The Truth About Teaching…
by Patia Braithwaite
It took me several semesters of teaching to realize why I was so nervous about the whole thing. It took speaking with mentors and having the runs before class. It took crying after my office hours when a student asked me if I was “new” (I was too new to see that as a compliment). It took wanting to quit, and having really good classes and still wanting to quit. It took meticulous lesson plans. I mean painstakingly detailed lesson plans (1. Take Attendance. 2. Smile 3. Collect homework). It took steps. And missteps. And dragging myself forward. It took students failing, and passing, and failing again. And of course, it took me failing students who wanted to be passed without doing the work.
It took me three years to discover my truth: you cannot teach anyone anything.
It’s a sad fact of life that I learn more from my students than they learn from me. I’ve grown more from being a teacher than any other role in my life. As a teacher, you are at the helm — autopilot is not an option. Teaching requires constant awareness. If I ever struggle with being present, I must only imagine myself in front of a classroom. In front of a classroom I am at the edge of the present moment. I am infinitely creative — waving my hands and spinning tall tales. If I am anywhere else besides the present moment, I become ineffective. It has always been a struggle for me — Trying to translate a discourse, and my passion for it, into something that seems both useful and interesting to my students. I’m never quite sure I’m doing it right…
For me, there is no such thing as teaching; there is only reaching.
There is only the soul work of stretching yourself, making yourself wide enough to wrap around the room, to become an incubator for your students’ dreams. Every student has a dream. Every student wants to succeed at something (albeit not necessarily your class). So the teacher is the midwife of her students dreams. Yes, the teacher ‘knows stuff’ and communicates ‘stuff’ to students (thesis statement, meet student; student, meet thesis statement), but inherently a student must choose to learn. A student must meet the teacher on the unstable ground of the unknown and take her hand — from there they begin the collaborative process of knowing. So teaching is creating an environment where learning can occur. Teaching is art. Teaching is performance. Teaching is meditation. Teaching is negotiation. Teaching is deduction. Teaching is vulnerability. It is collaboration. Yeah, sometimes teaching is being an asshole, but in the most loving possible way.
You can’t teach anyone anything without their permission. Talking at someone and imparting knowledge doesn’t translate to teaching. You cannot teach anyone you don’t respect. You cannot teach anyone you do not (at least try to) understand. You cannot teach anyone whom you do not love. Teaching is love-making. Get your minds out of the gutter. To teach someone is to hold the deliberate desire for a person’s growth or evolution. There is nothing more loving than that.
I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to realize that. As I transition from teacher to life coach, I must remember that teaching and coaching aren’t about “doing” as much as they are about “being.” At our best, we are ALL teachers and coaches. Both learning and healing come from within — neither can happen without permission. We are all, in some way, simply holding the space, and if we can do that — if we
can be present and supportive alongside the seekers we meet — weget to evolve and learn as well.
Since I declared this month all about embracing love wherever you find it, I declare today ‘hug-a-teacher’ day! If you don’t know any teachers, go teach someone something and then make them hug you!