Almost two years ago I published a book on teaching, Getting Messy: A Guide to Taking Risks and Opening the Imagination. The heart of the book was to show teaching (at its best) as a creative process of learning along the way. By approaching teaching as a process of ongoing inquiry in which we are learners (along with our students), we’re able to stay renewed, recharged and inspired. Because if we can be learners when we teach, then there must be something bigger than us—what I call a “third thing”—that is actually doing the teaching. Burn-out, fear, anxiety and terror happen when the weight of the situation is all on our shoulders—when we feel we must be perfect, have all the answers, be “in control.” But when we find and access the third thing, we have space we can breathe into. We can be “headless”—operating from our hearts and the highest parts of ourselves, rather than our egos and linear minds.
Being a teacher in the traditional sense presents us with an automatic polarity doesn’t it? On one side of the polarity is the teacher, a person who is expected to have professional expertise and managerial control. On the other side of the polarity are the learners, who seemingly have come as empty vessels, waiting to be filled by our infinite wisdom. Despite the wisdom and expertise that we hold, this dichotomy of teacher-student automatically presents a friction, a tension, however we wish to soothe it over. But when we find third space as teachers, we bridge the dichotomy between teacher and student, and the process of teaching and learning finds its highest form. Beauty, grace, and inspiration are now present in the room. We are participating in the mystery. After all, it does say somewhere in the Bible that when “two or more are present, there I am in your midst.” I don’t consider myself to be a religious person, but I have always taught with this in mind. There is a third thing that is present when I teach, and that third thing is where the beauty of teaching and learning lie.
Recently Jennifer Louden and her colleague Michele Christensen hosted an on-line program called Teach Now. I admire Jennifer Louden. She has an ability to speak and present information simply, elegantly and powerfully, and their program appears to have been wildly popular. While the word teacher, for most people, typically evokes the image of a kindergarten or high school teacher, Jennifer Louden and Michele Christensen describe those who are called to teach as members of “a tribe” who want to share ideas, energy, information with others for the sake of serving. Jennifer writes: “Life is calling many of us to be teachers, to share what we have learned and are learning.”
I love what Jennifer and Michele did in their Teach Now program, and I hope that Getting Messy will be a helpful support to those who are called to teach. It can be purchased on Amazon by clicking here, as well as several local bookstores in the Bay area (see the list on the right-hand column of this blog). And you can find out more about Teach Now here: http://jenniferlouden.com/teach-now/