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those who can

Bloged in community, education, life by rod Thursday May 13, 2004

Well, we’re almost there. Papers, projects, and exams are trickling in and tomorrow afternoon there will be nothing left but the gradin’. I had a really hard semester back in the fall of ‘96 when I filled a sabbatical hole as well as my own responsibilities. The last week of the semester found me kicked and spending all my time at the hospital having tests run. This semester has been just as busy, nay, busier. More students, more committees, church responsibilities, a third wee one. But the stress of it all, tough as it is, doesn’t stick as much as it used to. What’s the difference? Age? Wisdom? I doubt it, especially the latter. Perspective? Priorities?
I think it is the students. They give. Well, maybe that is where wisdom and perspective on my part, play a role. Maybe the students have always given, I just had to learn to receive. That’s certainly a viable explanation. But in the past I always came to the end of the day, the end of the week, the end of the semester, drained. Spent. Now I usually come to the end exhausted, but filled. Hopeful. Heard. It is much easier to recover from physical and emotional exhaustion than from drained emptiness.
Surely teaching and learning are supposed to be shared by both the teacher and the learner. When it doesn’t work this way, the teacher merely dispenses and the student merely gathers. When it works the way it should, the teacher learns and the student teaches and we all grow smarter and wiser and more effective.
Teaching is an art. Like all the arts, there are people who are not artists attempting to participate, but those who make a difference and for a whom a difference is made, are artists. What could be more creative than painting pictures of abstract concepts in the mind of a student? What could be more rewarding than seeing understanding take shape like a statue by adding knowledge to knowledge or stripping away extraneous goo.

An artist can’t speak of what he doesn’t know, but through his art, he can ask questions that will allow the observer to grow toward more than either one understands. A teacher can’t teach a student more than he knows, but he can teach a student to learn so that the possibilities are limitless. A teacher can’t lead the student past where he is himself, but he can send the student beyond. Pride can sabotage this power of the teacher, but as with all art, both teacher and learner are empowered in humility.

So as we reach the semester end, a big thank you to my students. You teach me well. I pray that I’ve given you a little something in return.
Much obliged.

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