Teaching is Learning
“There were a few things I had to remind myself, but it was one of the smoothest processes I’ve ever encountered: teach what you know.”
The end of the beginning
As I write this I have just completed my last live lecture of the year, and I am filled with immense pride and gratitude. Next week they submit their last assignment to me, and while technically that will be their final week, this was the last actual lecture where I get to see them, virtually or otherwise, and I wanted to mark this occasion with sharing my experience.
What a year
For the past few years, lecturing has been on my mind in some form or another. What started as a small conversation with my classmates and the inkling thought that there might be more to this, evolved to submitting an application to lecture at the very institution where I received my own degree. My experience was practically zero (officially) and all I had to back myself were character-referrals. I was lucky that those referrals carried considerable weight and I was granted the opportunity to do something monumental: help shape the future of design. That might sound grandiose, but I don’t think the profession of teaching should be anything less than that.
When I started thinking about teaching as something real and actionable, life was relatively simple. There was no pandemic and I also wasn’t studying yet either. And then, suddenly everything happened. I was now teaching AND studying, and as the cherry-on-top, the planet was thrown into the largest economic and psychological disaster this generation has seen. Regardless of that, I would not have changed starting this journey for a second. This year has been challenging, but it has also been rewarding, and one of those rewards was the class I had the privilege of teaching.
I knew going into this new direction that I was going to start small. In fact, I wanted it that way. If they gave me too much too soon then I would have failed them, which was the last thing I wanted to do. Instead, I was given the opportunity to teach a small class of four in exactly what I was trained to do at my full-time job. Nothing more, nothing less. There were a few things I had to remind myself, but it was one of the smoothest processes I’ve ever encountered: teach what you know.
I realised this year that you don’t have to know everything if you want to teach something. All you have to do is know one thing and build from there. I know I won’t always teach small classes, but small is exactly where I’m meant to be right now and I’m grateful for that.
Nothing about my experiences in teaching this year has dissuaded me. Not online shifting and not the after-hours marking and administration; because when I see their virtual faces every week I feel like I’m entering a vacuum of learning. They’re learning from me, and I’m learning from them.
I took a brief minute or two at the end of our session to thank my class for this year. I admitted to them in February that this would be my first year of teaching, and, therefore, they would be my very first class. And now in November, eight months later, I reminded them of that. More importantly, though, I thanked them for being the class that they are. For being students that have allowed me to grow and teach them the way that I have. That it has been incredible to see their growth and how they have facilitated my own. I hope to never be disillusioned by any form of superiority complex, or any of that “I’m the teacher and you’re the student” bullshit, because that person has lost the touch. They’ve forgotten why they decided to teach in the first place or they’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
I acknowledge that I don’t know everything there is to know, but I trust that by being around the people that I have taught this year, I will enjoy the journey of bridging that gap.
I’m grateful to those precious few that backed me at the beginning of this journey. And I’m grateful for an incredible group of students who not only showed up with an enthusiasm to learn, but who remind me every week why I’m here and who push me to keep going. I’m onto something here, and if I can help it, this is only the beginning.