May 06, 2006

Teaching Truth

I still remember one of my first times "teaching" someone something. A friend had problems understanding our math homework in 4th grade. Somewhere in my memory, I'm still there, lying on my stomach next to her on the living room shag carpet, poring over a math book. I can still hear her voice in my head, telling me I'm good at this, at explaining things.

Patience isn't one of my strong points, unless I'm trying to explain something to someone who truly wants to understand. Few things annoy me more than complaining that goes nowhere. I don't like complaints about something unless there are steps toward a solution - and I found a reason for it in (of all places) the Bible:
God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
~John 3:17, The Message
This, this is the true heart of teaching. Meeting someone where they are, coming alongside them with humility, identifying with them, sharing truth and insight, sharing a different perspective of the situation, then helping them see the next few steps of the path ahead.

Teachers should not be proud, contemptuous, scornful, harried, condescending, or self-righteous. They should acknowledge at all times that they can only teach what they themselves are willing to learn, that they don't have a corner on truth, that they can't see all truth the way God can - and they can only present the next few steps.

You cannot force someone to make a choice and expect that they will have learned the lesson. Learning anything requires surrender of self. The best teachers are those who are most surrendered to learning themselves.

We're all human. We all get tired. We all make mistakes - I'm keenly aware of my own. Despite frequent failures to uphold this standard myself, I feel strongly that any teacher who approaches a teaching opportunity without humility and a willingness to also learn from that opportunity will be held accountable to the last jot and tittle.

Don't ever treat teaching or being a teacher lightly. What happens in that moment is a supreme act of trust by the listener. Don't betray that trust because of pride.

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