An online academic journal called Hybrid Pedagogy posted a piece that I wrote about a student’s perspective on pedagogy, which for those (like me) who aren’t teachers by trade, is the method and practice of teaching. There is a discussion happening in academic circles about the changing roles of teacher and student. The “brick and mortar” classroom is being supplemented, and sometimes replaced by online learning environments, and social media tools, like Twitter, are becoming discussed as possible teaching tools.
This discussion may not seem relevant to anyone outside of the academy, but I think it warrants some attention from the Pagan Community, a.k.a. the Pagan/Polytheist/Recon/Eclectic/Many-named people. There might be a parallel worth exploring.
We had a discussion about the difference between what we want from Pagan leaders and what we need from Pagan leaders a few months back. These questions continue to be relevant as we consider how to include our voices in interfaith dialogue, as was suggested we do in a recent Wild Hunt post, or as we ponder with Drew Jacob (a “non-Pagan”) how Paganism might grow into a world religion.
I’d like to open up this conversation again by asking: Should Pagan leaders serve, among other things, as teachers within the community?
“I expect our leaders to not only be polymaths but to also to be compassionate pastoral counselors and gifted teachers. However, in the Neopagan community, we are often inundated with a plethora of self-declared leaders, many of whom do not possess the requisite characteristics to lead well. The failure of these individuals to effectively direct and prepare their members may often lead to burnout, drama, and Witch wars.
The ethical thing to do, if you wish to be a leader, is to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to provide a welcoming and safe spiritual home for your members. If you are lacking in a particular area, you must be mature enough to recognize it, compensate for it or balance it out somehow, and attempt to rectify your shortcomings by educating yourself. If a leader is unwilling to look at their own work critically and evaluate their own efforts, then they are no one I’d want to follow.”
If Pagan leaders or clergy are to serve the Community (big “C”), or their individual community (their grove, their circle, their local Meetup group, etc.), as teachers, should they be involving themselves in conversations about pedagogy outside of the Pagan Community? Teaching comes quite naturally to some, but there are still techniques and skills that are worth exploring in a more formal academic environment. Perhaps those considering a life of service or leadership within their Pagan tradition have cause to pursue this kind of education.
“As Pagan clergy I don’t so much see myself as a leader as a resource. My knowledge and experience is something for others to draw from so they can enrich their own experience of spirituality worship. In the larger context, I am only one of many resources and not an absolute.”
Leader, teacher, clergy — I’m not sure that there is even widespread agreement about the definition of these terms among Pagans, and this may be a good starting point for dialogue.
How do you define these three roles/positions? Do you see there being a connection between a Pagan leader and a Pagan teacher? How about “clergy” — does that word sit well with you?
If you’re a part of a Pagan tradition that trains people to lead or teach, what informs your pedagogy?
Feel free to teach me what you know by posting a comment in the thread below, or engage with a fellow reader about her ideas. And be sure to visit the Hybrid Pedagogy piece to get more context about this discussion on pedagogy.