It is that time of the year again. I am back coaching gymnastics camp, in the country, away from all of the distractions of the city. I got a ride out here with the families of one of the gymnasts I have coached for the last decade. Next year is her last year in high school. During the car ride I overheard her complaining about how much a particular class "sucked" because of the teacher. The first thought that jumped through my head, which luckily I did not blurt out in front of her and her mother, was "Fire the teacher". More accurately "Chose your teacher more carefully".

I am not saying "These teachers deserve to get fired" at all. No, instead I am saying pick teachers that teach the way you best learn. For example:

  • Some learn real well from a text book but I learn by jumping in and getting my hands dirty.
  • Some learn well in a rigid structured environment. I spent the latter half of my high school career inventing my own assignments.
  • In gymnastics some athletes respond to auditory corrections. Others respond better to visual corrections and a third group might respond even better to kinesthetic, 'feel' corrections.

The point is everyone has their own learning style. Just because you learn different doesn't mean you should be penalized. It's the same for the teachers though. Teacher A might be able to communicate strongly using auditory and written communication while I myself and many others am much stronger with a visual and kinesthetic teaching approach. So the question is: if you have a round peg and a square hole should you try and change the shape of the peg or the hole.

I am not sure how high school is now but way back when I attended I remember getting to chose my classes and times. That was one of the luxuries of being an upper class-men. I realize this is not the case with 100% of classes. Some niche courses only get taught by one or two teachers so your options could be limited but with general education credits you almost always have a choice of teachers.

My athlete's difficulties were in Spanish which I have to assume there was more than one teacher to chose from. Knowing this kid was plenty bright and not a slacker in the gym I have to wonder:

Did she ask her upper class-men friends with similar learning styles who had taken that Spanish course which teacher had the teaching style that fit their needs?

Had she posed that question and then selected the class taught by the teacher that best fit her learning style would she had done better?

Back in my day:

I was trying to sound like an old fart with that title
When I was in high school the majority of my junior and senior year I took as many classes as I could from teachers I had identified that I fit well with. I must admit my grasp of which teaching styles is not as refined as it is now but in hindsight it all adds up.

I took electric systems from Mr. Venzant and a desktop publishing class from Mrs. Luenburg. I owe a lot to both of them. I learn best by exploring, experimenting, and doing. Both teachers quickly realized that I would fail miserably if confined to the standardized curriculum for the class and allowed me to explore other options. Mrs. Luenburg handed me the manual to Adobe's Emerging Flash Language(remember it was the early 2000's) and let me teach myself ActionScript by writing various apps and videogames.
Mr. Venzant allowed me to write my own binary calculator as well as many other fun projects I was interested in but were not in any standardized curriculum.
I chose to stick with these teachers as far as I could because we connected so well.

My point is: If you do a little bit of homework before you sign up for a course and you will find it much easier to handle the assigned homework later on.

How this applies in adult life:

This applies in work, life and pretty much any relationship: Find personality types, communication styles, and talents that complement your own.

I am have a lot of experience as CTO and lead architect so I rarely join up in any capacity beyond simple consulting with a company that already has one or more lead architect types and not enough work/junior devs to go around. You end up with a restaurant with a bunch of head chefs fighting over what the menu should look like to assist them.

The same applies my clients. A control freak client that doesn't give me room to create will quickly find me referring them to someone of similar skills but prefers to be managed and told what to do. By concisely making that choice I find myself happier and more efficient at my craft.

If you have chosen to work a 9-5 or cubicle job(and yes that is a choice you make) and you find yourself unable to move up or complete your work because someone else in the organization, perhaps your boss, perhaps it is time you chose another boss? Yes I said that, another job, department, or find yourself a buffer in the organization that enjoys working with your higher up.


Figure out how you learn, communicate and interact then use that to concisely chose who you want to learn from/work with/interact with. If you make those choices instead of letting them happen on their own you will find you reach your goals much easier.

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