“I don’t teach.”

by Emilia Diamant

My mother is frequently invited to teach. Universities, synagogues, adult education programs, and the like are always reaching out to her, asking her to teach writing or literature or how to successfully reclaim ancient Jewish ritual. Y’know, small things.

When she’s asked she almost always says, “I’ll speak, but I don’t teach. I’m not a teacher.”

And in my mind, when I hear her say things like that I can only think of my classic line…

“Oh, Anita.”

Why do I internally roll my eyes when my mother says she’s not a teacher?

Because she is. Obviously.

She doesn’t prepare lesson plans or set objectives, no. She hasn’t studied different pedagogical techniques for engaging students. She isn’t “a teacher” in that way we all think, traditionally, of teachers.

She DOES impart her own experience and knowledge in a way that is exciting, interesting, and dynamic. My mother allows other people the room to disagree, to wrestle with ideas, and to engage with one another. She teaches in the way that we all hope to teach–she is an innovative thinker, a brilliant writer (duh), and a caring leader. These three things, for me, are what I strive for as I “teach” more traditionally.

If I can inspire one teen to try out a new idea, if I can move someone to push themselves out of their comfort zone, I feel like I’ve done my job as a teacher. Basically, I want to emulate my mother when I teach…because she teaches. It’s hard to convince her of that, though. Today at lunch she settled on “I’m not THAT kind of teacher.”

I’ll take it. But I still hope to be as charismatic and popular an educator as she is one day.

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