5 November 2013

Teach what you know

The School Master 
by Adriaen van Ostade
In my final year at high school, the local teacher training college provided an information session for those interested in becoming teachers. It coincided with the time usually scheduled for a maths class. Only I and a painfully shy boy turned up for the maths lesson.

Maybe most of my fellow students were more interested in avoiding maths classes than teaching children. I was quite certain, adamantly certain, that I would never, ever, be a teacher. I couldn't think of anything worse than standing in front of a class full of squirming infants or snarky teenagers. Nor did I have any desire to share what I knew about any particular topic. I wasn't sure what I wanted to be, but I knew that I didn't want to be a teacher.

Teaching as crowd control

When my own children were in primary school, I was persuaded to help with an after-school children's club by someone from the local church. She was an experienced teacher and did all the instructing and "crowd control". My role was just to lend a hand with getting things ready and help with games and handcraft activities. I was happy to help.

Then the teacher left, and I found myself running the whole thing.

The hour or so that I spent with those kids was the longest hour of the week. Preparing the lesson and putting together craft activities beforehand was time-consuming, but quite enjoyable. Trying to convey any sort of information while keeping the kids involved, or even localised, was exhausting. Although I have fond memories of the children who attended, I was left in wondering admiration of anyone who could choose to teach as a profession.

Teaching as sharing

It was only when I was in my mid forties that I discovered what many middle aged people discover - I really want to share what I know. Given the opportunity, I actually enjoy teaching others. Not wriggling children, but the younger adults I encounter through church and work, whether informally one-to-one or as part of a group. It  requires an effort to overcome my natural shyness when speaking to a group, but it's very satisfying. Even standing in front of a crowd is not so scary, I've discovered, if I concentrate on the message and the listeners and not on myself.

And then there's the written word. It seems obvious, but I began writing when I found I had something I wanted to say, something to share. What is writing, if not a passing on of experience? What is a blog, if not a way of sharing information and ideas with others?

What brought about this change? As I said, it seems to be a common experience of people in mid life. Perhaps it was the sense that time is passing and all the knowledge accumulated over the years will soon pass too if it's not shared. Perhaps it was the experience acquired in handing on skills and knowledge and (hopefully) wisdom to my own children. Or perhaps it was born out of gratitude for all that I have received from others. Whatever it was, given the opportunity and the invitation, I found that teaching others can be greatly rewarding.

What about you? Has your desire to share what you know changed or increased as you get older? Do you have as many opportunities to teach or mentor as you would like? Share your comments in the box below. (Click on "0 comments" if you don't see a box.)

Photo credit: Foter.com / Public domain

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