You remember 95% of what you teach

Part of the Teach for America interview process involves creating a mini lesson and presenting it to a group of individuals who are also interviewing. Naturally, as I went through the process, I put together a lesson on…well, something English related; I honestly don’t remember the exact topic. I was an English major. I still live and die by the Oxford comma.

I got the email a week (or so) later, saying that I had been selected to join the ranks…as a middle school math teacher.

Math? Were they serious? I had never taken a class beyond pre-calculus in college. I almost said no.

Instead, I went to a used bookstore, bought all of the possible books I could find on math, and I started teaching myself things like limits and derivatives. Because in order to teach middle school, you have to be able to teach high school.

I passed the exam to teach math, but I didn’t really understand half of it until I started teaching it. Having to explain why the inverse of multiplication is division made me better understand fractions. I got really good at math while I was teaching it, and a lot of that came from how I was taught to plan lessons.

What does all of this rambling have to do with Salesforce?

I’ve discovered the exact same thing is true when it comes to, well, anything, but Salesforce specifically. I learn more about Salesforce when answering questions and training than I do by just studying.

This happens in two ways, which I will obviously share here.

Training new (and existing) users

I treat training the same way I treated my daily lesson plans. I plan them backwards – what do I want my user to be able to do? In order to perform that task, what do they need to know? What steps are necessary for them to get from point A to point B?

Example: I want users to know how to create a report on tasks that are due today. 

First thing’s first – I make that exact report, and I make note of every single step that I take. Every one of them. EVERY one. Each button click, each keystroke, each search, even the thought process behind those.

Then I make a list. What information do I take for granted that they might not know? For instance, I know that tasks in my instance can be related to up to three different records – Contacts, Accounts, or Opportunities. I know what those fields are called. I know that they are lookup fields. Do my users know that? Maybe, but I can’t assume that when I’m planning a lesson. What information do I kind of know but would be unable to explain in depth? That’s the stuff that I need to research.

The last step is actually planning what I’m going to say and do. I stick by the “I do, We do, You do” model, which just means that I will talk for about 5 minutes, demonstrate the actions and have them follow me, and then let them loose to try it out.

And I do that for every training session. Once you do it a few times, you really get used to it, and it doesn’t become quite so…daunting.

Answering questions

You’re obviously on the Salesforce Success Community because it’s pretty much a user’s/admin’s/developer’s best friend. So I know you’re there.

I used look for questions because I knew for sure someone had already asked what I was going to ask. Then I started seeing questions that people posted, and I would think “I kind of know what they mean.” But I would never answer their question! I was so afraid to just give my input.

Then one day I said “just try. What’s the harm?”

I learn more from answering questions sometimes than I do asking them. If I see a question out there that is lonely and has no responses, then I’ll start digging. If I know the answer, or have a good idea, I’ll double check my assumptions (I don’t want to steer people wrong, after all), and then I write an answer. Worst case scenario? My solution doesn’t quite work for them. They’re not going to cuss me out or tell me I shouldn’t be doing this job.

If I don’t know the answer, I try to find it anyway. Because reasons.

The Point?

If you want to learn more and get better, you need to teach. You need to force yourself to seek out the answers to questions that you didn’t know to ask yet, and you need to demonstrate and impart that knowledge. You’ll learn things you didn’t think you’d learn, and it will embed itself in your memory for a lot longer.