Learning Reciprocity

“Those who can’t do, teach.”

It’s a ridiculous quote, implying that teachers are less worthy than these so-called “doers.” The quote also implies that teachers are a subset of the population– either you are one, or you are not. But I believe that every one of us has the potential to teach– the doers, non-doers, and everyone else.

The most interesting and successful people are those who appreciate the reciprocity in learning and teaching. These individuals see no ceiling to what they can learn. Learnings are at the top of their to-do lists every day. And they simply cannot wait to pass on newly-acquired knowledge and skills. True teachers take the greatest pride in seeing their students touched, who in turn use their learning to teach and touch others. And so on, and so on.

When I shared with one of my coaches via email that I had just spent an afternoon teaching the basics of Enneagram* personality types to girls in Kenya, she was touched and responded in elation, as she and her partner have always had the “tell two friends” concept as a goal in their coaching practice. They are true teachers.

At Daraja Academy, my role as a volunteer has had me coaching 20 girls in the “Transition Program.” This innovative six-month program teaches the girls valuable business and life skills to prepare them for their next stage– university, full-time employment, or starting a business. The Transition Program officially ends with graduation on August 8th.

But before they leave Daraja’s gate for the real world, the girls have one last challenge to master– they have to write and present a business plan.

It’s my job to help get them there.

I have two partners as a coach– Carol, who is the Head of the Transition Program, and Rashida, a professor at Karatina University in central Nanyuki. Within 30 minutes of meeting, Rashida and I mapped out our two week curriculum. Using her five-part business plan format, Rashida reviewed a chapter each morning, and I helped the students apply it to a business plan idea of their choice during the afternoon. With their exercises complete after the first week, I guided the girls in writing their short business plans. We then spent two days practicing a 10-minute “pitch” which they will make to a panel of local business people.

Tomorrow is the big day. We’re calling it the inaugural Daraja Business Forum.

I’ve been reflecting on the learning of the past two weeks. Learning was not a one-way street from three teachers to 20 girls. It’s been reciprocal. Carol herself became a student, using the business plan teachings to write a business plan for a comprehensive “Transition Program” module. Rashida added “intrapreneur” alongside her terms “entrepreneur” and “business person” to describe someone (like me) who has written countless business plans inside of organizations.

And though I entered the two weeks saying “I’ve never been a teacher,” I realized I had. I’ve teamed up with outside coaches multiple times in my career– the difference here is that I am the outside coach. And so I played around in my new role, working alongside my “inside” coaches, Carol and Rashida.

Every day tested me. I was learning constantly.

The Kenyan educational system is incredibly structured, and the girls’ inclination is to worry about the right order and the right answer. So I had to get creative in getting them to think creatively.

To appeal to their liking of structure, I strived to always be clear on expectations and timeframes. I used countless personal stories, in an attempt to encourage each of the girls to weave their personal story into their presentation. And when the group still felt unprepared to deliver their 10-minute pitch for the first time, I realized it would only be fair for me to quickly throw together my own pitch and deliver it while similarly feeling unprepared.

I’m sure I didn’t get everything right as a teacher. But I love that I was continually uncomfortable.

As I was teaching, I was learning– from both the girls and my fellow teachers.


* If you are a close friend, family member, or co-worker you know I am obsessed with the Enneagram, and I have probably already encouraged you to take the basic “classic” test online (http://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test.php). Understanding your and others’ Enneagram types can transform collaboration and communication. Give it a try!


  1. Valerie Corradini said:

    Wow! Talk about a high impact summer. I truly admire the effort, thought and compassion with which you approach these girls. It must be a wonderful gift to have your eyes and heart opened so.

    August 1, 2014
    • jodimorris.sf@gmail.com said:

      Valerie, it is indeed a gift! The girls just finished their presentations– it was awesome. They are now screaming in delight in being done.

      August 1, 2014
  2. Wonderful update, Jodi! Having seen you in both roles — as student and as teacher — I’m not surprised at how quickly you’re absorbing your new learnings at Daraja Academy, and how well you’re modeling being a teacher and student yourself. I couldn’t agree more with your observation about the cycle of learning/teaching, and I think the most successful (and happiest) people all share that understanding. Teachers (like yourself) provide the lessons before the test. On the other hand, experience is a more challenging teacher, as it gives the test first, and provides the lesson afterward. The best teachers help up interpret our experiences so we can learn at lightning speed. I appreciate you, Jodi, for your willingness to dive into the deep end and model what you truly believe. You are inspiration to us all.

    July 31, 2014
    • jodimorris.sf@gmail.com said:

      Jamie, thank you for your coaching and inspriration. You have been with me everyday, and want you to know that I am passing on your teachings!

      August 1, 2014

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