A part of me is teacher – more by nature than by nurture. I understand basic educational theory, have been trained a bit and have had many opportunities to instruct others. I’ve taught audio and video production to undergraduates, an introduction to the six-string guitar at community college, a range of traditional academic subjects during days as a substitute teacher, and a variety of job-specific subjects and skills in a partial lifetime of work experience.

The old adage “those that can’t do, teach” sounds more insulting than it necessarily is. Of course, it’s not usually bandied about by straight-A students.

I heard a story recently about a severely-injured soldier that reenlisted bringing his wealth of experience and passion to bear as a trainer. Here’s a man who clearly could, and did – and now teaches. Athletes do it all the time, as coaches and trainers.

I believe the role of ‘teacher’ is a noble one, and I’ve always taken it seriously – though my training was always tangential and not specifically as an educator. That said – I have a handle on the basics and for anyone thrust into the position of instructing others, these three to four steps could come in handy — That includes all those managers, told to ‘train’ others, who have always relied simply on ‘showing.’ “Showing” isn’t teaching. It’s only part of the equation.

Teaching is often successful through these basic steps:

First: The explanation; “This is what we’re going to learn, how this is done, how one completes the task.”

Second: The instruction, “You take this and line it up like so, these should fit together – if they don’t, it’s backwards.”

Third: A review; “So we did this, we took it and aligned it with its mate making sure the two pieces fit snugly together. … Now you try.”

That student effort might be part of the review or the possible fourth step.

So it pained me, recently, when in a retail setting I inadvertently set up a perfect teaching moment, and witnessed it dashed against the rocks like so much trash.

My transaction involved an extra step, which the young clerk was unfamiliar with. She asked a coworker, clearly the manager on duty, how to complete it and he said gruffly ‘go do that,’ and completed my sale in her absence.

Even her body language said fail. She’d set up the lesson. If he’d pointed to the two keys and said ‘You press this, then this. Go ahead,’ that would have been steps two and three.

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Empty Classroom: Freerangestock.com

Done? Empowered? No.

Perhaps he’d shown her a dozen times before I walked in the shop, though by her request for help it didn’t sound like it. Perhaps he felt the task he’d transferred to her couldn’t wait the 30 to 45 seconds it might have taken to teach her the two keystrokes. Maybe it’s company policy that no on-the-job coaching occurs on Tuesdays.

Perhaps he took the time to teach her after I’d gone. Doubtful.

Who am I to judge? Well, part of me is a teacher – and I like empowering others through new knowledge, skills and encouragement.

Part of me is also a student, I’m happy to say. I am one of those people who strives to learn something everyday.

Recently I asked about a particular process in an office setting, and the reply came back ‘I’ll take care of it.’ While not surprising coming from this particular can-do individual, I was also pleasantly not surprised when I said, ‘I’d like to know how it’s done’ and the response was informative.

A teaching (and learning) moment achieved.

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2 thoughts on “A Teaching Moment … Lost

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