Sunday, August 21, 2016
Last weekend I took my daughter Lucia (now eleven) out to play tennis. She's been asking to learn for a while and we finally had a moment in the middle of an unseasonably hot, sunny Seattle day. I'm not a great tennis player; I took lessons as a kid and went to a few camps; I'm not good but I can play. Lucia and I share the unfortunate trait of being stubborn, and we're both kind of know-it-alls. So when we got out to the court and I began giving Lucia some tips about grip, follow through, and body placement, it did not go smoothly.
I got a lot of eye rolls, 'yeah, yeah, yeahs" and stomping to the back of the court. It was hot and Lucia was scheduled to babysit so we only played for about 40 minutes. It was more than enough for both of us. Lucia wasn't half bad at tennis even though she acted as if she hated every moment. As we left the courts in search of a quick 7-11 Slurpee before her babysitting job, Lucia said, "Mom, you're a good teacher."
As is often the case when I am parenting, I was surprised (and secretly delighted) to hear Lucia's assessment of the tennis experience. It happens all the time when I think I am teaching my child a lesson and she is simultaneously teaching me something else. 'Right, Lucia, I am a teacher," I realized as she complimented me. It's what I do every day. It's what I love to do, what gives me energy and creativity and happiness. I forget sometimes, because I love it so much, that the person (or people) on the other side of my voice have a different experience. They may not love every moment. They might feel irritated or frustrated or pushed somewhere they don't feel like going in the moment.
But when I teach, just like when I parent, I am motivated by love. I love to share what I know and I love to see people learn and grow and challenge themselves. I love to encourage and nurture and support the growth process. And I love to be a student as well--to hear what the teacher wants to share, to wonder how s/he fine tuned the idea or the technique. It's an honor to be in the role of teacher and a gift to be a lifelong student. If I am your teacher, this is a gentle reminder that I do it all from a place of love. If you are my teacher, please know that I love every minute.