Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > teaching is a two way street

teaching is a two way street

This week I will be wearing my logistics hat again as I am running a warehousing and materials management course and will re-visiting the delights of standard deviations, calculating point loads and similar mathematics along with the more practical side of what mechanical aids to use for various applications.

Logistics, as we call it these days, is like a comfortable armchair for me, something that I can sink into and enjoy its surrounding me. Looking back it seems inevitable that I should have found a career in it, for my early memories of watching the traffic on the Bath Road are dominated by the lorries of the time and the loads that they carried. My first job, aged just eleven, was as the village butcher’s boy delivering meat on my big trade bike before moving on to add a couple of paper rounds. Insignificant steps perhaps, but by the time I was fourteen I was both helping the farm manager with the books for orders and sales as well as having taken over management of the school library from the deputy head. Other jobs as a schoolboy included shelf filling at the new supermarket and working on the parts counter and fuel pumps at local garages. I didn’t realise it, but all of these activities were teaching me about logistics and how the supply chain serves the end customer. By the time I reached the last year of my teens I was being formally taught as a management trainee in a national wholesale business, but even some of those lessons didn’t fully connect at the time and it was only some 10 years later when I began to join up the dots and put all of that early experience together so that I could make good use of it.

We all learn things without realising it and even when we do recognise that we have new knowledge we don’t always have anything to apply it to and so it lies dormant. That is a challenge for those of us who train people; we have to try and connect what we are imparting in a way that will relate to our audience and best enable them to take away what we give them to do something with. Teaching is a two way street.

That’s why I say that I don’t do the same course twice; it may have the same title and use the same slide pack and materials, but it will be subtly, possibly radically, different according to  the people attending. By being flexible in delivery and engaging the audience I also learn because inviting people to challenge the principles that you teach makes you review your own thinking in the light of a changing world. As I said here last week debate helps us all understand the issues better and drives progress.

It’s going to be an interesting week for that small boy who looked up in wonder at the lorries that passed him at the bus stop all those years ago as I try and impart what I have learned to a group of people from other countries most of whom will have English as a second language. These are the challenges I look forward to and I am grateful to those who taught me along the way for giving me the skills that enable me to take up these opportunities. They worked hard on me over the years and, whilst I may not have understood it all at the time, but it all turned out to be useful, not least the lesson that life is what you make of it.

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