Teaching and Writing

An Article in Bill Zanetti’s blog raised a few thoughts about teaching and writing.

I was never really taught to teach. Maybe I missed something but when I was at teacher training college we never really discussed the business of teaching in terms of insights, methodologies, logistics. There was abstract stuff about child psychology and there was teaching practice and that was about it. No reflection or focus on my own growth as a person or as a teacher. Maybe that’s changed. I do some work as a non-managerial supervisor for the YMCA degree course on Informal Education and there some emphasis on the things I mentioned plus a commitment to ‘reflective practice’. We often forget that teaching is not about the transfer of knowledge but about the development of a capacity for learning and the ability to use that learning.

In many traditions of spiritual teaching there seems to be the same hierarchical approach to learning that we find in academic institutions. While this works for those with the discipline the majority don’t buy into it and it is not necessarily the approach most conducive for learning how to be a creative and independent thinker. What is best is a collegiate approach where the teacher and learner share an investigative, exploratory approach to learning and where the teacher’s skill is to facilitate this exploration rather than to act as a knowledge bank.

The potential of blogging as opposed to writing a book is that it can be an exercise in collective learning. When we author a book it is our experience and insight presented as a kind of knowledge edifice. A blog is much more fluid and alive, it links to other blogs, contains comments and is part of a dialogue. The teacher is no longer up there but down with everyone else sharing information, knowledge and wisdom as part of a kind of ‘hacker culture’ extended to spiritual learning.

The motto I use on my blog: “Enlightenment is Open Source” hints at this approach. We need to encourage the ‘hacker attitude’ and to take traditions, old and new and ‘hack the code’ so we understand it, adapt it and improve it.