I remember being told once that the best way to learn something is to actually teach it to others. This seems to go against logic a bit. We tend to believe that we must master something before we teach it to others but this article that I read on Duct Tape Marketing seems to confirm the statement a little more.
The process of learning is something that starts at birth and should never end. Even before you start school, you are learning some major lessons. You learn how to walk. You learn how to use your hands. You learn how to manipulate your parents to get what you want.
Somewhere along the line, typically after school ends, we start to distance ourselves from the learning process. Sure, we still learn things. That never ends. However, learning things intentionally often gets pushed to the side as if there is nothing new that we can educate ourselves in. We are adults. What could we possibly need to know that we do not already know.
Even more, we shy away from the responsibility of teaching as well. We end up somewhere between educating ourselves and educating others. We definitely have enough education to suit our personal needs but not necessarily enough to help anyone else out. The problem though, is that we have people who are relying on us to educate them as well, mainly our own children. What is the answer to this problem? Do we rely on the public school system to do the job? Do we outsource their education to the public libraries?
Before this post starts to take on the appearance of an anti-public school rant, let me explain. Yes, my wife and I do home school our children. Well, let me rephrase. My wife home schools our children and I help out from time to time. We do not do it because we are anti-school. It is just something that we personally feel we should be doing and our job allows for it. Many people take this route in their children’s education while many others do not.
Regardless, we will play a role in the education of our children. Or at least, we should. You should too. But, what do we do when the education that we received seems inadequate? I have heard so many people say, “I would home school but I just don’t think I’m smart enough.”
Guess what? I have the answer.
Teach as you go. Do you have a kid in school that is having trouble grasping a subject? Do you wish you could help your child but feel like you are not smart enough in the subject yourself? Start learning the subject matter by teaching it to your child. You will learn together.
There is actually a term and a science behind this thought that the author, John Jantsch sums up here:
It’s a well-known fact that if you want to learn something very well then force yourself to teach it to others. Scientists even have a name for it “the protege effect.”
You will prepare differently, you will view what you learn differently, you will research more thoroughly and you will work out how to communicate what you’ve learned in a simple manner – and that’s actually the key to the greatest knowledge – the ability to simplify the complex.
I often find myself in circumstances that allow for teaching moments with both my own children and also the residents who live in my home. I have come to realize that I do not have to know all the answers perfectly. I just simply have to have the desire to learn with them.
I think that applies to a lot of people. As Jantsch pointed out, we have a tendency to pay closer attention to the details when we are teaching someone else as we learn ourselves. This engagement is beneficial on two levels. First, we are broadening our minds in a way that might not happen if we were simply reading for ourselves. Second, someone else is benefiting from the work that we are doing as well.
So, the point…. Engage with the people who are around you. Think you don’t have something to say that your neighbor couldn’t benefit from? Do you assume that there is nothing that you could teach someone else? Give it a shot. Plug in and teach. Worst case scenario, nobody else benefits and you still learn something new. Best case scenario, you change a little piece of the world.