Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Find Your Flaws, Improve Your Skills, and Gain Perspective: Teach.

I've always thought one of the best ways to get better at anything you do is to teach it to someone else.

My first job ever was working as an assistant instructor at my karate school. In college I ran the swing dance club and taught all of the lessons.

Both times, teaching greatly improved my skills. When you have to figure out how to explain something to someone else, you gain new insight and break down the elements you have always done without thinking. You figure out exactly how you do them, and why they're done that way - or if they should be done differently.

Teaching can show you where your weaknesses are. You find out what parts of your subject you don't know so well. You realize where you've always made a shortcut on something. But best of all, you figure out how to do it all better.

I haven't taught anything in several years, at least, not in a real class structure. Starting tonight, I'll be teaching a partner massage class at the student union. I'll admit that I'm a little nervous, because I've never taught anything on massage before. So inevitably, I will uncover some weaknesses, standing there, in front of my students. The good news is that they don't usually notice. They'll be busy trying to learn something completely new.

That's the other great thing about teaching: it gives you perspective. When you've spent years learning and building up a skill, it can be easy to forget how challenging it was at the beginning. We tend to take well-developed skills for granted, and trying to teach someone how to do something that you're particularly good at or have been doing for a really long time will throw that back at you. Sometimes it can be frustrating how slowly people learn and how very basic you have to be with your instructions. But it is a great reminder and reference point for how far you've come, and what you have to offer.

So I'm excited to teach, in spite of my nerves. I know the experience will make me a better Massage Therapist, and a better teacher. And hopefully, it'll make a bunch of other people better at giving their S.O.s and friends better backrubs. :)


Leah said...

I wish you luck with your first class. I'm sure you will do splendidly.

Half of what's difficult in teaching (especially for us overachievers) is accepting that those weaknesses will show, which you seem to have done. The other half is that when weaknesses do show and students notice (as sometimes they will) we need to brush it off after class and start fresh the next session.

Nicole said...

Thanks! It went really well.

I did discover a big overachiever weakness: having WAY more material than time allowed to teach, and wanting to teach things perhaps too thoroughly.

I also tend to "add" to the curriculum I've planned on the fly, which is confusing when it isn't on the handouts, and just adds more extra information that can overload the students.