Tonight in my office, I watched a mother teach her preschool-aged child how to make a tape loop, so that the sticky side is out and the two ends are stuck together. You know what I’m talking about, because at some point, someone taught you how to make a tape loop, either by direct instruction or by providing a model for you to observe. I don’t remember my mom teaching me to make a tape loop, but I do remember very clearly her teaching me how to tape strips of red and green paper into interlocking loops to make a Christmas decoration to grace our tree (and keep little hands busy during wintertime hours).
It was such a small, nothing-special moment, but for some reason it really struck me how much of an ongoing cycle this teaching/learning loop is. Babies and kids need to learn everything, and they need people to teach them. Not just their parents, but everyone who is a little older or a little wiser. Thinking about just this little girl in particular, the one with the tape, in addition to all of the overt “instruction” I hope I’ve accomplished with her to help her address the reasons why she’s in my office in the first place, I’ve taught her what the word “agenda” means, how to spell my name, and how to use the executive putter set in my office. In front of my eyes, her father has taught her how to play Tic Tac Toe, and her mother has taught her how to make a tape loop so she can stick notes to my wall for me to remember her by until she comes in again.
I think back to all of that incidental learning I’ve done in my life, and then that makes me think about all of the incidental teaching I have done. So many of the important things in life – the things that we do and use every day, the things that help our messages stick to the wall so people will remember us – aren’t things that people taught us on purpose. It’s pretty fabulous, being part of this cycle. It’s also sort of crushing, the weight of realizing the extent to which small things we do can impress upon others. Today, I’m choosing to focus on the “fabulous” over the “crushing.”
So, Fabulous Thing #34: Students becoming teachers becoming students, and so on.