Even one letter
הלומד מחברו פרק אחד או הלכה אחת או פסוק אחד או דבור אחד או אפלו אות אחת, צריך לנהוג בו כבוד
One who learns from his fellow one chapter or one law or one verse or one utterance or even one letter must treat him with honor
Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 6:3
Great educators typically don’t see themselves as dispensers of hidden knowledge that only they posses. More often, they are curious lifelong learners themselves, and see their students also as sources of their own learning and growth. Rather than standing on high and looking down at their students, they sit next to them and engage with them in exploration and discovery. One major goal for this type of educator is to ignite the internal flame of curiosity that is in each of us, so that learning will become an internal drive for their students. Similar to the adage about giving someone a fish versus teaching them to fish, great educators measure themselves on what kinds of learners they are producing, rather than only what their students know. We are blessed at Gesher to have many educators who take exactly this approach.
What factors will these educators be taking into account as they do this work? How will they know if they succeed? The quote above gives us some indication that our Rabbinic tradition held a similar attitude toward inspiring lifelong learning. What would our lives look like if we truly believe that each and every person we encounter has something important to teach us, and therefore must be treated with honor?
My challenge for you this Shabbat, perhaps one you’ll try with your family, is to move through a single day of interactions holding this attitude: What can I learn from this person I’m face to face with right now?