Are You Teachable? Not Teachable? – Which is Better?

"learn" written on blackboard with apple, booksteach·able adjective
• able and willing to learn : capable of being taught
• allowing something to be taught or learned easily
• eager to learn


I teach Speech to community college students. Freshman and sophomore level students, and occasionally upper level students taking speech for the required credit.

I am ready to state an obvious “truth.” There are people who are serious about learning (teachable) – and people who aren’t serious about learning.

I lead sessions for executive and leadership teams, and professional people in companies and organizations.

Let me repeat: I am ready to state an obvious “truth.” There are people who are serious about learning (teachable) – and people who aren’t serious about learning.

It does not matter. Whether you are talking about college students, or professional development participants, there are those who take it seriously, and show up to learn – and there are those who don’t.

Why do they even attend these sessions? Maybe a boss or supervisor or manager makes them; maybe they want to want to learn, but then…they really don’t actually want to learn. Maybe they go to be seen, or to network, or to have the class or the college degree or the training sessions on their resumes. (By the way, all of these are good reasons to attend… good reasons, but not “enough”).

But, ultimately, the people who are wanting and ready and willing to learn are the better learners. By far.

If I had my choice, every student, every participant, would be fully teachable – eager to learn, fully engaged in every session.

But… No matter what I hope, that simply does not happen.

And here are a couple of types of participants that come really close to driving a teacher/trainer like me crazy.

#1 – the tuned-out participant. This is the person who is in the room, but simply is not present. Constantly checking the phone or tablet, staring out the window, not paying attention to much of anything. And this level of non-participation is distracting to the speaker/teacher, and to all others.

#2 – the arrogant participant. This is the person who “knows more” than the presenter or teacher, and/or everyone else. (Maybe that should be “thinks they know more”). Let’s say they actually do know more. Their arrogance is still noticeable to all, and they can drag down the morale of the teacher and the other participants.

And, by the way, people who are that arrogant seemingly never acknowledge that they are arrogant, or that they hurt the learning experience of others. (Willful blindness…).

So, assuming that you have a teacher (trainer; presenter) who knows something worth sharing, it seems to me that your role as a participant should be the role of willing, enthusiastic learner.

If you are the eager learner, good for you. My guess is you have much more to learn, you can’t wait to learn it, and you will continue an upward trajectory in your life, and in your career.

If you are the “not teachable participant,” well… it’s time to change, isn’t it?

There is so much to learn. Take advantage – become a serious learner. It will do you, and all around you, some serious good.

3 thoughts on “Are You Teachable? Not Teachable? – Which is Better?

  1. “a teachable student is teachable because he is willing to learn from those more experienced than themselves. they have curiosity about them that wants to know how things work. they are focus, and determined to know what they don’t already know. and have a desire to learn whatever is available to be learned.”
    -Brandon Thomas

  2. My teacher wanted me to post my speech I did on this topic:
    A teachable student is a person who is open minded to anything the teacher says. They can receive criticism, and understand that the information is to educate the student, not anger them. They can then take that criticism and apply it to their work and make it better.

  3. Thanks to Brandon and Dylan. I had my students write paragraphs, and share them with one another, on what “teachable” means. I like both of these. Curiosity, and open-mindedness, are both signals that one is leachable, ready to learn.

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