The Art of the Teacher-Student

In Career Readiness, Character Education, Learning & Mindset by Trent RhodesLeave a Comment

In my journey towards self-mastery, I’ve realized a prerequisite to reaching a new level is to accept the student role. There’s a time when I have to acknowledge I don’t know something or, could dramatically improve in some area, and so the I have to sit down, shut up and listen.

It’s a simple idea: people who know a lot of stuff originally didn’t know a lot of stuff. In order for them to gain understanding, they had to find a source that understood. Then after finding the source, they had to follow that source as a student then apply themselves to acquire the understanding. When the understanding is deep enough, we gain the capacity to teach it to others.

Knowledge acquisition speed and depth of understanding differ among people. But the basic principle is the same.

We have to know when to be the teacher and when to be the student.

I enjoy being both.

As the teacher, I’m given responsibility by learners to guide them in a direction that will support their interests. I indirectly self-test my own understanding; explaining a concept reinforces it in me. How the learner receives the information determines if my delivery was effective. If not, adjust, take away, add, retry.

As the student, I am an adventurer and observer. I dig and investigate. Subject searches know no limits. And if someone has value to add to my consciousness, I’m open. If you have in-depth understanding of a topic in engineering, I’m going to be open and could care less if you have a degree. Your knowledge and understanding are more valuable to me, however you might’ve attained them.

They say the court jester is actually the smartest man in the court because everyone thinks what he does is a joke. He’s smart enough to make the court think so.

Super Learning requires that you become a teacher-student hybrid, capable of sensing the right time to share your wisdom or take in what another shares.

3 Qualities to Develop the Teacher-Student in You

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Stop looking for credibility in labels. An MBA graduate degree doesn’t automatically mean the owner is good in business, just like owning a candy store doesn’t mean the owner is good in business. There are many lousy business owners who are IN business and MBA’s who finish at Ivy League institutions. Does it mean they are the cream of the crop?

If we went by this ridged thinking all of the time, we discount people who have value to contribute without formal credentials. There are multiple avenues to skill mastery like: direct experience.
If I want to develop drawing skill, for example, I can find alternative ways to enhance the skill. In my case, one skill I sought to enhance was public communication. So I found resources that demonstrated organic public communication like Ted Talks. It’s the premiere presenter’s panel. Aside from choosing unique topics to share, I observed how the presenters used their space, the minimal and smart application of PowerPoint and how you see no wires. The setup removed all distractions that could separate the presenter from the audience. I recognized the presentation style was more engaging. Instead of talking AT the audience, TED speakers talked TO their audiences. It’s a humanistic conversation where you feel a part of  the talk even if watching it on YouTube.
Next, I required more practice and my position as a Career Advisor was perfect for giving. I delivered 90+ presentations within a 3-year time span on elements of professional development: interviewing, resumes, building a professional profile, social media, reputation, creative and career paths, etc. This gave me the space to experiment with techniques and speaking environments.

Start seeing yourself as a student.  As a student you’re a learner and that means asking questions, questions and more questions. You’re the sponge. Maintaining an open mind is a prerequisite and, as difficult as it may be at times, this is the mental frame where we don’t judge. Judging creates a filtering system and we automatically begin organizing the feedback we receive: I agree or disagree, junk or useful, can’t believe she said that, that sounds ridiculous, oh I don’t believe that

Without even taking time to examine the potential value in what was given, information is quickly discarded when judging. As the student, you’re to remain an open book and once you’ve heard enough, thought about the information, then you make a choice as to the information’s value.

Become intuitive about when to give and receive. A conversation is a nonviolent tug-of-war. Someone speaks, another listens, another speaks and the other listens. Ideally this exchange is organic and can reap quality benefits for everyone involved. When your teacher-student skill sharpens, you know when to switch in conversation, asking questions about what you don’t know or curious about and feeling the right nuances about when to share your insight. This is a highly-valued skill that can open opportunities and strengthen rapport with people. 

Becoming a student-teacher requires practice and awareness, and awareness will only strengthen with practice. If you’re a great student, you can become a great teacher. And if you’re a great teacher, it’s because you know how to be a great student.

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