In part one of this series we discussed the natural progression of ProAdvisors moving from consultant to instructor. We discussed several essential qualities including a sound knowledge of the subject, confidence, patience and compassion. Although I have a little more say about the last two, we will focus on several other essential qualities in this article.
I am not so certain that ‘compassion’ is the actual factor a great instructor must possess, really I think it is ‘tempered empathy’. You have got to understand where your students are coming from, even though each one of them is coming from somewhere different.
Let’s assume you are teaching a session on the ‘future of QuickBooks’; you can almost bet that a big part of your audience has a strong background in QuickBooks Desktop while the other big portion has a strong background in QuickBooks Online. There may be a small overlap between the two ‘factions’, but for the most part each of the two groups is going to have very strong opinions about their focus. Now even though the industry is clearly migrating ‘toward the cloud’ (and by default then, QuickBooks Online), it is easy to alienate almost half your audience if you simply start out saying something like “this session is all about on-line, if you aren’t using it you should be, and if you continue to procrastinate you will find yourself left in the dark within a few years.” (I venture to guess there will be a few readers who skip to this bold-italic sentence, skipping the rest and are even critical of what I just said.) My point is that ‘compassion’ for ‘those hanging in on the desktop front’ isn’t what they need, but they do need and deserve your empathy and respect when you tell them that QuickBooks Online is the future of QuickBooks.
Clearly ‘patience’ is also applicable, even though you may be thinking to yourself “how many more times do they have to be told that ‘QBO is the way to go’…”, you have to patiently await their coming to the same conclusion.
In my mind both this ‘tempered empathy’ and ‘patience’ make up a big part of an instructor’s needed quality of ‘awareness’. But awareness is much more, it is that ‘sixth sense’ so to speak, that ability to stay ahead of the curve and stay on top of the latest and greatest. If you don’t have at least one ‘new thing’ to present in every presentation you make, you are not staying aware of your industry. I don’t care if you are teaching a class today, and teaching the same class tomorrow, you should be able to present something new tomorrow that you were not even ware of today. Perhaps that something new arises from a participant in today’s class, something important enough to share with tomorrow’s participants. Our industry is changing so fast, if you don’t believe me just read some of the forums or social sites applicable to the industry overnight, you will find something new, I guarantee.
In fact this awareness goes beyond simply being aware, a valued instructor seeks out the newest and best, they not only stay current, but either are, or at least are aware of, a visionary perspective. This visionary perspective consumes many instructors and great tinkers, it is such intellectual curiosity that takes these thought leaders beyond the current and into tomorrow.
In 1894 a 15 year old German youth was told by his teachers that he should drop out of school, that he would never learn anything, that his day dreaming and lack of discipline destroyed the classroom experience. A short time later he joined his family in northern Italy, there he wondered the countryside pondering nature and ‘natural law’, the more he thought about such things, the more troublesome they became, he ultimately came to the conclusion that a lot of current scientific thought had been accepted without the proper evidence. That young dropout’s name was Albert Einstein and his thought experiments changed the world. Just a few years later, in 1903, while working as Swiss Patent clerk, rather than as a prestigious professor at some university, Einstein published his radical conclusions about the nature of light and the connection between space and time.
The point of this story is that great minds, great thinkers, and great instructors, no matter what their subject of expertise is, never give up thinking about the next best or great thing. Unlike Einstein’s early teachers, great instructors have a visionary perspective for all their students, knowing that one of those students may indeed have ruminations that change the world. Are you changing the lives of your students, and potentially the world when you teach because you are providing a visionary perspective to those in your class?
I am sorry, but I still believe that ’instructional maturity’ is an essential quality. You might be 60 years old and act immature when it comes to teaching, or you might be 18 and act like you have been teaching for 40 years. Participants are expecting less of a ‘good time’ and more ‘great content’, they are there not to see how ‘wild and crazy’ you can act (they would go to a Las Vegas comedy routine for that) they are there to get the highest quality instruction available for their dollar (even if the training is free.) Instructional maturity is essential, let your students experience their own ups and down, you are there to be the constant and consistent purveyor of knowledge, your goal is to help them grow and develop.
In Part 3 we will look at the remaining qualities of a great instructor.