Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Teachers: Let's Be Available!

Don't you love how Jesus always had time for individuals? The Gospel writers tell us, of course, that Jesus spent time ministering to the multitudes and training the Twelve. But they also make it plain that he spent time with people one-on-one. He afforded them the opportunity to meet with him personally

This, I think, has relevance for those us in the teaching profession. Teaching is much more than disseminating information. Christian education is essentially likeness education, as Luke 6:40 clearly teaches. 

Jesus spent time with people, and so should we. 

When I was in college and seminary, I am grateful to say that most of my teachers were accessible. But not all of them. A few so zealously guarded their privacy that it was almost impossible to have a private conversation with them. Their office doors were always closed, and to get an appointment with them you had to go through a lengthy process. 

In Basel, things were vastly different. Doctoral students had constant access to their major professor, who was affectionately known as their Doktorvater, or "Doctor Father." My Doctor Father was Bo Reicke. Meetings with him were in his home, and I even had access to his personal library. In fact, the first month I was in Basel I lived in his home while finding an apartment for Becky and me. Mentoring wasn't a haphazard affair. The entire 3 year program was an intentional and deeply satisfying mentorship.

I suppose that might be the reason I've always had an open door policy with my students. My office door is never closed except when I already have a student in there. Students can email me directly and can expect an answer, if not immediately, certainly within 12 hours. "But aren't you too busy with your writing to do this?" Actually, I've found the opposite to be true. The more I keep my priorities right -- students first -- the more time it seems I have for other things, including a busy writing schedule. When students know that you are accessible to them, I think they become more respectful of your time, not less. 

Bottom line? If Jesus could spend time with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, and the rich young ruler, then I can spend time with my students without making them feel like they are a burden to me.