Teaching is something that I do professionally and something that people have been telling me for years that I should do professionally. I’d also be lying if I said that I hadn’t considered it prior to my nearest and dearest proclaiming my aptitude for it. Most of my considerations had steered towards the reasons why I didn’t (or shouldn’t) want to be a teacher. Typically poor salary, being tied to a school for at least a year if not more through a contract, lack of freedom to pursue additional interests, truly terrible hours that really began only once class was done. I came up with so many reasons not to be a teacher that I never really saw any of the reason to become one until well after I had started being one. Evidently those close to me were able to perceive my vocation well before I was ready to accept it. Tricky word that, vocation. One vowel different and you’re on holiday.
Vocation is a word that is not often used but when it is, it is used almost maliciously in terms of how overused it becomes. The word’s actual meaning is not too far from that of job or occupation, however it carries a great many more implications than job or occupation does. One such example is that there is an underlying implication of having the ideal qualities for that activity. Another such example is the implication that your vocation is some kind of service or ‘care’ occupation. There are additional examples but the real essence of a vocation can be summed up in two words: aptitude and calling. In one manner or another you will have some aptitude for your vocation and whether you yourself feel it or just those around you, you are called to that particular occupation. Unfortunately there is somewhat of a lack of recognition of the former in favour of an overabundance of the latter within the Pagan and Heathen community.
Being a teacher means knowing how to teach not, as most believe, being an expert or authority on the subject. This is something that is a problem across most social strata where teachers exist – a persons ability as a teacher is increasingly being determined by their expertise or authoritative knowledge in an area rather than their actual ability to teach. This becomes a problem magnified when the added complexities of the Pagan and Heathen community are added to the mixture. Some time back I wrote an article about how the word ‘no’ is something that isn’t often heard from the mouths of Pagans or Heathens; this subject of teachers and teaching in the Pagan and Heathen community is where it really starts to become an even greater issue because an irrefutable element of teaching is saying no to your students. There are all kinds of reasons why a teacher needs to say no, the student is simply incorrect, the student needs to have their ideas challenged, the student isn’t ready for that particular topic and many, many more.
In some respects the reason for this is that teachers are, at least in theory, essentially students who have turned the act of learning into a way of life. In that fashion a teacher my almost be called a hyper-studied in the same what that someone could be described as hyper-rational or hyper-observant. There is no real end to our being a student because we are, again in theory, always learning more. This quality is something Pagans and Heathens suffer no lack of however more often that not those very Pagans and Heathens who would be teachers lack any real know-how with or qualification with regards to teaching. Teaching, while a vocational skill, is still a skill that requires training and or qualification in every other area in which one can be a teacher – from kindergarten through to university and countless other areas in between and besides. There is a poetic irony that non-Pagan and Heathen teachers seem to be loosing, little by little, the hyper-studied aspect of being a teacher and Pagan and Heathen teachers rarely have any kind of teaching qualification. Yet poetically, all teachers are being regarding with greater and great disdain.
Being a teacher is something that requires certain things, not everyone is meant or even capable of being a teacher. The studying and learning are not things that the majority of people enjoy at the best of times, vastly fewer still are prepared to dedicate themselves to constantly learning and studying – never the less that is what is required in a teacher; being a teacher is as much a way of life as being a Pagan or a Heathen. Moreover, knowing how to teach and how to use the skills involved in teaching is not something that can simply be intuited from the great essence of the universe. Natural aptitude certainly exists, but like any other skill or talent knowing how to teach is not something that ‘just comes to you’. Something else that is also important, which I myself had to come to terms with, is having the desire to teach. Least important perhaps of the three major aspects needed to be a teacher, the desire to teach is still extremely important. Your own desire to teach excites in your students, the desire to learn. Teaching and learning are irrefutably interconnected and your desire to teach will help rouse your students’ hunger to learn. This is why teaching and being a teacher is a vocation more than anything else and needs to be treated as such, by both those who would call themselves teachers and those who would praise or deride them.