To Teach Is To Learn Twice

Many people spend years finding their passion. Many more don’t find it at all. I’m quite fortunate because the search ended early for me. I realized during my sophomore year in college what it was that would give me the most meaning.

And that is teaching. I want to do it for the rest of my life.

It’s quite ironic for someone like me to say such a thing. My close friends will tell you that I was never the smartest kid in class.  It’s hard to describe the feeling exactly but there is really nothing else that gives me as much fulfillment as teaching. I don’t feel that this is my calling. I know it is. The story of how I found out is a little complicated though. It’s an interesting conversation maybe for some other time. I wanted to talk about why I do it in the first place.

Why do I want to teach? The answer is simple. I teach because I have much to learn.

People who are in similar positions will usually say it’s because they have a lot to give or that they want to give back. I really want to do X because I have been given so much Y. While the same holds true for me, I feel that teaching transcends that. The purpose I find in my work comes from realizing that not only do I have something to give but that I can give much more. This difference is important.

There’s a lot of pressure to teach university students given how young I am. The pressure however is never from feelings of inadequacy. It comes from a determination to be worth the time of my students. I don’t ever ask if I am enough. Instead I focus on how I can be better. I believe that truly meaningful work will do that to you. It will push you to be more so that you can do more. It’s the humility that brings depth to the generosity.

I do a lot of research so I can answer questions better. I rehearse presentations and find ways to make topics fun so I don’t bore my class. I spend time reading every paper so I can give better feedback. I’m motivated to do all the extra things because my students deserve my best. They push me to be my best. Teaching has taught me that I cannot give what I do not have. If I want to be able to give more, I must be more. It’s as simple as that.

I’m thankful to have found work that demands so much of me. It is an often thankless job but I would not want to be anywhere else. It’s in the struggle where I muster the strength to grow. It’s in the vulnerability where I truly find joy and meaning. Teaching is frightening. It is fulfilling. And without question, I know that it is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

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