I Am Not A Teacher

I know enough about myself to admit my weaknesses and know the boundaries on my abilities. For example, I have very little patience with people. I already know I have this flaw, and I do my best to accommodate for it by avoiding situations where it may require I have a lot of patience in regards to socializing with others. I try to spare myself - and everyone else - the pain of having to deal with me once my patience wears out.

See, for me, patience is sort of like a bank account: You have a certain amount of patience, you spend it on different situations, and when you’re out, you’re out - time to back off and build up some more patience in the old account.

Teaching people is like going on a patience spending spree. I get spending long before I even get to the teaching part. I start thinking about all the different stupid shit the person I will eventually be teaching will want to know, then I get thinking about how I’m going to answer the questions - particularly technical questions from a non-technical person - and pretty soon I’m already stressed out and pissed off.

Putting this into perspective, I just got off a very, very long project at work that pretty much kept my patience bank at a low level. I got by, but barely, and I look back on it now as a trial that I successfully overcame; I’m happy with the end product, I’m happy with the team I worked with, and I’m happy that we were able to succeed. That said, I need a little time before jumping right back into the fire so I can build my patience account back up. I’m fresh out. Plus, now that I’m working on a different project, I’d like to actually make some headway on the new project, not continually context-switch back to the old project.

I got word today that we’ve got a non-technical guy who needs to be educated on how to do some reasonably technical stuff to customize the output of my last project. To that end, I’ve been tasked to train this guy on how to do the changes, then potentially have a meeting where I train a room full of these people.

Asking for this is akin to saying “We have a whole bunch of people who don’t know how the web works; in two hours or less, you need to teach them how to make web pages using cascading style sheets.” At the very best, my patience bank just got robbed for whatever was left; more likely, I’m going to end up shooting all these people and then shooting myself.

You might ask yourself what the big deal is. The problem is in the way I work. My mind moves very quickly and not necessarily in a straight line from point A to point B. In fact, there are usually about 20 different points in between that I stop at on the way. This doesn’t translate well in a training environment for things where there’s not actually a process to follow. In many cases, I don’t even know how I got from point A to point B - there was a path, there was some method to the madness, but articulating that is beyond my abilities. This trait became problematic in college math classes where I’d write out the problem then the solution right after; you’re supposed to show your work but I don’t know how I got the answer, I just knew what the answer was.

It’s the articulation of the path that blasts away my patience. If I slow down enough to explain the exact thought process going on, I lose track of where I am and don’t actually accomplish anything. Ever start to say something and then forget what you were going to say right as you were going to say it? It’s like that. I’m like, “Okay, first you do this, then… uh… what were we working on?”

Note that this is different if I have a curriculum to teach and there’s a process to be followed. When it’s not “train this entirely non-technical person on a totally unstructured technical topic,” I do reasonably well. I can answer questions, follow a curriculum, and all is well. It’s when I have to get into defining a process for how to do something at the same time I’m trying to teach the person how to do it that really gets me… the impromptu requests for training on topics that have no curriculum, process, or structure. That’s where we have issues.

Anyway, I’m doing my best to make my displeasure at this training idea known without overtly pissing too many people off. I’m quickly coming upon the time where I won’t care about who I piss off, though, and that could be career limiting. Here’s hoping I don’t end up getting fired, eh?