The professor of my American Short Story class is an aging woman. She has sharp, angular features, cropped frost-white hair, and a theatrical flair that betrays some sort of background in drama. She likes to dissect odd, haunting stories, from the perplexingly condensed ‘Cheers’ (authored by Jayne Anne Philips) to classics such as Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ and Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily’. These stories are discussed from every angle; we study the background of the author, the impact of the physical setting and time period, examining each theme and speculating upon every possible specimen of symbolism.
I like this class a lot. If maybe the conversation isn’t always thrilling and the conclusions a little far-fetched, at best it has introduced me to a wide range of short stories, authors and methods of story-telling. It’s a treasure trove of inspiration.
Anyways, today my professor was attempting to prompt some questions from the class and said something that struck me; “The goal of a teacher,” she told us, “is to render oneself useless.”
It’s not exactly a new concept, but as an individual having just determined to enter the field of teaching the idea seemed to have renewed resonance. It’s a fascinating notion, that education is really the only profession that’s ultimate goal is to make itself obsolete.
I don’t think it will ever reach this goal. In fact, I quite fervently hope there never comes a day that the world decides further education is without value. But this doesn’t change the fact that the aim of every teacher (or, I suppose, what should be the aim of every teacher) is to transfer the sum of their knowledge to a pupil so completely that, by the end of the period of erudition, this student will be entirely capable of filling their position, perhaps even grow beyond and eclipse it.
And the concept of an educational eclipse is important; a teacher isn’t just responsible for transferring information, their task is also to encourage the student to take that knowledge and use it as a springboard to achieve greater things. In many ways this means a good teacher must be selfless. They can’t be afraid of their disciples surpassing them; in fact, it should be the greatest honor of a teacher to see a student take what has been learned and use their education to overshadow its source.
So here has been another insight into the machinations of the mind of Amy Butenhof. I literally devoted hours of my day inexplicably intrigued and caught up in the concept that the ideal teacher A, looks to obtain no glory and B, aspires to be absolutely useless.
Pretty cool stuff, bro.
And if you managed to sit through all that pretentious musing and monologuing, I’m rewarding you now with this picture of a pig. You’re welcome. 🙂