Famous teacher or good teacher

Years ago, when I was at Columbia, I heard about an interesting-sounding course taught by a Nobel Laureate. Competition to get in the course was tough so I decided to sit in on a class first (always a good idea).

What I found astonished me.

The class was half full with most of the attending students distracted by email and IMing. The Laureate could barely string two sentences together. Discussion was almost non-existent.

Don’t bid for classes like that.

Sure, there are times to go hear a famous speaker. But when it comes to wanting to learn something and change the way you operate — go to a good teacher. I’ve been lucky to have a few.

I work at being a good teacher myself. Here are a few things I do:

  • Before each Startups Unplugged course begins I have participants send me detail on themselves and what they’re working on. Then I spend time reading this info and learning about their markets.
  • I ask for feedback regularly, either verbally or in written form. I do use the feedback to make changes to the course but I don’t change everything I hear about, since I still do have a pretty strong vision for what I need to include in Startups Unplugged. But it’s good to know what people think.
  • I change my teaching style and content based on needs of people in the course. (One of the toughest comments I received early on led to what has become my standard opening day intro lecture.)
  • I’m always talking to people about what I’m doing and why.

It’s starting to pay off. Skillshare made me a “Skillshare Master Teacher” recently after positive comments from people who took my course. Several of the startups who’ve taken Startups Unplugged have stayed in touch and a few have even taken the course twice.

I’ve got a ways to go, but I’m always trying to improve.

Filed in: startup programs