It's a privilege, really. I was ungracious to be unable to see that in my younger day, when I had the opportunity to teach. Now the opportunities are rare--at least in the way of classroom teaching--and seem all the more to be valued when they come along. My two days at Cal State Fullerton, as usual, were filled with opportunity and fulfillment, with some doors opened, I would like to think, and some insights gained. To each his or her own small piece, whatever they choose to glean. For one young woman yesterday it happened to be the word "surrender," which cropped up in a poem that I read and provoked her question. I explained that my understanding of surrender was more than simply giving up, yielding, giving in, but involved also the embrace of opportunity, and this seemed to allow her to resolve some inner struggle she had been confronting and to give her some new sense of peace.
For myself, I think, the learning part has also to do with a kind of surrender--to the recognition that the less I strive to "teach" the more I manage to open up the field for learning. Once I start to wrestle rationally with a question, to "understand" it and provide the "answer," I tie myself down to head-driven logic which is very limited in its usefulness. If I try instead to feel where the questioner is coming from at heart-level and answer from the same place in myself, the result is a kind of opening of possibility that is much richer, much more fully human, much more connected. I don't know whether this makes any kind of sense to anyone else, but it makes perfect sense to me.
I can count on one hand the number of teachers who truly reached me in the course of my education, all the way from kindergarten through doctorate. Those were the people who inspired me not with how much they knew (although this may have been impressive, too) but with their peculiar passion, their inner sense of self, their uncompromising readiness to show the inside out.
I wonder if you had teacher like this? I think we all did. I'd love to start a thread of tributes to such teachers--is this what's called a "meme"?. Would anyone out there care to pitch in?
Who inspired you? Who led the way to those insights that have guided your life? Whose teaching continues to resonate in your life? Please let me know, and pass on the invitation if you find it interesting.
If you decide to take up these questions in your own blog, please drop the link to the comments section of this post. I'm planning to compile excerpts of the submissions in an upcoming post.
Many thanks to those readers and bloggers who have already contributed.