Teaching and Learning

Teaching and Learning

As many of you know I grew up in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The family rented in the city of Montreal and we owned a small, old house in the Laurentians, about an hour north of Montreal. Our house was on the end of a lake and the lake was home to a Country Club where, as kids, we learned to swim, play tennis, to canoe, play golf and other summer activities. The lessons were $5.00/per month and for that price we received 12 lessons, three a week, that lasted between 30 minutes and forty-five minutes. It was a wonderful way to grow up.

However, from an early age my life was split into two pieces: the city for work and the country for play.

Fast forward to my teenage years and I became involved with teaching swimming, first to children at the lake, and then to students at University. I was very lucky to have been given these opportunities at such an early age. The teaching soon moved from teaching specific skills to allow people to learn “how to” swim to teaching people how to “teach others” to teach specific skills, such as coaching and directing athletic learning. We created a program that allowed prospective athletes to learn the necessary to teach skills of coaching and teaching. I ended up teaching aspiring teachers how to teach at the University level.

I have been involved with teaching for a long time, more than 50 years. Teaching is a very interesting discipline and I have to admit that I love to teach. I love seeing the lights go on when a student “gets it.”

I approach teaching from a number of, in my mind, critical evolutionary steps.

First is “Pictures.”

I believe in “showing” people what the goal is we are working toward. This is what we call, in our classroom work “What It Looks Like When It Is Right.” This is now part of the Building Blocks Level of parts and service management training.

Next comes Story Telling.

I move to telling stories about what it is that they just saw in the picture. A story to describe what the picture was all about. Story telling is an important aspect of nearly everything that we do. Leading people is enhanced with good stories. Selling is all about story telling. Story telling allows the listener to more easily understand what is being taught.

Pictures Again.

A repetitive process to “imprint” the end result on the mind of the student. This is what we are doing, this is how we are doing it, do you see the picture? This allows us to follow my three critical precepts in leadership and also in driving change.

  • Understanding: everyone has to understand what we are doing. What are our goals and objectives?
  • Acceptance: everyone has to accept that what we are doing is the right thing to do. This means that we have to be open to a vigorous debate about our goals and objectives. This is a critical element of leadership and one that is not that common. Allow everyone’s thoughts to be heard and respected.
  • Commitment: Once we have these three steps completed and with strong agreement then we will have everyone committed to making it happen.

Teaching and Learning and…

That takes me to Socrates. Society has a polarity to it. There are competing views on nearly everything that we do and have done. Socrates did not want to get into the debate of what is right and wrong he simply pursued “Wisdom.” In the process he created “philosophy.”

In his approach, in much the same manner as we have created out learning offerings, he constantly was asking questions. What is a good market capture rate? How should we measure market capture? What is a good parts availability? Does that include your overnight delivery or is it right off the shelf? Lots and lots of questions. That is the foundation of how I teach and also how the Learning Without Scars.

Many people, who I respect, and have worked with over the years, say that the name of the Company is incorrect, they say it is the wrong name. The Company should be “Learning WITH Scars.” That could be one interpretation. I want people to engage in a fundamental understand on what they do. That requires thought. Remember Simon Sinek? His book “Start with Why” is truly thought provoking and enlightening.

He asks three basic questions:

  1. What do you do?
  2. How do you do it?
  3. Why do you do it?

The first question should be very easy to state. The second question perhaps a bit more difficult but after all that is what you do every day at work. It is the last question that is the poser. And, NO, the answer is not that you do this to make money. It is never the reason why. That is the result of doing what you do. The better you do it the more money you will receive.

The Time is NOW.

Memorable Moments – #MondayBlogs

In my Industry, I’m thought of as a consultant.  I see myself as a teacher, still.  Many of you have asked about my Company Name – Learning Without Scars, LLC. In fact, several have told me learning with me is full of scars and the name is incorrect it should be Learning With Scars, LLC. Notwithstanding the naysayers we are trying to present a series of learning products that will allow the students to AVOID the slings and arrows and in fact the scars that I have endured.

My daughter, who is far more creative than I, has suggested we write an occasional epistle to expose some of those more memorable moments when I received scars during my passage in life in this Industry. So here goes. These are our Memorable Moments: scars I received while learning, that I can hopefully save you from receiving as well.

Most of you who know me have heard a lot of the stories of my upbringing and schooling and early work experiences before starting in this Industry. I started at Hewitt Equipment, the Caterpillar for Quebec and Labrador March 3rd, 1969. And it was a very strange happening.

I grew up in a relatively typical household. My Mother was a teacher and my Father was an engineering Technician. I spent the first three years of my life living with my Grandmother as a result of both parents working. Granny was a very special lady and I was very fortunate to have her guide me through the early years of my life. She got her Master’s Degree from the University of Manitoba in the early 1910’s. Needless to say she was a very talented lady.

I wasn’t much of a student at any point of the school path for whatever reason. I got involved with music early with the piano, clarinet and saxophone being the main instruments and until my voice changed I sang at church.

We lived mostly in duplexes in Montreal and escaped on the weekends to the Laurentians where we had a summer cottage on a lake. That was our escape from work. The city was for working and the country was for play. Some of my best memories are from the lake.

I was blessed to be able to start teaching athletics when I was 15 at a Country Club on the lake. So the country all of a sudden paid me money. Similarly the music got be to playing organ at a few churches on Sundays and at a restaurant/bar Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. I started in the restaurant bar when I was seventeen I think. As an employee I could be in the bar without risking arrest as I was underage but I was an employee. That was kind of cool. (I am sure my parents didn’t think it was very cool at all. I finished at 4:00 AM both Saturday and Sunday morning)

I went to Sir George Williams University in Montreal and followed a Mathematics and Physics major, with minors in Computer Science and Statistics. Unless you are going for multiple degrees that is much too focused and degree for commercial purposes. Because of my experiences in swimming and Country Club I was hired, during my third year of University at Sir George, to be the director of the water instruction program at McGill University across town. This was an evening program for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. So I was pretty busy when I was going to college. I also taught skiing on the weekends in the winter.

So school is over and it is time to get on with life and get a job. Well 1968 was a tough market for new graduates. In a way it was much like today. I was overqualified and under experienced for anything I wanted to do that was interesting. So I went back to the country and got a job at an institution called The Boys Farm and Training School.

This was a farm that my grandfather was instrumental in creating for “wayward youth.” I thought I could reconnect with my ancestors and get a job there and find out more about life while giving my bruised psyche a rest.

This was kind of fun. It was a group interview. Imagine if you will a group of people parading into a room with five people up front behind a long table and benches all along the outer walls of a room. I had never been to a group interview before and didn’t know either how they worked or what to do. So I reverted to self.

I was hired as a control figure and was given a house to manage. Our unit housed sixteen boys between the ages of 12 and 18, each of whom was incarcerated for a crime. There were no locks on any of the doors, other than my suite, so they boys could come and go as they pleased and before my first month was up they had all run away. That was the intent of the exercise. We were building an “intake” unit which was going to receive anyone sentenced to the Farm during which time they would be profiled and a treatment program determined for each of them. That was what my new job was to become. I tested and interviewed them all and determined their personality profiles and treatments programs in consultation with Psychologists and Psychiatrists. 

I worked from 7:00 AM until 1:00 PM daily and was on call overnight in the event of trouble. I had one day off every two weeks. It was a serious grind. One that I left after about six months with a very fragile mind. I am sure I came close to having a breakdown.

So I went skiing.

Then one day my Mother called telling me I had a call from a man named John Swift. I had taught two of his children at McGill and he wanted to talk with me.

That was the beginning of the end.


The time is now