This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

August 6, 2018

Why experts make such terrible teachers

I was hired by the Art Institute of Phoenix because of my expertise in graphic design, and software. I had years of experience, I was working in the field, and I really had done nothing much else my whole entire adult life. I was a typical expert in his field. And when I started teaching I suddenly realized that I was on my way to being one of those awful people whose expertise makes them terrible at teaching.

The reason that experts often make such terrible teachers is that they have no idea what the world looks like outside of their field. They will often use abbreviations, and are impatient with people who don't know the basics. They will suddenly go into trivial detail when they should be explaining step by step. I've known a lot of people like that, wonderful experts, and just awful at explaining anything. I didn't want to be that person, and I started working on developing the side of my personality that wasn't an expert, the sales side, or communications.

The reality about my career change in 1996, when I stopped being a full-time graphic designer, is that I wanted to go into sales. I had a great mentor, Joel Weldon, whom I had been learning from for many years. I wanted to get away from staring at a computer screen all day, I wanted to meet people, shake hands, and have human interaction. I had taught myself to, as I say, "get my knuckles off of the ground" and invested in clothes, nice shoes, and a more polished personal manner. As I neared my fortieth birthday, I was ready for sales, and in fact that was what I was looking for when the Art Institute hired me.

My goal wasn't to just show everyone what a big smarty-pants I was in my field, it was to share what I knew. I became fascinated by how closely related sales is to teaching. In fact, I became a sales-teacher. I discovered ways to better connect with my clients (the students), how to overcome objections, how to listen, react, and answer questions. This was my challenge, and it's what I wanted to do.

I still feel that way. I have a lot of expertise in stuff like computers, and the web. I've spent a lot of time studying Search Engine Optimization, and Social Media. But my interest in selling, teaching, and sharing far outweighs that. And yes, there's no limit to what I can learn as I expand my technical expertise, which happens daily. But my main focus has been making a human connection, and that has been more rewarding that anything else I've ever done in my life.

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