Thinking About: I Prefer Being an Informal Teacher

“Why aren’t you teaching online Pagan classes like {x} or [y} are doing?”

::big sigh:: Every so often, I’ll get asked why I’m not teaching some kind of online class in Paganism. I hear this question at least twice per month. Nine times out of ten, I don’t really have much of an answer. When I do manage to give an answer, its never a really adequate one, or at least that’s the way I always feel. Going deeper into the reasoning, everything boils down to a few points – none of which seem to be absolutely convincing arguments.

You see, I spent three and a half years in the collegiate classroom as an adjunct instructor. I taught Introduction to Business Applications, which allowed me to talk about something I really enjoy: computers and the ways to use computers. I have nearly the same number of years working in the various parts of the Information Technology world as I do on a Pagan path. The computers beat the Pagan path by a mere year and a half. I have worked on mainframes, desktop systems, mobile systems of all sorts, and servers. I have fulfilled positions of maintenance, Help Desk (Levels I and II), Customer Service, Database operations, programming, Systems analysis, Data Specialist, Systems Administration, and even more functions than I can recall. When I got the chance to talk to folks about all of that, while supplying lesson material aimed towards teaching them what a system does and how to use the applications on the system – I was really within my element. Over the period of a semester, I would get to know my students better, so as to tailor parts of the course to the majors or emphasis that they were working on within their collegiate careers. Over that time, I even became something of a “father confessor” to some of the students, helping them with real-life issues that they encountered. I may have been a professor for a little more than 1,000 days, but I have never had a more exhilarating time within my entire career. As you can see, I can’t rely on the excuse that I am not a teacher. There is no doubt in my mind that I am.

Its not the technology or the platform that would give me pause to say no. After all, I’ve worked long enough in the technology field that new applications and hardware do not intimidate me. Otherwise, I would not have lasted long in my chosen career field. No, my two reasons are a bit different from that side of things.

In a way, my primary reason will sound…not appropriate to some ears. It has to with money. I have never felt “right” about accepting money from others. I know, I know. If I was teaching a class, I would be offering a service to others, and payment would be something that would be associated and expected for it. Except that accepting money for providing my perspective on how to be a Pagan…just doesn’t feel “right” to me. In a way, I see what I would provide as a perspective on Spirituality to be something that would be done around a campfire, while we all sip on drinks of our choice. At most, share a pint with me…and we would be even-steven. Sounds dumb, doesn’t it? But it really is a major hang up of mine when it comes to the idea of teaching Paganism to others.

Honestly, I’ve never been great about asking for money. Back when I was podcasting, I had a nearly two-year period where I was unemployed. I put a Paypal link up on the website for the podcast, which was basically asking if anyone felt moved enough to donate for the hosting services for the podcast, I would appreciate it. I think I said something about the Paypal link on two shows and never mentioned it again. Over the eight years of the show, I received one donation which helped to cover one and a half month of the hosting services. That was more than I ever expected to get. I used the monies completely on the hosting services, and still I felt guilty for having gotten it. Receiving monies has never been a strong point for me.

The other issue that I have over teaching simply comes from my personal belief that I am not ready to be a teacher within Paganism. The old adage that “when the student is ready, the teacher will arrive” goes in the other direction too – at least I think so. When the teacher is ready, the students will be there. Or maybe not. Perhaps, the teacher never really gets the chance to be completely ready. Maybe? I have never been completely sure about taking a single student under my wing. I’ve never seen myself as much of an expert to be able to fulfill the obligations and responsibilities of being a teacher. Perhaps that’s not really a lack of readiness and more of placing myself on a lower rung of confidence.

This is not the same struggle that I have with the terminology of being a Priest. Though there are some who would draw a correlation between the two. I am not struggling with the definitive aspects of being a teacher. My struggle comes more from not seeing myself as an expert or knowledgeable enough to be in such a position.

Now, with all that said, I know a few folks that are teaching their brand of Paganism on the internet. Whenever I get asked about such situations, I point students to these folks. Why? Because I respect their knowledge, their confidence, and yes – their expertise in teaching what they do. Would I take a class with any of them? Sadly, no. I think what they are doing is awesome, but my personal brand of Paganism is not the same as theirs. That doesn’t mean I think they are lousy at what they do – merely that our approach is different enough that I would spend a large part of my time adapting their foundations to my fit my own, and not get any value out of the rest of the material. However, like I said – its not saying that their stuff is so different that I wouldn’t recommend it. I think they do an awesome job. I really do.

With these two fundamental issues, I would have a really difficult time teaching to anyone via any forum or delivery system – save one. That would be the good old-fashioned deep-night discussion around a campfire. In that environment, I find myself at ease to talk about subjects, knowing that I am only espousing my perspective and opinion to others. No talk of compensation (unless you count a nice hug before we head off to our separate sleeping arrangements). I know. So weird to hear/read a Pagan that isn’t looking for compensation for what they provide to the community. The discussion wouldn’t be some kind of lecture hall, where I am set to the front like some kind of matter expert. Its just a night-time discussion around the fire. Nothing beyond that.

Perhaps my perspective tells you that I lack confidence. Maybe it even rubs against the grain and you view me as some kind of a snake-oil salesman. For me, I see my perspective as being something less than a teacher/mentor point of view, and more of a less formal discussion. I’ve always felt that the informal perspective is best. It places everyone on the same level, so we can see eye-to-eye.

–Tommy /|\

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3 thoughts on “Thinking About: I Prefer Being an Informal Teacher

  1. This is just my perspective, so take it with a grain of salt…maybe the deeper reason for your hesitance to ‘teach’ Paganism isn’t a lack of confidence. You are, as you said, a natural teacher about subjects you know well (the Computer Science). But as you want a more informal setting for it, perhaps it’s because your Paganism IS so personal to you. It would feel wrong on many levels to ask for money to share your personal path. Because your path is so personal, that could explain the need for an arguably more one-to-one, informal setting like around a campfire.

    I think that’s a perfectly valid and understandable reason. One you don’t need to feel sheepish about. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s actually very possible. A far better explanation than I have thought of now and in the past. Definitely looking at things from a different perspective. What you’re writing here in this comment provides something I can chew on and digest a bit more than I have. I definitely appreciate that. Thank you very much for shedding light on a perspective that I had not even considered.

      Liked by 1 person

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