The Joy Of Teaching

Everyone has something to teach. Be a mentor whenever possible. You gain more than you give.

I suppose it's rather ironic that I, of all people, would be promoting the benefits of teaching. Having always been a somewhat conspicuous character, I endured many years of my friends poking and prodding me to share what I've learned, the hard way I might add, with others. Throughout that time, the surest way to see me twitch and bolt out of the room was to use my name and the word teacher in the same sentence.

Life, however, has it's own little ways of pointing you in the right direction, just in case your friends aren't using sharp enough sticks. Over the years, I found myself drifting into positions where I was in fact passing on to others the things that I've learned myself, just as others have done for me. Eventually, I realized that like many of my preconceived notions, I had this teaching thing all wrong.

I thought that in order to teach, you first had to become wise and infallible yourself. Since I question my wisdom on a daily basis and probably make more mistakes than the average guy, this made me nervous. I didn't want people showing up on my doorstep with torches and pitchforks once they caught on that I was just a mere mortal.

Once I got over these misconceptions, I found that helping people was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. Since I didn't have to be some exalted deity to be of value to others, I could lock up my insecurities and ego in a small room and leave them to argue over who controls the remote for the TV. Instead, I could enjoy watching friends avoid the stupid mistakes that I myself have made.

Another interesting thing happens when you pass along your knowledge and experience to others. You learn. Regardless of what I'm showing others, it always astounds me how much I still operate on automatic pilot. This is pointed out each time I show someone a particular trick and they ask me why I do it that way, or what the purpose is in the overall scheme of things. As I stand there stupidly with my gears spinning wildly in neutral, I realize that it's either been so long since I learned myself that I've forgotten why, or that when someone passed this bit of wisdom along to me I simply employed it without giving it any further thought.

Either way, I'm forced to dig a little deeper into that particular skill set and understand the answer myself so that I can then pass it along to others. And of course, I always reserve the right to say "I don't know, but I'll get the answer for you." Honesty is a requirement for credibility. It also keeps the ego busy watching old Bugs Bunny reruns on TV.

Looking at life with this new perspective, I've been surprised over the years by how many people feel that they have nothing to teach. Like me, they have a host of perfectly reasonable sounding explanations. They're not old enough, they're not perfect at what they do, they're not good with people, and so on. More than likely, they're just nervous about it, as I was.

No matter what you do with your days, you're good at something. You're continually building up a storehouse of experience and knowledge in the areas that interest you. If you look around, you'll see others who share these interests standing just a couple of steps behind you on the road. Learn to recognize these opportunities and take the time to share the tips and tricks that you've picked up along the way.

There is no more rewarding experience in the world than the feeling you get when someone else's life improves a little because of your help. You'll also find that your life benefits as well. Teachers are just students doing their homework.

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