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Pedagogy Begins With Love

October 20, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Late night chats, buckets of Pale Blondes, pizza, ciggies, but no poker, at Clarke Quay along the Singapore RiverCruising the empty streets in the early hours, on the way home after a full five-session/meeting day and drinking Hoegaardens first then refreshing light low-carb Pure Blondes (accompanied by Verve pizzas for missing carbs) till 3am, the wine tutor was still excitedly chatting about determining what he really wanted in life and his goal of increasing knowledge and appreciation about wine in Singapore amongst retailers* and consumers, and about his unceasing thirst to learn more about wines every where in the world and how he continues to be fascinated by how culture affects wine styles.

(*Wouldn’t it be great to be served by the sort of sommeliers described by Sam Sifton: “Sommeliers are as rare and amazing in the general population as albino squirrels. They taste and smell things in wine that are only obvious to others once they have been told about them. They know vintages and grapes and earth and humidity as some know baseball statistics or the provenance of antique model trains. And far more often than not, what they offer in return for your mild interest is information and guidance about amazing, unfamiliar and exciting wine — often of a sort that you have never even heard of, much less considered.”?)

I started to respect his humility and enthusiasm for what his chosen subject, and realised that I’ve always learnt best when i trusted the teacher because he/she was genuinely interested in what he/she was teaching. Unfortunately, for many of the teachers in school, teaching was more of a livelihood, a means of sustenance, an obligation to be fulfilled. When i met a former form teacher whom i used to get grief from, years after junior college, she admitted that she was just trying out teaching to see whether she liked it and wasn’t at all interested in helping students.

Country Holiday's Talk on Africa's Eden, Raffles HotelLater that day, we were at Raffles Hotel at the invitation of Country Holidays to listen to Russell Gammon talk about going on safari in Africa. If only he had been my geography teacher. Without having to resort to the artificiality of set-strategies of pedagogy, his very enthusiasm and humour was enough to jolt the brain into retaining information about the enormity of Africa (“America can fit right into the Sahara desert – the youngest desert”), continental plate shifts and the Great Rift Valley, the flooding of the lush Okavango Delta, the wildebeest  (“they look like God made them on a Sunday with the left-over bits from other animals”) migration – shadowing good tasting high protein grass, animal tracks helping with irrigation, the characteristics of predators (crocodiles, lions, wild dogs, leopards, cheetahs) etc. (They served Beau Mayne bourdeaux – reds and whites – at cocktails.)

The Auld Alliance, CHIJMES
Isle of Jura Prophecy and Benriach 16 yo, The Auld Alliance, CHIJMES

After dinner, drinks beckoned at The Auld Alliance, CHIJMES. Over a BenRiach Speyside 16 y.o. that was gentle and fruity as advertised and an Isle of Jura Prophecy that was lovely and peat-ily complex, we discussed the teachers in our lives and teaching the Bible. Some NIE trainee teachers and new teachers we knew were in the vocation because they wanted scholarships – someone to pay for their education either locally or overseas, others were in it because they weren’t accepted in any local university and just wanted to get their degree. Having neither love for their subject nor love for students meant you had trainee literature teachers who insisted that Old English and Shakespearean English were the same thing (they had no interest in reading really) and new teachers who gloated about playing favourites in their classes, making naughty kids cry and crawl back to them for approval, and other acts of relishing and abusing their position of power. (And any such poor treatment of the vulnerable by those in authority, i realise, makes me very very angry indeed.)

Teachers of the Bible are no exception – some go to Bible college because they are incompetent to do anything else, others just want a steady job. A remarkably poor basis for undertaking this most noble of tasks. There must be first the ability to understand Scripture and teach the truth, but even the best user of modern pedagogy will fail if he did not have love for God or God’s people.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

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