Thursday, June 26, 2008

701. Teaching

Thank you, George, for asking--my student did a brilliant job! And, coincidentally, I was given an aliyah when she read; the gabbai had no idea I was her teacher. Her hands were shaking long before we both stood at the bimah. But she sailed perfectly through two aliyot, and will read again this morning and on Shabbat (I think she's relieved I won't be in attendance either day). She's already planning to learn more for the end of the summer. Very cool.

I'm relatively new to teaching anyone anything. During the days when I worked for companies, I always mentored junior designers--but it was part of the job, more for my benefit than anyone else's. I was never excited or inspired by the task, nor did I feel I was sharing knowledge in order to help the other person grow. My parents weren't big on honoring teachers; I now realize this was a strange attitude in a Jewish home. I always had the sense that teaching was just like the cliché, a fallback career for failed artists. As for those who mastered the skill--good for me if they were my teachers, but no need to emulate them. A real job involved producing, creating, and then engaging in intellectual or material commerce. Teachers, like cops or librarians, provided a service, a lesser kind of ability.

Whether my parents really meant to impart this line of reasoning, I have no idea. Their lives were about hard work, survival, and making a better world for me; I can understand how they saw teaching as a means to an end rather than an art. There just wasn't time in their lives for that nuance. But as an adult I realized the error of my bias, and began to see teachers as somewhat mysterious and possessing talents I sorely lacked. All throughout college I was a little afraid of all my professors. And when first approached by a chanting student, my instinct was to run in the other direction--but, after getting through a lesson or two, I realized that there was little hidden, secret knowledge involved. I just needed to listen, be patient, and plan ahead as much as possible. And try to remember everything my own wonderful teacher did to help me learn.

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