Monday, June 30, 2008

awakening the teacher

For many years I have been rolling around the idea of "teacher" in my head - trying to figure out just what we mean by this word. 

As language is painted onto the essential concepts that we try to communicate, a veil is placed between the person who expresses the concept and the one who receives that expression. And yet, without that veil, would we even be able to communicate as well as we can? 

This particular concept has been calling my attention more lately as I've been designing a training program for Sheya mentors. Even there - in the choice of the word "mentor" instead of "teacher" - is a further attempt to communicate some essential variation on the concept, which is probably lost in the process. For me - though I still haven't quite gotten "teacher" firmly delineated - "mentor" is one who supports and assists the student through a process which they have voluntarily taken on. It is less concerned with passing on specific information than it is with helping the student through the various pitfalls and avalanches of the chosen path. 

This realization about "mentor" reminds me of the confusion arising from "teacher". There are teachers who stand at the head of a class and shove information into children's heads. There are teachers who sit in caves and spout nonsense to awaken their occasional visitors. There are teachers who have no contact at all with their students, but create patterns of words and images that continue to instruct others for generations after their own death. 

With this wide spectrum of usage, we really need to be clear what we mean when we say, "this is my teacher." It could mean anything from "I take a French class from this person" to "This person has awoken my soul." 

This leads to the question of what is my role when I accept someone as my student. If I believe that I'm being asked to help them awaken their soul and they think I'm just going to spoon-feed them some intellectual "mysteries" that will allow them to live a more interesting life - we have a problem. It is my responsibility to communicate the essential nature of the service I intend to provide to any potential student - along with any boundaries, expectations and goals pertaining to the relationship. 

Over the past 20 years or so that I have served as a teacher (with varying degrees of competence and incompetence) I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing that prepares you for the task other than actually doing it. If a person is open to learning from their students, they gradually improve their teaching. This has been my experience and it continues to awaken my capacity to teach at deeper levels. I would say that I have learned considerably more since becoming a teacher than I knew when I started. And the process continues!


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