Monday, December 3, 2012

Guest Post: Teaching others can help you gain more happiness

by  Mark Victor Hansen

Have you ever thought of the effect of volunteering to teach others on the volunteer himself? What do you gain by putting in a few hours of voluntary work each week?

To answer those questions, I need to begin with a personal story. This isn’t something that I’ve shared before. When I was young, I had no clue that I had a reading disability. I was from an immigrant family which, as far as speaking, reading or writing in English was concerned, was mostly illiterate. My family spoke almost exclusively in Danish. Some broken English here and there was part of our house, but I think that was more of a necessity since we were in the U.S. Since my parents didn’t speak English, they would shy away from meeting my teachers and attending PTAs. They were afraid that somebody would make fun of their lack of English knowledge I suppose. I’ve never really seen such a thing happen so maybe it was just low self confidence on their part. As far as I know, no one would really have called them ‘Dumb Danes’ because they were not as educated as others. But so it was. My kindergarten teacher realized that I had a reading disability and put me into remedial reading. I adored my teacher and took up her advice.

The lady who had the responsibility to tutor me was just as amazing. She was sweet, considerate and incredibly patient as she went over my reading with me as many times as I required. I’m aware of what it’s like to not know how to converse in English. Maybe that’s the reason I believe that English is a necessity today, not a luxury. My Alma Mater, the Southern Illinois University, is one of the world’s leading universities for English as a Second Language. They teach kids how to read English in China and Vietnam. I think that’s great because we’re crossing international boundaries and maybe we’ll be able to teach a million international kids how to read and write English.

From my experience, I can say that it’s really the learning process that matters. When your parents taught you to read and write and you passed on the knowledge to your kids, wouldn’t it be great if your kids took up some responsibility to return the favor? They could do something like teach your parents to use computers. My point is that all of us should volunteer to teach someone something. Whether we volunteer at a church or school, the fact is that you’ll be helping someone better their lives. You don’t just have to teach them to read, you can teach them to love reading so that they become independent and self confident. How does this help you? You get to live a little more and a little part of you will light up when you find yourself responsible for helping someone lead a better life.

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