The more I’ve thought, the more this simple phrase has become the litmus test by which I judge ideas I have on how to teach a concept, answer a question or design a lesson.

But let’s take a step back, both in time and from the abstract to the concrete. My first experience teaching in any capacity was tutoring back when I was back in school. I figured myself a pretty good explainer. That I could make people understand by the skill I put into phrasing the explanation at hand, that the capability to be understand was an inherent quality of the text or speech produced.

This view is grandiose, egotistical, and simply wrong. Keeping my ego in check hasn’t always been easy for me and in many instances this problem is connected to the fact that I falsely connect (or have connected) my sense of self-worth to the value of my work, to my grades, the quality of my writing, to the idea that being smart and doing smart things is not only a good thing in and of itself, but also is what makes me as person good.

Now, the first question I ask myself when designing a session, writing an explanation or just answering a single question is “What do I want the other person to learn?” The second question is, “How can I get them to discover as much of that themselves?” The third question is, “How can I get them to apply that knowledge in a way that makes it click into place?”

While my job does contain explaining, I see myself more as a helper in your learning. I can’t learn something for you, explain it into your head, but I can help you do that yourself. I can ask the right questions, pose the right exercises, give you the tools you need to crack the nut yourself. So that’s what I now aim to do.