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January 22, 2019

Why people who love to answer questions make the best teachers


I've known a lot of knowledgeable people who are terrible teachers, and they have one thing in common - they hate answering questions. They also hate answering the same question over and over. These people tend to be lecturers, and often become angry at having to stop and answer a question, especially if it's something that they've talked about before. Sadly, there's really nothing to be done about these people, as they don't want to be insulted, and apparently take it as an insult that someone didn't hear what they had already said before. But if it sounds like you, I'm gonna see if I can change your mind with this blog post.

What I learned from watching people like that was to become a person who answers questions. When I started teaching and training, it often surprised me how often I would have to say exactly the same thing over and over. Yes, it's frustrating when you first realize that it's just human nature, but very often even the most intelligent people need to ask a question, ask for clarification, or just to hear it again. Maybe they missed it the first time, or the second time, or the third.

And that leads me to another mistake that you can make answering questions - saying it in a completely different way. Don't do that, that's a big mistake! Just say the same thing, the same way. There's no need to search your thesaurus, just repeat yourself. Most people had no idea that this is exactly what I was doing with every new class, every semester, every training session.

Every once in a while I find someone who is knowledgable and will answer questions. I workout at my local fitness center at my Community College, and often there are students who are interning to become Personal Trainers. I always ask them questions, then sit back and see what they will do. Most simply ramble on and on, never answering a question, maybe just quoting from a book they had read. But some do answer questions, and it's just magical. At it's at that point that their knowledge and the needs of the people who are listening to them match up perfectly. They have become teachers in the truest sense of the word.

So the next time you want to share what you know, stop and listen. Then answer the question. If it's asked again, answer it again. You'll find that people aren't "idiots" anymore, and you will have become the kind of teacher that the world needs.

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