Getting Better: Teach It to Someone Else

If you want to learn a thing, read that. If you want to know a thing, write that; if you want to master a thing, teach that. — Yogi Bhajan

The Jolly Librarian makes a confession: Despite my degrees in journalism and English, I was not an expert in basic grammar and usage upon finishing college. When did I become an expert? After my first semester of teaching Basic Developmental Writing. By reading over the rules and having to find a way to teach them, they became part of me. 

It makes sense. First, to teach a skill to someone, you have to know it. But then you also have to know it so deeply that you can find a way to make others understand the skill. (You may have to paraphrase, summarize, analyze, etc.) Also, unlike when you’re studying alone, knowing that you’ll have to teach someone else makes you aware of where you’re weak, so you commit more time to learning it. Plus, there’s built-in feedback. People either understood you or they didn’t.

How can you do this?

You may be lucky enough to have a captive audience. Perhaps you can corner your spouse, kids, or roommate, and you can all learn the names of the bones in the body together. (Warning: This tends not to be a popular approach.)

You can get a study group together, with each person in charge of teaching a particular part of the material. 

If you’re proficient in the subject, tutor those who are struggling. You get the benefit of helping others while reinforcing the skills for yourself.

Definitely, give this approach a try.  As Daniel Coyle, in The Little Book of Talent, states, the old saying, “Those who can’t teach,” really should be changed to “Doers who teach do better.”


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