Monday, January 27, 2014


Skimming back through my older posts, I have noticed that I use the phrase "I'm learning..." quite often.
Side Note: My internal English teacher is screaming at me. "I'm learning..." is not a phrase but a clause, since it contains both a subject and a verb. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I can go back to writing.
For some reason, this jumped out at me and forced some mental rumination.
Side Note: Ruminate is a lovely word that means, literally, to chew the cud (from the Latin ruminari). When applied to a human being, however, it is purely metaphorical. (Let's hope.) You are about to watch me mentally chew with my mouth open. In other words, what follows is not carefully edited prose but merely stream-of-cud-chewingness thoughts about the phrase clause "I'm learning..." 
My identity hangs on a few key hinges; if you ask me who or what I am, the words that spring to mind are teacher, Christ-follower, human being, tour guide, mother, daughter, seminary student graduate, writer. First and foremost, always, is teacher. Everything else I do seems to spring from that. My mother tells me that I used to teach my dolls to read—apparently they were more cooperative students than my younger siblings. As a sixth grader I attended summer school—voluntarily—not for remediation but to help tutor other students in math. My ministry is a teaching ministry, my writing has an underlying didactic agenda, my children are constantly inflicted with educational outings, guests on my tours express gratitude for how much they have learned, half of my seminary experience involved working as a TA and leading study groups; I've even made it one of my life's ambitions to help my mother realize what a smart and talented woman she is. (My mother is amazingly creative!)

There is only one way to be a teacher—one must first be a learner.

Are you old enough to remember the adage so popular a few decades ago? "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." This was back when it was normal to denigrate the teaching profession in word as well as in remuneration.
Side Note: Nowadays, we pay lip service to teacher appreciation, but that's all we do. Teachers are still overworked and underpaid, and teachers are still blamed for everything that is wrong with the upcoming generation. We tie their hands and then demand that they juggle.
There is some truth in the adage. Some. Most high school math teachers are not professional economists; most middle school science teachers are not NASA engineers; most elementary English teachers have not written best-selling novels. Be grateful for that. The truth is, if some people weren't willing to pass up the big paychecks in order to work in the classroom, the upcoming generation would have no one to inspire and equip them to become economists, engineers, and writers. And if most of the economists, engineers, and novelists I've met were placed in a classroom with children, our education system would be in an even worse state than it already is. Knowing how to do something and knowing how to teach someone else to do it are NOT the same thing.

Teachers—true teachers—teachers who have been designed by God to teach—possess a skill that is not easily taught (if indeed it can be taught at all) although it can be trained. Teaching degrees are usually a Bachelor of Science (mine is, at any rate) but teaching is more of an art than a science. The nationwide attempt to quantify what teachers do and measure it on a standardized test demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of the nature of teaching, learning, and education in general.

A true teacher can teach anything. Before that can happen, of course, the teacher needs to learn. I learn so that I may teach. It is that simple.

I close my rumination with one final chew. Look at the Teacher. Jesus. He was so determined to teach us how to be human beings that he became one. You might want to ruminate on that thought for a while.