I often find myself in conversations where we end up talking about the reasons why I teach. When I say, “not for the money,” many snicker and think that is just a saying that I use to be funny. Well, it is not a just a saying, it is the truth. I teach for many reasons that have nothing to do with money, and everything to do with transferring knowledge. I teach several courses at IUPUI as an adjunct instructor, and here are some reasons why I do it.
I learn by teaching
It sounds cliche, but it is absolutely true. Teaching someone how to create motion graphics makes me better at creating motion graphics. Explaining the crazy rules of CSS helps me better understand the rules myself. There are several things that happen when I have to explain something to another person. First, I realize that I don’t actually know the material as well as I thought I do. Second, I have to slow down and think through the logical steps of the process. Third, I am faced with student asking questions — questions that make me dig deeper to find the answers.
The light bulb moment is addictive
When I have presented material and demonstrated how something is done, normally there is little fanfare. Everyone just nods and moves along their merry way. But every once in a while I get to experience a, “light bulb moment,” when my student really “gets it.” Light bulb moments normally happen after the student has struggled mightily to solve a problem. If this struggle happens with just the right timing such that I have the privilege of providing the extra electricity to bring it all together, we have a light bulb moment! I can just see the gears turning inside that student’s head. There is this pure joy that falls over him or her, and I know that clear understanding of the problem just happened right before my eyes.
Now THAT is magic.
Information is meant to be shared, not bottled up
I firmly believe that information is meant to be shared, and keeping it all for myself is just wrong. After all, the information came to me through some conduit of teaching, so what business do I have keeping it all to myself? If my craft is worth persevering, then it is certainly worth passing along to the next generation. I should share the knowledge and give it to people who can build on it and then in turn share it with others.
Expertise is learned, not taught
Anyone who wants to put in the hard work of becoming an expert will have to learn it on his or her own. It is a commonly known fact that it requires 10,000 hours of practice on something to qualify one as an expert. I believe that. It has proven true in my life many times. No amount of lecturing about a topic will make anyone an expert. It is in the doing that people gain the real knowledge and skills. The teaching moments are simply little pushes along the way. When a student is motivated to become an expert, all I have to do is push them along every once in a while.
People taught me
I would be nowhere in my career if not for some generous people who took the time to teach me. There is not a skill I have that did not stem from someone being kind enough to share their knowledge. The knowledge may have been shared in a classroom, a blog post, a forum, at a networking event, or in a video. The secrets of my craft have been passed down to me, and I simply cannot imagine my life where I did not actively participate in this grand game of “paying it forward.”
No amount of money could compare to the satisfaction of bringing the electricity to people’s light bulbs. It’s fun, and I’ll be doing it for as long as people are paying attention.