We learn by doing, but we master by teaching

For the last four years, I’ve spent much of this time of year with gut-wrenching nerves. My stomach twists, and my sleep dips. All because I’m teaching three classes to postgraduate students in Digital Marketing at Vives. I talk about running better reporting meetings, designing better dashboards and finish with an extensive rundown of Google Data Studio.

I’ve got 15 years of experience; I’m passionate about it, I advocate it where-ever I work. But once that first class gets nearer, I feel like I’m an imposter. I need to run three sessions in seven days. That’s just over 10 hours that need to be filled with an overlap between what I know and what’s valuable to the students. It frightens me.

Tuesday was my last session, and I felt I needed to take stock of the experience.

Teaching is a two-way street: you learn as much as your class does.

I can’t remember the exact quote, and the internet is failing me to narrow it down. It’s been attributed to Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman and Yogi Bahujan in some form or another. Still, it boils down to: we learn by doing, but we master it by teaching. That’s why I signed on to give these classes: I want to master communicating results.

The first time I gave this subject, I did it for five people at some obscure event, and it was a complete disaster. I tried to use the class to research things that seemed exciting but didn’t understand. I’m sorry if you were one of the five who were bored to bits listening to me trying to explain OKRs.

I got offered the chance to run a class on the same topic but expanded to three, three-hour classes. If I were a smarter man, I’d have passed, but yet here we are after four years of them. Every year the course is slightly different, adjusted for when I get blank faces staring back at me. Teaching is a two-way street: I get to find out where the holes in my thinking are.

Each year I look back at what I should do differently. In my first year, I went a bit too technical, up to the point where I completely rethought the final class the day before. The second-year, I messed up the first lesson. It isn’t easy to recover during the following classes. Last year I tested my philosophy and was glad to see it survive. This year I learned that I need to imply better why it’s essential to think about meetings. I spend much time talking about it, but I wasn’t clear enough about why it’s important.

I’ve got 360-ish days to think and write about it. All to put it to the ultimate test: Can I intrigue 25 strangers for over ten hours, and can I make it stick. It’s bad for the stomach, but it’s great for the brain.

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