One of my very favorite things to do is teach. Recently I was interviewed for a video podcast by QuiltMoxie, and toward the end she asked me about my favorite question. What I answered was I have a favorite TYPE of question: it is the question whose answer causes the “light bulb moment” to happen. In those moments, there is a special look, response, expression or comment that lets the teacher know that the answer provided went much deeper than just the surface of the question asked. And that is my favorite moment in the classroom.
The trick to teaching is to understand that it is not always necessary to “know more” than your students to be able to provide that answer. You just need to know something different, have a unique way of applying your knowledge to a given situation or have a memorable way of explaining a concept.
“Not knowing enough” is often one of the fears I hear new teachers voice, particularly when teaching adults. But in most classes (possibly all of them), there is often at least one person who knows “more” than the teacher. I have no doubt when I teach knitting that many of the students are actually BETTER knitters than I am, but my knowledge and understanding is different than theirs.
My first public teaching experience happened within a year of when I first got seriously interested in knitting. I taught large classes of knitters (12 – 15 students) and they all were amazed with what they learned. But absolutely EVERY student in those first classes knew more about knitting than I did, they just didn’t know about the particular technique I was teaching. I knew something different!
Now with decades of experience under my belt I realize that has always been part of the secret to my success as an instructor. I am not worried about knowing more than my students; instead, I relish the opportunity to learn from my students whenever possible. I focus on my ability to communicate information in an accessible and usually entertaining manner. I make a point to share the back-story, a unique application or some other personal detail to make the information more interesting. And when it is a very good class (from my perspective), there are light bulb moments – lots of them!
So I would love to hear about your light bulb moments. What was your experience? Were you the instigator or the recipient? The teacher in me wants to learn from you!
Gwen, I think I have had similar experiences as you. My Light bulb moments are usually when I am teaching on a particular crochet subject, and then suddenly I can read on a students face that something just connected. I’ll always ask what that person is thinking. The answer that I will usually get is that they have been doing this technique for a while and I just made them see something in a different way, either in words or in technique that completely made an issue they were having go away.
It is usually the crocheter who has been crocheting longer than I have or someone who might actually be another teacher who is trying to learn a new technique but what I just taught made something else click in their head.
For me, that is a learning experience as well. It makes me strive to learn more about what I teach. Having more ways to explain ideas, or to ask my students what they might do different. Its all learning. And I always tell my students that I am still learning, because if I stop learning about what I am doing then I might as well stop what I am doing!
I totally know what you are saying about learning more through the process of teaching. Seeing what clicks for a student can be very helpful in future classes.
Often when I take classes from other teachers what I learn is not new in the form of skill or technique, but a different way of explaining or thinking about what is being taught.
And I agree that continual learning is always the key. No matter how much you think you know (and in fact do know), there is always so much more to learn!