When the Teacher Becomes the Student

May 16, 2018

It finally happened. I forgot. Sitting down to lead my last webinar of the year with my first class of graduating apprentices, I realized I was unprepared. Too many commitments, too many things on my schedule, and too much reliance upon my insufficient memory meant that not only had I forgotten to pack the text into my bag, but I had forgotten to check the syllabus and even read the text to be discussed. 

If there is anything akin to the nightmare of “showing up for the last class only to find there is a final for which you haven’t studied,” this was surely it. Maybe “nightmare” is being a tad too dramatic. After all, these apprentices, these fellow teachers, these friends have seen me through my first floundering days as a head mentor. They have born my feeble efforts to communicate the heart and soul of Christian classical education with enough joyful exuberance to match my nervous timidity. Would they forgive me for the sin of not Standing by Wordsbut leaving those words at home on my desk?

“I don’t have my book. Talk to me.” 

And talk they did!

Jacob, father of (almost) five, classical Latin teacher, proceeded to show the connection between Wendell Berry, Dante, and of course – Plato’s Republic. Jacob is our go-to Plato guy.

Kelly, the most voracious reader I have ever known, homeschool mom and drama director (I’m sure the former prepared her for the latter), quietly explained the connection between Berry, Milton, and Shelley. 

Kobi, in the midst of a move away from her beloved Texas, reminded us of the importance of place, celebrating birthdays, and introducing children to great minds and great books. When you see all of them at the CiRCE Conference this summer – say hey. 

Claudia is a crafter of more than just words. As she talked about Berry and poetry, I could picture the baskets she has woven and the quilts about which she is equally passionate. Sharing highlights and quotes, she gently took me to the central ideas in this chapter. 

Danielle will always pursue the hardest topic and the most difficult questions. She enthusiastically shared her summer reading list and her Socratic dialogue in progress. Was I surprised to see her focus on the emotional impact of language and our choice of words? Of course not. Her teaching is an overflow of who God made her to be.

These five taught me yesterday. I watched them interact, question, share, define, discuss, and explain. I marveled at their abilities to connect, draw out, relate, and apply. They left me with a thirst to learn more, a desire to drink deeply from the well from which they themselves were refreshed. My dear first graduating class of the Gulf Coast Apprenticeship, I could not have planned a more fitting way to end our three years. May the Lord richly bless you. You are loved.

Renee  Mathis

Renee Mathis

Renee Mathis has “graduated”  from the classroom after finishing a combined 30 years of teaching in both her home and tutorial settings.  She and her husband Steve have five children, two of whom are now married with children of their own. She has served the homeschool community in Houston in various capacities, including as administrator and teacher of the PREP Classes Tutorial where she enjoyed sharing her love of writing and literature since 1999. Additionally, she is a CiRCE Certified Master Teacher of The Lost Tools of Writing, having completed the CiRCE apprenticeship program. She now leads the Gulf Coast Apprenticeship as a Head Mentor. 

The opinions and arguments of our contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute or its leadership.

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