A teacher I know recently said to me that they felt that, after three years at it, they were just starting to truly understand how to teach. That made sense to me—as a past therapist had told me that her supervisor had told her that it takes seven years of practice before you truly know what you are doing as a therapist. Moving into two decades of clinical work, I keep learning how much I do not know, but ever deepening my appreciation for the process, for the courage of my clients, for the possibility of accurately connecting as a way to facilitate healing and growth.
That teacher went on to say that they were very excited about teaching, and that I should tell all my clients to become teachers, not just because it is a noble thing to do, and deeply rewarding to the soul, if not always the purse, but because he was learning how to be a father to himself through teaching—having conversations with students, and giving compassionate counsel in ways that had been entirely missing from his own upbringing.
I share this because parenting is akin to teaching; a parenting attitude is not professorial so much as filled with child-mind and a love of furthering learning, in ourselves and others, and most of all a love of connecting in the process of learning.
Learning is about the freedom to fail, to make mistakes, to stumble and try different things until something crystallizes for us and then we have truly learned it (not just memorized it for a test, soon to be of little use and lesser consequence). Learning is having our crystalline understanding morph into a chrysalis and all we know liquefy, only to emerge transformed. Learning is to do this as an alchemical process in which the alchemist is herself transformed. Learning is to see that the relationship between all things is what also transforms, ever changing our very sense of self from ego, to soul to spirit to collective spirit.
This teacher got to talking about To Kill a Mockingbird and how, even on the fourth time teaching it this year, he had to keep stopping his reading at the end of the book to deal with his tears—unashamed and joyous tears at the poignancy and beauty and brilliance of that book (my favorite as well).
Chatting away together, we decided that Boo kills Bob Ewell in some sense parallel to Atticus killing the rabid dog… and that the apparent lie that Atticus allows (in protecting Boo) reflects a higher truth than the miscarriage of justice that happened earlier in the town’s courthouse. Atticus stands for many things we might all aspire to as parents: ethics, integrity, authenticity, courage, compassion and love. A teacher of sorts by engaged example.
We also laughed at the state of things as we mature, nerdily passionate about To Kill a Mockingbird, in awe of its voice and child’s point of view, while now it’s the kids’ turn to not readily see what all the fuss is all about. Yet perhaps it’s our passion that may stay with them and invite them to consider, and revisit, and perhaps one day arrive, not just at an appreciation for To Kill a Mockingbird, but at the place of teaching, and the spiritual abundance into which this taps.
Every parent is offered continual opportunity to teach, so many teachable moments, so many emotions to contemplate and, perhaps, to accurately understand and reflect—to connect, in those shinning moments that become eternal, catapulting us beyond nostalgia and fear and into the luminescence of the shining, connected, ever-present moment.
So, as we teach our way along, learning how to parent ourselves right alongside our children, we unlock life’s richness through the simple, undefended, openhearted willingness to only connect.