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!