Have you ever wondered what is the one skill that a person badly needs in order to make progress in his or her career? One skill that would foster other skills? I consider that to be teaching and here is why.
In the realm of self-help, there is this concept of a keystone habit. I first came across this idea in Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit. A keystone habit is one habit that once implemented can trigger other positive habits. My keystone habit is making my bed. On the days that I make my bed first thing in the morning, even before brushing my teeth, I feel very productive. My desk is right next to my bed, so when I see my bed is made I do not have the temptation to crawl into it in the middle of the day. Now that my bed is made, I also tend to keep my desk and other surfaces clean throughout the day. These small little wins set up a domino effect which helps me achieve productivity throughout my day.
Just like making my bed, I consider teaching as a keystone skill that promotes the use and development of other necessary skills. Effective teaching polishes other skills that are essential for everyday success; it is the gloss that allows one’s talents to shine.
I come from a family of educators, and I, myself have been teaching for a very long time. I started teaching in 6th grade to help out my mother by assisting her students who were younger than me. After graduating from high school, I professionally started teaching at my school as a math and physics teacher. Currently, I am an adjunct lecturer for Brooklyn College. Thus, I have had my fair share of teaching and these are the benefits I have observed:
- Testing your knowledge — As Richard Feynman said, “If you want to understand something, teach it.” There is no better way to test whether you understand something or not than teaching it to someone else. When you are teaching programming to someone who has no prior experience in programming, you will be asked questions that you never ever thought of. The unique inquiries of my students challenged me to dig deeper into the topic so that I could present it back in such a manner that made sense to them. Teaching requires you to uncover more knowledge on a subject than you yourself initially realized, fostering your curiosity and intelligence.
- Improving your presentation skills — No matter which career you are in, there will be some point in time where you will have to present in front of an audience. Yes, this is scary but the more you do it, the better it gets. Even though you are not performing on a stage, this fear of public speaking is quite similar to stage fright. As one progresses in teaching a group of students, relationships are built which facilitates a rapport. The comfort gained from repeatedly articulating one’s ideas in front of an audience that respects you will extend to instances when you have to present in front of an audience you do not know. Therefore, teaching can diminish the fear that arises during presentations and even makes them enjoyable experiences.
- Cultivating empathy — By teaching, I have realized, every single student is different: everyone will learn and absorb the material at a different rate. For some, it will be very intuitive but for others, multiple repetitions are needed. Working with a diverse class made me more attentive to the needs of my students. Encouraging them with correct words will surely allow them to utilize their strengths and persist through setbacks. The empathy that you develop through teaching a specific student will be able to help you in the future. When building a product or applications you will be able to think from a user’s standpoint or will empathize with someone at your workplace.
These are only some of the benefits that I have encountered but they are countless. If you are in college and don’t have anything to do over the summer offer someone your expertise. I promise you will end up learning more and benefit from this experience more than you could have ever imagined.