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31.5.2017

Get Better: Teach

The old joke goes, “If you can’t do, teach.” But teaching is as much a learning experience for you as it is your students.

We internalize a lot of things and we don’t even realize it. Especially when it comes to our processes or systems for working. And we may only come to realize how ingrained certain patterns or ways of working are if we watch someone else do the same job. The same is true when we have to demonstrate how we do the very same thing.

Teaching or at the very least demonstrating and explaining our methods is a moment of self-reflection. It’s a time when you have to slow down and have all of your assumptions questioned, because more often than not you’re teaching to novices, who don’t share your ingrained behaviors. And it’s something all of us should do.

I wasn’t trained to make podcasts. It’s a skill I taught myself through analysis and experimentation. I had other skills, such as reporting and writing, under my belt that helped me with my sense of story and scripting. With practice I got better, but I also developed habits to streamline my production. Things that others wouldn’t necessarily follow.

Those habits, such as my microphone setup or choice of audio editor, were not necessarily possible or useful for others. And I only learned that when I taught a podcast creation course at Arbis in Helsinki. Some of that is because the equipment and software I had available was different than others. Other aspects of what I thought made for a good podcast were either not apparent or an opinion shared by my students – such as whether all the audio should be heard from left and right speakers or headphones.

Here’s a little lesson about podcasting:

If you are going to create a podcast, I recommend making sure the audio is balanced and can be heard equally through all speakers. Namely because people listen to podcasts while they do something else so their set up may not be ideal, or they only have a single earbud in while they listen. If your audio is split then a listener may only hear half of what you’ve recorded.

To give you an example listen to an episode of Between Worlds by Mike Walsh. He and his guest are on separate audio tracks to make it feel like you’re sitting in on their conversation. Now compare that against most other podcasts such as Planet Money, S-Town or Important If True.

Most audio software automatically has your output balanced between the left and right channels, so there’s no need to do anything. But if you want to mimic Between World’s setup then make sure you record each person individually, so you can then assign them a channel. The more people on a particular episode the less viable this becomes. Regardless, recording everyone separately is good practice so you can address any issues with their sound on an individual basis.

Teaching is more than self-reflection

I don’t teach just to improve my own creation processes. There are additional benefits to teaching such as networking and earning some money. Diversity is the key strategy here. By teaching I’m diversifying my skillset, my income and my network. And I know you’re probably thinking “Why would I want to teach others to do what I do? Won’t they just take work from me?”

In all likelihood no. Your students are not likely to become your immediate competitors, simply because you have a client base and experience that you’re drawing from. They may have learned something from you, but they still have to put that knowledge into practice. Your students may find what you do is too time consuming or complicated to implement themselves at their work, and so contract you for some work.

There’s always an extrinsic reward for teaching people, and helping them gain new skills or come to understand a concept. But the more intrinsic reward of payment helps.

Where to Teach

So with that in mind, here are a bunch of places you can teach. Though you may not always get paid.

Here in Finland, there’s the Svenska Arbetarinsinstitutet (Arbis) and the Työväenopisto, both organizations offer a range of courses throughout the year and are always looking for new ideas. There’s also non-profit organizations like The Shortcut, which are always looking for people who want to share their knowledge. Then there’s the co-working spaces and startup hubs like Microsoft Flux which continually have people offering lessons.

Online also offers plenty of sites to provide lessons through. The two most popular being YouTube and Udemy. With Youtube you’re income is from advertisements, whereas Udemy allows you to charge for the course. Your own website can be another place to hold course through services like Ustream and Livestream. Alternatively, you could create a e-book based course and sell it on your site or through Amazon.

There’s no reason you can’t run a class just about anywhere. Event spaces may be looking for new ideas to draw in different audiences, so take the opportunity to propose a class. You have nothing to lose by asking. As for me, you’ll find courses taught by me at Arbis. I’m teaching how to create podcasts and computer games (with Twine) in the coming semesters. So keep an eye on the Arbis course list for availability.

Gregory Pellechi
Author

Gregory Pellechi

Gregory Pellechi is a writer, podcaster, rugby player and third culture kid. He lives in Helsinki, Finland with his wife, daughter and a cat whom he is very allergic to. He can be found at www.gregorypellechi.com.

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