Here I go again.
I really think that the most important dimension of teaching and learning isn’t so much what is learned – neither how it is learned – but the human dimension of that experience.
While this may appear contradictory to my focus on student engagement I think that the greatest gift we can offer students is relationship: the opportunity of respect, trust, being listened to, valued, celebrated in simply being.
Great learning comes only from a good relationship – not only with the material being studied but the culture in which it is learned. No wonder that so many teacher stories evolve around a relationship students once had with a teacher. This is usually a profound example of being listened to, being respected – instances in which a person felt that their uniqueness was valued. How often does this happen in education?
I was playing on a makeshift platform in the lobby of the building with the usual wild activity of people milling about, and no one was paying much attention. Suddenly the doors burst open and in came Gorgeous George himself. He roared in like the storm, didn’t go through the backstage area, he came right through the lobby of the building and he seemed like forty men. It was Gorgeous George, in all his magnificent glory with all the lightning and vitality you’d expect. He had valets and was surrounded by women carrying roses, wore a majestic fur-lined gold cape and his long blond curls were flowing. He brushed by the makeshift stage and glanced towards the sound of the music. He didn’t break stride, but he looked at me, eyes flashing with moonshine. He winked and seemed to mouth the phrase ‘You’re making it come alive. Bob Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One
It is simply that there is something powerful about accepting the uniqueness of students, of accepting students as fellow humans – neither better nor worse – it’s just that we reached adulthood before them.
I have always aspired to this notion and it is a feeling I often experience when working with students – particularly with students with special needs. Accept a person in their uniqueness and the experience is rich – a time, dare I say it, when spirituality works its way into education.
And there I say it : be a good teacher, be honoring and respectful and the job will develop many spiritual qualities. And what rich and invigorating experiences they are. Nothing untoward or strange: just shared moments in which we bond – a young person knowing that their journey is not necessarily being judged, simply valued for what it is.
And perhaps this is the greatest experience we can experience as a teacher, and as a student – that wink from Gorgeous George that reaches us in our loneliness – in the headiness of what appears to be a mundane and lonely day.