Teaching and Learning - These might be the two most important things you will do in your life
What do you value?
Before you answer, consider that this might be the most important question you can ever answer. What do you care about? What/who do you love?
A friend asked me this years ago, and I went home and wrote my list, and my life started changing for the better instantly. I’ve continually updated my list, never letting my actions drift too far from the things I value most in life. I’ve come to see that many people do drift, because life makes it easy to do so. Which is why I recommend you put some thought into it and write your list down on paper.
I think my first list was:
As soon as I wrote this down on paper, my priorities started changing. There was plenty of time I was wasting on things I couldn’t truly say I valued. I put more into coaching tennis, and better intent into my own game which I cared about too. I created my first learning plan for the video creation skills I wanted. Without even knowing it, I was teaching myself how to create learning plans. And all I had done so far was write down a simple list of the things I care about.
A great thing about continually updating your values, is it tunes you in everyday to the things you really love. I learned that certain things bring me a joy that I never would have otherwise even been aware of. There are two big ones that I believe every person would love as much as I do, if they’d only tune in to it.
These two great values are: Teaching and Learning
Everyone has taught another person something, sometime in their life. Think of a time you showed someone how to do something difficult for them, but you taught it well and they figured it out when they otherwise didn’t think they would. Didn’t that feel great? In that moment you furthered our world. And you and your student were both tuned in to it together, a very real human connection built upon a world-improving event.
Everyone has learned so many things in their life. Older people (like me) may need to look back decades, to remember a moment in time when the pure act of learning was fun. This comes so naturally for kids. Just imagine learning to walk for the first time. That must be an amazing moment. And so is learning to talk, and read, and so many more things, but then we’re often led to believe that learning becomes only about creating ends, like getting into great schools, and being hired for high paying jobs. But learning really is fun, just for the natural high of learning.
Through awareness of what I loved, my new list of values became:
At first it was hard for me to write down my list of values. It was easier to just go through my days letting my habits take over. Sometimes I went months without writing down my values. But I always got back on it, and every time I do, the act of writing my list is motivating and energizing. Seeing and reading it is as well. I found myself learning faster and better, and having more fun doing it. I wanted to get better at more things. My list started to grow to what it is now as I write this:
Having done this simple writing exercise consistently over many years now, I can look back and see a pattern. Because learning and teaching entered my list early on, my list evolved in really awesome ways it couldn’t have without becoming aware of how much I value both. The reason I’m writing this is because I know there’s a good chance that you, who is reading this now, values learning and teaching just as much as I do, but just haven’t yet accepted it fully the way I have. You should ask yourself the following two questions, and spend a few moments each day thinking about them.
Question #1: Do I value learning?
This might be an uncomfortable question for many people, both kids and adults, to ask themselves. We often avoid learning, and think of it as unimportant. I don’t think very many kids are taught that going to school, and learning, are fun. The reason most kids answer why they go to school is because they need to to get into college and get a job, ends. Kids should see the journey of completing K-12 as beautiful and fun, regardless of the grades they achieve. And it’s even worse for adults, because once you achieve those ends then learning is no longer important. Think of your daily habits. You chop vegetables, but do you study which ones give you the most nutrition? You go to work, but do you spend 10 minutes a day turning your hobby into a future profession? You go running, but do you study the perfect form of the world’s best runners? Learning is simply the best, because small amounts of time can turn into much higher quality in everything else you value. And when you take the time and effort to make yourself aware of how good learning feels, you find that it makes your life better in a way that even money cannot.
Question #2: Do I value teaching?
There’s an unfortunate reason that so few kids and adults today value being a teacher: as a job it doesn’t pay a lot. As a society, we definitely value money, so there’s no glamour in being a teacher. But the point I’m trying to make is that if you bring awareness to the FEELING you get when you successfully teach, it’s a hard feeling to beat. I would contend that we’re led to think it’s an even better feeling to win the lottery, but through awareness you can find that it’s not. When you successfully teach another human being, it reverberates deeply in every cell in your body. Money will never feel better than real world accomplishments, if you pay attention deep down.
Ask yourself, do you have at least one person that learns from you? If you don’t, I bet there’s something missing in your life that you can feel deep down inside. Find someone that wants to learn from you, and teach them, and pay attention to how this feels. If you do have people learning from you, be it your own children, or students, or neighbors, or anyone, take a moment to think about how lucky you are. Think further, what can I do next to teach them even a little bit better? Furthering your teaching skills feels just as good as learning to teach for the first time, so go ahead and push yourself!
If you’ve read this far, I hope you’re ready to take on a journey of learning and teaching that could be one of the most valuable things you ever choose to do. Good luck!