You’re never ready — Heck, I’m not ready to write this

One of my mentors has written something like this: If we waited until we knew everything, there would be no teachers.

Imagine one thing you would like to teach to someone. Would you like to do it half-assed or rather be prepared? You’d probably want to be able to answer any questions your student might have. You don’t want to appear incompetent, do you?

I don’t know about your culture, but here it is a common thought that teachers need to know it all. Absolute knowledge. If you don’t know it all, you’re not ready to be the teacher. There’s always someone more competent than you so why not step down quietly and let someone else do the teaching?

In my opinion that is just wrong. I want to teach. I want to help people so why can’t I teach? I’m not prepared enough, you say.

Well, I’ve got couple of questions for you.

How do you prepare? How long do you prepare?

And most importantly: when do you know you’re ready?

Let me answer this one: You don’t.

I’d really like to say that you’re ready the moment you start teaching, but I feel like that would be a lie. You’ll never be absolutely ready. You can know a lot, you can have a lot of experience, you can have the knowledge and the understanding but you will not be perfectly ready. There will always be stuff to learn and things to improve, even when you’re the teacher. You will never be perfect so you will never be ready.

It is true that some things are easier to teach and it is easier to be prepared for teaching them, but you won’t be perfectly ready.

A child riding his bike for the first time isn’t perfectly ready. He doesn’t know how the brakes actually work, he doesn’t understand the center of gravity and balance etc. He just jumps on and starts riding. He knows how to speed up and how to hit the brakes but that’s pretty much it. He falls many times but he gets better. The most important thing is that he decides to do it and keeps doing it to get better.

Okay, maybe that’s not the best example so let me give you another one.

I remember all those stories we had to write at school. Teacher would give you some time, like two weeks, to write a 5 page story. I hated and loved those assignments. The first one was the hardest one. Can I do it? Can I actually create a story? and other similar thoughts were spinning in my head but guess what? I managed to write a story so good that my teacher questioned me about it’s origin. Yes, I wrote it. No, it’s not copied. I made it up. I created it.

I did it.

Was I ready to write a story? I had never before written more than maybe three consecutive sentences so probably no. But I did it anyway.

If you ask an adult to write a short story, he or she will probably tell you that he or she is not a writer. I have never written a story so I’m not ready to write a story.

How do you prepare for that?

How do you prepare for teaching?

You gather as much knowledge and experience as you can until the day finally comes when you must do it. And then you learn along the way. That’s how new teachers do it. They study and study and stress about million things, and then one day they will start their first internship. Are they ready? They’re not graduated, they haven’t finished their studies, they might not have any real experience teaching a class full of students but hey, they have studied teaching and made preparations. But are they ready? Shouldn’t they study a little bit more, just in case?

I’ve never written an article in english. I’ve posted on forums and irc, but to actually write an article in english… I’m not ready. I don’t even know if I’m prepared enough but who is? There’s always room for more learning, for more preparations, but when does it end?

When you are prepared for everything imaginable, prepared for every situation and question that might come up… are you ready then?

If we waited until we knew everything, there would be no teachers.
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