I'm a teacher. It took me awhile to figure out what that actually means. Oddly enough, the best way I have ever learned to be a teacher is by looking at the way in which others teach me. I gain enthusiasm by seeing a person who is really good at their job, but I also gain understanding about how others lack the fire that comes with teaching. Good teachers and bad teachers help me grow into the teacher I want to be.
I've learned by noticing the ways I react to others teaching me. It's hard because I hate judging people- I prefer to think that everyone has the capacity to be good. Thomas Paine once said that we all have the ability to be unselfish and worthy contributors to society. We just need to let go of all our trivial notions and preconceptions.
Back to teaching though. This meditation comes because I realize the greatest impetus for me to learn is to have an understanding and caring teacher. I write papers and do well in a class because I like the person who is teaching it. Previously I used to believe that the subject matter was what mattered and my personality was secondary. I was wrong.
I'm thinking about all of this because I'm taking a class that I'm struggling in. It's not that I'm doing poorly in it, in fact I find myself doing quite well. But when I sit down to work, there's no joy in it. Instead it's just plain work, and nothing more emotional than that.
The professor seems like a great guy. I get the idea that he's a smart, energetic and nice person. But I've only gotten that from inferring it. He has never let us know a single thing about him unless it relates to the work. Instead he walks into the class and launches into the material without any conversation. I begin getting a headache almost immediately.
Furthermore, he doesn't seem to want to know about the scant few (down to 4) in the class. I've tried visiting him in his office, where he seems to want to get rid of me as quickly as possible. I want to know him as an educator, but he doesn't seem to have the time. He never even took the time to ask us our names or exhibit a class camaraderie.
The last class I took that I really loved was Colin's class on blogging. It was magic. Upon reflection, I realize that it had nothing to do with all of us being smart (although we were). It had to do with the immense personal relationships we established. I looked forward to being in class every week to see the people there. Everyone cared about the class and put their energy into it.
We all want to feel loved. In that class I was made to feel wanted, and genuinely appreciated. My comments and bizarre digressions were cared about and validated. The rest of the education happened in that safe and warm environment. We learned from each other, Colin pulling back and becoming part of the class.
I guess I'm wondering what I need to do to prepare for the start of school in two weeks. Usually I voraciously line up serious lessons, but I think I might take a different tact this year. At the end of last year I sat down on the floor with my kids and took the time to really talk to them. I think I might sit down and spend the time to know them the entire year. That's what will make teaching mean the most to me. The material will always be the same, but the kids will never be.