When you reach out and teach, you help more than yourself

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One of my favorite “pearls of wisdom” to share with students is the following: “It is an incomplete education till you learn how to teach.”

It began when there was a book titled an Incomplete Education. It was a Christmas gift to my academic-minded son and was billed as a classic arsenal of indispensable knowledge and a volume of all the facts you once knew, then promptly forgot.

Somewhere in one of my high school classrooms, I assigned a group project and each was to present their topic in a teaching method suggested on the outline. I looked out into their less-than-enthusiastic faces.

I could almost hear them groaning that infamous “so what” response. In my defense, I blurted out my simple quote about an incomplete education until you learn how to teach. Their defense came quickly as they told me how they did not intend to make teaching their career.

Teachable moment

There it was, that rare and golden opportunity when a teachable moment screams to be heard. I answered with a series of questions and a complete rationale that we are all teachers every day of our life.

I suggested that teaching is not a choice, but an action; a means to the end. My best example included parenting and a parent teaches as they pass along precious values to their kids and where would be the success of any career be unless we could share with others the relevance of our vocation.

Fact is, we are all teachers. Somewhere in the past few decades, we in agriculture may have skipped this simple lesson. As everyone was moving closer to urban areas and away from the farm, we could read the statistics.

However, maybe we needed to listen more closely to the voices who were somewhat disappointed that our farms were also moving toward technology and efficiency. We rested comfortably with our facts and figures and the notion that respect for agriculture would remain regardless of change.

Teaching others

We were embracing the future and proving we were lifelong learners, but we put aside the value of that quote about teaching others.

Add to this scenario the emerging dynamics of social media and the rest is history. The facts and statistics were just too sterile for the American public moving further and further from the roots of agriculture and livestock management.

Modern era

Flash forward to 2016 and here we are learning how to teach and communicate with those whose closest contact to our industry could quite possibly be a farmers market or a family pet.

The bulk of Americans have favored chains of name-brand discount stores, but the illusion of farming in the 21st century is still a somewhat difficult adjustment for consumers.

So here I am to the “so what” portion of this column. It is time to connect my point about an incomplete education. I guess we sometimes just overthink challenges in our lives and careers.

Statistics cannot replace our common core values and the best offense is often a defense.

Teaching is not just educating, it is the sharing of an attitude of enthusiasm and passion for agriculture. It supports trust for our lifestyle, both professionally and personally.

Although our rural backgrounds may have been given a variety of labels this political year, we are about commitment to each other and the future.

Whether you volunteer in your church and community, serve your country, help a neighbor, advise a 4-H club, or serve the needs of the land and your herds, please realize these values can be preserved if you reach out and teach about it!

Your efforts will support a legacy and the next generation. At the end of your lessons, you will feel “complete.”

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Bonnie Ayars is a dairy program specialist at Ohio State University, coordinating all state 4-H dairy programs and coaching the OSU collegiate and 4-H dairy judging teams. She and her husband also own and operate a Brown Swiss and Guernsey cattle farm. In 1994, Bonnie was named Woman of the Year at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.

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