patience, empathy and the ability to easily see things from others’ point of view. I spew these excuses, amongst others, when explaining why I have trouble passing on knowledge—so much so that I’ve completely bought into the notion and even stopped trying.

I have two daughters (7 and 3), and without even realizing it, I teach them constantly. When it comes to preparing them, there are no excuses. Having children puts me in a position where I must be an effective educator—it’s unacceptable to fail because I’m simply “not good” at it.

It is when I had my oldest girl out practicing soccer the other night that it occurred to me that teaching a given subject—and I mean really helping someone understand something, not just bullshitting, requires a higher level of understanding than merely being proficient. If I can’t explain something in a way that others can understand, than maybe I haven’t reached the level of understanding that I would like. If I can’t relate the subject to my student effectively than maybe I haven’t considered different points of view. If I’m failing, maybe I’m not trying hard enough. Maybe I’ve been copping out.

By skirting situations that call for me to pass knowledge on to others, I’ve been missing out on opportunities to understand things in new ways. To remedy this, when picking up anything new (a technique, skill, historical event, whatever), I will attempt to grok that particular thing in a way that I can “teach” it to someone else. I suspect that seeing things through a teacher’s lens will help me achieve a more thorough understanding and make communicating easier. First up is soccer.