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Blog: Are You a Bad Teacher Because You’re Too Smart?

I was recently reading the book, “Brain Rules” by John Medina. In the book, Medina teaches us that in order for learning to take place we have to connect with those we teach. He gives several examples of how to do this, but one in particular stood out to me. This example is that we have a tendency to forget that the information we are sharing is NEW to those we are teaching.

This hit me like a brick when I began to realize as leaders, mentors, and teachers we take for granted the information we have accumulated and how long it took us to master it. I first reflected on this insight within myself. I realized that I often move very quickly when teaching and coaching new concepts to those I am working with. I have a tendency to just assume they “have it” and are ready to move on; often I do not want to “bore” them (or myself).

According to Medina our brains:

  • can only process 10 minutes of information at a time and
  • can only focus on one thing at a time.

He also provides proof that our brains

  • do not pay attention to things we are not interested in
  • are inspired by emotional arousal and it helps the brain to learn.

This book enhanced and brought validation to concerns I already had. I began developing ways that I can more consciously connect with my audience – even if it is an audience of one. I also began to think about the executives I work with and how frustrated they get when people do not “get it” like they do, do not “get it” quick enough, or make mistakes.

Here are some of the tools that I use to connect with my audience. I encourage other executives I work with to do the same. Hopefully they will help you too.

  1. Create interest – people do not pay attention to what is “boring” to them
  2. Reduce multi-tasking – especially when new information is being learned
  3. Help those you are training to connect to the big picture first and fine tune the details later
  4. Tell a story (or something) to emotionally connect your learners/staff to what you are teaching
  5. Only teach 10 minutes at a time and then pull your audience or staff back in by creating a hypothetical situation they can connect to – even better if it involves their emotions
  6. Create an open environment for learning. Make sure your staff or audience are comfortable making and owning their mistakes and asking questions, otherwise, people will tell you they “get it” when they do not.

The next time you are coaching, training or mentoring someone, remember people need time to learn, process, store and practice the new information. Everyone learns differently and at a different pace, so get to know the person you are training and adjust your style accordingly.

Do not take for granted the learning process and reflect on how long it took you to master the subject matter you are teaching. Remember that while you may be proficient with a certain subject, it might not be your audience’s strength. This is vital if you really want people to learn and not just a perfunctory process to check off the list.


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