Ever hear of the adage: “Those who can do, those who can’t teach”? Although usually intended to be a negative comment, I almost always take it in a positive light.
Part of the reason I am not insulted is the fact that I have found this to be true in my own world of instruction. I am able, as a professional instructor, to help a person improve their skiing ability, even when they are technically a better skier than I am. Because even though I am not capable of completing the movement myself, I can identify the issue, explain it in terms the person understands and provide tactics for fixing the problem. I am a teacher!
The difference between being a doer and being a teacher often comes down to the ability to sufficiently break a complex concept or action into its most basic and elementary steps. That may sound easy enough when you read this, but is it really?
Try thinking about explaining the steps in tying a pair of shoelaces. How many steps do you think there actually are in the process? Go ahead, walk through the process and count them. I easily came up with 7 steps and one or two of those might be able to be broken down a bit further.
Now think back on the process of actually counting the steps. You probably started thinking about the words and motions that went along with each step. And although you have long known how to tie your shoelaces, the process of thinking about teaching it has made you just a bit smarter on the subject, if for no other reason than you had to actually THINK about it instead of just doing it!
The point that teaching makes you smarter about your subject is the point where you are required (either for yourself or for your student) to explain the “why” to any given step. Not every step has a why, but for the ones that do, it is important to be able to clearly answer the question.
With this revelation I have learned that if I want to learn more about a topic, the fastest way to increase my knowledge is teach it to another person. The bonus is the more knowledge I gain on the topic, the more I have to share. And the more knowledge I am willing to share, the more I gain….around and around!