Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thoughts on teaching

I love being a student. I always have. So one of the things I hate is knowledge-hoarding. Why do people act like you have to pass some kind of test or prove your worth before you can even be a student? The places where I've learned the most (and been the happiest) are those places where all that is expected of the students is an open mind and a willingness to work hard.

To clarify: I expect to have to "pay my dues". I just also expect to be treated with dignity. I shouldn't have to beg to be taught like a dog for table scraps. This is my problem with Ivy League universities; they seem to take great joy in watching prospective students humiliate themselves... but I digress.

Somehow in my life I have found people willing to share their knowledge without egocentric power trips or ruthless competition for attention. I am grateful, but what happens when I am cast as a teacher? I think everyone reaches a level of experience where they might need to teach as well as learn. I've often had to teach math and computer programming, for example.

I do not consider myself to be a teacher for two reasons. First, I get caught up on details and and I never know where to begin. Second, I run out of patience. I often wish I could just download my entire understanding of a subject to a hard drive and hand it to someone and have them understand it instantly.

Recently, as my patience ran out while explaining a topic, I thought about why I was getting frustrated. I was angry that my student didn't magically "get it". I handed you a hard drive with my entire understanding! Why is this so hard for you?!

I see, the blame-the-student excuse. Have my favorite teachers ever done this to me? Not that I can remember. But it gets worse. I also felt a certain vicious selfishness creeping up. Well, if he can't understand this, then I will always have something he doesn't.

NO. ABSOLUTELY NEVER AGAIN. I will not tolerate the hypocrisy of this anymore. I may prefer to be a student for the rest of my life, but I will aspire to follow these rules.

  • I will try to learn well enough that I could teach someone else.
  • I will share what I know without hesitation.
  • I will remember that everything must be learned, including how to teach.
  • I will not be threatened by the success of teaching. What I have learned cannot be taken from me and is not diminished by someone else having it.

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