17 Apr Learn to Teach, Teach to Learn
There is an expression, “The best way to learn something is to teach it.” I had heard this saying several times but it never resonated with me until recently.
Spain is my home country and Spanish the main language in the soundtrack of my life. In school we learned French as well, so upon arriving in the US, I already could read, speak and write in two languages. That made it easier for me to develop my command of English through college courses and everyday interaction.
After trying my hand at a variety of things, I heeded the call of Spanish interpreting. That was 1996. I started as a freelancer and now I am a full-time staff interpreter for the New Jersey Judiciary. To reach my current position, I went the hard route: educational courses and examinations in the various modes of Spanish court interpreting; consecutive, simultaneous, and sight. In the process I learned a lot, applied my knowledge to the tests I was required to take, and then to live interpreting scenarios, both within and outside of the courtroom. My pride in my work is reflected in my professionalism. And I never cease to take advantage of learning opportunities, like the one below.
This year I was offered a position as a Spanish simultaneous interpreter instructor at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey. Having never taught a class, I was hesitant to accept it, but did so nonetheless. To say that I was fraught with anxiety and apprehension would be an understatement.
In preparation for the classes I was about to teach, I did my homework: referring to study material accumulated over the years and researching new material from libraries, book stores, and the Internet. I was proud of what I had put together to share with my students in a way I believed would benefit them. In preparing to teach, I re-learned, and learned a lot more.
Developing internal resources to support one’s teaching starts early in life and evolves through education, life experiences, interaction with others, maturity, focused dedication to a particular profession, and performance. But, if all of that knowledge and talent is kept within a person, like keeping gold coins hidden in a safe, the broader level is not attained. Those precious nuggets of knowledge we collect must be shared to have value. The value within a person must be shared with others. In the process, you mine the precious metals within you, understand and appreciate their value, and share them. That is what teaching allows one to do.
My learning continues as I stand in front of a class of eager learners, passing on my knowledge, helping them find their own nuggets to start their private collections. Here I draw knowledge from those accumulated resources within me, mentally processing them before I speak and let my voice carry them. It is a process of learning by teaching. That brought the phrase “the best way to learn something is to teach it” to life. What an experience.
By Maria Teresa Perez