Want to Learn? Learn to Teach
I sort of fell into the whole teaching thing.
I never had aspirations to actually BE a teacher. I wasn’t a great student, after all. Sure, I didn’t skip classes, mostly got my homework done on time, but my grades were a mess – partly from being a military brat (Canada’s education system is not really set up for transients), and partly because I simply didn’t have an aptitude for things like math and grammar (though my Art, Music and Drama marks were always stellar).
When I graduated from high school I wanted to get as far away from it as possible. I couldn’t wait to get into college – where I knew I’d be much more successful in a less book-learnin’, more hands-on environment. I was right about that.
After college I fully expected to get a J-O-B, maybe as a junior editor in a newsroom or a production assistant for a local show. I certainly didn’t expect my first job to be as a producer.
I’ve said before, that a producer at a community television station (public access TV for you all down south) is something quite different than a producer for a regular TV network. I was a camera operator, writer, director, editor, sound person, and much more. I had 7 shows to produce, not just one. Like other TV producers, I worked 80+ hours a week. But unlike them, a HUGE part of my job was teaching.
You see, about 90% of the people that worked at the station were volunteers. People from all walks of life who shared a common interest in producing TV shows. They helped out in all areas – camera, audio, lighting, editing, writing, producing, directing – you name it. But most of the time they came in green – having little or no video experience. It was part of my job to ensure that they knew the proper techniques. This happened through formal workshops (I was required to teach one per week in various disciplines) or on the job training (like, during a live TV show).
Having just come from being a student myself, I wasn’t entirely sure that I was going to be successful at this whole teaching thing. But, it was my job, and I’d best be getting the hang of it. My friend, mentor and boss at the time, Andre, gave me some good advice. “Just tell them what you know. Don’t overthink it.”
So really, my only job was to figure out what I already knew.
Seven years and hundreds of workshops later, I landed in college again. Back to being a student. Back to filling my brain with new ideas – I traded in my video camera for a computer and was off to the races.
Upon graduation from College 2.0, I was fortunate to be hired by one of my instructors. She owned a technology training company. She had some web projects and video projects to start me off, which was great. But one day, she came to me and said she needed someone to teach this new software called Dreamweaver (this was 1997). She handed me a book called “Learn Dreamweaver in 21 Days” and told me in 4 weeks I’d be in front of 40 students eager to learn this cutting edge technology. Gulp.
The teaching gig (ironically in the same classroom where I’d just spent the previous 7 months) went pretty well, and boy did I learn a lot. I learned pacing and timing. I learned how to read the class and gauge by number of blank faces how well they were following along. And most importantly, I learned that it’s okay to not always know the answers, as long as you are willing to find them out.
So really, my only job was to figure out what I didn’t already know, and then get to know it really well.
Flash forward to 2008. I’d spent a good deal of time in the previous 10 years doing corporate training and software training, writing training documentation, designing curricula, and coordinating programs for adult learning. I felt as if I was catching on to this whole teaching thing.
I decided to connect with my old classmate who was now running the same program I’d taken at the college in ’97. I expressed an interest in teaching and provided some suggestions on the kind of courses I’d like to teach. I was accepted to the part time faculty and again, I was off to the races, teaching video and web/social media. I was given pretty free reign to design the courses how I wanted them, and more importantly, given a really talented bunch of people to teach. What I love about teaching at the college level is learning about the people in my class – who they are, where they come from and most importantly, what drives them. Their passion for video and multimedia is what drives me to be a better teacher.
So really, my only job is to help others understand what they already know and equip them with some tools so they can be successful.
Teaching is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. It’s the thing I look forward to, and I miss it when its not there. I love it when my students get as fired up about this stuff as I am. I love seeing the results of their hard work and mostly, I love it when I see that lightbulb go off over their head – the one that shows me that they don’t just know it…they understand it.
I learn more from being a teacher than I ever learn from being a student. You can too. You just need to focus on three things in order to become a better learner, and a better teacher:
- Figure out what you already know
- Figure out what you don’t know, then get to know it really well
- Help others to understand, and equip them with tools to aid their success
My Algonquin College Web Media class this year is doing some amazing work. I wanted to take this opportunity to showcase, with their permission, a few of the blogs and web site projects they have been working on. Please take a moment to click on the links and if you like what you see, get to know them. These people are the future of our industry. What they are doing and what they have to say is very important. Listen to them.
Interactive Multimedia Class of 2010 Blogs:
Tokyo on the Brain
My favourite line from the post:
“Help others understand what they already know and equip them with some tools so they can be successful.”
Which is also my comment. As in, your post did both for me.
I totally hear you. My experience is at the other end of the spectrum in almost every way but that same rewarding feeling resonates.
A few years ago I got into coaching hockey. I was never a superstar player or anything – I spent my minor hockey years as a house-leaguer – but after growing up in a coaching household (my dad’s been coaching for 30 some odd years) it seemed like a natural way to spend my weekends.
I’ve been working with 9 and 10 year olds and, for the most part, the ones that are either new to hockey or well established as bottom-level house leaguers. And for as much as I’ve taught them, they’ve taught me twice as much about reconnecting with the game at its most basic level.
They play hockey to have fun. They don’t have delusions of superstardom (though that doesn’t stop them from trying the latest super deke in the shootout drills), they just enjoy getting out on the ice win or lose.
I’m not coaching this year (new baby and all) and I’m really missing watching that light bulb go off, as you so eloquently put it.