I'm fortunate to be a natural teacher. Not a surprise as my mum spent the most of her professional life as a teacher and my dad started his professional life as a lecturer. Teaching must have been in their genes. Once I understand a subject, I can explain it to almost anyone, always using what the other person already knows and lots of practical illustrations. In fact, I used to joke that if I explain a thing to you and you still don't get it, it will take a surgery to make you get it. Those kind of surgeries that turn people to savants. My only weakness, pedagogically, is that I have trouble teaching crowds or a class. I consider myself perfect with one on one teachings. I can teach a 5 year old to write a fairly complex computer program; all I need is just enough contact time.
All throughout university, I was some people's favorite problem solver. And I have held several tutoring positions: A Maths teacher at a secondary school, a CCNA Instructor twice, a UNIX trainer for senior NEPA officials (was pleasantly amazed), a Wizpert (helping people fix issues via Skype) and an Excel Trainer. And the one feedback I have gotten the most is that I make hard things simple and straightforward. And my best moments in life have been the ones I spent teaching Maths. I, literarily, worked miracles in some of the children's lives -- turning maths into their best subject. And some of the class sessions I had were pure comedy sessions. The students would come call me whenever another subject's teacher didn't show up. And they occasionally asked me to use their break, which I always refused to. Someday, I'll teach children maths again.
My ability to focus entirely on my audience (I prefer a one man audience), understanding his level of understanding, recognizing his needs, ignoring every other thing, and then using everything within my reach, material or immaterial, to bring him to a level of knowledge we both want for him, is my forte. And it's best summarized as KISS -- Keep It Simple & Short.
And here's how to achieve it:
- Recognize the aim: Before trying to teach anyone anything, have a common aim. Maybe the aim is to teach Mum how to shutdown the PC rather than powering it off at the mains (like she does her blender). It's very vital. That way, you'll be able to leave out confusing details and know when your Mum's achieved the goal.
- Start from where you both are: Start from a common ground. Mum already knows how to power on the PC and already uses it for viewing the photos in her camera. So don't try to show off all the computer book knowledge you have, starting from the history of computers. Just go straight to the point. Start from after the PC has been powered on.
- Focus on what is relevant: It often involves letting go of your ego. This is the stage most people begin to ruin everything. They become so intense at explaining almost all they know, overwhelming and confusing the other person. And this is the part that come natural to me. In fact, it's the very reason I don't do too well with crowds. I rely on visual cues, a lot of "are you getting it", and "should I re-explain it". And these are hard to use with a crowd. Sometimes, I try to make it look like I only know a little more than the other person, and I'm also benefiting from the interaction. It always works.
- Listen and Stop: Let the other person explain everything back to you and once you are sure she's got it, stop. Some people have trouble here too. They don't know when to stop. They'll keep on going forever if you let them. Originally, this used to be my most awkward part. I would bring the discussion to a close, praise the other person for being a great student, and I start trying to leave. I'll suddenly have another urgent issue to attend to. Now, I more socially adept. If you've got to discuss further, let it be her rehashing the things you've shown her or just move to a completely different subject.