Teaching, Mentoring & being an Expert

There has been a lot of discussion on Twitter and other places recently (in my world) about teaching and mentoring. It has made me feel uncomfortable.

Perhaps you are a bit like me. I’ve done a some teaching on TV technology to new entrants to the creative industries etc, which I thoroughly enjoyed and got very good feedback from.

So why do I feel so reticent about talking about what I know?

That question has been on my mind a lot recently and I’m beginning to feel guilty. I certainly do enjoy helping people discover what they can do, assist them to understand things that I’ve understood etc etc but, at the same time I still want to hold back and hide from doing it!

Just now, while making a cup of tea and putting off going out the garden (looks like rain) the answer hit me like a used tea bag on the clean worktop.

I’m scared of looking silly because I’m not an expert.

Ok big deal, you might think, except that being an ‘expert’ on things is pretty much how I pay my bills. Maybe that is how you feel too.

What it comes down to is confidence, which stems from what we believe being an expert means.

You see in my my mind’s eye being an expert means being someone who knows virtually all there is to know about a given subject.

By that measure of course I shouldn’t be able to buy a cup of tea, never mind feed and house my family.

My realisation was this; the definition I’ve been using is rather naive, because in reality expertise is relative and contextual.

So how does that help us get over ourselves and become comfortable teaching & mentoring? Well, for me, it means changing the focus from worrying about whether or not I impress (or look stupid in front of) my peer group and concentrating on whether someone who hasn’t had my experience will find what I have to say useful.

So I am thinking how I go about crystallising what I have to offer to others and how to make it available to people who’d like it, which is a much more creative and satisfying problem to address.

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