Re-Imagining ‘Teachers’

The word ‘teach’, comes from the Old English tæcan, which means “to show, point out, or demonstrate’’. The root meaning of the word teacher allows for anyone of any age, at any time to take up the position of being the teacher. I questioned why my mom never saw herself worthy enough to be a teacher to me (specifically looking at why I needed to go to school) . As my mother is in every aspect a teacher, a healer, a provider, an economist and so much more (see Re-Imagining Grandmothers as Gurus).

Yet, I went to school as society deemed my mother unworthy. Perhaps, more noteworthy, my mom thought of herself as unequipped to take on such a responsibility, yet she went to school herself? I question why time with family, friends, and spaces have been deemed as un-educational or not worthy of being educational?

To me, these are questions about authority — specifically the authority of, and within, the dominant education system. Most schools are organized hierarchically. Subjects are taught in silo’s and faculties, values are placed on following orders and reciting .What are the ends of these hidden curriculums?

Politics is pervasive. Everything is political and the choice to be “apolitical” is usually just an endorsement of the status quo and the unexamined life. — Rebecca Solnit

Education and Teaching are inherently political and are symptoms of our political, economic, and other institutions. The root of authority lies with those who have power. And it is this authority that deems a certain protocol to learning, content, and pedagogy. What, why, and how are we learning specific content in specific ways? These are the questions of our times!

Marshall McLuhan pointed out that “the medium is the message”, so for the ideas of teaching, it is how we teach that will leave a longer impact on our students compared to what we teach.

The true nature of teaching waits for no certificate or authority but the divine validation of connection. Teaching and learning are biological. In the Indigenous nations of Southern Africa exists a consciousness of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a concept in which your sense of self is shaped by your relationships with other people. It’s a way of living that begins with the premise that “I am” only because “we are.” Education through the lense of Ubuntu puts the gift of teaching and learning in everyone’s hands.

We are all teachers as we are learners. The idea of being a teacher is a natural part of the human process. Our ability to communicate, share and educate is what has allowed us to survive and thrive for the longest of time. Socrates was outraged at the accusation that he took money to teach? Even then, philosophers saw clearly the inevitable direction the professionalization of teaching would take, that of pre-empting the teaching function, which, in a healthy community, belongs to everyone.”

hile studying Comparative education in China — we were introduced to the Chinese sages and their methods of teaching children; namely Confucious and Lao Tze.

“Confucius began teaching after he turned 30, and taught more than 3,000 students in his life, about 70 of whom were considered outstanding. … Confucius did not charge any tuition, and only requested a symbolic gift of a bundle of dried meat from any prospective student. According to his disciple Zigong, his master treated students like doctors treated patients and did not turn anybody away.” [1]

Lao Tzu was also a prolific teacher and leader. Many portions of ‘Tao Te Chang’ express what he feels as the true essence of a teacher. At the core of this essence is trust and honoring learners for who they are, as opposed to who the teacher wants them to be. From Verse 17 in the Tao, “He who does not trust enough will not be trusted.” He closes this verse with these lines: “When actions are performed / Without unnecessary speech, /People say, “We did it!”.

Khalil Gibran’s verse, On Children, also speaks to the need for teachers/leaders to get out of the way and to give their children space to grow as they see fit.

The invitation to those reading these lines is to reflect on the poem below with your experiences of the teachers/leaders/parents/systems that you have encountered in your life. Have any teachers in your life enabled you to genuinely be you? Have they supported you in acknowledging and working with your inherent gifts? Have they guided you in unleashing your inner-child? If you have ever been a teacher, have you?

Photo by Sebastián León Prado on Unsplash

Lead Author: Ché-vanni Beon Davids

Ché-Vanni Davids is the Founder of the Reimagined Learning Community and Ecoversity, both are self-directed community learning spaces in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has been on a path of self-inquiry in community and individually for the past 9 years.

Ché-Vanni has recognised that unschooling and community can be used as a means for social change, realising the power and opportunity education affords us when our relationship with our community and ourselves are no longer toxic. This way, we are not caught up in fear-based thinking, instead, we realise education as a continuous life long journey that is non-locative.

Ché-Vanni continues to engage and reflect with these concepts, he has worked with communities and projects in South Africa, as well as Rwanda, Uganda, Mexico and the Afrikan Regional and Planetary Ecoversity Alliance. Engaging with these communities and projects has made him realise the importance of learning communities in our quest for humanity and liberation.

Anchor Author: Daniel Rudolph

Daniel Rudolph is interested in exploring alternative, experiential learning opportunities for people of all ages. He is passionate about forming community, and building public spaces for meaningful, transformational gathering. Currently he is spending a lot of his time learning juggling and facilitating gatherings. He also enjoys writing and sharing poetry.

Dan, and a small team, are in the process of publishing a series of articles titled ‘Live Human Signposts’ that showcases individuals that have taken alternative paths to higher education and/or are pursuing regenerative livelihoods, which is being commissioned by the Ecoversities Alliance. In March, Dan will begin an apprenticeship in Vermont at the MAPLE Monastic Academy.

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