With the sound of sleigh bells not far off, I find myself pondering a truth I return to every year: being a great teacher involves being a great student. And I don’t mean being a great student at one point in the past. I mean continuing to be a student into the present, and into the future. I mean waking up ever day happily aware that my knowledge is and always will be an unfinished project.
When I ask, “What will I learn today? What will my students teach me?” the next fifty minutes are completely different than when I do not. The questions displace my ego; they make me less of a supervisor and more of a participant. I am more like the guide on an exploration and less like a flight attendant issuing safety instructions. The questions help me cherish the richness of what my students bring to class – their mix of questions and concerns, and even their struggles and irritations. Yes: even gasps of frustration contain the seeds of an epiphany.
Remembering my dual role saves me from thinking that I alone bear insight, that I alone deserve attention. When I think of teaching as an exchange, I listen better. I relax more. I welcome the surprises of the Holy Spirit and the nudges to drop the net of my agenda. To teach with the spirit of a student inspires me to teach with the attitude of vocation, with readiness for a call. Teaching, then, is like discipleship. I humbly hand on what I have received, never forgetting (in the words of Jesus) that "God alone is good."