For over 35 years, my father taught as a high school math teacher. He would later go on to instruct at both the college and university levels. What I found so interesting about my dad’s teaching style was that he wanted to adapt to suit the student. He wanted them to love mathematics. He despised how teachers would “punish” students by taking away gym time and replacing it with math. “What does that teach them about mathematics?” he would ask. He saw how badly students needed to love math, not just get the facts.
There are various skills that are needed to be an effective teacher of any material. In Proverbs 1-9, we have a father who is skilled at teaching his son the ways of nobility and wisdom for life and ruling effectively.
First, to be an effective teacher, one has to have a level of expertise. Teachers have come to a certain level of mastery over material. People who know are often put into positions of teaching. So Solomon can speak about wisdom because he was the wisest king of Israel and had received great discernment from the Lord (see 1 Kings 3).
But just because someone has reached a level of expertise does not make them a great teacher. Someone can possess much knowledge but what is needed is the ability to influence the learner so that they are given knowledge and see how that information is beneficial. So much of what Solomon’s teaching does in chapters 1-9 is not point out explicit commands but reveal the benefits and consequences. This indirect approach means that the learner has the responsibility for learning and discerning the implications of what is taught. Teaching is not about control, rather it is about helping to facilitate. Being an encourager, assister, inspirer is more effective than trying to manage behaviour or implement growth.
Finally, a good teacher is a guide. A guide gives direction and involves the learner towards the best possible outcome. Guiding does not impose, but works alongside with the learner to navigate them towards an inner compulsion rather than an external imposition.
And so we see with Solomon that he sought to be the wise teacher with expertise, facilitation, and guidance in the ways of the good life in the Lord’s world. And as one grows in the learning process, the role of a teacher changes too.
What happens when someone comes and wants a mentor is that both the learner and the teacher are unprepared for what is to come. The person looks up to the potential mentor and thinks they have the expertise and skill to teach. The mentor looks at the relationship primarily from the angle of what they need to pass on. But what is needed is a relationship of expertise being facilitated and guided through a process of living and enjoying life together, realizing that the best teaching is caught by a learner.
What we need is to find ways to teach another generation by our influence and passion. And in the ways of the Lord, the best teaching isn’t done in front of a blackboard or with a textbook, but by sharing life together as we walk along the road, sit down over a meal, and find times of rest (see Deut. 6:6ff).
So who will you teach the ways of the Lord to? Have you grown in the knowledge of the Lord? Can you effectively influence others and guide them in the good paths?
Together, we can do this!
Working with you,