We Are All Teachers

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 (Richard Swerdlow)

Richard Swerdlow says another year of school may be in the books but the teaching and learning never end.

Another school year is over. As I’ve done at the busy end of each year of my teaching career, I try to find a moment to reflect on the lessons the year has brought. After all these years, I still find something new.

And this year, here's what I discovered. School is not over.

Oh, it's over on paper, but school is never really over. All throughout your life you will be a student, classroom or not, and all through your life you will be a teacher, teaching credential or not.

Recently I was talking to a lawyer friend, who told me he feels like a teacher - explaining legal concepts in simple, easy-to-understand language. That's teaching.


But, he added, he was just at the doctor's, who explained a medical procedure to him in simple easy-to-understand language. That's learning. My friend may be a lawyer, but there he was, both teacher and student on the same day.

And it isn't just those with professional degrees. At the supermarket an item wasn't scanning at the price the store app on my phone said it should. The checkout clerk taught me how to use the app. I felt like the students in computer class at school.

There is something beautiful in this fundamental truth - going through life, each of us a student and each of us a teacher, each a giver, each a receiver, in turn. Every one of us knows something we can teach to someone else. And every one of has something to learn that someone else can teach us, whether it's math, reading, or a grocery app. Teaching - sharing knowledge - is an act of incredible power and generosity. Some of the most profound things I've learned have been taught to me by students with disabilities, or people I've met who had no formal education at all.

The school year is over, but even if you graduated years ago, attendance in the school of life is mandatory. And, this school will give you some tests you weren't prepared for.

So, though I'm proud to say I'm a teacher, everyone can say it, including you. And we are all students, too, all of our lives. Until - yes, just like in school - all of us eventually will pass.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow teaches in the San Francisco Unified School District.