Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Truths about Teaching: Teachers Are Primarily Learners

I have now been teaching for 47 years. That means absolutely nothing. I hate to tell you this, but experience does not make you better -- unless it is evaluated experience. Take any number and multiply it by zero and you still get the same thing. What matters is the man or woman who teaches and walks out of the classroom saying, "How can I do this better? What can I learn from that teaching experience today that will make me a better teacher tomorrow?" The greatest threat to your teaching is your teaching. We get so busy doing the same things over and over again that we never become better at our work. Intensive reevaluation is needed for that. 

My goal, as I return to the classroom this fall, is to be a better teacher in 2023 than I was in 2022. Teaching frequently degenerates into a ministry of mediocrity. There's not a teacher I know who wants to end their career on that low note, especially when the word of God is at the heart of their ministry. So in the next few days, I'd like to share with you some of the lessons I've learned in my career as a classroom teacher. They will be short posts, both because less is more, and because I want you to remember them. 

I'll begin with this truth: a teacher is primarily a learner. This is one reason in the ISV we translated the word didaktikon in 1 Tim. 3:2 not as "able to teach" but "teachable." A teacher is nothing more than a student among students. He or she teaches out of the overflow of a full life. The greatest professors I had in college and seminary were those who had never burned out or rusted out. They were lifelong learners. I would rather listen to these professors unprepared than to the average teacher prepared to the hilt. These "teachable teachers" would rather have their students drink from a running stream than from a stagnant pool.

From what will my students drink in 2023? The truth of the word of God does not change. But my understanding of that truth does change because I am a growing Christian. Teaching requires an attitude, an attitude that you have not arrived. Thus an effective teacher is always asking the question, "How can I improve? What more does God want me to learn?" That's one reason I'm in the Bible so much. 

If you are a fellow teacher, I hope you will never get over the thrill of entering the classroom. I have been teaching Greek for 47 years and I never cease to be amazed that I'm paid to do this. May God help me to be the best teacher I can possibly be, both for his glory and for the building up of the body of Christ.