The Value of Failure

Part of the way I make my living is by teaching computer applications. Typically, it’s MS Office, but I’ve taught others. My classes are popular and I can pretty much guarantee if I teach one seminar, 90% of my students will come back for more – either to learn something new or to take more advanced lessons in the same application. It sounds like bragging, but it’s the simple truth. My classes are entertaining and informative.

On one teaching job, however, I crashed and burned. I was teaching a computer application I know very well, indeed. Because I knew it so well, I figured that a cursory review of the lesson plan and manual would be plenty.

It wasn’t, as any experienced teacher would tell you. God, that class was a fiasco.

Many years later, I got an opportunity to teach other class. It was in another application I know well and use daily. Oh my word was I scared! I knew why I’d crashed and burned the first time, so resolved to correct the problem. Were over-preparing possible, I over-prepared. I was terrified to get up in front of all these guys because I was terrified that I’d blow it and embarrass not only the person who recommended me, but the company who contracted me to teach.

I did okay. Brilliant? No, not that time. Though I did have several students come to more classes that I’ve taught. So, clearly it was at least a class where I was competent.

So often we fear failure when failure can be a great friend. I don’t think I would be the teacher I am today were it not for that colossal and embarrassing failure. I learned so much from it. I learned the importance of preparation. I learned not to be cocky about my own knowledge. I learned that knowing something doesn’t necessarily mean I’m ideally placed to teach it. It taught me that teaching is actually a skill one can learn!

Author: Noël Figart

Noël Figart is a computer applications instructor, technical writer and editor.

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