The Art of Teaching

artwithliz1I have very fond memories of a high school English teacher who singled me out and encouraged me to reach my potential.  The encouragement was well received, and I did better in that class because of it.  But the fact that she singled me out probably inspired and motivated me more than the encouragement.

With billions of people in the world, our society does not single people out very often.  But approximately 2,000 years ago, a man lived that made singling out people His profession. He lived in a crowded metropolitan area much like ours.  His name is Jesus.

His interpersonal skills were beyond those of anyone who lived on earth before or after Him.  Many of our present-day teachers have patterned their philosophies and methodologies after Jesus’ people skills and positive thinking.

Jesus knew the art of teaching.  He was “other-concerned.”  Let me explain.

The art of teaching has been illustrated with a simple piece of string.  Place the string on the table.  If you pull the string, it will follow wherever you wish. Push it and it will go nowhere.

The same is true when we try to teach people. Effective teachers know they can get the best efforts out of people by working with them, by leading them to do their best. But try to push or force efforts from people, and you bump up against a brick wall.

Good teachers don’t push; they pull.  The extent to which someone is able to transform her self-concern into other-concern will determine her effectiveness in getting others to follow along.

Jesus’ other-concern is exemplified throughout His life.  He taught by doing.  He led the way, and people followed. People from all walks of life, even His enemies, regarded Him as a master teacher.

Jesus was also a servant.  Although one may miss the meaning of a teacher’s words, missing the teacher’s example is difficult.

Have you had an employer that rolled up her sleeves and worked right along beside you?  I have observed that this type of employer has greater productivity from her employees.  In John 13, a beautiful incident of Jesus’ other-concern is shown by His washing the disciples’ feet.  Foot-washing was a custom during New Testament times that was commonly performed by the lowest of servants.

John 13:1 states, “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”

The disciples did not understand why Jesus was voluntarily humbling Himself to perform the chores of a servant.  Jesus’ explanation of His action eloquently reveals the methodology of His style of teaching. Take a moment and reread John 13:13-15, 17.

Perhaps you have known people in your life who taught you first by example Scripture teaches that this is the best way for parents to teach their children.

“Teach (these words) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:19-20)

Jesus’ method shows us how He successfully taught people how to live.  This method is so successful that in His short three-year ministry Jesus filled the world with His message.  Jesus’ other-concern method was enhanced by His attitude of love.  His every action was a reflection of His love for others.

A teacher was celebrating her 80th birthday.  It proved to be a marvelous occasion, highlighted by the presence of a great number of her former students.

She had taught school in one of the worst sections of Baltimore. Before she came to that school to teach, it had experienced repeated instances of juvenile crime and delinquency.

After she had begun her work there, a noticeable change occurred.  With the passing of time, many of her students were becoming good citizens – men and women of good character.  Some became doctors.  Others became lawyers, educators, ministers, honorable craftsmen, and skilled technicians.  It was no accident, therefore, that on her 80th birthday, she was remembered with gratitude and love from a great number of her students.

A newspaper heard about this celebration and sent a reporter to interview her.  The reporter asked, among other things, what was her secret that made her teaching so rewarding?

She said, “Oh, I don’t know.  When I look at the young teachers in our schools today, so well equipped with training and learning, I realize that I was ill prepared to teach.  I had nothing to give but love.”

This Baltimore teacher understood the attitude of Jesus’ teaching.  Without love, the message is never effectively taught.

Jesus’ method of teaching was so effective that many people followed Him while He was on earth, and even today people all over the world are committed to Him and His teachings.  His attitude of love carried Him to the cross to show us the importance of His message.

Luke 6:40 states that a student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.  If we are students of Jesus, His method and attitude will inspire us to live out His message.  As a teacher to those in your life, Jesus challenges us to teach by serving with other-concern and to love those we are teaching.

(Beth Holland, Originally published in Christian Woman magazine, September/October 2002)

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About Beth Holland

Beth Holland lives to make a difference that will encourage, inspire and impact lives for eternity. She loves to write, travel, read and work on significant projects. You can often find her spending time with her family at local parks, museums or the beach. Being the mother of two grown children, son Micah (soon to be married to Alyssa) and daughter Ashley Elizabeth and married for over 30 years to the love of her life, Dan, is what she is most thankful for.
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