How Teaching Improves My Skills

People love to say “those who can’t do teach”.  Maybe that’s true, maybe not, I’m not sure. In my four years of teaching, I have learned to DO many things.  I have learned to present effectively, to understand different learning styles and build expertise in areas ranging from leadership development to emotional intelligence. I have learned a lot that I never thought would be part of my skill repertoire.  

Teaching is really about putting yourself in the mind of another and bridging outcome in the future to their current understanding of a topic. To teach students the fundamentals of emotional intelligence, for example, I think about what they know about the concept and anecdotally from life experience.  From there, I build upon their experiences and how they will interpret the content of the message. I never thought that I would be building my skills around empathy as much as a teacher.

With teaching, I have also exercised my creativity. Creativity has been the link between new and existing ideas.  At Startup Institute, our students are bombarded with information. Short of yelling or slaving away making beautiful and engaging decks taking a creative perspective on a topic is one of the best ways to engage students.  Students want to get value out of their classes, and at Startup Institute that value is often based on presenting them with information that will differentiate them in the job market.  This differentiation is based on teaching them new and innovative curriculum that is blended from market demand and past program experience.

The last and perhaps most relevant skills to startups that I have developed as a teacher is the ongoing process of feedback and iteration.  Everyone loves to talk about constant iteration, and how to pivot.  Teachers have embraced this process long before it was fashionable.  Every minute in front of students, I am reading body language, checking for understanding and modifying plans. As a teacher, I am quick on my feet and ready to pivot when necessary. Flexibility is a key skill if you are instructors and is transferable when working in a startup. 

The next time you have an opportunity to teach a class or lead a session for coworkers, take it! You will be surprised at the new skills and awareness you gain. Good luck and remember, #learntodo.

Brent is an alum of the Technical Marketing track at Startup Institute Boston and the Program Manager at Startup Institute Chicago.  He loves all things ed tech and is particularly interested in experiential education.  Say hello to Brent on Twitter @brentskeez.