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What I Learn From My NYU Students

By Joanne Tombrakos

I teach for a lot of reasons. At the top of the list is because I genuinely enjoy it. I like my students. I like educating. I like encouraging people to think. I also teach because I like learning. Anyone who has ever taught, and taught well, will tell you that teaching forces you to know more about a subject than you would otherwise. It keeps you at the top of your game. But that is only part of what I learn. I also learn what my students teach me. I tell them that going in. That I expect that I will learn from them. For starters it's a graduate class in digital marketing. The subject matter is a work in progress with new tools and new approaches every day. It's impossible to know every single detail, but we need to try.

But there is more to what I learn than that. The majority of my students are international. The global perspective they bring from sharing something as simple as how in Taiwan the chain, 7-11 is a much bigger part of the community than simply a place to buy a Slurpee enriches my classroom. It also forces me to slow it down and think more carefully how I might explain a concept since for many English is not their first language. I can't assume because something is widely understood in the US, it is in the rest of the world. They teach me how to present better in the classroom. The bonus is it hones my skills for when I am working with my outside clients. I've learned that just because one generation is inherently more comfortable with technology, does not mean with that comes an understanding of how to use all these new tools strategically. Generations need not be divided by technological advance but rather help each other as we learn this new stuff by getting our hands dirty - together. Most importantly they teach me by offering what Arianna Huffington calls "third metric" moments in which I can define my success not by power or how much money I am making (trust me - adjuncts are not highly compensated employees) but in having changed someone's way of looking at something. When a student tells me I "inspired" them or thanks me for "seeing their potential" or "encouraging" them I am keenly aware of the ability we all have to make a difference in someone's life. I will never forget the student who this semester when I asked the class what they got out of their midterm presentation in which they were required to present themselves as a brand in three minutes, said the one thing she did not expect was that the experience would make her fall in love with who she was again. Moments like that make me downright teary eyed and others just make me smile. Like the email I got yesterday from a student who just finished the semester with me and "had to share" how she experienced first hand the power of connection that social media affords us when she shared a picture on Instagram of her favorite bakery. What I learn from my students - it's why I teach. Joanne Tombrakos is a Storyteller, Speaker, Digital Strategist and Adjunct Professor of Digital Marketing at NYU. YOUR DIGITAL YOU, her signature workshop is designed to improve your digital presence. Joanne is also the author of It Takes An Egg Timer, A Guide To Creating The Time For Your Life and a novel, The Secrets They Kept.

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