Everyone Is a Teacher
Much like rings signifying the age and life of a tree, the number of titles that we acquire increases over time and reflects our life paths. For example, the first title that we all get is son or daughter, perhaps brother or sister, too. We then become students, writers, golfers, dancers, cooks, girl scouts, drivers, graduates, fathers, and so on. One could argue that the definition of a full life includes the number of titles we collect along the way. One title of particular significance, however, is teacher. Whether or not we embrace the role, we are all teachers. Some do it well and some don’t, but we all will be teaching others at various points in our lives.
The notion that everyone is a teacher, in fact, should be embraced, because the ability to teach anything connects to the ability to learn what is being taught. The sooner students recognize that teaching others – a noble act of service – also greatly benefits them, the sooner they will become deep learners. Consider the simple act of reading an article in the daily newspaper. As we read, we gain information. But what if we read the same article with the requirement that later we must explain it to someone else? Would we read the article differently? Undoubtedly, the answer is yes, because the need to explain (or teach) would cause us to read for deeper understanding as well as to develop connections within the article and to our existing knowledge base to use in our explanations. The power of the explanation requires a more refined understanding of the article. The article contains information; the explanation demonstrates knowledge.
The notion that everyone is a teacher, in fact, should be embraced, because the ability to teach anything connects to the ability to learn what is being taught.
Savvy students put themselves in positions to explain content, whether that means teaching another person informally outside of class or delivering a mock lecture to a hypothetical class in their apartment or dorm room. Savvy instructors recognize the value that teaching within peer groups provides, and they create obvious formal or informal mechanisms to promote this type of learning in their classrooms.
Of course, the title teacher does not require connection to an official class. The simple sharing of talents or expertise is the very definition of teaching. It is the noblest of acts, as a teacher invests time in someone else, raising that person to a higher level. We should encourage all, especially young students, to share their passions with others. It might become a habit. If you play the piano, ask roommates, friends, or just anyone who will listen to sit next to you, and teach them to play a few notes. If you dance, bring that experience to others. If you cook, then encourage others to cook with you. Your passion and expertise will draw them in, for mutual benefit. And it will undoubtedly be fun or, at the very least, interesting. What kind of campus environment would a university have – in fact, what kind of world would we experience – if we all invested in each other through the sharing of our knowledge and passions? It would be a true community of scholarship, in which learning is a shared endeavor among peers.
In short, if we want to become better at something, we should teach it to others. Everyone is a teacher. We should run toward that worthy title for the benefit of everyone, including ourselves.
“It is difficult to argue with John Sibert’s contention that “we are all teachers.” One staple of childhood is “playing school.” Whether training toy animals to jump or siblings to read, even young children seem predisposed to instruct others. Certainly, human parents spend tremendous energy teaching their babies to eat, sleep, and walk. Infants, in turn, teach their parents to respond to their every cry and facial expression. When it comes to language, adults instinctively slow their rate of speech, simplify their phrases, and point to things as they speak.
As our children get older, we create formal learning frameworks ranging from books, television and computer programs, to physical education courses to enhance their skills. This might not strike you as remarkable until you realize that most animals spend far less time specifically teaching their offspring. Although young primates pick up skills by imitating their parents, and there are examples of animals helping their offspring by leading them to food, or providing them with partially disabled prey, much of their learning stems from trial and error.
Consequently, as humans, our concerted efforts to pass on information have enabled us to expand on the knowledge acquired by prior generations. While much of this learning occurs in traditional classrooms, it can happen anywhere. Helping others solve problems, adapt to new technology, or navigate social situations is the most human of endeavors. Perhaps it is no coincidence that doing so also improves our own confidence, sense of self worth, and mental health. As John says, “Everyone is a teacher. We should run toward that worthy title for the benefit of everyone, including ourselves.”