Teachers & Teaching

by Hilary Horn

As many of us head back to school this fall, here is a great post by Rodney Marsh

I call myself a teacher… but am I? Schools have long been known to be an ‘efficient’ means of passing on facts and techniques, but ALWAYS, when we are teaching children, we pass on far more important knowledge – what it means to be ‘grown up’. Children can only learn to grow up from a grown up, but who of us qualifies as grown up? The vision of the New Testament is to “grow up into him who is the head – Christ”. This growth comes through our direct relationship in prayer with Jesus but also, in our workaday life, from those who see and treat us as the beloved child of God we are. The two keys to be a growing teacher to those learning to be human are to daily renew our connection with the source of our humanity and, with sensitivity and compassion, value those we work with.

Jesus commented on the teachers/preachers of his day

“You can tell what they are by what they do. No one picks grapes or figs from thornbushes. A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. Every tree that produces bad fruit will be chopped down and burned.”

During Monday’s staff briefing, K Sensei spoke movingly of the reunion of the class of 2008 that she attended. She told of how the teachers had shaped the lives of these alumni during their schooling. She observed that the relationship these students had formed with their teachers was ‘life shaping’. K Sensei gave a couple of beautiful examples of how these young men and women had been encouraged, by their teachers, to become who they were. Ten years after their schooling adventure, K Sensei could see the fruit of the seeds of ‘self-belief’ planted and watered by their teachers. These examples demonstrated that the essence of the practise of teaching is the relationship between teacher and student/disciple.

The Teacher/student relationship is, like all relationships, two way – the giving and receiving of both partners. The student trusts a good teacher and a good teacher is always trust-worthy. “No printed word, nor spoken plea can teach young minds what they should be. Not all the books on all the shelves – but what the teachers are themselves” wrote Rudyard Kipling. Jesus’s saying (above) tells us that lived human virtues are essential in a teacher, since virtues are caught not taught and it is the virtues are what make us human. By our fruit we show who we are and teach our children who they can be. A good teacher is also skilled and, as an adult, sees, respects and teaches individual students at their age and stage, whilst at the same time, sensing each student’s unique capacities and needs.

An example: recently, an episode of Gardening Australia featured a Japanese master-gardener pruning wisteria. The ‘disciple’ of the master-gardener commented that, in Japan, a master does not speak, just does. It is up to the student to ask “why?”, “how?”, “when” etc.. The responsibility for learning lay with the student and a student must want to learn in order to learn. The desire to learn is not a gift that any teacher has to give. The teacher’s responsibility is to teach a person how to be a human – not fill an empty bucket!

 

A prayer for teachers:

Lord, give me the gift of sight. Enable me to see each child today and to be wise, strong and kind so they may grow into the person you created them to become. Amen.

A prayer for students:

Lord, I want to learn and grow. Send me a teacher who will shine a light on my path to becoming who I am. Then, help me to walk my path with persistence and courage. Amen.

 

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