Teach to learn
By SARA YEE
I think giving it forward to someone who is in need is the greatest gift to both the giver and the receiver.
To me, regardless of the gift, the old adage “It’s the thought that counts” continues to ring true. So when the day comes for me to present my gift, I will present wholeheartedly – no strings attached.
I am fortunate to have received assistance from both within my internal community (friends and family) and from the external community – the people at large – to spur me on as well as to strengthen my faith in humanity.
Recently, I volunteered at the local refugee centre, which I had discovered through the DoGood Volunteer portal. It was a two-hour drive from where I was but distance did not pose a problem.
What I did was something that any teacher would have done – I went to great lengths for my students. The experience of teaching English to the children was extremely fulfilling.
I tell people that giving back to the community is something that everyone should do.
What is more important is that people should give back in their own time, in whatever way they can.
My father gave me very sound advice when I did so. He said:
“If you really make a difference in someone’s life for the better, no matter how small, then it means something: you have changed someone’s life.”
Lessons from the classroom
Teaching disadvantaged students a language that was foreign to their own in the centre was a challenge I gladly took on. They were students who were mischievous but good at heart.
While the barrier of language was present, I knew enough to overcome these barriers and get my point across as I explained the intricacies of the language I was trying to teach them.
Teaching is a learning experience – not only do you strengthen who you are teaching, but you also reinforce the lessons in yourself.
Learning is teaching and teaching is learning – the paradox is in fact true and beneficial to everyone involved.
When you teach, remember that you are there to dispense knowledge and better the lives of the students learning from you. Not only that, what you learn from them will be beneficial to you too.
All those stories of teachers learning things from their students is not a stroke of luck from having a child genius in the class, but in fact lessons that can be learnt from any student.
However young and inexperienced your students are, you can still learn something from them. Every human has a story to tell, even the young ones.
So throughout my lessons, not only did my students learn what I was trying to impart but, subtly, I learnt a lot from them.
They taught me the meaning of kindness and humility. They also showed me that it is all right to back down and think of a new strategy if something just doesn’t work.
Most importantly, they have taught me that learning is a process that never ends. Regardless of who you are or where you are, you can learn something, even just a little bit.
Passing on what had been graciously given to me – support – I knew it was my way of paying it forward towards the persons who had helped me, by continuing the cycle of help towards those who really need it. The smiles of the children when I came into class and the gratitude I felt was really amazing.
To me, giving something that could bring much happiness brought about a sense of fulfilment.
If giving back was what I did, I intend to do it wholeheartedly and I urge you to do the same in your own time. Maybe you’ll see this as something of a chore but, when you do it willingly towards a group that needs it, and you see the joy on their faces as a result, I can guarantee that it will put a smile on your face.
Even if you can’t go the distance (no pun intended), you can still do small things for people – holding up doors, helping to carry their bags, or even something as simple as picking up a dropped item and returning it to the original owner.
When I taught those students, their eyes lit up with joy. At that point, it was not so much of the lesson coming across but helping them – that was the very thing that they appreciated.
I still remember their smiles as I left for the last time after my class.
I could see that it affected them (in a good way). As I left the place, I could feel the tears staining my cheeks.
The most important thing when giving back is knowing that you are passing on the kindness that someone else has given you.
Giving back is passing the intangible kindness to someone else in a different form.
Like energy, kindness cannot be created or destroyed but moved from one form to the other. It is this cycle that transfers the energy from one person to another.
When that energy reaches a new person, it brings a certain joy. Sometimes, that little act of kindness can spur them forward into doing something that they have always wanted to do or even to pass on that energy to another person, thereby continuing the cycle.
Every little bit counts towards a better world, as Sydney Smith says:
“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can.”
Think of it this way, even a tiny pebble, when thrown into a still pool, still makes ripples. Have you thrown yours?