Teaching is a noble profession. I think you’d have a hard time finding someone who doesn’t believe that. However, if most people are high on teachers, I can’t figure out why they are paid so poorly… but I digress. A good friend of mine was teaching a gathering of teachers hoping to hone their skills. He made a statement that, at the time, didn’t sit well with me. Now, years later, I flatly disagree with the statement. He said, “Teaching is the dissemination of information.” He even wrote it on the board… that’s classic teacher stuff. There is certainly a part of the statement that is true. There must be some exchange of thoughts or information taking place, but there’s so much more. We are living way past the information age. Today, information flows from a myriad of sources and everyone from birth to death has relatively easy access to those sources. But teaching has a goal and that goal is not the dissemination of information. It has to be joined at the hip to learning. And learning involves a change and an exchange… a change in thinking and an exchange of that thinking that results in progress. Define progress any way you like, but progress in what you know, progress in what can be done, progress in changing the mistakes of the past, progress in imagining a different future… just how this change and exchange occurs… now that’s the magic of teaching. Perhaps one of the more interesting methods, as it applies to your kids, is self-discovery.
My oldest son is a great source of self-discovery illustrations. I recall one such occurrence in the front yard of our home in California. I now live in Phoenix, Arizona. I love the desert and I love Arizona. However, it takes dynamite to dig a small hole in my backyard. In California, you could sink a shovel deep into the ground with minimal effort. My son had a small trowel and he was digging away… through the flowers… well on his way to China. But halfway to China (about 12 inches), he came running to me because he saw a snake… yes, there are snakes in California. I ran from the house with a weapon, an adult shovel, ready to do business with the reptile. I approached in stealth mode, my son staying well behind me. Then I saw it. An earthworm. A man-eating earthworm at least four inches long. In those moments, you’re faced with opportunity. An opportunity to pursue learning or a dead end of “why did you bother me? It’s only a worm.”
I don’t make the right decisions all the time, but this time I did. I can’t remember the exact dialogue, but I think it went something like this: “WOW. LOOK WHAT YOU DISCOVERED. We’ve got to take a picture. Let’s call the grandparents. You are an adventurer, a discoverer. Let’s go figure out just what kind of animal it is.” A vanilla moment became an expedition. Just a side note: he’s grown with his own kids now, but he still looks at life with an eye of discovery, a heart of adventure.