Tuesday, December 21, 2021

What Does "Teacher" Mean?

If English is based on German, Latin, and Greek, why am I called a "teacher?" Here is "teacher" in the languages I've mentioned:

  • Lehrer
  • Magister
  • Didaskalos

Why don't we use in English, say, master (derived from magister) or didact? Since I didn't know, I consulted an etymological dictionary of English. What I found surprised (and delighted) me. 

Our word teacher comes from the Old English taecan -- show, point out, demonstrate. The Proto-Indo-European root is deik -- show or point out -- as in the Greek verb deiknumi, "I show." I like that. It seems to support the notion that teaching is as much modeling as it is verbal instruction, maybe more so. 

I give Thomas Hudgins a lot of credit for reminding me that Christian education is essentially likeness education. That's because most of us learn best by example. Jesus himself said that a disciple who is fully taught will be just like his or her teacher. I want so deeply to teach like that. Luke 6:40, quite literally, changed my life. It's one reason why in college I came up with a motto: Choose a teacher, not a course. It's why I took every course Professor Nikolas Kurtanek offered even when it wasn't required. I wanted to be like him. When God sent me to Basel, he sent me to be the son of a Doktorvater. We suffer loss, I think, when we place expediency and convenience over a true education. Taking a class just to take a class is ruining us. 

Which brings me back to "teacher." A teacher is not simply a catechist, a moralizer, a pedant, an academician, an inculcator, a pedagogue. We teachers are coaches, guides, preparers, trainers, mentors, tutors. What does it communicate to my students when my office remains closed and inaccessible because I am protecting "my" time? Realizing our misplaced priorities is perhaps the ticket out of our awful educationism. Or at least it might start the engine. 

Let's do the right thing, people. 

Jesus, may there be less of me and more of you and your kingdom in my teaching this coming semester.