Teaching

My father taught me how to jump over turnstiles to avoid paying, he taught me to be a chauvinist who waits on the settee to receive a meal, and he taught me that I was bloody irresponsible.  My mother taught me that my father was a slob, she taught me to make a bed, and she taught me her faith. 

 

I began to see that I was also teaching others.  There is power in information.  I taught Mr. Kemner, a teacher, that he was wrong and he taught me I was right.  My teachers taught me that I was remedial.  They taught me that education was torture.  We sat, we listened.  We starved.  I felt the sleepy implosion of my head.  The temples would ache and the eyes would squint.  I wasn’t interested.  I dared them to interest me in learning. 

 

However, when there was discussion, I learned.  I sat up and engaged.  I threw out ideas, as yet unformed and saw the sparks of learning glow around me.  I asked questions?  Why?  Why?  But I was told to assimilate, not explore.  I was told to accept, not question.  The boats were leaky and I wasn’t to rock them.  Mathematics enraged me.  It made no sense.  Reading tired me – the sentences were meaningless.  They were always about pirates, but there were no riches to explore.  There was no inspiration.  Those who follow, followed.  I sat in the seat, but I went on long journeys.  I explored possibilities.  I had dreams. 

 

In my aspirations I was the general of a grand army leading them into battle.  In my dreams, I was an engineer constructing machines that withstood tornadoes.  On my desk I held a gray pencil and wrote gray lines, trying not to misspell.  Trying to avoid the red pen?  I longed for recess.  I longed for home. 

 

Back at home, I would explore possibilities, converse with my mother, argue with my friends.  That’s how I learned – I see now that it is possible to teach this way – explore, converse, reason.  I always studied a little, just enough to make it into the top classes.  Just enough to stay with my friends.  I sat in the classroom at recess pontificating on relationships, I spoke with authority and my peers quoted me.  They believed me.  I had power.  The will to power.  The power of ideas.  The power of teaching. 

 

I was a counselor at a camp in Cornwall.  I lead the children and they followed me.  A mother was proud to tell me that her son wanted to be just like me. 

 

I went to Pakistan at eighteen and taught English to the affluent.  I was woefully ineffective in changing their ideas about the west, the world, the nature of being.  I was taught how little I knew.  I was taught of my smallness. 

 

 

But in the darkness of defeat a light shone through.  I saw that I had methods.  The words were uncut, crude, unformed, but the method was there.  Two Americans that I fought with over ideas, had the idea that I could teach.  Not that I would teach as others teach, but that it was a calling. 

 

I wanted to be a preacher, not a teacher.  I wanted to teach by telling!  I wanted to teach by yelling!  I knew what was to be known, and I needed to tell those who did not.  Wrestling with ideas, my mind ached.  My career in the church crumbled as my minimal grades would not carry me along that road.  I was accepted to a teacher training institute, so I decided to see if I could be intentional about my teaching.

 

We all learn, we all teach.  I had learned to hate books and love conversations.  I was low on information and high on opinions.  I continued to do the minimum in class and didn’t read a book.  I took quotations from authors and strung them together like a daisy chain. 

 

Education became a game to be played, while I was busy doing other things.  I graduated with a mediocre grade from a good university.  It was what I needed.  Hoops.  Pragmatism.  Education.  I had the piece of paper that said I could teach – but I wasn’t a teacher. 

 

A Turn for the Slightly Less Obnoxious

 

I escaped to Japan and arrived at Tosayamada.  I was a celebrity overnight by the uniqueness of my skin.  I was invited to coach soccer and field hockey.  I made the best of what little knowledge, I had.  But I was on the receiving end of most of my instruction. 

 

The conversations that I had became richer and I changed to a learner.  I had more to learn than I had ever imagined.  There was a culture that was so different from my own.  I sat in a local coffee shop and asked questions. The time that I spent in my apartment became more productive because I couldn’t understand the television.  I read books and was astounded by the constant modifications on what I thought I knew.  As my attitude changed, I assimilated the good and rejected the bad from the experiences around me.  I became a teacher because I became a learner.

 

Why teach?  To learn.

 

I learned that I had gone to Pakistan with my mind closed and I wanted to go back and learn again.  I wanted to be immersed in the process.  Upon returning to my classroom,  I immediately tore the carpet up in my own classroom and replaced it with a game board.  We fought out the wars of the middle ages.  I was engaged in the learning myself.  I began looking forward to coming to school.  I was excited to think what adventure would unfold before us today.  We explored the curriculum together, and I tried to split up the instruction into four basic learning patterns.  We invented games of economics, we wrote letters to Japan, we had the Olympic games.  I found a style that excited me and the students. 

 

Why teach?  To explore with children and invent and create.

 

When I studied for my Masters from Moody Bible Institute, I was taught another lesson in teaching.  My professors showed me the respect that professors at Exeter had denied me.  They welcomed me into their homes, they spoke at my wedding.  When I asked a question they never questioned my ability to learn.  I studied hard with these mentors.  They inspired me to apply myself to reading.  I loved learning with them.  I felt the freedom that knowledge brings. 

 

Why teach?  To mentor as I have been mentored.

 

I started teaching fifth grade at Northwest Christian Academy.  I created a learning environment with notable creativity.  The students loved learning in this creative environment and I loved teaching.

 

Why teach?  To see the thrill of learning unfolding in the minds of individuals.

 

Now a hunger had developed in me.  I had urgency.  I wanted to see what methods I had missed when I snoozed through my undergrad.  What could be done in a classroom?  What new methods could be applied?  How could I bring together innovative techniques with traditional beliefs? 

 

I started taking classes at National-Louis and learned once more how children learn.  This time I was a wide eyed child sipping from a cool stream of knowledge.  I went back to NCA and applied everything that I was learning.  National Louis’ Professors encouraged me in my use of simulations, I was given more structure for my assessments.  I limited myself to one class at a time because I was afraid of missing out on the application of the knowledge.  What if I drank in too much too quickly?  I was excited to learn, and my teaching improved.  I had found my calling. 

 

Why teach?  To answer a call – it’s a vocation.

 

The Dance

 

I am teaching now, but I have undergone another change.  I see the dance of learning moving around me.  No two children dance the same.  Old people dance more slowly, but they teach and learn.  Children seem to be sponges of learning who soak up so much, but they are unaware of how much they teach. 

 

I am hired to teach teachers at two locations.  What a privilege to learn from learners younger and older!  I dance the dance of education with them.  I do not bound through hoops.  Teaching is an act of love!  We spin through classes and I slide down hallways happy to pass on what I have experienced.  I am in the middle of a classroom, swept by the symphony.  New methods are added to the score year by year as we uncover the theories of learning.  We understand more and more of what God has placed in the heart of humanity.  We sing!  We dance!  We waltz to the tune of lifelong learning.

 

Why teach?  Who can do anything but teach, and learn; give and take; embrace and reject; breathe and exhale!?  We all teach!  I have just had the opportunity to throw myself into the middle of the dance!

 

Join the Dance!

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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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11 Responses to Teaching

  1. rookie1987 says:

    Yes my dragon changed. It was first a leviathan, then dragon and phoniex, and now just dragon.
    Context for these questions would be they are directly out of book by Mark Eckel called “The Whole Truth Classroom Strategies for Biblical Integration” on pg. 37. So call this a passage master post.
    I will comment on this post later and please do not use my name on my xanga site. I copy and pasted ur comment on my site and changed the name. I keep to my online name of Silver.
    Salt and Light
    Silver

  2. rookie1987 says:

    Hey I liked reading this because it let me know a whole lot more about you. Also makes me look at myself and question and see exactly why it is that I want to do what I am aiming for. Do I enjoy it? Do I love it? What’s my motivation? What a process. Many make the mistake of thinking once they have a piece of paper they are done with learning. I think that really with that piece of paper is just the beginning. Youth have always taught me more then I teach them….. Truely amazing how the teacher really is the one being taught.
    Salt and Light
    Silver

  3. Heshewethree says:

    Hey dancer! This is why I just love reading your posts! I too love to teach, although I am not a certified teacher, but I love learning and passing on what I learn to others. So much of what you said hit home for me, because I have a son who is struggling with the same issue you had with school and reading, and writing. He doesn’t like it at all. It limits him too much, and he is very imaginative and creative. Standard academics in the public school system does not reach his learning levels or mechanisms, so he is very unresponsive to it. This year he has been struggling to deal with several things, and adjusting from homeschool into public school again has been rough on him, but unfortunately, I can no longer homeschool, as I work full time, and I don’t yet have the finances to send him to my churche’s private school. But you have truely given me hope and encouragement concerning his mindset, and he is making much more effort now than before. I see a shift coming too. I’m printing this so I can let him read it later and get inspired as well, because he is a natural born leader, and who knows….this may also be his calling. Thanks for a great post. Peace.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great post….as usual. Getting to know you better and better. Your eyesight is just fine. : ) ❤

  5. I’ve had my ups and downs with education but I love to learn and I love to teach. I can’t bare to hear people say, “What can they teach me?” There is always something to be learned. I pray that God will use me in mighty ways in teaching – and learning. Right now I’m asking for His help to get me through Moody…

  6. Anonymous says:

    If you’re bored, I think you might find this interesting. http://www.xanga.com/chandersman/576486955/feelin-like-feelin.html 
    In class a while ago we were discussing the question, “Why do bad thing happen to good people?” You mentioned that there are really no good people. Is is also possible that there are no bad things? 
    -Karen 

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just browsing the INTP blogring…This is good stuff.

  8. Wow! Very creative in the writing style! Anyway, this was a very abstract, but equally truthful article. Ever since I have been saved, I loved to just make up Bible lessons for fun, either in my head, or on paper. I even received the chance to head up the Bible study at my high school for my junior and senior year. By preparing lessons, it was very much of a learning experience. In fact, that was when I seemed to learn the most. However, that does not seem to be what you’re talking about here. It seems more like unintentional teaching (e.g., “I taught Mr. Kemner, a teacher, that he was wrong and he taught me I was right.”)I can also relate to how you felt when you learned more from conversations that from books. I think I am in that boat right now. For example, having attended two hardcore dispensational schools (Philadelphia Biblical, and Moody Bible), I have been pushed and challenged through conversations to really sit down and consider what I am being taught, and see if it is in line with Scripture (like the Bereans). On the flip side of this, I do not want to adopt a post-modernist standpoint by saying that it’s fine and dandy if you believe such and such, but I see it this way. While this many times seems to be the only possible way to maintain peace in the Church today, it hardly seems to be what God would desire. I am told that “it depends on what specific doctrine you are talking about”, but is that really the case? Doesn’t God care about how we view the world, and what we believe about the rapture, kingdom, election, free will, etc.? Hmm. I digress. (while getting of my mini-soapbox)I also thought it was interesting how quickly the teaching process can spread. It seems that any time we have contact with someone, we are teaching each other, and that knowledge could be passed on 2 seconds later, and so on. I like it.Asa

  9. TeachingWow! This was a really good post, thanks for writing it, I learned a lot again. I think that I agree that sometimes a cruise through a class on autopilot, I mean I get all of the assignments completed on time but I feel like I am missing out on a lot. I feel like a couple of my teachers just talk and talk but never get us involved and that is so boring. One class that I go to we just listen as the Prof. Reads almost word for word out of the binder of notes that he gave us. I feel like I want to be challenged, I want to participate, ask questions be involved. For some it might be good to have everything read to them. I get it that may be how they learn but it is not how I process things. Why can’t more teachers learn to teach like you have? I love coming to your class because I feel like I am challenged to think beyond me, to see the world, and how God is in it. I want to teach like you do. How did you get started in the creative teaching methods? Did you learn them all at National Louis University? Since you started as a Pastor did you get a masters in teaching? I would love to teach how you do in a Christian setting one day whether God calls me to a Christian school, a camp, or a youth group, I really learn by how you challenge us. I am interested in learning more (I wish that I could take your class every semester until I graduated and then it still wouldn’t be enough). Were all of your classes at National Louis University like what you teach us? I am going to keep reading a lot and learning. I know that I teach now but I want to be more creative with my teaching as you are. Any advice? Do you still teach fifth grade at Northwest Christian Academy? Have you ever thought of having someone intern with you or visit for a day as a possiblity or maybe even do a PCM with you? I would really like to come to visit to see how you teach there a lot.This is what really hit home to me from your post…. I became a teacher because I became a learner. Why teach? To learn. Upon returning to my classroom, I immediately tore the carpet up in my own classroom and replaced it with a game board. We fought out the wars of the middle ages. I was engaged in the learning myself. I began looking forward to coming to school. I was excited to think what adventure would unfold before us today. We explored the curriculum together, and I tried to split up the instruction into four basic learning patterns. We invented games of economics, we wrote letters to Japan, we had the Olympic games. I found a style that excited me and the students. Why teach? To explore with children and invent and create. They welcomed me into their homes, they spoke at my wedding. When I asked a question they never questioned my ability to learn. I studied hard with these mentors. They inspired me to apply myself to reading. I loved learning with them. I felt the freedom that knowledge brings. Why teach? To mentor as I have been mentored. I created a learning environment with notable creativity. The students loved learning in this creative environment and I loved teaching. Why teach? To see the thrill of learning unfolding in the minds of individuals. Now a hunger had developed in me. I had urgency. I wanted to see what methods I had missed when I snoozed through my undergrad. What could be done in a classroom? What new methods could be applied? I was excited to learn, and my teaching improved. I had found my calling. Why teach? To answer a call – it’s a vocation. The Dance I am teaching now, but I have undergone another change. I see the dance of learning moving around me. No two children dance the same. Old people dance more slowly, but they teach and learn. Children seem to be sponges of learning who soak up so much, but they are unaware of how much they teach. I am hired to teach teachers at two locations. What a privilege to learn from learners younger and older! I dance the dance of education with them. I do not bound through hoops. Teaching is an act of love! We spin through classes and I slide down hallways happy to pass on what I have experienced. I am in the middle of a classroom, swept by the symphony. New methods are added to the score year by year as we uncover the theories of learning. We understand more and more of what God has placed in the heart of humanity. We sing! We dance! We waltz to the tune of lifelong learning. Why teach? Who can do anything but teach, and learn; give and take; embrace and reject; breathe and exhale!? We all teach! I have just had the opportunity to throw myself into the middle of the dance! Join the Dance!

  10. nanahuff says:

    Great imagery and analogies… and written with such a persistent enthusiasm for their art (yes, I see teaching not only as a sacred and precious gift but also as a an art… one that may be refined and perfected, especially with His guidance).I joined the dance years ago and I’m still learning new steps! A great essay for both prospective and veteran teachers in all walks of life to read. Thank you for a wonderful journey.

  11. Elijah1313 says:

    Wow…I am not even sure what I can say. This was truly thought provoking…I have never seen myself as a teacher, and never embraced myself as learner. I find it hard, because although I want to learn, I feel still as if there is a disconnect between my thoughts and actions. As much enthusiasm as I start off with at the beginning of the semester, I dwindle off somewhere in the middle and miss the application of the whole coarse. I suppose though, that sometimes they best way to learn is to get out there and do it, but I still question how to motivate myself to absorb all the things in the classroom I know i am missing.

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