This quote from Phil Collins in his lyrics ‘Son of Man’, is as profound as the saying, “Child is the Father of man”. Let us take the latter half of the quote, “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” What happens when one attempts to teach?
In your attempts at teaching another person, you have to know more than what you had to when you learnt.
Let me narrate an ancient Indian story that illustrates the philosophy of teaching and also exemplifies the adage, “Preach what you practice”. Once a lady from a nearby village came with her child to a learned sage and asked him to help the child in getting rid of his habit of eating jaggery (a product from sugarcane juice, out of which sugar is made). The sage told her to meet him after a week.
Next week when the lady came again, the sage asked her to come after another week. When the lady came again the following week, the sage took the child and made him understand how eating too much of sugar is bad for health. The little boy promised that he will not have any more of jiggery than what his mother would give him.
The lady was overjoyed and thanked the sage, but was curious to know why the sage postponed this for two weeks. The sage replied that earlier he had not prepared himself to give any learning to the child, as he himself was fond of jaggery and was unable to resist his temptations. Once he learnt to quit, he became competent to teach others to overcome this weakness. This story amply tells us why we need to learn well before we can teach.
Teaching is a Two-Way Process
Teaching requires that you learn your lesson well and in a comprehensive complete way. To teach effectively you have to take care of the following:
- Get your knowledge updated to a level of instant recall.
- Arrange the knowledge in a logical order and fill any gaps that you may feel are missing.
- Apart from the core give-away, you need to be aware of the peripheral issues that may crop up while teaching. The student will have curiosity to know many more aspects of what is being taught.
- If required you have to work on the applied aspect of the subject matter. You might need to give examples, and if you have yourself not understood the concept, you will be unable to impart what you intend to.
All these will add to one’s learning. In fact, learning is not complete unless we ourselves are unable to teach it to others.
While Teaching, One Also Learns
When one learns, one also teaches the teacher many more things, the learner compels the teacher to know more about the subject. Unless the teacher knows more, he can not anticipate the questions that may come from the students nor can he whet their curiosity.
A good learner also teaches the teacher to become better. A good student motivates the teacher to learn more. The learner’s response and feedbacks helps make the teacher’s knowledge and viewpoints more focused and sharper.
The teacher is able to sift the unnecessary and the superfluous from his own learning. The teacher learns to make his own concepts complete and free of any errors or misgivings.
Teaching and learning are two processes that are wonderfully woven into one. Both share a symbiotic relationship with each other and both are benefited. When you learn well you also teach the essentials, and when you teach you also learn much beyond what you have already learnt.