I’ve had good teachers and I’ve had bad teachers. Today, I’m not going to talk about bad teachers. I’m going to talk about two different kinds of good teachers.
I’ve had teachers who are really amazing and capturing the imaginations of the students, and who are really good at presenting the subject material in a compelling way. At the end of the class, the students (myself included) will say, “Wow! Dr. So-and-So is a fantastic teacher! He’s amazing! I’d recommend him to anyone.”
I’ve had other teachers who are also really amazing and capturing the imaginations of the students, and who are really good at presenting the subject material in a compelling way. At the end of the class, the students (myself included) will say, “Wow! I never knew entomology is so fascinating! I’m going to have to spend more time reading about it.”
In the first scenario, the attention was drawn to the teacher. The teacher was able, by virtue of charisma and skill, convince the students that something they know is boring can be made, for the duration of the class, into something fun. However, the teacher is the linchpin of the whole operation. Once the teacher is gone, the subject returns to its former dullness. Because in reality, it was the teacher that was interesting, not the subject.
In the second scenario, the attention was drawn to the subject being taught. The teacher was just a vehicle, a conduit through which the inherent magnificence of the subject matter is revealed. And the subject matter remains interesting, because the teacher didn’t make the subject interesting, he or she just revealed to the students why it already is interesting. And once the teacher is gone, the teacher can be forgotten, and the fascination of the subject matter remains intact. Because it wasn’t the teacher that was interesting, the teacher just unmasked and unlocked the truth about the subject material.
Both these teachers are good teachers. However, I think the second teacher is the better teacher. Because they aren’t drawing attention to themselves. They serve a higher master than their own image in the eyes of the students.
I think this distinction is crucially important when it comes to Gospel teaching. I remember individuals who were fantastic speakers. I remember that they gave mesmerizing talks in Sacrament meetings and thrilling lessons in Sunday School. But what do I remember? How good of a speaker they were… not what they said. In contrast, I’ve had Sunday School lessons that I remember to this very day, because the Gospel was unfolded to me in a new, revealing, and applicable way. But I don’t remember the person who taught the lesson—because they were in the service of Christ, not their own image. And in the service of Christ, Christ should be the person remembered, not the messenger. In our world that worships image self-esteem, it seems odd to say that I value being invisible. But what I want people to see and remember in all of my Gospel teaching is Christ and His message of salvation, not me.
Sometime in the next week or two, I plan to return to this subject, and explore specific ways to apply this distinction during the teaching process.