When I first wrote this blog post years ago I was trying to untangle all of my issues and experiences with teachers. It’s still an ongoing process. Teachers are very valuable and provide the structure and approach to learning we need. There are many teachers out there who strive to meet this ideal. One big problem of being a teacher is the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and many people (myself included) allow their negative experiences to color their overall experience based on the squeaky wheels. We tend to place leaders in the same role of teachers as well, and this gets problematic.
Part of the reason I’ve refused leadership and teaching roles in the past is due to questioning my own ability to rise to the occasion. Teaching and leading requires a lot of skill, experience, and patience. Someone may have skills but little patience for someone who believes an individual exists to hand over certifications or positions without the work. Most people don’t like the approach to gaining such qualifications. It includes lesson plans, and if one tries to act like a smart aleck with a teacher or leader the person can and will be called to task. It makes them see their tom foolery to the end.
Teaching isn’t a role one should take lightly since it provides a significant contribution to both the individual and the community. When I first wrote this post I mentioned an individual in my local Pagan community who professed to be a teacher. He, like many others in alternative faiths, assumed the role without any verifiable qualifications. His inconsistent teachings and unethical behavior got him ousted from the community when people took notice and compared stories. In a perfect world all dubious individuals would suffer a similar fate, but we don’t live in a perfect world. I will say that in more recent years more Pagans have called out dubious teachings and practices.
Another reason teaching should be carefully considered is due to the Kemetic and general Neo-Pagan communities’ expectations of teachers, let alone leaders. Teachers are human and they are fallible. There’s this expectation of how teachers should be like Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way. They must lead the perfect life with the perfect skills and with utmost eloquence. We forget sometimes we don’t even come close to measuring up to the standard we place teachers or leaders. Many leaders and teachers have a “regular” job and have to teach, lead ritual, et cetera on the side. They get tired, financially strapped and can’t run certain things, run down, ill, and that’s the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen too many consider this a moral failing on the part of the leader or teacher, when in reality it’s their humanity showing.
Even though those who shouldn’t teach, yet try, exist there are plenty who should and do teach. It’s a matter of finding a teacher best suited for one’s needs. This is not an easy task. Finding the right teacher is difficult. It depends on the individual, the pracitce, how experienced of a teacher one desires, costs, the purpose for learning, and that’s not even an exhaustive list. There are a myriad of considerations. Sometimes we find the right teacher in the most unexpected places. I found my Isis Seichem teacher when we were members of a religious organization. It involves a balance of openness to possible teachers tempered by a willingness to question to see if one is right for the individual.
I think the understanding of how to find a teacher is also tied to why so many people are ill qualified, yet willing, to take leadership and teaching roles: self-importance. The demand for an often unattainable standard comes from this notion the person is of some moral superiority. I’ve seen all too often where the person thinks he or she is some reincarnation of someone historical figure and that excuses them from work, or the way people tie unfortunate circumstances to moral failings. Self-importance excuses away honest examination of oneself and one’s intentions of either accepting a leadership or teaching role as well as becoming a student. If someone sees a subject or tool as opposed to a partnership, no experience or qualification will suffice.
Taking on a role of leadership or teaching is neither easy nor lightly taken. Both are often thankless and never pay in proportion to the work involved. Some will find their own rewards and reasons for pursuing it beyond pay or prestige. Sometimes it’s with good intentions and understanding of one’s skills and abilities, other times without. This is what determines if someone is of moral integrity in such a position as opposed to life circumstances. Through the containment or elimination of self-importance in both a teacher or leader and a student or follower the stronger an opportunity for growth occurs.