When you used to play school as a kid, did you ever question your expertise? As in, “Who am I to be up here? What right do I have to be ‘teacher?’” When you stared down at your little sister or you stuffed animals, you probably weren’t telling yourself, “no, no, not me. I don’t have enough experience or wisdom.” When we were kids, playing school was fun, perhaps because of all the education accoutrements – a blackboard, a pointer, a map, some attendance sheets. But we also, on some level, thought that maybe we had something to impart. Some particular wisdom that someone else had give us – maybe the skill of writing in cursive, or locating Zambia on a map – and we wanted to share it.
As we grew, we started to realize how little we actually knew. The world seemed to expand before our eyes. And our little corner of it, and the understandings that seemed so big and important, started to shrink. The people we didn’t think knew anything at all, seemed to become wiser. And there seemed like there was so much more to learn before we possibly could masterfully understand our existence. As Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.”
The idea of having anything to offer someone else in terms of teaching all of a sudden seemed like a joke.
However, you don’t have to be an expert to be a teacher. You have important lessons to share simply because you exist. You have a completely unique human experience, and that is invaluable. You don’t need to wait until you’ve mastered it all. By sharing your experience, by being open, you never know who you might help. And best of all, as much as we relate to honesty, we also relate to people who are fallible, just like us. When someone admits they don’t have it all down, they are accessible. Their experience is relatable.
You have an important story. You have useful experience. You have something to offer because you’ve chosen to be a work in progress.