Lessons from Teaching

I recently graduated from QUT for the second time. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been back to uni since I finished up my honours thesis. Having completed this first part of my career/learning journey (and being amidst the second phase with starting at a professional services firm as a graduate), I’ve had the opportunity to return to university. Not to be taught, but to teach.

Being provided the opportunity to teach was a big achievement for me. Being a student, I found my tutors inspiring. This is what I believe made me want to be able to teach. And I’m lucky to have the opportunity to teach.

But teaching is quite a different thing from being taught. It is a different experience. A different perspective. A new way of thinking.

Teaching makes you think twice.

More than once in my class have I had to pause to think carefully to answer a student’s question. This creates a bit of a tough situation. Having the responsibility of knowledge transfer means you need to know your stuff, and you need to know it well. Regardless of how trained you are, sometimes you are thrown a curveball. These times make you stand back and assess knowledge gaps and development opportunities. What feels like a tough situation turns into an opportunity to grow.

Teaching makes you think in more ways than one.

Oftentimes, the knowledge you take for granted as a professional is difficult to transfer. This isn’t because you don’t know your stuff. It is likely due to a gap in how you understand something and how your student is able to conceptualise the topic at hand. This scenario forces you to think in new ways to effectively explain content, in turn forcing you to reassess how the topic is structured. The imperative to explain the topic to your students turns into an opportunity to look at something in a new way, which leads to benefits in day-to-day professional practice.

Teaching makes you think more deeply.

In addition to what I mention in my first point, students often have surprising and unexpected questions. These questions challenge your current thinking. This need to assess what you know makes you reconsider what you know and how deeply you know it. These challenges and reassessments point out areas to explore topics further as both an educator and as a professional.

Teaching makes you appreciate what it is to be a student.

While you are a student, you know what it is like to be a student. Teaching makes you see what it is like to be a student. Standing at front-of-class gives you a perspective on how tough and exhausting it can be to study. It forces you to think “what is important as a student?”. Knowing the key points to get across is most of the battle of educating. Getting it right lightens the load for students, and reinforces one’s knowledge.

Teaching makes you appreciate what it is to teach.

This may sound like a recursive nonsense statement. But it is true. Teaching is the only way to really understand the rigour of tertiary pedagogy. Studying is one thing, teaching another. The two must go hand in hand to reinforce and develop the other.

What new perspectives have you gained when having to teach someone something new, in or out of the classroom?

On starting a new job

I recently started at a new job. A new job title, responsibilities, office and work environment. Change. Training. Overload.

This job is my third “professional” job (I’m only counting jobs I had during or after uni as professional here) ever. And the new job is at a big company. The new firm I work with has been super supportive and helpful, but of course that doesn’t stop the requisite information overload and “culture” shock (very mild in this case).

As I often do on my blog, it’s time for a reflection. I thank the mundane commute I enjoy for the time to write these blog posts.

This new company is quite unlike anything I’ve worked with before. I’ve always worked in either small businesses or in small teams (when I worked for QUT). This firm is giant; the number of business offerings is extensive; the scope of my work is radically changed. These types of changes mean I have a lot to learn.

But the are three things I’ll takeaway as lessons from these first few days in my new job.

The first thing I’d call out as important is to find supportive people. This wasn’t hard at the new firm as there is a strong culture of support and the team coming together. I probably would have tried to meet for people in the earlier days to learn more and find additional points of support in my team. But that’s hard given people are often out with their clients. Such is life.

Another thing I found important was finding a way to process all the information that gets thrown on to you. Being a big company, there were a lot of processes and documents showered on me in the first few days on the job (although, this seems to still be the case as I keep learning). The thing that worked the best for me was talking through these things with the other grads and my buddy (another good initiative this firm has).

A final takeaway I’d bring up is that you should never be afraid to ask about anything. I’m fortunate to work for (and have worked for) companies with open, transparent cultures. Questions are welcome, and indeed prized, in these environments. Questions support dialogue and get things done. I know not everyone has the type of organisational culture to support this type of communication, but just one question can really go a long way.

So there are my worldly insights on business after 12 days on the job. I’ll say I am very happy with my job and look forward to learning a lot!

What tips and tricks did you find important in your first days and weeks at a new job?