I finished the course Principles of Biblical Teaching from the Theology Program at Credo House, fulfilling part of my Unschooled Master of Theology program and this assignment is part of that requirement – it is a paper presenting a comprehensive Philosophy of Teaching.
You can read all of my course assignments for my Unschooled Master of Theology in Biblical Studies here.
Let’s get started….
I remember the moment I decided I should pursue teaching as a career. It was the very first semester of community college and I was sitting in my Philosophy 101 class. Though I don’t recall the exact reason I stumbled upon the idea, but I remember it struck me that I should become a high school English teacher.
Fast forward nearly 30 years and I’ve just finished my doctorate and will be applying to a single seminary in hopes of becoming a quasi-adjunct professor teaching theology online. It wasn’t very long into my first semester at that community college that I switched from high school English teacher to community college professor to eventually seminary professor and now much less so this than the options of an ancient philosopher in a modern world, for there appears to be the same means of supporting oneself in philosophy now as there was then.
As described in Musonius Rufus’ tractate, “What Means of Support Is Appropriate for a Philosopher?”:1
1. Charging Fees
2. Employment at University (Rich Patron)
3. Begging in the Streets
4. Self-Supporting by work
5. Pension, Retirement
There is little wealth to be had in philosophy without trading in your soul. Too often, as I did, people romanticize teaching as a lofty endeavor full of satisfaction and endless joy. The student sitting next to me in that Philosophy 101 class was also aiming to become a high school teacher, and, unlike me, he actually did. I met him several years later and after inquiring about how he liked teaching his response was, “I hate it. I’m miserable. Those kids are all monsters.”
I chose to continue on with my Master’s and finished my Doctorate in 2021. Luckily, neither cost me very much (less than $1000 all in) so I’m not beholden to student loans like most students these days. Instead I have several opportunities given my particular circumstances:
1. I can develop and teach my own independent courses online, charging a tuition fee for the service. This may or may not produce real revenue and could be risky with little in the way of any return.
2. I plan to apply to one Seminary that approaches learning in an alternate manner (flipped classroom). This would be a part-time job replacing my current income, which would allow me to work only a few hours a week and make double my living needs.
3. I abhor the concept of begging in the streets for money. It seems quite time intensive, though I could easily adapt such activities into free philosophical training sessions with people on the street, or I could incorporate musical entertainment as well. Signs with questions instead of the typical “will work for food” schtick. I have no intentions at this time of doing this. A few years ago, when it appeared as if I would lose all my possessions, this is what I planned to do. Thankfully, I was spared this devastation.
4. I currently work a part time job, only 2 days / week, with quite comfortable working conditions (in a private office), and with very adequate wages. This short amount of work provides double my living needs, so I’m simultaneously saving as well, which leads into the next option.
5. Along with my increasing savings, plus the potential sell of either my house or the Eden property, I can retire and live on my savings until age 62 when social security kicks in. This is inherently risky since there is no way to ensure that SS will actually be there (it is a ponzy scheme after all) and the loss of freedom and increased dependency on the US Government makes me very uncomfortable.
With these options available, I plan to apply for a teaching position at the particular seminary in question. If I can get this job and it becomes dependable and enjoyable, I will quit my current job. With this teaching position I can work 5 hours a week online and save a years income while making another year’s income to live on. When the job is no longer available, I can sell some real estate and with my savings retire. The closer I get to 62 before retirement the better.
If I can’t get this job, I plan to remain at my current employer for at least five more years (if it remains available for that long). This will double my savings if and when I need to retire. At the same time I plan to develop and launch online courses and charge tuition for flipped classroom mentoring (asynchronous).
What constitutes an excellent teacher?
I’ve considered this question quite a lot over the years as I wrestle with whether or not I’ve been called to teach. If I even would want to. I know the teachers in my past – the good teachers – were always those who left me room to explore, but were always available to me to answer my questions, to steer me away from the jagged edge. In biblical studies, those I looked up to and learned most from were seekers and learners themselves. Chuck Missler is at the top of the list, followed by Mike Heiser and then James White.
But there was something else in these people, in an excellent teacher, that they are not only learners and seekers but they are honest with their students, transparent with the knowledge they have and share with others. Missler for many years condemned Americans who were not patriots, who did not adhere to a nationalistic fever, claiming the United States was a special kind of government, ruled by the people, and that we as individuals had a responsibility to be involved in the politics of the nation.
It wasn’t until years later that Missler recanted his view, realizing finally that American exceptionalism is a myth, that if it ever existed, the American Dream was being usurped by socialism and radicalism of the day. In his life he never saw the overthrow of the country like was seen in the 2020 Presidential Elections. Many of the things Missler predicted are now coming true.
What constitutes excellent teaching?
Excellent teaching is much like it’s deliverer. It is clear, concise, it has purpose and is not wrapped around or diluted with politeness or polity. It is not agenda driven and handles the truth as absolute, and as genuine and important for us.
I followed Dr. Heiser in his latest move from Washington and away from Faithlife to Celebration Church in Florida. He was offered, I can only imagine, an incredible salary and autonomy to run his school however he liked. At the time I was starting to look for a Church to become a member at (long story) and I signed up for Celebration’s membership course. It was a terrible experience. I found them pushing some kind of quasi-messianic identity with sabbaths and festivals and ritualistic concepts of priesthood and family dynamics. But, nothing was so startingly to me than the sermon I watched from the founder of the Church.
This man rambled on for forty minutes, and if honest, there was nothing he said that made any logical sense at all. For several minutes he just blurted out catch phrases that had no relation to each other, trigger terms used to identify himself with different groups I can only assume he was trying to placate.
In the end, I walked away from that mega church organization, certain the American Church today is malignant. There is nothing left of her, no resemblance at all to the biblical Christ, as the teach and preach a different gospel entirely.
An excellent teacher may be concerned about being relevant to a fallen world, but he is not so obsessed by it that he alters or censors the truth he teaches. A great teacher engages his students but leaves room for their own explorations, their own creativity. He challenges them while simultaneously reassures them of their abilities and value.
What type of teacher do I want to be?
This is a difficult question as I’m not certain I want to be a teacher to begin with. I think I’ve always seen teaching as an alternative to a job. An escape from manual labor, freedom from the blue collar. But, I’m beginning to see the cracks around the edges, as a career teaching children is utterly off the table an done in academia is not much better.
Of the times I’ve taught, I have gone away disillusioned. Whether as a martial arts instructor or teaching Bible Study small groups I’ve found myself feeling unprepared, ill-equipped for the realities of the task. Preaching a sermon I likewise found so very distasteful as it quickly peeled back the thin facade of the parishioners.
I do enjoy writing, though. Very much. And I do have a passion for research and for putting together, organizing and developing curricula. Because of this I think I would do well as an independent philosopher, like the ancient philosophers in Greece who taught and lectured in the public square or public gardens, drawing acolytes from the wealthy caste, or those willing to go out and raise funding for their instructor so they can be taught by him.
I think this is the kind of teacher I desire to be. Aloof, distant, yet still engaged. I desire to teach asynchronously, so as to never been in the same place or space as my students at the same time, but spanning both with touch points in between. I do indeed live in a time where technology can allow me to publish my teaching without oversight or funding, where I can market to the global masses, and interact with my students by email and forum and eportfolios. Even lecturing is optional as technology online has provided a plethura of video and audio lectures that can be leveraged for free in course development, but even that I hope to become proficient in, producing my own podcast and screencasts for courses I teach.
As for the seminary I desire to “teach” at, this position would be more discipleship based than lecture driven. I would be required to speak with students individually each week to gauge their progress. If this position could effectively, consistently, and comfortably replace my current position, then it would be great. If not, this is perfectly fine, too.
What are the primary values that constitute an excellent teacher? How will you emulate these values?
There are really three values I believe embody an excellent teacher. The first is honesty. As already stated, the teacher needs to be honest about the subject matter they are presenting, without slant or ulterior agenda. Too often in academia today, lecturers and professors are driven by the institution in which they labor. They do not teach students how to think but what to think. They do not provide healthy space for genuine dialog but punish those who hold a contrary position, regardless the evidence. They simply toe the party line.
Secondly, I would argue the next value is transparency. There would be nothing hidden, noting obscured, nothing intentionally withheld from the student. This goes hand in hand with the first value as the tendency today in academia is to paint with a brush skewed strokes, leaving out vital information and knowledge so as to paint a predefined image or narrative.
Lastly, the third value is humility. Bundled together with the first two, as there is no means by which the teacher can be honest and transparent without having humility, for if career aspirations or fame or the desire for wealth or fortune get in the way of healthy, balanced instruction, then it is not teaching undertaken but indoctrination. There is a reason why many of the philosophers of old did not take tuition for their labors. As Christ stated, “You cannot serve two masters.”
How will I emulate these values? For honesty, I will approach the acquisition of knowledge with honesty and integrity. I will see understanding and wisdom, insight and proficiency. As for transparency I will remain an open book with my students, in my interactions with them, not tailoring to what I think they want to hear. Lastly for humility, I will approach teaching with a sober and contrite heart, knowing full well the more severe judgment that awaits me.
James made it very clear about teaching, “let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). I would wager only those who have an insatiable drive to teach do so, and the remainder lead quiet lives in all godliness and reverence (1 Ti 2:2).
Unfortunately, the modern American Church does not operate other gifts beyond preaching and teaching, unless you count the counterfeit gifts of the Charismatics, and if so you have much more to be concerned with than if you should teach.
For myself, I’m not convinced it is a call from God. I am convinced my draw to contemplation, to solitude, to simplicity is either a call or delusion from God. On either count how can I resist his will? I pray, of course, that it is his perfect will for me to test and venture into the contemplative life. Whether that ends up in a monastery (I think that ship has sailed) or on the Eden property (it is truly difficult if I am being honest) or somewhere in between, it is anyone’s guess.
I wait now for the reading of my doctoral dissertation to be completed by the committee and see if I am awarded the ThD degree. If so, I will then move on and apply for the singular position offered at the seminary in question, and it will again be up to others in the Body of Christ if I am to be a mentor to future pastors and church workers or if it is simply not “in the cards.”
Either way, I know my life is quite charmed as it is, even if nothing does change. Working only 2 days a week is the perfect balance to a healthy life and I have no desire for my livelihood to take any more time than this. If it is the Lord’s will that I exchange this this part job for a part time job as a mentor in a discipleship program, then I gladly accept. If not, all the better. It’s even possible that my workbook courses will be completed and no one ventures to take an actual course. I am find with this too. If I can count only myself as my student, then all the work will be worth it.
In all of it, no matter which way the wind might blow, I await the return of my King.
(1) Stephen C. Barton, “1 Corinthians,” in Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, ed. James D. G. Dunn and John W. Rogerson (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 1333.
Please consider supporting my work, my unschooled studies, and my hermitic lifestyle by purchasing one or more of my books. I’m not supported by academia or have a lucrative corporate job – I’m just a mystical modern-day hermit trying to live out the life I believe God has called me to. So, any support you choose to provide is GREATLY appreciated.
Excerpt from Our Daughter:
“Okay, mom,” Randy said.
“You behave yourself and be nice. You’re lucky to have company while you wait for the doctors.”
The woman turned and started back the way she came.
“The nurse said it would be twenty or thirty more minutes, so we’ll eat quick and be back up here before they take you in, okay?”
“Sorry for him,” the woman said to Katie as she walked by.
As the woman left, Katie noticed the boy moving around again on the bed. Before she realized what was happening, the tiny lump disappeared and she could hear the faint sound of bare hands and feet on the tile floor.
He was low crawling under the beds toward her.
A moment later, Randy popped his head out from under the nearest hospital bed, craning his neck around to look up at her.
“Hello, there,” Katie said.
Randy disappeared back under the bed, the bed sheet draping down almost to the floor. Katie could still see three little fingers pressed to the tile.
“What are you here for?” Katie asked, readjusting her seat in the chair, trying to get the ache in her chest to lessen.
For whatever reason, the wheelchair was really uncomfortable.
“Why are – ”
Randy’s voice trailed off for a moment as he looked around.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m getting my leg fixed,” Katie said. “See?”
Randy poked his head back out from under the bed and looked at the leg she was pointing to.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“The doctor said it’s broken,” Katie said. “Shattered.”
“Can you feel it?” Randy asked, able to stay out from his hiding place.
“I can feel it, but it’s not too bad,” Katie said, then tapped the IV in her arm. “This thing is giving me medicine of some kind for the pain. At least that’s what the nurses said.”
“Why are you – ”
Randy stopped mid-sentence.
He scooted out from under the bed entirely and slowly crept over to her on all fours.
“What are you, some kind of spider?” Katie asked, giggling a little.
“What are you?” Randy echoed.
He was now only about a foot away from her chair and sat there, his legs folded up under him, gawking up at her.
“What are you staring at me for?”
“I’ve never – ”
Randy put out a hesitant hand and ever so gently touched her arm.
“Are you some kind of ghost?”
He looked around again.
“Are you – ”
He leaned in, talking in a whisper.
“Are you dead?”
A nurse came around the corner and stopped abruptly, spotting the empty bed in the far corner where Randy should have been.
“Randy Andrews,” the nurse said, her hands now on her hips. “You get right back into the bed and you stop playing around, please. They are ready for you in surgery.”
Katie watched as Randy scrambled on all fours under the beds and back up onto his, pulling the sheet back over top of himself again.
She started to ask him about his question, but couldn’t get the words out before his parents appeared at the door.
Katie sat there quietly, watching Randy stare back at her from under his sheet. She glanced over at his parents and the nurse, noticed Randy’s dad had no hair on the top of his head.
Are you dead?
What kind of question was that?
The snap of the wheel locks being disengaged on Randy’s hospital bed jarred Katie out of the confusion she was in.
The doctor she’d first seen was now at the door, waiting for Randy.
He was his surgeon.
They wheeled Randy out of the room, his parents following right behind, disappearing to the left, heading for his operating room.
The pre-op room was empty again.
Are you dead?
What kind of crazy question was that?
The nurse came back through the double doors.
“It won’t be long now,” she said.
Katie tried not to think about the dull ache growing just behind her sternum.
The nurse disappeared around the corner as Katie watched the double doors to the operating rooms slowly shut.
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