Teach so that your students become your teacher...

I love seeing people realize a transformation. And it’s not just about the physical or mental act of learning something new. It’s about so, so, so much more than that. It’s about the confidence that grows, it’s about building their pride, it’s about this person having something that they can safely and firmly say “yes, I’m good at that”. It’s about your students knowing that they can put a “creative spin” on something, because they know it well enough. 

See that’s the thing - changing the world through teaching really isn’t a “far out there” concept. When you teach someone the foundational skills to [insert any topic of choice here], you’re giving them the tools they need to be able to think laterally and creatively about the topic. 

For example, my job was to teach people photography, but our journey together ended once my students understood the foundations of using their camera, and creativity in most settings. It never covered food photography, or how to use lens balls, or how to stack images in photoshop… But guess what my students came up with?! In no time at all, my students were consuming not just my content. They weren’t just staying inside this sand box we gave them. They were taking the knowledge they had and then layering their own creativity on top of this knowledge to discover new things. New ways of seeing the world. New ways of taking truly beautiful photos. New definitions of “truly beautiful”. This is what I love so much about teaching. 

Because these guys couldn’t have gotten to this state of creative expression without the foundations. They would have never figured out these different aspects without the guidance and knowledge that our courses provided them. The world would be bereft of these entirely gorgeous, and wonderful, and insightful photos that my students were creating without that initial learning process. 

Similarly, teaching someone the foundations of physics allows them to start looking at the world in a new way. It gives them the grounding with which to describe the concepts they are seeing. So they can describe new concepts, OR if their current descriptions don’t fit these new concepts, they can start to formulate NEW ways to describe what they see. But sitting here, right now, writing this, there is NO way on earth I would ever be able to come up with a new, groundbreaking way of looking at the world through physics. Because I don’t have the grounding that comes with it. 

And here lies one of the risks with teachers... For many teachers, the idea of the students becoming better than them is terrifying. After all, if their students are bringing them new ideas, what is their value as a teacher? A teacher is meant to have all of the answers! The best teachers though are the ones that encourage this kind of expansive thinking from their students. Students SHOULD be bringing truly incredible, out of the box ideas forward. Students SHOULD be expanding their information sources to include more than just ONE person, with ONE ideal. Experts often make poor teachers, because they don't see that the one way that has brought them to this "expert" status, is not the only way to this destination, and their "expert" status is not a destination in and of itself. 

So teachers, I encourage you to embrace the idea that your students knowledge, skill and sometimes passion for your subject matter will outgrow your own. When that day comes, please give yourselves a very large, very well deserved pat on the back. 

The short version (for those who don't enjoy soliloquies):

  • Teach so that your students become your teacher. 
  • Encourage students to look beyond your subject matter, your ideas, your notions of what is "right" and what is "wrong". They won't love you, and your content, any less.
  • Remember that your path is just one way to success, your job is to help your students discover their OWN path.

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