Teaching is not telling

If we stop thinking of teaching as telling, the world becomes a better place.

Once you realize how often people telling and teaching are the same, you see it everywhere. A problem occurs and the knee-jerk reaction is to tell people what to do. But the people who listen aren’t the problem and people who are the problem don’t listen.

Example: Someone litters on a highway. Townspeople see the litter and decide they need to make a law telling people not to litter. They make a sign and decide that littering is a $200 fine. It’s posted on the side of the highway and there is still litter up and down the road. The people respecting that sign aren’t litterbugs and the people who are litterbugs don’t care about the vague potential for punishment.

In the end, not much changes. It all stems from the fact that somewhere along the way people assumed that telling leads to learning. The better alternative is to help people learn for themselves. Real teaching happens with people. If we want to change behavior, we need to let the student guide the experience in whatever context that might be.

Bring the issue home to them so it’s personally important. Then, you’re not telling them what to do. They will be seeing for themselves and that is a lesson that does not go in one ear and out the other.