What do I mean by a teacher can guide but ultimately we teach ourselves?
As a student and a teacher for many years, I’ve thought a lot about this statement. I believe it completely. No matter how outstanding or learned or qualified a teacher is, no learning takes place without the active engagement and understanding of the student. And real learning is more than just active listening, paying attention or regurgitating information on a test. I can recite all sorts of data. Over the years, I’ve memorized many names, places, dates, “facts”, but I didn’t and still don’t know many of them until I experience the ‘aha, lightbulb moments’ of understanding.
For me, teaching isn’t just about sharing information. We’ve all had experiences where the teacher has shared lots of data and information and spoken many words, while we felt as though we hadn’t learned a thing. We also have different styles of learning and understanding comes to us in many different ways.
To really learn, a critical element is to attain a new perspective or experience some kind of change of understanding because of what was learned.
It’s the difference between a teacher explaining about the color, size, shape, texture, taste of an apple to someone who has never seen or eaten an apple, and then actually holding and biting into a crisp, sweet, delicious apple. ‘Aha, so that’s what an apple is.’
It is the difference between a yoga teacher giving instructions to bring your foot forward from a stretched out plank position, and then one day, as you shift your weight in just the right way, you can finally do what teachers have been demonstrating and saying to do for years. ‘Oh, so that’s what I am supposed to do. Now I get it!’
It is the difference between a teacher explaining about fractions, equivalents and the effects of heat in a chemical reaction and then following a recipe and baking a cake. ‘Oh, so that’s why I need to know that 4 ounces = 1/2 cup. Adding water to baking powder makes tiny air bubbles that when heat is added, causes the air bubbles to expand and the cake to rise. Now I get it.’
Those moments of understanding come from within us. The really good teachers inspire us to make the discoveries or lead us down the path in such a way that interests us enough to explore further and fully engage until the learning and understanding is realized.
When I think of how many times I may have heard the same lesson without it having much significance to me - and yes I listened, and yes I understood the words, and yes I believed I understood the lesson. Then one day, a presenter or teacher gives the same basic teaching and I hear it in a different way or I am at different point in my life or both ……and suddenly, the meaning makes so much more sense and I really “get it”. It is at the “aha moment “or the “I get it” moment that the learning takes place.
Since that teaching moment happens within us, I believe we ultimately teach ourselves.
May you and your loved ones be healthy and safe,