We celebrate teacher appreciation this week.
Teacher – it’s a word that has strong connotations for each of us. As I contemplated why we appreciate teachers, I thought of the women and men who guided me on the path that led me to this time and place. Ms. Moll, who was my first crush (albeit in second grade), in part because she created a space where I could let go of fear and excel. Mrs. Ford, who elicited talents I didn’t know I had. Mrs. Mitchell, who inspired me to express my voice. They showed me encouragement and compassion. But they also challenged me to grow. The love of learning they instilled led me to three degrees in three different disciplines and a career in education.
As a result, I spent 15 years teaching college students. During one professional development retreat, we were encouraged to answer the question, “When I am at my best as a teacher, I am like a (fill in the blank).” I chose Jedi Master (of course). A jedi spends years in training, then training others, practicing the same things over and over, like a samurai warrior, circling deeper and deeper into the truth of life, shedding obstacles that come from fear and hate, using the self as the tool to connect with the invisible but very real spiritual foundation of all things. A jedi master leads others, sometimes by getting out of the way and allowing them to succeed, or to fail, to learn the full truth of the lesson.
Okay, so a teacher can dream, right? I would love to think I am a master at something. But all students want to learn from someone who is a master.
Jesus was often referred to as “rabbi,” meaning teacher or master. He clearly was both. He taught his disciples lessons using everything from stories, to fishing expeditions, to healing people on days he wasn’t allowed to do so. Jesus was a master teacher. He sets the example not just for our spiritual lives, but for our lives, period. And that example shows us that The Way is paved with teaching and learning.
Do we value teachers to the degree that we should as individuals, a school, or a culture? There is perhaps no greater argument for the well deserved veneration of teachers than that Jesus showed us that we all need to learn, to dig deeper, to see what lies under our often false assumptions and blind ignorance. And we need teachers who, like Jesus, know The Way but are humble enough to get out of the way when a disciple needs room to practice on her own.
After spending a year observing our teachers, I am grateful that we are blessed with masters who know The Way because they see God’s image in each student here. They tell insightful stories. They set students on adventurous quests. They allow for success and failure. And like true masters, they are humble enough to know that the lesson they teach is not their own – it comes from the one who sent them.
Thank you, teachers.