Am I ready for the real world, will I pass the test?
You know it’s a jungle out there
Ain’t nothin’ gonna stop me, I won’t be second best
But the joke’s on those who believe the system’s fair, oh yeah
Teacher, teacher, can you teach me?
Can you tell me if I’m right or wrong?
Teacher, teacher, can you reach me?
I want to know what’s goin’ on, oh yeah
–.38 Special, “Teacher, Teacher”
The above are some of the lyrics of the song “Teacher, Teacher” by .38 Special from the soundtrack of the movie “Teachers”. This movie came out in 1984, my senior year of high school. The main character is played by Nick Nolte, a burned out Social Studies teacher who actually is able to connect to the high school students he teaches. There’s a ton of other sub-plots to the movie, but its the very end of the movie that I am wanting to reference. Nolte’s character is told that he is crazy for caring about the students, and his response is “I’m a teacher.”
I have noted before that I used to teach in a collegiate classroom – Business and Computer Information Systems. Essentially, a class about how computer systems and applications help human beings make decisions. Not exactly rocket science, but usually over the heads of most people that took the class. I did everything I could to try and demonstrate some of the concepts of the class to the students. I brought in old and new motherboards to show the students how much technology changed – to essentially demonstrate the concept of miniaturization to them. I had them compete against one another in making paper airplanes in a certain fashion, with one group playing the role of quality control – to demonstrate the aspects of the manufacturing process. I even asked them to write concept papers telling me where a chosen technology would be in five years, ten years, fifteen years and twenty years in the future. For some, these teaching methods helped them to understand aspects of the business world and the manner in which technology played a role. For others, the class was just “fun stuff” done by the “weird professor.”
I hear requests from folks who want me to teach them about Druidry, from time to time. When I hear this, I think back to those classes, to the reactions of students, how much fun it was to interact with them, and all the difficulties in getting the students to do the work. And all the blood, sweat and tears – a lot of tears and sweat – that went into planning lessons, practicing delivery methods for standing in front of a white board and lecturing for fifty minutes, and finding ways to hold their attention over that time. My mind begins to wonder if I still have that in me to teach people about Druidry. Especially when I am learning something new about my own Druidry everyday.
Nick Nolte tells the principal that the school wasn’t built for the administrators and the teachers to have jobs. It was built for the students to be educated and have their own experiences in that environment. At the time, the school has been evacuated because of a fire drill. “Half of them won’t go back when the fire drill is over,” retorts the Vice Principal. “But half of them will,” replies Nolte. Its at this moment, that he is told that he is crazy and he responds with the statement of “I’m a teacher.”
And that’s the rub, isn’t it? How can I teach something to others that I am continually learning about myself? At best, I can show them the footfalls that I used to get where I am. I can show them the not-easily-seen piles of shit that they can avoid stepping in. I can bring them right to the door of the labyrinth that is studying, learning and living one’s own Druidry, and that would be as far as I could take them. The rest would be their journey to undertake on their own. Holding anyone’s hand to get to where I am in my own Path of Druidry would do nothing more than cheat them of the experiences that they will need to go further. Even if those experiences are steps of complete failure. Failure is an experience that we learn from, just as we learn from our successes as well. Helping them to build the puzzle that is their own experience would rob them of all the lessons they would need to build a foundation. So my typical response is a polite “no”.
There is also the often quoted adage of “When the student is ready, a teacher will arrive.” I’ve also heard it quoted the other way around, “When a teacher is ready, the student will come.” There are plenty of folks out there, waiting to be students of Paths such as Druidry, Wicca, or even more generically Paganism. However, I see many of those students displaying the same mentality of many collegiate students – wanting the information spoon-fed to them, provided with no mental effort on their part. And when the material gets harder, and the classes require the student to reach up with more effort, most students withdraw from the class and look for an easier teacher next semester.
I’m not ready for these kinds of students. Not because I don’t want to teach lazy students about a Spiritual Path that I find challenging and such a beautiful experience. Its because I want them to be able to prepare themselves for that moment when they stand in front of that labyrinth door, ready to take their first step on their own journey. I will be more than happy to sometimes walk with them on their Path, but it is their Path to walk, not mine. I’ll always be ready to help with advice, when asked. But the puzzles, the symbolism, the meanings will be their to find, assemble and interpret. If I step in and do the work for them, I rob them of the experience.
Am I a teacher? In a collegiate environment, I certainly can be. In a spiritual environment, I’m not so certain. I can help, I can assist, I can advise…but I am not certain that I can teach, aside from being an example.