This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is being hosted by Robert Davis (@SQLSoldier on Twitter), and he asked us about learning and teaching. More on the Captain Quote at the bottom. (2021 Edit – I was cleaning up some old posts and just found this one. The lessons here are a whole new set of lessons as I have been busy being the CEO of a SQL Server consultancy and trying to turn into more of a mentor/teacher in a whole different way. The principles still apply and they spoke to me. Sadly, Robert Davis joined the SQL Server Memorials page in April of 2018. He was such an inspirational sharer and helper in the SQL Server community. I got to know him in person at a couple of events, and through Twitter. I miss him.)
How Do you Learn? How Do you Teach? YES
Robert asked those two questions (along with some others) to help inspire ideas for the topic. If you combine the question as one, I think yes is the perfect answer. There is a continuum of education. First, you learn. Then you do. Then you teach. And each one of those steps is still a learning exercise. I think if you ask anyone at any level who blogs about SQL Server or presents about SQL Server (yes, even a Paul, Kimberly, or Kalen), you’ll find that they are constantly learning a ton through teaching.
Get Your Teach On
I mean it. After this run-on sentence, stop reading for a few moments and really think about what you know – wherever your current skill set is – contemplate the knowledge you have and what you’ve learned in however long your career has been……. Ok, back? Great. So perhaps you just realized you’ve been further than you thought you have. Maybe you haven’t, but either way, you know something about SQL Server (or whatever skillset you are involved in, this is a SQL blog post primarily, work with me here!). Can you think of anyone who maybe doesn’t know it? Well, there you go. Get your teach on. Find a medium (Blogging – I wrote a series with an interview with Brent Ozar and tips for starting a blog -, speaking, answering forum questions to help teach, or just instructing someone on your team) and prepare to teach.
How Is That Learning?
If you are like most people, you will want to know angles about whatever lesson it is you are preparing that you aren’t familiar with. You are going to want to be prepared for some questions (you can’t prepare for them all, but if you answer honestly with an “I’m not sure, let me get back to you,” you just gave yourself a learning homework assignment) and you will soon know more about your topic. When you are writing out that blog post or giving that presentation, you’ll further cement your knowledge. You’ll be showing other people how to do it; you’ll see the questions they come up with and think about the topic in ways you haven’t before.
If I ever go on a cruise – I want this captain.
Teaching not only helps you learn, but it is a leadership trait. It means you are swallowing pride and desiring to bring others up to your level. You can look at that in two ways –
- If I share the knowledge and bring them up to speed, I won’t know it all in that area. They’ll get to take some of the glory and do parts of my job, oh no!
- Hey, cool. This person wants to learn about the role. I can mentor them and develop their technical skills while developing my mentoring skills. We’ll grow better as a team, and I won’t have to worry when I’m on vacation; cool!
Raise your hands if you’ve ever had an inkling of position number 1 – I won’t look. Alright, I didn’t look, but if you didn’t raise your hand, you are either lying, or you started better than I did 🙂 Once I started growing a bit in my early career, my first inkling was to take road number 1. It was working with an HR person as part of an interview team that and she mostly removed the scales. She talked about a tendency for folks to not go after A players because of pride, a fear of being shown up, etc. It was a good talk, and her point was – Surround yourself with A-players, and you will always be learning, working well as a team, and growing. If you strive to grow, “getting it,” and improving, there will always be people further ahead of you and behind you. So what. Worry about you and hire the A player. The same goes with teaching someone else to get to where you are.
I blogged about the great learning experience I got from Andy Kelly, an early manager. I truly believe that if it weren’t for his desire to learn through teaching, I wouldn’t have the passion for SQL Server that I have today. Andy learned through teaching me, and he was able to help me grow in the process. I never threatened his standing at the company. Instead, they recognized what a great leader and mentor he was. Traits that made him valuable to the company.
Back to the captain and the quote –
Being a geek, I enjoy gadgets, and I stumbled across a link to wired magazine with some neat cockpit displays while deciding on a blog topic. The linked image caught my eye. What I really liked, though, was the quote from the skipper. Check it out yourself – he is talking about where the “steering” joysticks are. They aren’t on his seat but the seats of other officers. His thoughts on this?
The port and starboard command chairs have built-in joysticks for controlling the ship,” Wright says. But those are typically operated by other officers. “Captains should be mentoring and teaching.”
It’s worth repeating – Captains should be mentoring and teaching. That’s good stuff.
In fact, Captain Wright could probably write a book about leadership and call it “Captains Should Be Mentoring and Teaching.”. He isn’t worried about a mutiny if those junior officers grow. He knows there are many ships in the sea (some may even hold celebrities like Brent Ozar or Tim Ford), and they need excellent Captains. He knows that comes through experience and training.
So – What are you going to do?
Are you going to start teaching more? Great. Do you currently blog? I’d love to read your thoughts on your blog, pretty easy to start doing it. All you have to do to teach is remember what you know, find opportunities to bring someone up to that point, and improve your own knowledge in the topic’s periphery while teaching. That’s it. You can’t go wrong because you and your student are growing, even if you stink at it. 😉
(ps. Apparently, my memory banks brought out Dead Poet’s Society from typing captain so many times. I hadn’t read Walt Whitman’s poem before the movie, and I am happy that I could type the entire post, the few “Captains” and all without saying “O Captain my Captain!” But I felt daring, so I had to work it in here someplace. I also changed the title of this blog post because I really like Captain Wright’s simple quote.
Captains should be mentoring and teaching…
Some Related Posts
- Planning To Fail (part 2) –> Helping others learn from their mistakes is a way to teach.
- Made to Stick –> A great book I read gives some useful tips for making your lessons last.
- Everyone Grows, or Everyone Fails –> My contribution to the professional development week at SQL University, a reminder to share knowledge (AKA – Teach)
- One Man’s Trash… –> I learned a lesson at the dump. It helps to have the right attitude when trying to teach something lasting.