Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teachers vs. Gatekeepers

The greatest teachers I had at school were the ones that challenged me to be better, to work harder and to do things to the best of my ability.
They didn't do it by threatening punishment (because for me that never worked), by berating me or through not caring. They did it by engendering respect in their students. We respected them as individuals and we in turn took them on willingly as role models.
The respect that they engendered within us was sparked by them being caring, connected people. They wanted us to succeed, they wanted to do the best that THEY could by us and they genuinely cared about the welfare and wellbeing of others over themselves. This is not to say that they were all 'touchy, feely' hippies! - In fact few were and some were downright (as we would say in NZ) 'hard bastards' (Mr Cowie if you're reading this I'm talking about you!) But in spite of their own 'style' - be it gruff, procedural or free form they had that intangible quality of leadership that cannot be taught, because leadership has no road map...but in spite of having no map people will follow.

They were generous with their knowledge - and I think that is the mark of a true teacher, and in fact a true leader. Being generous with one's knowledge is also extremely selfless, and by it's selfless nature is one of the strongest acts.
When someone in the guise of a 'teacher' is not generous with their knowledge they instead become a 'gate-keeper'.
A gate-keeper serves as an intermediary between someone and knowledge, and therefore become essential to that person's pursuit of greater learning. In this way it is possible to drip feed information to learners and to hold an inordinate amount of power over the people learning.
This is they way that education has been structured for time immemorial and is the archetype we see in priests and clergy from various religious traditions; traditions in which it is the norm for the priest to act as the intermediary between the layperson and God.

The position of the gate-keeper is one of trying to preserve and exercise power
The position of the teacher is to empower others

The inner strength required to be a teacher springs from self awareness. Being a gatekeeper is an attempt to gain strength through the holding of knowledge which becomes a commodity and a position from which to profit (something that we see time and time again in the corporate world where people 'hold back' valuable pieces of information to encourage repeat business and dependency).
The teacher realizes that their value can be measured by how much they instead empower others.
There is an inner strength that is exemplified by a willingness to share ALL that they can. There is no fear that they will 'run out' of knowledge and lose their position and status, because position and status are not in the paradigm of pure teaching, the goal is in the giving to others - not the accumulation of power.

The greatest teachers recognize 'the flow' also. They are not worried about running out of teachings, or things that they can do for others, because they realize that these things ultimately come from the universe and we are in effect a conduit for the transmission of knowledge.

Knowledge is energy. Information is simply encoded energy and there is an abundance of it in the universe. We simply become a channel through which we can disseminate that energy to people around us for a greater good.
It is in our own unique and inimitable way of sharing the knowledge that we are able to help others. So the sharing itself is a crucial part of teaching - and so the more that is shared, the more powerful the teacher.

If we are in a position of teaching in any way at all, should we not give without reservation and with all our heart, lest we become a gatekeeper? 

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