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Turning questions in to teaching moments


When I first started teaching Adobe software in the '90s, I discovered that I would often misunderstand some of the questions that some people asked. After a while I caught on to what these people were really saying, which was "I don't want to do this because it's stupid". Of course, if they had just come out and said, "I don't want to do this because it's stupid", I would have understood, but mostly the questions were more like "How come we gotta do this stuff?" or "Why do I need to learn Adobe Illustrator if I already know Adobe Photoshop? Aren't they the same?"

Those of you who are better teachers than me know that a question like that isn't really a question, it's a statement. The fact that I was oblivious of what should have been obvious seems kinda embarrassing now, but I really did answer those questions. Because for me, it was an opportunity to share, which is what teaching is all about. In my innocence, I would say, "I'm glad you asked that!" and then proceed to explain why a particular software program is important to the career of a Graphic Designer, or how vector programs are different from raster programs (the difference between Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop). I had discovered how a question could become a teaching moment.

I learned to look for teaching moments. And it's the kind of feedback that many teachers actually want, but seem to overlook, or get angry at. Not me, I like them. I'm not a mind-reader, and it's my goal to be the best software trainer that I can be. So if someone speaks up, or even just makes a sound like "Huh?" when I mention vectors, or measurement in pixels, I listen, and then answer.

I notice when knowledgeable people do that for me, and I really appreciate it. I know how rude it can be to interrupt, and ask questions, and I try to apologize all over the place. But if there's something I don't understand, it's wonderful to have someone right in front of me who can explain. I will say things like "Sorry to interrupt, but I have a question...". If someone just goes on talking, I know that they think I'm just being rude, or trying to throw them off from their train of thought. If they stop and explain, it's the most wonderful feeling in the world. They have caught a precious teaching moment.

We all have things that we can teach, and share. Look for the teaching moments, which are usually hidden in "Huh?" or "What in the world are you talking about?", then stop and answer. You will find yourself saying "I'm glad you asked that!"