“I will learn as much from you as you will learn from me.”
The class looked at me confused and unsure of what this promise meant. They knew the words that came out of my mouth, but the order and context was a mystery.
This is how I begin every class I teach. As a teacher, I generally know more than my students about the given topic (there are the exceptions). However, I will relearn how to teach my subject because though the content is the same, the group of students rarely is.
A few years ago, I took a characteristic and strengths test, and to my surprise, my top characteristic was “Learning.”
As I read the results, looking at the top defining characteristic of my being, “learning”, this was not what I expected. In that same moment, however, so much of myself now made sense. In particular, an indescribable part of myself now had a name, a part of my being that I could never put into words, perhaps partly due to laziness in merely accepting who “I am” and partly due to an idea that “there’s a not a word to deal with this.” Nevertheless, the ambiguity dissipated as I stared at this one word:
And underneath it: Teaching.
And underneath that: Music.
I had always thought that my education in the classroom I taught in came second to my students’ education: I was wrong. The two happen as an event that parallels simultaneously. I grow as my students grow; my students grow as I grow.
I have always had a ravenous curiosity. This insatiable appetite expressed itself through writing music, reading fiction, studying theology, exploring philosophy, analyzing typography, dabbling in vexillology, and so on. I wanted to know know about “things” and luckily for me, “things” is a very broad category to gain knowledge from.
I now knew that I loved learning, and that learning was a definitive part of my being.
Thankfully, learning is a great characteristics for teachers.
And I love teaching.
Epistemology in the classroom is wonderful. Teachers talk about the “lightbulb moment” when a student finally “gets it.” These to me have always been periphery to what I consider the two essential tasks of teachers:
- Instill a love of learning
- Instill habits of thinking
Beyond these two objectives, all else is either background noise or serve to fulfill these two outcomes.
And now, I am leaving what I love.
This transition from classroom to administrative position is immensely difficult. I am leaving what I love to do what I am competent in. In and of itself, this is a wonderful opportunity for me. The prospect, however, does not lessen the sting of change.
I am no longer primarily a teacher: I will always be a learner.
Today was my last day in the classroom until God should so bring me back. As is my custom, I asked the students what did they take away from the yearlong course. Their answers were kind.
- You helped me with my faith.
- You taught me its ok to respectfully argue with your teacher (this was an apologetics class – there were many disagreements)
- You taught me the importance of words.
The finally comment: you helped me become a Christian.
And now, I am leaving what I love: the work, the classroom, the subject, the students.
There is no sorrow – only expectancy. “Every step an arrival,” as the poet once said.
Every step an arrival.