(If you need to know what this is all about, start with the first post in the series and click through the succeeding links. Also, as posts are added links will be placed in that first post to each one. By the way, please check out the site for the Kelsey Wynne Harris Foundation and help promote the foundation by purchasing any of the Life’s More Interesting products. By the way, unlike the other links in this post, there is no affiliation link here. None of your purchases of these products grease my pockets.)
I feel like a broken record. With the last few posts in this series I’ve had to apologize for the huge gap between posts. The real truth is, these have been the hardest posts to write. There is so much in Kelsey’s poem for me that it takes a great deal of time. It’s not just a thought popping in my mind that I can expound briefly on in a few minutes. This takes real work. I hope they are helpful to you as thinking about them have been helpful to me. Here is the latest post.
Today, I want to Teach Something Worth Learning
What work could possibly be more noble than to pass on what we know, what we have experienced, what we have learned? What calling could be higher than to be the shoulders on which others can stand as they reach to even greater heights? Today, that is who I want to be. I want to be a teacher, but not just any teacher. I want to teach something worth learning. I may do this in a classroom, but I don’t have to be employed by the state or the local university to teach something worth learning. I can accomplish this whether I am a professor or preacher or parent or clerk or custodian or cabbie. I may work in a plant or work with plants. I may be an employer or the newest employee. I can still teach something worth learning.
What I Don’t Want to Teach
Teach something worth learning. I can’t read this without noticing what is not said.
I don’t want to teach something that will make me look good or make me popular. I don’t want to teach something everybody likes. I don’t want to teach something that will make me lots of money.
I can simply strive to fit in with all the latest theories, pursue political correctness, tout the party lines. But what good is that? Will that push us further? Will that challenge us to be better? Will that inspire us to be great? No, that will only cause us to implode with our own sense of self-importance.
No doubt, there are multiple sides to this. Nothing I teach will make me popular or look good to everyone. No matter what I teach, someone will be unhappy with me. However, for some reason, each of us find our little group that we want to please. Because there are plenty who don’t like what we teach, we think we are just teaching what is worth learning. However, if we are not careful, even when we don’t accept the popular thinking of the world we become limited by the popular thinking of our niche market, we may go along just to get along with the people who have always liked us. We may find ourselves unwilling to question the traditions of our teachers or the positions of our peers. We may eventually stake out some ground we will protect at all costs. But who is helped by that? At that point, we have our ground covered but that ground has become just a rut. We’re not going anywhere.
I can become a hack. I can figure out what people want to hear, what people will pay to hear, what people will flock to hear and teach those things. But let’s face it; few things worth learning are ever popular at first. Usually, what is worth learning is challenging, life-changing, paradigm shifting. Those are all painful processes. Those who first hear them will rebel against them. If I take the easy way out and just teach what folks want to hear, who is helped? I have to stay the course and teach what is worth learning no matter how it is first received, no matter how it is ever received.
No doubt, if I teach well, no matter what I teach, I may become popular in some circles. I may look good for my ability. Folks may be intrigued and pay money to hear what I teach. But that is not the goal and if I become enamored with those ends, I’ll stop teaching things worth learning. I don’t want to teach what makes me look good, popular, or rich. I want to teach something worth learning.
Not Just Teaching, Serving
Sadly, some will read this resolution and miss its true impact. This is not just about being a teacher. This resolution is profound because it is about being a servant. If I wanted to teach something that would make me look good or make me money, that would be about me. But when my goal is to pass on things worth learning, what I’m most concerned about is others.
I’ll never accomplish this goal if I’m selfish. When I’m selfish I pull everything I can to myself. I rape the world of its knowledge and manipulate it so I can get what I want. I may teach a lot of things with this selfish mindset, but I won’t teach things worth learning. Not really. I like what John Maxwell says about this, “We teach what we know; we reproduce what we are.” The fact is, with a selfish mindset I may say things that might be worth learning, but that’s not what people will learn. What they’ll get, no matter what I say, is what I am. What they’ll become is not what they hear, but what they see and experience in me.
Before I can teach things worth learning, I have to be a servant. I have to get rid of my self-centeredness. If for no other reason than teaching takes time. Teaching is time invested in others. And if I’m teaching things worth learning, I’ll be investing time in others to make them better, not to make them make me better. If my primary goal is about getting, I’ll never give what others really need to learn.
Start with Me
Teaching something worth learning is not about me. However, it has to start with me. Before I can teachsomething worth learning, I have to learn something worth teaching. Have you ever taken an airplane flight? Do you remember what the flight attendant told you? If the cabin depressurizes and the breathing masks fall, don’t put someone else’s on first. Put your own mask on first and then help those around you. I can’t give what I don’t have. Further, if I don’t have and I try to give, there will be a reckoning. I can pretty up what someone else says and pass it on as if I’m a great teacher, but sooner or later it will shine through that I’m a fake.
Think of it like money. If my bank balance is on zero, I can write checks all day long. I can give and give and give, but when it comes time to cash those checks, I’m going to be in trouble. The same is true with teaching. If I haven’t taken the time to learn and I try to teach, there will be a reckoning and it won’t be pretty. It will hurt my students and they may come and hurt me.
Further, I must demonstrate that I know something worth learning. I don’t mean I need to get in a marketing campaign to let everyone know how wonderfully smart I am. However, if I want the opportunity to teach something worth learning, then others will have to see that I know something they want to learn. I can’t help but think of Jesus and His apostles in Luke 11:1. The disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. Why? Because they saw how He prayed and they wanted to learn. I don’t just get to teach because I was hired. I don’t just get to teach because I’m older than my kids. I really only get to teach when someone has seen that I know something they want to learn. Oh, I may say a lot of stuff. I may lecture and demonstrate, but I’m not really teaching unless others have determined that I have something they want to learn.
If I wanted to, I could buy a book on auto-mechanics. I could probably offer a great lecture, complete with compelling PowerPoint on fixing cars. However, if you really want to know how to fix cars, don’t come to me. Go to my friend, Dale. He’s actually spent some time working on cars. He’s actually fixed cars. I’ve only messed them up. If I really want to teach something, I need to spend time working on me first. I need to spend time learning something worth teaching.
What is Worth Learning?
I’m sure we all have different perspectives on what is worth learning. Not to mention, my perspective on what is worth learning has changed over the years. I fear providing a list of subjects because by this time next year, my list might have changed. Instead, I’ll provide four guidelines.
1. Is it true?
If what I’m saying isn’t true, then it simply isn’t worth learning. Why would I teach 2+2=5? It’s just not true. Now don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying everything I teach has to be factual. Teaching doesn’t have to be factual to be true. For instance, when Jesus taught His famous parables, none of them were factual. He wasn’t talking about a factual sower who sowed in four areas and received four different results. However, His message was true. I need to make sure what I’m teaching is true. I shouldn’t simply jump on the bandwagon with something just because I like it or it fits with what I’ve always thought. I need to test it. If I want to teach something worth learning, it needs to be true.
2. Is it helpful?
Some things might be true, but so what? What if someone was actually able to provide the true answer to the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Who cares? I may learn the right answer to that question and shout it from the roof tops, but is it really worth learning? Was it really worth a learner’s time to listen to my calculations, proofs, and arguments? Or have I wasted their time? Stuff worth learning is worth living. If I really want to teach something worth learning, it needs to be something helpful.
3. Does it make people better?
I guess this is simply expanding the first point. However, I want to expand it. I know I have been too often caught up in the rat race. I went to school so I could learn things so I could get a job so I could make money so I could buy things. That seems to be the pretty standard practice in our culture. We learn so we can earn. But should that really be the goal of learning? Is money really what it’s all about? Do I really just go to school for a short period in life so I can get a career based on that learning? I think there is higher purpose. I need to learn so I can be a better person. I need to learn so I can be a more productive citizen. I need to learn so I can give more to my community and my fellow man. That doesn’t stop with a Bachelor’s degree and a steady job. That continues for life. Thus, if I’m actually going to teach something worth learning, it is not just about getting someone a job. It needs to be about making them a better person. I tend to believe when the world is filled with better people, the job market will take care of itself.
4. Does it inspire?
For far too many, teaching is about conveying facts. Can we fill someone else’s head with information that they can regurgitate later? Perhaps that is a form of teaching, but of what use is it. Life isn’t a standardized test. Things worth learning inspire learners to live them. If I want to teach something worth learning, it needs to be inspiring.
I want to be of service today. I want to get outside myself today. I want to help others today. Today, I want to teach something worth learning. I hope I’ve accomplished that goal with this post.
(Come back next week for our final post in this series: Be Someone Worth Knowing.)