Standing in my very first classroom of six and seven year olds on my very first day of teaching, I wondered if Miss Harper felt the way I did. Loaded down with books, lesson plans, seating charts, attendance sheets and weekly schedules, I felt very adult-like and composed. The children quickly dismantled all that! Over the course of that year, I learned that teaching is so much more than delivering everything the books contain. I watched in fascination as the children progressed, their minds lively and curious, their eagerness to learn being a powerful catalyst. All I really had to do was ignite the spark, offer reassurance, provide resources – then step aside. Witnessing the miracle of children opening their hearts and minds to possibilities, being present to their joy and pride, their rapid growth, thrilled me.
Over the years, the nature of my work and the settings changed but teaching in one form or another remained the common thread:
- tutoring adult refugees from SE Asia, east Europe, Africa and helping them to create a new life in freedom
- assisting communities and organizations to develop programs to empower the lives of children and families
- guiding clients to alternative solutions and modalities to address their health concerns
- serving as a spiritual guide to clients facing life challenges and searching deeply
- training trainers, organizational leaders and boards of directors, healers, spiritual teachers and conflict mediators
- helping people to go within for answers to “who am I, why am I here, what is my life purpose?”
Through all these years and ways of teaching, I have been the learner. My understanding of being a teacher has changed dramatically. College prepared me to research and dispense information in a formulaic, structured way. Life taught me to abandon constraints and open to possibilities. The right “teachers” cross our paths in the form of another person, a book, a phrase from a song, a conversation overheard, a tragedy or an illness, a sunset, a bird on the wing. The teacher within awakens to embrace the teaching and bring it to conscious awareness as an organic growing medium. All that we need to know is within us. And all that we know becomes the foundation and content of what we teach to ourselves and what we share with others.
As you look back over your life, do you see this? What do you know today that is the same as what you knew years ago? What do you believe that is different? What have you embraced as truth? What are you teaching yourself? What are you bringing to others?
The best teachers that I know say little, listen a lot and help me to know what I already know. I believe that the truest teaching assignment we can take on is summarized in these words from A Course in Miracles:
“teach only love, for that is what you are.”