We come to college to learn. That is our primary reason for being here. And by necessity, when we learn we also teach. Whether we’re telling our roommates something we found out in class or explaining a project to a parent, we teach the things we learn. What is important is that we teach those things in a way that will actually make an impact in others’ minds.
Over winter break, I spent time with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. While I’ve found that many of my friends from high school have different ideologies after spreading out and making new friends, this specific friend and I still have a lot of the same ideas about social justice inequalities. It was refreshing to be able to talk to her and debate on issues we were educated about. Something else we both agreed on was how difficult it can be to explain these topics to someone who is not informed about them. If someone asked a question like, “Are there really inequalities in our society?” our initial reaction might be to scoff – which is wrong.
The unique thing about being in college is that we get to choose what we learn. So while I know a lot about themes in The Canterbury Tales and social problems in the United States, I know next to nothing about optimal foraging theory (but I can ask my roommate about it!). Other people are in the opposite of my position, so we have the opportunity to teach each other.
But what I’ve learned is that it can be difficult to explain things that come second-nature to you. It might be frustrating that someone else isn’t educated on the same topics as you. I feel like this is especially relevant to issues regarding our social world. The way we respect people based on who they are is something that comes up every day. Some people might have questions that you feel you’ve always known the answer to – What does transgender mean? Do women really face inequalities in the workplace?
And when you hear those questions, instead of getting frustrated, or thinking that they’re stupid, remember that you didn’t know the same things at some point. We aren’t born with this knowledge, and if we don’t take certain classes or attend presentations in college or talk to diverse groups of people, then we might not gain it. But we can help the cause and educate our friends and family! And if we do it in a way that accepts the fact that they aren’t aware of these things and that we’re happy to give them an answer, then they will remember that act of kindness and be more educated for good.
Teach with love and compassion — a rule one of my roommates told me (Gammad 2015). But if you can’t teach with love, at least teach with an open mind. The person who is asking you a question that you think is basic is even more knowledgeable about other topics you’re unclear on. So trade education for education! And be nice about it.
If you have something you want to teach us, email your submissions or questions to Melissa Dittrich, email@example.com.
Graphic by Jennifer Wu