Oshiegai in Education

If your ikigai is to teach, the Japanese have another term for that: oshiegai (worth teaching). Do you feel a sense of ikigai by sharing your knowledge with others? Dr. Caitlin Kight shares how she ends up becoming an educator: sharing her knowledge with other people and considering it as her ikigai.

Nick: I think for you, teaching is a type of ikigai, and I actually learned this on my last episode, that we can use the word teach and add the suffix gai, and that becomes oshiegai so the verb for teaching Japanese is oshieru and when compounded with Gai becomes oshiegai, which means you feel it's something worth teaching, or perhaps you've got a student, or many students you feel that they are worth teaching. 

So it's another example of taking Gai and adding it to a verb. So we've got verbs like hataraku, which becomes hatarakigai, so it's something as work worth doing; or asobu which means play, asobigai, play with doing or activities worth doing.

And now we have oshiegai. I think I shared this with you, there is something enjoyable about sharing knowledge and things you learn, and almost sharing that with others as a gift. I think if you find a sense of purpose in that.

So when did you realize you wanted to teach and share knowledge?

Caitlin: This is another question that I often get, like the bird question, and this one, I actually think is even funnier, because, with the birds, I can't exactly specify a thing. With teaching, what I can say is that I always swore I would never teach.

So there are many different educators in my family, particularly on my mom's side of the family. I grew up watching my mom as a teacher, and I could see how grueling it was, and she loved her job, she did not say bad things about teaching. 

But I would see how she would have to stay up till two in the morning grading or whatever. And I thought, wow, that does not seem like a good work-life balance, I definitely don't want that. So I always swore I wouldn't do it. And you know, here I am. But I consider myself a communicator for a really long time.

I was a writer, basically, from when I was a little girl, I remember the moment that I was first writing a story and thought, wow, this feels amazing. I'm filled with excitement about this. I always knew that I liked communicating, which was a real blend of both of my parents. 

And at some point, I kind of realized that actually, all this communication that I was doing all this outreach about science, actually was teaching. So I could call it whatever I wanted to call it. But the end game for me was always giving people the information that I thought they would need or would value and want so that they could make decisions.

So they could make decisions that were well informed and not just some kind of random gut instinct sort of thing. And really, that's what teaching is, isn't it? You're trying to give someone the tools that they need to navigate through life. 

And so I had to eventually give up and realize that actually, I'd been doing this all along and setting myself along this path, whether I wanted to openly admit it or not, and at that point, I said, right, let's just double down and just do it. Let's just focus on that and really see what we can get out of this.