I remember a while ago hearing the challenge that those who study and obtain knowledge then have the responsibility to teach; to “give out” after “taking in”. Think of a purification system, that takes in vast swathes of water, distils it, and gives out a clean drink. That is, in some ways, a good analogy of the teacher.
In light of this, though bearing in mind my relative youth and the various qualifications for teachers within the church, my joy in study has naturally led me to consider and explore teaching in a variety of forms (I use the term teaching in a broad sense, including preaching, writing, and more). Subsequently, as I have had more opportunities, the need to improve as a teacher has become clear.
As I have been considering the role and task of teaching, helpfully, the other day I came across a section in The Marks of a Spiritual Leader by John Piper. In this booklet, Piper identifies two circles: an inner circle, which includes the core prerequisites for being a good spiritual leader, and an outer circle, which includes a number of aspects that characterize both good spiritual leaders and non-spiritual leaders.
In this outer circle, Piper notes one characteristic as the ability to teach and offers what he believes are eight marks of a good teacher.
Read them, mull them over, and I hope they help you become a better teacher.
- A good teacher asks himself the hardest questions, works through to answers, and then frames provocative questions for his learners to stimulate their thinking.
- A good teacher analyzes his subject matter into parts and sees relationships and discovers the unity of the whole.
- A good teacher knows the problems learners will have with his subject matter and encourages them and gets them over the humps of discouragement.
- A good teacher foresees objections and thinks them through so that he can answer them intelligently.
- A good teacher can put himself in the place of a variety of learners and therefore explain hard things in terms that are clear from their standpoint.
- A good teacher is concrete, not abstract, specific, not general, precise, not vague, vulnerable, not evasive.
- A good teacher always asks, “So what?” and tries to see how discoveries shape our whole system of thought. He tries to relate discoveries to life and tries to avoid compartmentalizing.
- The goal of a good teacher is the transformation of all of life and thought into a Christ-honoring unity.
(p.30-32, The Marks of a Spiritual Leader, John Piper)
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(Photo: The Gospel Coalition.)