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Monday, August 8, 2011

Teaching: Make It a Passion

Socrates, by comparing teaching to the ancient craft of the midwife told us what teaching is all about. Just as the midwife assists the body to give birth to new life, so the teacher assists the mind to deliver itself of ideas, knowledge, and understanding. The essential notion is that teaching is a humble, helping art; the teacher does not produce knowledge or stuff ideas into an empty, passive mind; and it is the learner, not the teacher, who is the active producer of knowledge and ideas.

Aristotle, differentiates the doctor & farmer from the shoemaker and mason in the following way:

  • Medicine and agriculture are cooperative arts, because a doctor or farmer work with nature to achieve results that nature is able to produce by itself.
  • Shoes and houses would not exist unless men produced them
  • The living body attains health without the intervention of doctors, and plants and animals grow without the aid of farmers.
  • The skilled physician or farmer simply makes health or growth more certain and regular
    Teaching, like farming and healing, is a cooperative art. It helps nature do what it can do itself – though not as well without it. We have all learned many things without the aid of a teacher. But for most of us the process of learning is made more certain and less painful when we have a teacher’s help. His methodical guidance makes our learning – and it is still ours – easier and more effective.

    Teaching always involves a relation between the mind of one person and the mind of another. The teacher is not merely a talking book, an animated phonograph record, broadcast to an unknown audience. He enters into a dialogue with his student. This dialogue goes far beyond mere “talk,” for a good deal of what is taught is transmitted almost unconsciously in the personal interchange between teacher and student. Every good teacher-student relation has this intangible.

    Teaching is a two-way relation. The teacher gives, and the student receives aid and guidance. The student is a “disciple”. This is not a passive submission to arbitrary authority. It is an active appropriation by the student of the direction indicated by the teacher. The good student uses his teacher just as a child uses his parents, as a means of attaining maturity and independence. The recalcitrant student, who spurns a teacher’s help, is wasteful and self-destructive.

    The teacher shows the student how to discern, evaluate, judge, and recognize the truth. He does not impose a fixed content of ideas and doctrines that the student must learn by rote. He teaches the student how to learn and think for himself. He encourages rather than suppresses a critical and intelligent response. Teaching, the highest of the ministerial or cooperative arts, is devoted to the good of others. It is an act of supreme generosity.

    St. Augustine calls teaching the greatest act of charity. Let every teacher live up to it. It is only then that the nation can realize its full potential.

    Sri Gurubhyo namaha.


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