Teaching vs. Telling

Teaching moments occur when both the teacher and the student want to go somewhere…together. Students learn more, understand more, contribute more when they want to know…when they seek a higher level of understanding. Teaching moments don’t happen by chance. And they certainly don’t happen for a test. They occur because some teachers understand that leadership and enrollment in an idea are the essential seeds to learning. They know that no true learning can occur without first earning the student’s trust and enthusiasm for the idea. Want to teach someone to build a rocket ship? First step, get them excited about going into outer space. 

Teaching requires leading. And leading requires more than a high level of subject knowledge. It requires the ability to persuade someone to willingly go along with you. Otherwise it’s just telling. And anyone can do that.

So if you choose to teach, please know the hard work on offer. It’s not on the test. But I hope you choose to do it anyway.

What are Teachers For?

Simple test to see if you are en effective teacher…do people listen to you because they have to, or because they want to? Do they trust you? How do you know? Are their eyes shining (hat tip to Ben Zander)? Do they lean in, or out…are they engaged?

Teaching isn’t a gift…it’s a choice. It’s a choice to put people first and to see them each individually. It’s a choice to understand them and to build trust and connection first…then to lead them to a future they can’t see for themselves. And it’s almost certain this isn’t wrapped up in a text book. 

Books, smart boards, libraries, ACT's and Chromebooks don’t teach…people do.

Why Some Teachers Fail

Teachers fail when they can’t get a student enrolled in the idea, not when they can’t get students to understand the concept and pass the exam. Too often teaching starts out with the what instead of the why. And even the Why gives people trouble. The real why is rarely immediate. The real why takes imagination, experience and isn’t easy to see...otherwise we wouldn’t need teachers. The real why has nuance and feeling...and it isn’t easy to test.

Great teachers create a vision and an outcome so compelling, students can’t wait to go there. Great teachers enroll their students in an idea first, then engage them to create a path to achieve the outcome. 

Turns out, when a person wants to go somewhere badly enough, they’ll find a way. Sometimes their own way, but they will get there.

Bonus: The same principles apply to Leadership. Managers know the plan and understand the prescribed steps necessary to achieve it. Their job is to follow the plan and do it with the least amount of resources possible...Do it exactly like this and you’ll be valued. The leader on the other hand uses imagination and vision to see an outcome people desire. Then they engage and challenge a group to get there.