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  • Mark P Stevens

What 3 teaching traits… produce world-class students?


Adam Grant, in his bestselling book "Give and Take," recounts a study done in the 1980's that shed light on the elements of a good teacher.

He recounts Benjamin Bloom led a landmark study of world class musicians, scientists and athletes. They were looking for what made these performers special. As they dug they had some surprising findings. Early on in their careers, "they did not stand out on a local, regional or national level - and didn't win many early competitions." So what happened?

"The pianists didn't start out learning from piano teachers who were experts," he notes. "They typically took lessons from a teacher who lived nearby." Then later attained their advantage by practicing more hours than their peers. (As Malcolm Gladwell and Anders Ericsson have shown) But the researchers wondered what motivated people to practice to such lengths?

When the pianists and their parents recounted their first teachers, they focused on one theme: the teacher was 1. caring, 2. kind, 3. patient. The three elements required of a good teacher. "The children looked forward to lessons because their first teachers made them interesting and fun." They had "an adult outside the home, who was warm, supportive and loving. Exploring possibilities and engaging in a wide variety of musical activities took precedence over right or wrong, good or bad. " The same pattern emerged with world-class tennis players. Their first teachers were givers, not experts.

Adam recounts, "In roles as leaders and mentors, givers resist the temptation to search for talent first. By recognizing that anyone can be a bloomer, givers focus their attention on motivation." But when do you face children in the workplace?

Any employee who is on boarding, learning Salesforce for the first time, or is new to your group in a sense need the same three elements to get them started. Once the fire is lit, they will do the learning by taking the time to practice and develop. Later as they gain proficiency, it's time for more expert assistance. But in the beginning they need caring, kindness and patience.

Grant goes on to dig further into drafting NBA basketball players and a world renown professor at the University of North Carolina that show the same traits and have had remarkable success in their areas as well.

PS - it is also why I feel the best teachers we have in a school system, HR department or training group need to work with the beginners. They set the tone for everything that will come after.


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