The Art of Spoon Feeding and Learning Through Teaching


Most of you probably don’t know this, but I have a pretty strong background in education. I have spent a lot of my working life (non-training) in education. From lecturing and TA’ing undergraduates to working with troubled (but bright) teenagers, I’ve spent a lot of time working as a mentor and teacher. In my current position as a performance coach and trainer I use a lot of those same skills and I think that my desire and ability to teach is what makes me a terrific “coach” over a good “trainer”.

Anyway, in my current iteration of senior trainer (read: curmudgeon) at the facility I’m at now I’ve been mentoring/coaching a few interns over the past year or so. I’ve had a stable of trainers under me before, but working with this group has been different. The pace of this facility is a little slow, and I’m operating on my own, so I’ve been able to really teach as opposed to just coach them into making me lots of money. It’s taught me some great lessons that I think will apply to you in your life, whether you are in a position to teach or not.

1. Assuming you care about yourself and your character, you’re your own biggest critic. There’s nothing like being in the teacher’s role that shows you that you’re a fuck-up on a daily basis. We all make mistakes. We all would do things differently if we had the benefit of hindsight. Guess what? We don’t.

What we do have, however, is the earnest goal of helping someone else, experience and knowledge (otherwise you’re not in the position to be a teacher), and the ability to show that you have enough balls to say “You know what? I’m not perfect, and I definitely wasn’t right there… here’s why”.

2. You have lots of information to share, but your learners are not able to learn it all in a single session. As much as YOU get excited about the topic and want to keep ranting, all you’re doing after a certain point is confusing the learners. You’re coming from a background of knowledge and you’re able to put the pieces together. They’re not always able to do the same.

So spoon-feed them some information. Test them occasionally by asking them probing questions. See where they are, and then use that to judge where you go next with your discussion. Remember who the conversation is about (them) and who it isn’t (you). Above all, master the Socratic method of teaching through letting the student reason under guidance.

3. Be prepared for your learners to be less enthusiastic than you are. Remember the golden rule of business: Nobody else in your business cares as much about it as you do. That’s the simple truth and it applies to teaching, too. Not everyone is going to have the passion for your pet subject that you do. If you come across one that does, then that’s great. But most of them will be there to learn what they need to, maybe a little more, and get out. That’s totally cool, but don’t be offended when they don’t want to delve into esoteric bullshit for four hours.

4. Be ready for questions. Seriously. Nothing keeps you on your game like teaching. Because you’ll have the “why?” thrown at you on a regular basis, and you’d better be able to answer. If not, then you’re full of shit. Nothing exposes that like a newbie asking what they think is an innocent question. Sure, you can lead them, shape them, even manipulate them, but when one of them asks “why?”, you’ll be found out if you don’t have the funk to back up your flavor.

5. Care about your students.
I don’t have kids. As a matter of fact, I’ve been told by multiple women that I’d be the world’s scariest father. Something about “experiments” and all that…

But anyway, there is not much that I care about in this world more than a) My clients, and b) My students. They’re like kids to me. I want nothing but success for them, and I want them to succeed far beyond me. That’s what makes me great at what I do and will make you great at what you do. If you don’t honestly care about those you’re teaching, then why are you wasting your time doing it?

Everyone has something that they’re good at. In fact, something that they’re better at than the vast majority of people. The question is, are you sharing that knowledge? Are you helping someone else get better? I assure you, nothing takes you to the next level and improves your craft like teaching someone else.

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