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Teach to learn.

Over eggs and toast this morning, my cousin and I talked about the different careers people told us we were meant to do. Both of us have been told many times that we should be teachers. Neither of us liked that idea. For me, strangers started mapping my career path when I was an undergrad. The conversation was always the same:

Know-it-all stanger: Oh, you’re in college! How nice! What’s your major?

Me: Comparative Literature.

KIALS: Oh. Huh.  Well, I guess you could always teach.

This conversation used to piss me off many reasons, but mostly it made me angry because their perception of my major confined me to only one possibility in life. Here I was studying a subject built upon analytically thinking, yet I was told my fate was a high school English class. I just left high school. I didn’t want to go back there. Also, the cliche, “those that can’t do, teach” rang in my ears. If I became a teacher, that must mean that I sucked.

Now when people tell me that they can see me as a teacher, I do not re-actively roll my eyes. Judo changed my attitude. Since I came back to judo, I’ve relied on my more skilled teammates to help me improve my technique. One small adjustment or new concept can lead to a mini breakthrough. As time goes by, I find myself more and more comfortable helping our newer teammates. I realize now that you actually have to know what you’re doing in order to teach. If I want to help someone with a technique, I have to understand the concept and mechanics behind it. And then I have to figure out how to clearly communicate how to move your body in order to put it all into action. It’s not easy. But it makes me think more about what I’m doing when I have to explain an idea to someone else.

These little teaching moments in the corner of the mat led me to teach women’s self-defense along side two of the women I train with. Before I started co-instructing, I don’t think I understood how connected a teacher and students can be. Even though I’ve had amazing teachers and been a part of really dynamic classes, when I thought of myself as a teacher, I always imagined myself lecturing, just one person in front of a chalk board in front of a bunch of people who may or may not actually want to be there. But when a teacher and students all convene for a shared purpose, something unique happens during the exchange of knowledge. When one student clicks with the material, they get excited and can’t wait to pass on what they know for someone who’s struggling. It’s a nice little chain reaction. I’d never roll my eyes at that.


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