The best teaching technique I ever learned, kind of.

When I was in school I never wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t want to deal with kids like me. So I chose a very different profession as an advertising creative. But along the way I learned that if you are a manager, leader, coach or parent, you are also a teacher. You teach other people new skills. You teach processes and procedures. You teach them how to not freak out when they don’t get their way. Because sometimes dealing with adults is even worse than dealing with kids like me.  #AmIRight

Learning to teach

When I realized that I had indeed become a teacher myself I began studying teaching techniques. I reflected on what tricks my teachers had used on me (like standing in the corner, and wearing a tall pointy hat). Today I keep my eyes open for great teachers and teaching techniques in the workplace, in my children’s sports and in academia. As a result, I found a really great teaching technique from my son Johann’s piano teacher.

My son Johann is now on his 4th piano teacher. He started playing in Ohio when he was 5-years old. Then had 2 teachers in Georgia, and now has one in Mequon, Wisconsin. All of them have been interesting characters. But the current teacher, Miss Rita, is my favorite. She is Russian, with enough energy and optimism to light up all of Leningrad. She is a wonderful teacher who all the students love. Maybe it is because she tells all of her students that they are “Za best!’ Or more often, “Za Best of Za Best!’

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Miss Rita, my son Johann, and a bunch of sparkly rectangles.

However, there is one teaching technique that Miss Rita uses that I love so much that I have stolen it from her. When Miss Rita is teaching a new concept, introducing a new technique, explaining a mistake, or reiterating a point she punctuates the lesson with a short and simple question:

Do you understand, or kind of?’  -Miss Rita Shur

The Magic

There is real magic in that little phrase. First, it is great to check to see if the lesson sunk in. But I really love the ‘or kind of’ section of the question. It is so much easier to say that you ‘kind of’ get something than to admit to not understanding a lesson at all.

The question covers a wide swath of comprehension that ranges from, ‘Whaaa whaaa whaaa, whaa, whaaa whaaa,’  to ‘I heard what you said but I have no idea what you mean,’ to ‘I think I know but we should clarify that I am right.’

Make it easy to learn more

Most people are not comfortable saying I don’t understand. Especially in front of others who do. Using ‘Do you understand, or kind of?’ provides a beautiful detour around a No answer. It also offers everyone partial credit for at least kind of learning the lesson. The question also acknowledges that learning is not always binary. There is often a lot of gray area. And a teacher’s job is to help add color to the gray areas. Like a house that falls out of a tornado onto a witch.

Key Takeaway

Whether you are a professor at Dartmouth, or training a newbie how to make fries at McDonald’s, you have to know how to teach. To be effective you should make sure your lessons land. Following up your teachings with ‘Do you understand, or kind of?’ let’s you know if there is more teaching to do. It tells the student that you know they are smart, and must have picked up at least part of the lesson. It makes it easier for others to express that they could use more explanation. So try this follow-up question the next time you teach something new. I think you’ll find it is za best. If not za best of za best.

*If you know someone who teaches, coaches, manages, leads or parents, and could benefit from this technique, please share it vis zem.

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Why you should always look for one valuable quote.

I have a real thirst for knowledge. If you can picture a guy crawling across the desert, in torn clothing, deliriously muttering ‘Agua’, that’s how thirsty I am for knowledge. But I find that drinking it is a bit like drinking water from the ocean. The more you take in, the more you want. Which means you will never be satisfied. Remember not to drink ocean water for realzies. It will dehydrate and kill you (but at least you get to spend your last days at the ocean).

I’m Learning To Fly

I have always liked learning. But in my adulthood I have realized that the more I know the better I am at my various roles and responsibilities. That’s why I am trying to learn how to be a better husband, parent and friend.

Professional Grade

On my professional journey I have learned how to be a better employee, manager, and leader. But today, as an entrepreneur, there is no end to the knowledge that could benefit me, my business, my team and our clients.

What’s In the Fridge, Perry?

To try to quench my thirst I seek knowledge from many different sources. The list includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Podcast
  • Blogs
  • Speeches
  • Graffiti
  • Sermons (Which are like speeches, but from a person wearing a robe.)
  • Documentaries
  • Chocolate Milk Meetings (because I don’t drink coffee)
  • Informational interviews
  • Meetups
  • Newsletters
  • Webinars
  • Coaches
  • Headstones

Simplify. Simplify Yourself.

I have learned that my little brain can’t absorb everything I read, see or hear. That’s why I have learned to simplify how I digest all that I devour.

As I read books, listen to podcasts or talk to other humans, I am like a prospector panning for gold nuggets. I don’t need all the gravel. I don’t need the flotsam and jetsam. And I don’t need the pyrite (look at me still remembering terms from my 7th Grade Vermont Resources field trip Mrs. Thompson!)

What I want, what I really really want.

I am simply looking for one great quote. That’s it. I want one great, simple summation of a valuable idea to add to my collection. I want one great mantra. One clear rule. One core philosophy. One great lesson. If I find it then the energy and time I invested in the stimuli were valuable.

Ohhh, Then What? Whatcha Gonna Do?

I add that simple quote to the jukebox* in my brain. I listen to it every time I am in a relevant situation. I play it for those around me when they could use a great quote to encourage or guide them. And I share it in my blog to make it even easier for others to find. *A ginormous iPod.

Key Takeaway

When you thirst for knowledge you don’t have to swallow everything you find. The greatest value comes from the small, nutrient-dense sips. Read and listen for the simple quotes that are dense with value. Right them down or record them on your phone. Revisit them often. Share them with others. Because in those simple quotes lie the directions that enable us to profit the most from a life well lived.

**If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Why you should dedicate more time to self education.

When we were kids in school we took standardized tests to see how we stacked up against other kids our age. I remember taking some sort of Iowa basics test and some type of California standard test. Despite the fact that I never lived in either of those states. Then there were the PSATs, SATs, ACTs. I remember filling in all those little circles. And I remember thinking that number 2 pencils sounded like poop pencils.

Flash Forward

I have not had my knowledge tested against others in my age group since high school. But I would love to be tested now. Because I do more than most of my contemporaries to gain knowledge and increase my intelligence every day.

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Some of the books I am reading now.

Example

Yesterday was a fairly typical day of self education.

  • I read chapters in multiple physical books. #letsgetphyscial
  • I listened to 1 hour of an audiobook while driving. (Indianapolis)
  • I listened to 2 podcasts totaling almost 2 hours while mowing the lawn and doing cardio work. (How I Built This and Bigger Pockets)
  • I read several articles in a magazine while waiting for a football scrimmage to start. (Fast Company)
  • I read a blog post on leadership.

I am constantly seeking new knowledge, insights and philosophies. As a result I add significant knowledge to my collection daily.

Test Me Bro

That’s why I would love to be tested again. I want to see how my knowledge stacks up against other men and women in their mid-forties. Because I think I would do very well compared to my peers. Many of whom stopped studying when their formal education ended.

Slowdown and Ramp Up

I admit that my deliberate education experienced a slowdown during my rip-roaring 20s, after I graduated from the University of Wisconsin. But I ramped up my self education in my early 30s. Today, I consider self education one of my core interests and hobbies.

Traction
I’m always trying to become a smarter business owner.

Learn Something New Every Day

Without continuing adult education it’s a bad situation. #HallAndOates  But if you are reading this post you are probably into self education too. If so, you are in the minority. We’ve all heard the saying, “You learn something new everyday.’ But the average adult learns by accident, or because of their lack of baseline knowledge. Not through deliberate self education.

Putting Education To Work

I study, absorb, read and learn like I did back in college. None if it is required. All of it is self directed. Because I want to know all I can. It gives me an advantage in life. I put my knowledge to good use for my business and my family. In fact, I am certain that I won’t experience sustained success as an entrepreneur if I don’t continuously educate myself.

Key Takeaway

You grow through education. It is how you become a smarter, stronger, more capable resource. It is how you make more money and make more of a difference in your community. Unless you are willing to accept continual mental decay you can’t coast the rest of the way to the grave. So once your educational requirements are met, make sure to stay ahead of the curve through your own elective learning.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share it with them.

See also:

A quick review of the 15 books I am reading right now.

9 killer books that will motivate you to be an entrepreneur.

What this entrepreneur is suddenly afraid of.