Sunday, December 14, 2008

Are you the teacher?

This is the question I get at the senior center where I volunteer. For some reason I have a problem saying yes. I respond by saying I am the new volunteer to help them with any questions they have about computers. But yes, I am teaching and they are so happy to be learning. I qualify for membership at the center (I am 62) yet I see myself myself as so much younger. These charming folks are in their 70's and 80's. I feel it is disrespectful to their years and experience to call myself their teacher.

If you think technology has taken over our lives and we need to cut back, think again. There is a very elderly gentleman that comes into the computer room every day. He says nothing to anyone and does not respond when spoken to. He turns on a computer and surfs the net - he has a little notebook with the urls for various web sites. Last week he seemed to be having a problem and moved to another computer. I walked over and asked him if he needed any help. He looked at me quizzically and then shouted "I can't hear" and pointed to his ears in which he had hearing aids. Ah, I thought that's why he never interacts with anyone. "Write it down" he shouted. So we communicated by notes and I got him up and running on another computer and also showed him how to shut off the computer properly. On his way out he said "These computers are wonderful. It's opened a whole new world for me". Is that not a total "wow" moment? This gentleman is easily in his 80's and here he is learning something new, something so many of us take totally for granted. I've been working with computers for close to 40 years. I take them for granted. For this gentleman, and for so many of the people I work with at the center, computers and the internet are opening up the world for them. I am just blown away by these folks. I love talking with them and helping them. Teaching? I don't know. Maybe we are just sharing.

When I was a kid I wanted to be a teacher. I played teacher; I day dreamed about being a teacher. I don't know why. I don't know what the fascination was. Several years ago there was a big upheaval in my life and I wailed that everyone got what they wanted, with my guidance and insight, and I got none of what I wanted. I was told "Maybe that is your place in life - to teach". Nice thought, I suppose, but not when I was looking down a dark tunnel with no light in sight.

I still don't think of myself as a teacher - of anything. I have always said there was no point in gaining knowledge if you don't share it. I like to think of myself as a "sharer" not a teacher. I love learning new stuff - really, it gives me the giggles when I learn something new. Sometimes I'm proud of myself for mastering a new skill and sometimes it's just the joy of new knowledge and new understanding. What a high when everything comes together and connections are made. Makes me dance.

Am I the teacher? Is that my assignment in this life? I know so little, how can I be a teacher? I am the sharer - I like that. I can relate to that. Whether it is computers, or something metaphysical - I share what I have learned; what I know. One of the seniors said "You have so much patience" Me? Yes, I guess so. It's something I've learned, trust me, no one ever said that before.

Maybe my life had been about that then - I learned patience and now I can share what I have learned. It brings me great pleasure and seems to be helpful to others. A win-win situation. Guess I just have to trust the Universe to guide me. I wonder what other gifts the Universe has for me?

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