No matter whether you are a professor, instructor or simply an occasional speaker during conferences, you have probably already read a motivational quote by Steve Jobs. The words of one of Palo Alto’s most famous entrepreneurs can be found all over the internet. His tips for entrepreneurs are especially valued by start-ups and his biographies as well as films about his life have been met with great success.
So, what about teachers, professors and, instructors and speakers?
Steve Jobs never directly spoke to teachers. In fact, he never really referred to any person in particular but instead addressed problems – except maybe during his 2005 Stanford commencement speech when he was speaking to graduates of the prestigious American university.
Once again, he tells his story and inspires the freshly graduated audience. Let’s find out which lessons can be applied to teaching!
“Connect the dots”
Steve Jobs explains how the different events of our lives make sense when you manage to look at the big picture. All the different dots brought us to where we are today and keep connecting to create out future (although we might not see how at the present moment). OK, but what about teachers?
As a teacher, your content is essentially created in the same way: The different dots that make up your content, some more complex or important than others, all lead toward the same goal: to gain an overall understanding of a topic. While the concept may seem obvious, its implementation is far less straightforward. However, if you succeed then you allow your students, trainees and colleagues to:
- Understand complex topics gradually by addressing smaller issues that make up the overall problem.
- Plan a route for your classes in such a way that essential knowledge comes first. Then, build on these first learning achievements to convey a better understanding of new points.
- Last but not least, provide an overview of the problem at hand and a simple structure of the content. The macro and micro perspectives are essential so that your students, trainees or colleagues do not lose sight of the objective and stay motivated during complex lessons.
“Make them love your lesson”
Even after re-reading this quote several times, there seems to be nothing new here. In the context of teaching, however, this advice is absolutely crucial.
But, loving a training session or a class in university does not automatically equal an irresistible urge to understand market finance or molecular biology down to the finest details: More often than not, the love for a course is the reflection of a teacher who manages to engage and inspire his students.
Pedagogical skills, experience and solid knowledge in the area of expertise are invaluable qualities of course. But being able to make your audience love your teaching is the best way to ensure that everybody remains attentive – even when things get complicated.
Try to build a relationship with your audience and keep in mind “like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on”. Be available, show that you care and top it all off with a hint of humor!
“If you live each day as if it was your last, some day you’ll most certainly be right.”
This quote made a particularly lasting impression on Steve Jobs and pushed him to re-evaluate his choices continuously. Every morning, he asked himself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”.
Maybe we don’t need to be quite so dramatic when it comes to teaching. Nonetheless, this quote touches upon a subject that poses a challenge for all teachers alike: Time is limited and only a certain number of hours is available for making sure that students, trainees and colleagues gain a deeper understanding of a particular topic.
Consequently, if your teaching is spread out over several sessions, you need to ensure that every individual module allows your audience to learn together and share in good spirit.
Essentially, Jobs tells us in his way that a good teacher needs to be able to deconstruct his course material intelligently to provide an overview as well as a deeper comprehension of the subject. On top of these technical skills, he needs to bring his passion along and share his excitement for the subject in order to teach complex competences efficiently.