Teaching (Yourself) to Be Better at What You Do

How teaching others can teach you.

You know it. You are pretty darn good at what you do.  In every aspect of your job you strive for excellence and 9 times out of 10, you reach it. Yet there are still a couple of things you have a hard time mastering.  Maybe there’s even one BIG thing, that one thing you know you should know cold, but you don’t. It doesn’t matter exactly what IT is (starting IV’s, doing drug calculations in your head, backing up that ladder truck on Hangman’s Curve), or the reason that IT still seems out of reach to you (you had a bad teacher initially, were never good at math, were accidentally locked in the storage closet for that class) you know that IT’s out there and that you’re finally ready to tackle IT.

But wait!  For the low price of None Nonenty Five you can finally master IT, ensure that others can also master IT, and maybe even earn the thanks of someone else.

By teaching, we are learning.

You’ve probably heard that the best way to learn something is to teach it.  When you go through the process of teaching something, you gain deeper knowledge and greater understanding of it than you can typically achieve just by doing it. The first time that you LEARNED IT you gained a little experience. But EVERY time you TEACH IT, you gain a lot of experience. Think of it as the difference between having 20 years of solid experience, or the same one-year of experience over and over again 20 times.

Understand the Benefit.

It has long been established that education is always more effective if you know why you need to learn something.  If your brain can identify the benefit in learning (e.g. “Why do I need to know this?” or “What’s in it for me?”), it will process the information that you are trying to learn.

But don’t think of it in terms of “Why I HAVE to teach this”, instead answer the question “What about this do I WANT to teach?” “What about this is important?”  Once you find the aspect of IT that you WANT to get across to other people you’ve already addressed the two most important aspects of being a great educator: 1) Motivation and 2) Enthusiasm. When you know what you WANT to teach, you’ll be naturally more motivated and enthusiastic, and your students will connect with that, and through that they’ll connect with the IT that you’re teaching.

But I knew why I needed to know it as a student, so why is this different?

Well, there are several reasons.  For one, you are concentrating now on just IT, just IT and only IT, not IT along within a hundred other things that are also important to know in order to pass your final exam.  For another, you’re now working with the benefit of hindsight. Sure, you’ll want to do some research and review IT before you teach IT, but the life and emergency response experience that you’ve attained since you first tried to learn IT will now provide you with the context and perspective you can use to kick IT’s ass.  Yet still another reason is that you are turning IT around and thinking of IT from a presenter’s point of view.  How will I explain this to a room full of students?  Will they learn it better if I draw a picture?  Or will it be better if I make a power point, or explain it with a story and a joke? Go through the process of looking at IT from different angles, knowing that different students will learn differently.  In doing this one of these angles is likely to be your own, giving you that final step up on mastering IT.

The Student Has Become the Master

As you grow confident in your ability to teach IT, you will grow more enthusiastic about teaching other things as well. Remember that you’re pretty darn good at what you do.  You strive for excellence and 9 times out of 10 you reach it. Mastering teaching can become your ticket to reaching excellence, maybe 10 times out of 10.  Embracing the opportunity to teach provides you with never-ending opportunities to learn and improve in ways you wouldn’t encounter just by doing.  And another bonus: you’re passing on that drive for excellence and understanding to other people and as a BONUS bonus, these better people are probably the people you’ll be working with.



About The Author

[author_image timthumb=’on’]http://rescuedigest.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/BetsyDuck.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]

Elizabeth Duckworth is the Senior Editor of RescueDigest. An accomplished writer and editor, Elizabeth has written extensively in the fields of healthcare, emergency services and education. She is the co-founder and Director of Education for the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine. 

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