Magazine article Momentum

Have You Met My Friend?

Magazine article Momentum

Have You Met My Friend?

Article excerpt

A Reflection on the Teacher as Matchmaker between Students and Truth

Teachers want more for their students than a passing acquaintance with truth, tried for a time and then rejected

Imagine the familiar scene: One nervous person waits impatiently for the arrival of another who has been praised and recommended by a friend. Not knowing fully what to expect, the nervous one only remains on the strength of trust and friendship with the friend who recommended a relative stranger as a possible companion. When at last the moment comes, of course, the friend of both parties offers a cordial, if predictable, form of the line, "Have you met my friend?" It is a common episode in social circles. I propose the same generic circumstance as a paradigm for teachers in every field as they seek to introduce their students to truth.

If teachers hope to "match" their students with truth, they must, first of all, actually know the parties whom they hope to bring together. Practically speaking, teachers are obliged, by means of an expensive reality called "higher education," to obtain at least a basic knowledge of the truth they hope some day to teach to others. Some study the truth about biology, others about American history or algebra, but all teachers must learn something.

On the other hand, once a prospective teacher has accepted a coveted position and landed in a classroom some fine August day, he or she will be confronted by perhaps one of the most daunting sights in all of creation: 20 or 30 or (gulp) 40 dazed, terrified students taking the measure of their magister, calculating precisely the lowest possible level of effort it will take to wrest the desired grade from this instructor.

The teacher must work to transform the initial awkwardness that stands between classroom strangers into the geniality that breeds trust, and so allows the finally trusted teacher to acquaint students with some truth. As a "matchmaker," however, teachers want more for their students than a passing acquaintance with truth, tried for a time and then rejected.

St. Augustine, in his work "On the Teacher," defined teaching as "Loving your subject and loving your students." Teachers love their subject. If there are teachers who do not love their subject, then those few do not teach for long-they find better-paying jobs that require less work. Loving one's students, knowing them and wanting the best for them is an invaluable aid to the teacher who hopes to make a match between students and truth. Socially, when someone wants to bring two people together, he points out the qualities of each person that are particularly attractive to the other one. If some common ground can be established, then conversation has more than sheer willpower to keep it going, and relationship can develop.

Academically, finding the facet of truth that appeals to the student helps the teacher launch a dialogue that blooms in student-driven learning, where curiosity develops into something more. It becomes, perhaps, undeveloped but nevertheless real love for truth. The better the matchmakers know the two parties they hope to unite, the better equipped they will be to help the two come together. Thus, teachers should seek the truth continually through guided or self-education and, on the other hand, teachers always should seek to understand their students better. …

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