"The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God." -St Irenaeus of Lyon

To educate and instruct

One thing that often surprises me is that I love teaching.  But loving teaching is not the same as loving hearing myself talk.  Although I also like hearing myself talk a good portion of the time.

Teaching increasingly presents itself as a treasure hunt to me, where my principle goal is to find the gifts, talents, strengths and abilities of the students in front of me while simultaneously challenging them to consider new forms of expression for themselves as human beings.  Teaching invites me towards an embrace of the parts of another human being that truly mark them as individuals.  The more individuals in the room, the greater the chaos invited when offering true education.  Education should be flexible, with room to breathe and grow.  Ideally we learn how to breathe as and grow into ourselves through education.

Yet so much of the time, we really do not educate people at all.  We would rather instruct.  We would rather talk at them and give them skills that we assume that they need if they are going to be successful at the things we want them to do after we have trained them.  I do not mind training so much when working with people clearly aligned with the professional purposes of the training.  It is one thing to have someone approach you and say “I want to hit longer, straighter golf shots” and teach them how to do develop that particular skill.  But it is another to assume that all students must be able to recite (the erroneous version of) Newton’s second law where force equals mass times acceleration.  [For those too embarrassed to ask, Newton postulated that the net force acting on an object produces the equivalent time rate of change in an object’s momentum.  The dude all but invented calculus to explain what he was seeing in the world around him but I strongly suspect that he had a lot of help from his friends… and his foes.]

Skills have their place to challenge students to grow.  But it really bothers me when we focus all of our schooling processes on assessments that have little to do with assessing the skills we think students ought to have.

Truly educating people is really hard hard work.  It takes a lot of planning and foresight to figure out how to journey with one’s students.  I daresay that educating is visionary work where you only see the process rather than significant outcomes.  You look for landmarks along the way to point people towards various paths.  But I think often times, being an educator is staring at any number of conflicting signals.

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One response

  1. Difficult enough I hear; but more difficult
    to teach students that don’t want to learn
    and have your vocation drained of momentum.

    Such is the problem with teachers here in
    Philly in low income neighborhoods.

    Pete.

    26 April 2010 at 5:53 pm

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