If You Want To Master Something, Teach it – Part 2

Sept 2012, the first time I got an opportunity to teach a full subject (Health IT) of 36 hours. Before starting off, I also needed to take some approvals from my office since it was something addition I had taken up. I was excited and looking forward to teaching. The sessions were supposed to be 3 hours each and since I was working a full time Job the only time I could teach was on weekends (Saturday or Sunday). At first, the thought of standing and speaking for six hours in a day sent a chill down my spine. How can I speak for six hours straight? This does not make sense, which is where I needed to plan my sessions. I thought of using case studies and tried to find one for each session, other that I created a presentation for each session.

I remember that year (in 2012) I had one session before the start of Diwali vacations. The first session is always the most challenging one as it sets the tone for all the remaining sessions. My subject was an elective for students who had taken up a specialization in Hospital (the other option being Pharma) in the final year. It was the first time Healthcare Management was recently introduced in college and out of 30 odd students there were 11 who had chosen the subject. The first session was okay, we did some introductions and nothing out of the ordinary happened. I can clearly say it was not that much of an interactive session.

Fast forward to my third day of teaching, I was teaching something know as Revenue Cycle Management. Basically, how the billing system works from a Technology perspective. This involved drawing a workflow and explaining some of the steps. My interaction with the students was okay but still I knew it was more one way than two-way communication. In the middle of the workflow I see a hand going up to ask a question. “I am not understanding one word of what you are explaining” said the voice. Shock and Awe!! I am speechless, for a minute I felt I was cooking under Gordon Ramsey and he told me how good my food was😊. I tried my best to explain the process, but I am not sure how good a job I did. In a way it was a good thing as in my overall work experience, it is essential to get feedback at the right time. The key is to strive for continuous improvement. My style of teaching was very raw (if I can say that), even one of my students messaged me on LinkedIn asking if I was teaching for the first time😊. The last session I took that year was probably the most memorable one because I tried something innovative. We played a crossword puzzle to revise the concepts in class.

After my first 36 hours of teaching experience I understood what worked well and what did not to a certain extent. The next two years teaching the subject were uneventful, I changed the flow of some of the topics, but I did not believe I was doing great. It is December 2014; I am part of a corporate training which changed the way I think and communicate completely. The name of the training was “Presentation Maho,” interesting name isn’t it; just catches your eye. This training was a key turning point, especially how I created my presentations. If you see the slide snippet, this is what I used for the first four years. The slide is content heavy and well completely unreadable even for a person sitting on the first bench 😊. An important aspect I learnt in the training is the human mind cannot take more than three concepts/ideas/points on one slide.

The Old Version of the Presentation
The New Version of the Presentation

Along with that “Image trumps Words” meaning the mind remembers images better than it remembers words. The slide which mentions “Core Set Criteria” has five objectives detailed and it looks really hotchpotch. I applied the training in my presentation and transformed the slides where I have only one concept detailed per slide using more images/icons and limited use of words. This change I made in all my slides 😊 before my next session which was after a year in October 2015. Sometime in June 2015 I attended a soft skills training in my company. The thing I remember about this training was that the class was divided into four groups and we were asked to name our groups. The training had many group activities and each group received points for performing well in an activity. At the end of the training the team with maximum points got a box of chocolates. I think I better use this concept while teaching.

So, that’s final, I am armed with some new knowledge “Modernized presentations” and “Fun Activities.” October 2015, the time had come to test the waters 😊. The sessions were not three hours in 2015, they had been reduced to 2 hours and overall, 30 hours. I had only one session on my first day which was of 2 hours. This class had 20 students and I asked the students I would like you to do a small role play on healthcare. This was a game changer, I felt I was in a theater watching a comedy play 😊 and above all the students were having fun. I then used the role play as a base to explain the Healthcare workflow (remember Gordon Ramsey 😊). I think that worked to a certain extent. Normally, I had only one crossword in the last session, but I thought why should I limit it to one? So, next session I started with a crossword based on what we discussed in the last class. The difference, the class was divided into groups and we had a points system One point to guess the word and One to explain the concept. Well, this woke the entire classroom especially at nine in the morning. At first there wasn’t a set order, I asked a question, and we had the whole class trying answer the questions. Well, I did not have any buzzers 😊. Over time, we became more orderly and went group wise. I was supposed to take two sessions in one day, and I tried to add more activity-based learning rather than just theory. At the start of the second session of the day to get back some energy, we played dumb charades using healthcare concepts (not movie names) 😊.

My Students of 2015

Things went well I had more role-plays, crosswords and other fun activities and in the end the winners got a prize, everything felt fine. I have fond memories of my sessions in 2015, and am even in constant touch with some of the students.

From my engineering days (1998 to 2002), to my MBA (2006 to 2009) and finally in 2015, I felt I had made some improvements. Every year I always waited for October but come 2016 there was a change and the subject which I taught was not part of the syllabus. “Now what should I do, I am back to square one isn’t it?” A realization dawned on me; I need to find alternatives/options. If I want to improve, I cannot depend only on organization to help me in that direction.

Well, things still don’t end here, watch out for the next part of my story 😊 and I hope you have understood the true the meaning of the topic “If you want to Master something, teach it”. From the way I see it Continuous Improvement demands – Continuous Learning.

You can check the other parts of this series at the below links.