Beginner’s Mind

Monday, 31 May 2010

The in­ex­pe­ri­enced teacher, fear­ing his own ig­no­rance, is afraid to ad­mit it. Perhaps that courage only comes when one knows to what ex­tent ig­no­rance is al­most uni­ver­sal. Attempts to cam­ou­flage it are sim­ply a waste, in the long run, of time.

If the teacher is slow of wit, he may well be ter­ri­fied by stu­dents whose minds move more quickly than his own, but he would be bet­ter ad­vised to use the lively pupil for scout work, to ex­ploit the quicker eye or sub­tler ear as look-out or lis­ten­ing post.

[…]

There is no man who knows so much about, let us say, a pas­sage be­tween lines 100 to 200 of the sixth book of the Odyssey that he can’t learn some­thing by re-read­ing it WITH his stu­dents, not merely TO his stu­dents. If he knows Guido’s Donna Mi Prega as well as I now know it, mean­ing mi­cro­scop­i­cally, he can still get new light by some cross-ref­er­ence, by some re­la­tion be­tween the thing he has ex­am­ined and re-ex­am­ined, and some other fine work, sim­i­lar or dis­sim­i­lar.

I be­lieve the ideal teacher would ap­proach any mas­ter­piece that he was pre­sent­ing to his class al­most as if he had never seen it be­fore.

Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading