The top student teaches others


IN the last student trait, I discussed the trait of “striving for perfection” and gave examples or instances where such a habit is valued.
This week’s trait is the second-last in this series of Top Student Traits. I will share one final trait in the next issue of this supplement.
For this week, I want you to note that a top student “teaches others”.
The top student will take the time to share his or her knowledge and skills with others who are not as good in a particular field.

A master teaches others
In learning, as is the case in the past, a teacher was often referred to as a “master”.
The teacher is someone who has mastered knowledge or skills in a particular field and has taken on the role of passing what has been mastered to learners or students.
A top student who is hardworking is someone who aims at mastering subjects that s/he has chosen. And because s/he has mastered concepts in the subject s/he can comfortably assist others who are interested in learning those too.
Generally, you can always get help from a master learner, like a top student, if you get to know him or her.

A misconception on helping others
There is a misconception that we had when we were growing up. And that is – if you teach your peers what you know, they will do better than you and you can no longer be the top student in the class.
Actually, that is not true in the case of the top student.
When a top student helps others s/he becomes extra good at what s/he is teaching others.
The reason why a mathematics teacher seems to know more about concepts and can explain it to students in two or three different ways is because he has spent time explaining it to many students.
Someone who has not taught others a concept would not master that as well as someone who has taught others that concept.
At top student who teaches others is actually mastering the concepts better. It is a case of “the more you give, the more you retain what you taught”.
There was a young man I taught back in the late 1990s in Wewak, in East Sepik. He (I will call Dean) was the best player in the school and possibly the best junior player in the province – he could spike the ball from any part of the court, frontcourt or backcourt. You only need to put the ball high up in the air and he will sail up to slam the ball perfectly into the opponents’ side of the court.
Dean was not only a very good player, he was also a good coach or teacher for all the volleyball players in the school – the seniors and juniors. He had the right built for an attacking player – tall and slim, with long arms.
When it was volleyball practice time, there was no need for a teacher or the sports master to be there to supervise the drills – Dean would take care of the teams, the girls’ team as well as the boys’ because he was visibly passionate about the game.  He not only wanted to become good in the game, he wanted his peers to become good in it too. (That, by the way, is a trait of a very good teacher.)
Dean grew into the game quickly. I saw him making lousy mistakes when he first started in the game but in the space of two years he, while still a teenager, became one of the best attacking young players I have ever seen in the game in the nation. If he was living in Lae or Port Moresby I am sure he would have been taken on for national representative duties.
Dean was a top student in the sport of volleyball and exhibited that top student trait – he enjoys teaching others what he knows.
It is sad that in this day and age some people still hold onto the misconception that sharing with others what you know will make others become better than you. And in the process, they keep their knowledge either to themselves of their little tribe or clan.
In Dean’s case he was always the top student in volleyball in his school and continued to be a top student in the game in his province. He was an inspiration for other younger players too in the code.
The more he taught others, the better he became in the game.
I must be fair to say too that someone who teaches others also has that privilege of holding back something that s/he thinks is not to be passed on to a group of learners – particularly if the learners are not that mature or keen to learn something.
It is a case of “casting valuables” before people who do not need to know, or may not be able to use it appropriately.
Some coaches will never teach advanced skills to someone who they think is not ready physically or does not possess the right attitude.

Teaching others may prepare one for a career
A top student who takes the time to help other peers with solving mathematical problems, playing volleyball or painting may very well be starting in acquiring skills that will be needed in a career in the future.
A top student who likes explaining maths concepts to others may one day become a maths teacher or lecturer.
I was told decades ago that very good maths teachers and lecturers are in demand everywhere in the world. That is not the case for other subjects because maths is a challenging subject and many people avoid studying it, hence there are less people in any community who are comfortable dealing with concepts in algebra, geometry or calculus on a daily basis.
Even in the developed world, schools are short of good maths teachers. Years ago United Kingdom was attracting maths teachers from China and elsewhere to teach the children in school.
A good volleyball player who likes teaching others skills may one day become a good coach not only at the club level but at the provincial level or even at the national level and take our national teams to international tournaments.
Generally, in a working environment, a person who can help others learn essential skills in a particular profession are needed.
A top student may very well fit into such a role very quickly if s/he masters skills that are needed and may find promotion coming on easily because s/he would naturally be a fast learner.

Good students become top teachers
Didier Deschamps, the French men’s national football team coach, was a top student in football in 1998 when he and his teammates won the Fifa World Cup. Back then, he was also the captain of the team.
Earlier this year, exactly 20 years later, he made history as the only third person to win the coveted trophy both as a player and manager.
He is a good example of a top student in a skill and later becoming a very good coach or teacher for the young players who may one day achieve the same kind of results he had achieved as a young player.
I must be fair to say that some very good teachers were not very good students when they were in school but became good with certain subjects as they settled down later in life.
Even though they were not good students in their days, they have guided a lot of people that they teach to succeed in their learning. Some of the best sporting coaches were not very good as players but still they are producing results that are envied by others.
It would also be true to say that some people who are top students rarely pass on their knowledge and skills to others due to many reasons, including the dislike of patiently working with learners who are struggling to learn what they have mastered.
Sal Khan is the founder of Khan Academy, a non-profit organisation that teaches students a host of subjects (including mathematics and science) by using videos and internet technology tools.
Khan, who studied electrical engineering and computer science in university, has shared that what got him started in eventually starting the academy was he was tutoring his cousin sister mathematics in his spare time while holding down a job as a financial analyst.
His work with his cousin had requests coming friends and relatives to help them in a similar way. Consequently, he made videos of his tutorials and posted them on YouTube.
He used his free time and own resources to do that. Eventually, he resigned from his full-time job and started Khan Academy to share his knowledge with the young in school.
What started out as a mere teaching experience made Khan him realise that a lot more people would need his help with what he was good at.

Appreciate what top students share
I end this article with this.
Do you realise that knowledge and skills are very valuable?
We tend to think that gold, silver liquefied natural gas, bech-de-mer and vanilla are worth more than other things we may have in our land or seas. That is true but still knowledge and skills bring out the best in all these raw materials.
Without knowledge and skills, whatever raw material you have cannot be made into usable products.
You can have vanilla beans but you need someone with skills and knowledge to turn the stuff in the beans to something that will eventually be a flavouring ingredient for food or beverages.
And it is a privilege to be helped by someone who knows things that you want to learn – just like a peer of yours who is a top student takes the time to help you with your schoolwork.
And for you, if you are good student, take the time to help others with what you know.
Remember, helping others will help you master concepts better. It makes you a better student and may actually prepare you for more successes later in l

  • Thomas Hukahu is a teacher and freelance journalist.

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