Learning by Teaching

Several weeks ago I blogged about a conversation with my almost-85-year-old mom about Twitter. Explaining Twitter to Grandma Rose has become one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written, still being passed around the web (and please, keep sharing it!).

This morning I offer you Part 2 of that story.

I called Rose last night to see how her day was.  “I have to tell you a story,” she told me.

I should mention here that my mom is very active for her age. Ok, she’s active for any age. She volunteers as an usher at Arizona Theater Company. She works with the University of Arizona College of Medicine doing role play as a “patient,” to provide med students with real life exam room experience.  And she attends classes several days a week at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute – a nationwide university-based program for seniors who have the treat of getting the equivalent of an ongoing undergrad education without the worries of silly things like tests and degrees.

“It was during a break in class,” she tells me. “And I was talking with my sociology teacher and a classmate who is a retired surgeon. My teacher was complaining because his email has been down, and we got to talking about the internet. And the other guy says, ‘All I hear about lately is Twitter. What is Twitter?’ “

Yup – you know where this is going. Grandma Rose explained Twitter to them all!

“Hil, you won’t believe it! These guys are so brilliant – PhD’s and doctors – and there I am explaining Twitter to them! And I told them, ‘You can only use 140 characters because it’s like a text message!’ I couldn’t believe it – I was teaching them about Twitter!”

Well I was just as proud as any teacher could be. I know one of the best ways to reinforce learning is to teach, and this proved it so heartily.

In my excitement, I began thinking about the work all of us do every day. We are all teachers. Whether we are teaching a young person to appreciate art, teaching a single mom how to get food for her family, or teaching an employee how to get the job done well, we are all teachers all the time.

If “Strength builds upon our strengths,” what better way to build upon the strength of our “students” than to encourage them to learn by teaching others?

We are always wondering how to spread our missions, to “get the word out” about the work we do. Our clients and patrons could be our best missionaries. We just need to empower them with knowledge and encourage them to share that knowledge with others.

“Ricky, now that you have learned about the Art Museum, will you have your parents bring you and a friend, and you can teach your friend what you’ve learned?”

“Mrs. Johnson, now that you have learned about our senior center, will you bring a friend and show them around?”

“Maria, now that you have your food box, will you let a neighbor know how we can help them, too?”

Who will you have the opportunity to teach today? How can you encourage them to teach others? Right now, before you move away from this page, will you take a moment to teach us all, right here? How will you build on someone else’s strength by asking them to teach others?

“Strength builds upon our strengths” is Pollyanna Principle #5.  Please read the rest of the Principles, and then teach them!

2 Responses to Learning by Teaching

  1. Hildy,

    It’s really interesting that you mention this. Almost all of my blog posts are the result of a conversation with friends or clients. This will happen in one of two ways:

    1 – My friend or client teaches me something new.

    2 – When I get passionate about something, stuff comes out of my mouth that’s not planned (I’m an INFP). Seconds later, I jott it down thinking: “That’s a cool idea for a post.”

    And now it hits me as clear as a bell! What I need to incorporate in my client calls is to encourage them to find someone to teach and/or support.

    Wow! I learned something new just now… thanks!

    John