I Thought Teaching Was Easy Until I Figured Out These Things

It’s not about what you teach, but how you teach.

My original post in Medium

I thought teaching was easy until I figured out these things

Illustration by icons8

With more than nine years of experience in Product Design, I separate my career into 3 phases:

  • The first two years ⎼ Gain experience: Say “Yes” to everything and grind experience.
  • Next four years ⎼ Build a foundation: Learn to say “No” and storage knowledge.
  • The following years ⎼ Systemize knowledge: Share to learn and build a legacy.

I used to think of opening a Product Design course because many people requested it, and I thought teaching was easy until I dug deep about it. Now I find that sharing experience and teaching are two very different things.

Whereas sharing experience involves recalling the past, teaching requires much more. In particular, knowledge must be accurate and tested through practices with many different contexts.

Besides, teaching also requires from both sides:

  • People transfer knowledge.
  • Knowledge recipients.

In which when acquiring new knowledge, the recipient will usually be in one of the following 3 cases:

  • They need to break their perception.
  • They need to increase their perception.
  • They have a misperception.

Now looking at this example.

I live in Ho Chi Minh City, an economic city with a high standard of living in Vietnam. One time, when I went back to my hometown, I told a story with my relatives “At Yeebo restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, a roasted duck has a price of $260, and they attract many customers to come to eat.”

This is new information to them.

Left Photo by Tron Le. Right Photo by Joss Woodhead on Unsplash

What if these people don’t believe me?

According to their experience, it usually takes about two and a half months from the time the duck hatches to the moment they can be sold, and it has a price of $3. Therefore, the fact that the restaurant sells up to $260 is not real for them. At this time, they think I am a liar and bragger. After that, they lose respect for me and start to doubt everything I say. Besides, their attitude towards me has also changed.


Illustration by icons8

This is when they need to break the perception to change current beliefs.

It isn’t easy and will require many conditions. They need to make a trip to Ho Chi Minh City, pay for a meal at Yeebo restaurant, and experience themselves to believe. Doing this will cost a lot of money and need more supportive factors.

What if they believe me, but don’t know what to do with it?

They know when a duck goes through many traders and stages, and with the standard of living in the big city, a high price is regular. But they know their limit: They can not move to the city to live, nor can they sell directly without a broker to get the highest price. Many difficulties, obstacles, and new things to do to achieve the expected price prevent them from taking action.

Thus, they take in the information, but leave it there and forget it after a while.

Illustration by icons8

In this case, they need to increase their perception.

They need to know that doing one thing well requires learning many things. It is something that needs to be improved every day. And unfortunately, if they fail, they won’t blame others.

What if they believe and follow blindly?

As soon as they got home, they immediately search for roasted duck recipes. They take 10 ducks in the garden and try many recipes until they reach the best one (of course, after asking for advice from others). They may loan or even pledge the property to open a duck restaurant at home.

Then they sell a roasted duck for $130 — just half the price of Yeebo restaurant. “There is no reason to deny because it’s a reasonable price!”, they think. If friends or relatives try to stop them, they will get angry: “What? Do you know they sell $260/roasted duck in the city? Are you jealous because you are afraid I’ll be richer than you?”


Illustration by icons8

As a result, they fail, go bankrupt, or even be isolated by those around them. In the end, they think I am the only reason that ruined their lives. Then they hate me.

This time, they have a misperception about the new knowledge I transferred.

Now looking back at my example. Everything I told is true. Because Yeebo is a real restaurant, and it exists for decades. But the problem is the way of transmitting and receiving information is wrong. Both of these must be selected carefully by including:

  • The right person: The receiver is willing to invest time and effort in increasing their perception.
  • Right place: The receiver is in a suitable condition and environment ready to apply the knowledge they have just received.
  • Right time: The moment when the transfer and receiver are ready to transmit and receive information actively.
  • Right information: based on the receiver’s ability, the transfer determines the amount of information just enough and plans to convey in each appropriate stage. Too much information given at once can overwhelm the receiver. On the contrary, too little information will cause knowledge to be misinterpreted.

If one of the above things done in the wrong way, the consequences will be tremendous.

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”
– Mark Van Doren.

Teaching is the process in which the teacher nurtures and supports the learner’s discovery. For me, good teachers are the people who inspire others. They transfer the right knowledge and help their learners feel more in love with the job.


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Hoang Nguyen

Senior Product Design