To Learn How to Learn, Try Teaching

Posted January 4th, 2008 — Filed in Bud's Musings

Allan asked if I would write something for the SGF occasionally, so here I am, trying to figure out what to write about and how to best do it. How can something be so difficult? For some people, writing is easy and enjoyable. Maybe it’s because they know how and/or they just like to write. When people start something new or try to do something they know very little about, it is usually difficult to do and then it doesn’t take long until it is not enjoyable.

But, let’s get back to writing. What should it be about? There is no way to teach someone how to work animals better in a short article. In fact it is hard to teach anything in short bits and pieces. So, why don’t we talk or maybe write about teaching?

Actually to teach is in two parts. One is teaching and the other is learning. It is difficult to teach if no one wants to learn or even knows how to learn. Nowadays it seems like everyone is so busy there are only a few minutes to learn even the most difficult things, so we provide information and a list of what to do. This list may contain some of what to do but not when or how.

The information might help someone who knows a lot already but may only confuse the beginner. Information by itself is usually of very little value, unless we are taught how to use it. Teaching takes time, and the teacher should completely understand the subject and how it fits with what the student is trying to learn. To learn, to actually learn, takes a lot of time. A person has not learned something until they completely understand it; otherwise they are still learning or have quit learning.

There are not many actual teachers left. A teacher should first completely understand the subject and how to present it so the student can understand. Most teaching is using information that someone else has developed. This is good if the teacher completely understands the subject and how it fits with how they present it. If they do not completely understand the subject, then some of the information will be changed to fit with what they think. If this is done a few times, then the original information may even be lost.

People should start to learn about work and how to do it when they are young. Then they have time and very little pressure on them. When people get older and try to learn, they do not want to start at the bottom and learn the basics. That is when they try to get information or bits and pieces of what to do. They will not take the time to actually put these things together in the proper order so they can completely understand how to make things work from start to finish.

Teaching is really about the basics, and to correct almost any problem, the answer is “back to the basics.” A coach of a professional football team teaches almost the same thing that is taught to a player who is ten years old. When a professional team is not playing good, they talk about going back to the basics. That means how to tackle, block, and the other basic things. Exactly the same thing the ten year old is being taught.

Also, there is a coach for the quarterback, another for the offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, defensive backs, and special teams. What this means is that even the best of the best still need a certain amount of coaching. Therefore, if a person is only given information or bits and pieces of what to do, they may never learn the basics. When people do not learn the basics, it is very difficult to completely understand what they should do.

This is when the work gets hard. It’s not because the work is hard, but because things are not working well. The winning team usually doesn’t complain about being tired or bored. The team that lost will feel worse, even though the winning team worked the hardest.

So, it may not be the work being hard that bothers us. Maybe, we are just not doing it well enough for us to feel good about it. This is when it gets hard or we lose our energy to keep going.

Very seldom do we want to quit when we are winning. How do we keep winning? By constantly learning how to do our job better and understanding it better.

So, now we know the basics and how and when to use them. Are we ready to teach, or do we even want to? In order to teach, there is a lot more to learn. We must not only know how to do and understand but also be able to explain so other people will understand. This is when you have an opportunity to learn even more.

Teaching should be constantly going over the basics and explaining them in such a way that each student understands. This may require using different ways or examples to explain. Many teachers just say what to do or allow shortcuts. Over time this does not help. It allows bad habits, and then things quit fitting together. Just doing something in less time will only be good if it also allows the other things to work as well, or better.

There are so many things involved with animals. Each either helps or hurts somewhere else. For us to enjoy our work, it is important to have all of these things work well and fit with the others so they also work good. When we only try to find easier ways, there is no end to this and we probably will end up with things not working very well. When we find ways to do better and get the different jobs to fit and work together, then it will be easier.

Better probably will get you to easier, easier will very seldom get you to better.

Learn, then teach then you can Smile and Mean it.