I have just had a fairly intensive period of learning… because I’ve been teaching, training and doing presentations at conferences. While it seems contrary – if you’re teaching, you are at the front of the classroom, not at the back absorbing all the information like a sponge. Well, I see it differently, so let’s take a short while to consider different types of knowledge acquisition, how open to learning we are and where our real teachers come from…
Learning through the Senses
Each of us has different ways of learning, different styles that work for each of us best. My daughter learns best by listening. At times she avoids looking at the learning source so she can listen and absorb to the best of her ability. Others may be concerned that she isn’t paying attention by looking at them, but she says that the visual stimuli distracts from her ability to learn best. Once I know that, her looking at me is secondary to her being able to listen best.
I know that I learn best from hearing my own voice. I learn when I teach, so when I’ve got new information I’ll ‘teach’ anyone who will listen – or do it on my own. This helps me to consolidate all the ‘stuff’ that’s being taken in. Every time I train or teach, over the years, it supports me and makes me learn more deeply, which reinforces my teaching.
Audience as Teachers
The best part about my work, whether I’m teaching a course or doing a seminar, is that I am able to reinforce my learning while I do what I love. And the best part about my speaking role is that I face dozens to hundreds of front of me. It’s amazing – my audience teaches me every single time I’m up there.
Nancy Willard is right on target when she’s quoted as saying “Sometimes questions are more important than answers.” When people ask questions, it forces the mind to source it’s deeper understanding of the topic. I even love ‘skeptical’ participants – if they don’t understand at first, it requires me to find different approaches to transfer the information in a way that works for that person.
And it’s amazing what I get from students. If I ever feel that I’ve figured everything out and there’s nothing left for me to learn/do, someone will question me, ask me something that forces me to evaluate what I know. And I thank them for it.
Cup is already full?
Sometimes when we get really good at something we can become so much of an expert that we become ‘know-it-alls’. Which means that we know better than anyone else. It’s like we are already topped up with knowledge. When our cup is full, we can’t put any more new information in. It makes it harder for us to absorb different input. It actually limits us…
Instead of being a ‘know it all’ we can take on the attitude of a ‘know a lot’ but still be open to learn from others. If we can keep the idea of lifelong learning and that we can take information from the events and experiences of our daily life, as well as finding teachers from the young to the old, wherever we are, we’ll not only learn better, but teach better as well.