A Bisl Torah

Don’t Be A Bad Student

In my most recent guitar lesson, the teacher gently and firmly reminded me that he was the teacher and I was the student.

I have no previous knowledge of how to play guitar or form chords, but I insisted he teach me according to my own preferences and what I deem important. Stubbornly, I felt as if I knew more. That I understand the way I learn best and he wasn’t following along. But at some point, he stopped the lesson and said, “I know you have many students. When you’re the rabbi, they listen to you. Now, I am the teacher and you need to let go and let me teach.” It took my entire being to relax. By the end of the hour, I felt myself learn both the guitar and a life lesson in a way I never expected.

While I understand the value of life-long learning, not all of us know how to be life-long learners. Instead of walking into a class ready to open oneself to new knowledge, many of us walk in ready to refute, push back, demand more and thus leave, receiving very little. Is it a defense mechanism? Perhaps. If we fight the influx of new material, maybe we deny the reality of knowing very little. But when my teacher asked me to just be a student, a lever released, and I found myself opening to the possibility that knowing very little can be a very beautiful thing. It means that the pursuit of learning may open worlds we never knew existed and the pleasure of gaining a new skill or new fact is likened to discovering a new star, a brilliant light that brightens more and more with each coming day.

Mishlei reminds us, “Train a child according to his path.” I always thought that meant we learn in diverse ways and educators should be mindful that no child’s training should look the same. While that may be true, it shouldn’t give an adult cart blanche to deny the gifts an educator, teacher or mentor offers or shares. What a privilege it is to be a student and take time to open oneself to new learning and new journeys.

May we hone our skills as students. While we have much to teach, we have so much more to learn.

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