Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Teacher Learns Twice

To a point, all teachers and people espousing a certain way are open to hypocrisy, especially those advising on spiritual and character-growth matters, and issues of virtue and morality. There is a principle that must ground this propensity to be a hypocrite.

“To teach is to learn twice.” -Joseph Joubert, Pensées, 1842.

Another humbling fact of life for the teacher is this: to earn the right to instruct others they often have to practice what they preach in real life, meaning acknowledged hypocrisy must be corrected--there is no choice in the matter for the ardent practitioner.

It’s tempting to be disheartened by this truth because nobody enjoys being humbled and humiliated; but the fact is it gets easier with practice. There will be many times more (by God’s grace) that we might be humbled and brought low, for our own good, and that of others. To experience this is indeed to be taken into deeper revelations of God’s loving discipline; this is always good for us.

The positive thing is the teacher, in this environment, should learn and grow a lot, leading to enormous blessing as he or she grows to eventual wisdom.

Of course, learning twice is a little too limiting. The reality is, as much as the teacher teaches, he or she learns (or ought to be open to learning), forming a continual loop. For instance, God’s word is “living and active,”[1] and there are new and relevant meanings that come afresh each day. Eugene Peterson said a few years ago, “When I open my Bible, you know, I’m surprised every day. Why didn’t I see that before,” he says.[2] The teacher of the Bible, therefore, is forced into finding out many different things--a kind of enforced blessing.

Teaching is said to be the most honoured of professions, yet there are many more teachers who do not teach professionally. Think of the teaching roles we play and the opportunities we have to learn within the context of these roles--that’s a true blessing of life to be very thankful for. Teaching is every bit about learning as it is to teaching.

Teach this way and we’re destined to be honoured for the right reasons. Not only that, we model by example to others that teaching is the humblest act of blessing future generations whilst honouring our forefathers, in the carrying on of many sacred and necessary traditions.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] See Hebrews 4:12.
[2] Sheridan Voysey, Open House interview and broadcast, as reported in The Advocate, January 2007.

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