I've been having a little crisis of ...something... lately, thinking about teaching and learning. I have been variously absorbed in my brush painting class, Teaching Company commuting lectures, sitting in on a class about Chinese thought and Taoism, and working on a project that involves mentoring of promising students to help them get doctoral degrees. A certain studiousness has rubbed off on me as a result of my new job in an academic environment. There is a library just across the road from my office!
What is the differnce between a master (shifu) and a teacher (laoshi)? All masters and teachers surely have a perspective, but perhaps the really good ones leave their personal perspective somewhat hidden? Or not? (Like the Mormon who did just a really superb job on the "Great Minds of the East" Teaching Company course. This is not to be construed as any kind of comment about Mitt Romney.) Maybe it depends on the level of students and their needs and desires? A master should not take on a student that is more advanced, or more correctly said, on a different path? The student should know how to pick the master that's right for him at the time? At what point do the master and student become colleagues, sharing their own perspectives, supporting each other? All masters are still students? What does the master learn from the student? What is mentoring? Why am I writing all these thoughts as questions?
In the end, one is always a student, trying to master oneself.
After I once again didn't quite copy my painting teacher's example, but brought the assignment forth according to my own taste and previous training, she said, "You know a lot about Chinese painting. Maybe you don't need a teacher."
Self-teaching does pay off. Earlier today a Chinese colleague was telling me about a terrible hit-and-run incident involving a Chinese toddler. "Where?" I asked. "Oh, I don't know, I can only say it in Chinese," he said. "Try me," I said. "Foshan, near Guangdong." "Ah, home of wing chun!" "You know that?" Yep. (I watch, and listen carefully to, a lot of martial arts movies.) He went on to suggest that perhaps people are better in the countryside. "They still have heart." Sadly, while looking for these links, I discover the child has died about half an hour ago.
|"How to Paint |
"You can do that at home," she said. I don't know whether she meant I should do that only at home, or that I was competent to do it on my own at home. She glanced sideways at my chrysanthemums, and said, "I am teaching basics here, so they (the undergraduates taking the class for credit) can do their own art."
I am a disciple without a master. Here are my chrysanthemums, symbols of autumn, longevity, and a life spent in quiet retirement. I wish.
|Chrysanthemums: Autumn Symbol|