Why Don't You Teach?

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Brandon Dayton, modified 28 Days ago.

Why Don't You Teach?

Posts: 406 Join Date: 9/24/19 Recent Posts
Seeing the thread on finding coaching and reading about the new podcast on teaching medtitaton has got me thinking about teaching. I just assume that when I gain "enough" experience that I will teach. Maybe it is something that is just a part of who I am, but it just seems obvious that I will take that direction when the time is right. I can try and drum up reasons why, but honestly it feels like an intuition more than anything else.

Honestly, it is funny to me that there aren't more options available for teaching out there, so I'm curious as to why more advanced practicioners choose not to teach. Of course there is much informal teaching that goes on in this forum. It's a pretty amazing community in that regard, but I'm curious why more people don't choose to do formal teaching. Did anyone start with intent to teach but lose that as practice progressed? Not chastisement or anything, just honest curiosity. Maybe hearing answers will give me better insight into my own desire to teach.
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Steph, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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I learned the pretty humbling way that having expertise in a subject does not necessarily mean you'll be a good teacher. Teaching and facilitating are both a unique skillset that not everyone possesses or feels comfortable with.  When I finished grad school in Design, I was offered an adjunct position teaching undergrad design students. I jumped at it because I thought it'd be fun. And I failed pretty hard. Even though my grad program focused heavily on facilitation (and even facilitating non-designers or novice designers through the design process), I still didn't have the knack for teaching that I thought I might. I can practice design and knock it out really smoothly, but when it comes to mentoring others in it, not so much. I'm guessing the same would apply to meditation. I know my strengths and areas that I need to refine for my practice, and how to apply various methodlogies and frameworks and traditions -  but I don't know how to tell where others are at in their practice, what they need to hear at any given time, or how to direct/guide them.
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Olivier, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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Thanks for the link brandon.

Yes, I want to teach, I've wanted to forever, pretty consciously actually - I remember a time in my life, before I was formally introduced to meditation practice, when I wrote to myself "Help others cross over, bring other wanderers to your islands"...

But there are a few points which are holding me back for now : (1) What Steph said - I want to make sure I don't mess anybody up, you know ; (2) Unresolved ethical issues with the notion of making people pay for this ; (3) Legitimacy : The example of so many spiritual figures throughout history, who just practiced their asses out for decades before teaching anything to anyone, and would only do it for free - contrast with my five-six years of formal practice, even though I busted my ass and was kind of talented...

I think this is were the lineage stuff is REALLY really a good idea - although it does have its huge downsides. 

It's empowering...

But I'm working on it, and I guess I'll soon start to concoct little programs of meditation that i'll be able to offer people with my own particular esthetics on the thing. 

Should I do it for free, though...
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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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I'm curious as to why more advanced practicioners choose not to teach.

Brandon, I've tried teaching, with the blessing of several of my teachers. Here's why I stopped:

1. I don't have the time to do it right. Doing it right requires LOTS of time and doing it right is important to me. 
2. My personal assessment is that I wasn't good at it, so why inflict my shortcomings on anyone?
3. There's a lot more to teaching than just spending a half-hour or an hour with someone once in a while. The teacher/student relationship is nuanced and if it breaks bad, potentially harmful to both student and teacher.

Is this helpful? I'm of the opinion that knowing a thing does not qualify one to teach that thing formally. There's a certain set of qualities and skills that make a person a good teacher, and only one of those is knowing the subject.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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I'm not qualified to teach, but at some point I might be interested in doing some kind of peer coach thing, free of charge, because I think it would be fascinating to follow somebody else's development closely and explore whether my perspectives could be of some help. It would have to be a different kind of relationship than that between a dharma teacher and a student. I think I would start with someone that I could easily relate to and who was comfortable with meta-communication and good at taking care of their own boundaries and thinking critically. 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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By the way, some of my meditation class mates in Michael Taft's Reversing the stack part 2 are meditation teachers, and I know that there are teachers taking the part 1 now. Nothing wrong with them - they are good practicioners with interesting perspectives - but I wouldn't pay for teachings from somebody who needs the same teachings that I do and I wouldn't recommend others to do that either, unless they have enough money to afford the luxury of peer coaching just as a support in maintaining a practice. 

It is very possible that that's what their roles are too. I don't know the details. I know that some are coaches within Shinzen's system, and that within that system, coaches teach very specific things, and there are different levels of coaches and a hierarchy that you need to go through before you get the more qualified ones. I don't know if any one of them teaches profesionally outside of that system. Some make youtube videos based on donations. 
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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     One of the chapters in MCTB2 that impressed me was the one "On Teachers".  Daniel wrote, "Another thing about teachers is that they only know what they know".  This can be the safe recipe for teaching, share what you can back up with your experience.  As to making this a livelihood, I've always had mixed feelings about this.  Finding the best way to achieve this is an open question.  There are some models being used that I find interesting.  Avoiding the customer /provider relationship is important. 
      I remember reading once about using electric shock to get reactions from autistic children, the therapist said something to the effect of, "once you shock them you are hooked to them".  I think this is something to be considered before entering into the teaching relationship, once you're in it you have to follow up.
      I taught many years ago and have thought of teaching again, but I have stuck to using the medium I know, Tai Chi.  I would never say I teach Zen, but what I know about it has always been part of my teaching.
Ben Sulsky, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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I often get really excited about the things I'm learning and want to share them with others, particularly when it seems like so many people are interested in meditation/mindfulness at the present moment.  I also often see big shortcomings with the stock mindfulness stuff people get exposed to.  I think to myself that I could start them on access concentration and get them into some jhanas pretty quick, and that this would relax their racing minds and build a nice positive feedback loop, then go from there.  I think back on when I was first exposed to meditation, and the advice was "just sit," and even though I got into jhana I didn't know what it was or how to refine it, and eventually became frustrated.  So then I feel justified that I could do better!  And so on.

I haven't done any teaching.  This is because my practice is still changing rapidly.  I don't feel like I've nailed down the things I've learned.  I'm worried about opening people to very intense experiences that a teacher is partly responsible for.  I wonder if I'm a good or wise enough person to help people navigate that territory.  I wonder if teaching will inflate my ego.  I wonder if it will distract from my practice.  This kind of extends to the forums (like this one) as well-- it just seems really easy to hurt people even if I'm reasonably well intentioned.  Oh yeah, the politics of teaching often seem extremely unpleasant.

Overall, I'm going with the "do no harm" approach.  I'm not confident in being a good teacher, especially since I'm not finished being a rapidly changing practioner.  Sometimes people ask me about meditation.  I often link them to parts of MCTB2 I've found helpful and discuss the basics with them, then I back off.  I figure sometime far in the future (or never) it'll become very obvious that teaching is a good idea.  

I guess also at the end of the day when I look inside myself and ask whether I'm qualified to teach (whatever that means) I know immediately the answer is "no" and it'd be a terrible idea.  This is more of an intuition than anything else.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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Angel Roberto Puente:

I remember reading once about using electric shock to get reactions from autistic children, the therapist said something to the effect of, "once you shock them you are hooked to them".  I think this is something to be considered before entering into this kind of relationship. 


Since we are already talking about doing harm, that method is seriously problematic. In my personal experience of being autistic and having interacted with hundreds of autistic people through the years, with different degrees of difficulties, it is far more common for us autistic persons to be overwhelmed by sensory input and therefore shut down than to need stronger input. Sure, the so called therapist who does that to a kid might have the kid form a tie to them just like victims can develop ties to their kidnappers. It's not healthy. It's abuse. That's not a relationship that anyone should enter into. 
George S, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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When I started making progress I also started thinking things like ‘this is not too hard, maybe I’m talented, maybe I could help other people how to do this!’ After making some more progress I started imagining what kind of a teacher I might be, what kind of students I might have, what kind of setting I might teach in, how I might present things etc. I wasn’t making plans or anything, but I was thinking ‘yeah someday this could probably happen.’

Eventually I made enough progress to realize that I had only just begun to scratch the surface of my shadow side. Now I can see there was a serious element of narcissism in my thinking about teaching. My narcissistic tendencies are stronger than most, but I think most of us harbor some need to feel special and being a teacher feeds that need. We may want to help other people, but do we really know why?

I think you need to be really aware of your shadow side to be a good teacher, otherwise you will inevitably project it onto your students and that can be pretty ugly for everyone involved. You could try limiting yourself to teaching beginners, but some people are fast learners and pretty soon someone’s stuff is going to start coming up and you run the risk of unconsciously reacting to it. With the best will in the world, it’s going to be really tempting to try and help them rather than say ‘sorry I can’t help you any more, you need to find another teacher’.

If you haven’t made peace with your shadow side, or don’t know what your shadow side is, or think you don't have a shadow side, I would say it’s probably not a good idea to become a teacher yet. Sure you could enter some kind of accredited teaching training system, but then you still need to know that your teacher is aware of their shadow side and that they know what your shadow side is, in which case you should probably be working on it already! 
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Chris Marti, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

Posts: 3770 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
That is excellent advice!
Tim Farrington, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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+1, and amen, on Chris's amen to the fruits of George's mud-wrestling. Excellent advice, G.
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Noah D, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

Posts: 1103 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
I don't think I'm qualified.&nbsp;&nbsp;In my opinion, a dharma teacher should be able to advise people from all different backgrounds, stages &amp; walks of life in all areas - births, deaths, relationships, habit formation/lifestyle, health, meditation &amp; more.&nbsp;&nbsp;This may sound absurd to the pragmatic dharma crowd, but I'm speaking more from the Indo-Tibetan perspective, where a guru will ideally have mastered the "five sciences", where the functioning of the physical &amp; energy body are understood to be integral to practice &amp; where ego development is necessarily tied in with transcendent wisdom.<br /><br />I do answer people's questions when they ask me &amp; give practice advice.&nbsp;&nbsp;I will continue to do that.&nbsp;&nbsp;But I don't consider that really teaching.
Martin, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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I teach, but not Dharma, and it is not my only job. One thing worth considering is that teaching is the most I-making and mine-making activity that I engage in. Much of the teacher-student relationship traditionally involves things like: the teacher being a person and, in particular, a person who is especially knowledgable and competent; certain views being better than other views; certain things being durably true in time; and so on. An hour of answering questions from students can produce a week of papancha. Now, the type of teaching I do is pretty conventional with no relation to meditation (except that I try to get a sit in before class) but if I were looking for ways to modify my livelihood to make it more practice-friendly, I certainly would not add more teaching of any sort. Obviously, I have a great deal of respect for people who can teach the dharma and maintain a good practice. 

Even writing this post generates a little clinging. 
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Olivier, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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So, guys, a slighty different take on the question : who's a good teacher, qualified to teach, and how does one get there in your view ? Most people who teach meditation, imo, aren't very qualified. If the people who know their stuff don't teach, isn't there kind of a problem ? Let's take it full circle : isn't it actually the duty of someone who's got some degree or more of realization, to share it with others who might wish to hear it ? Thanks
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Siavash, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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 And another question, what are the responsibilities of dharma/meditation teachers?

For most jobs in this world, you get paid for what you do and you have certain responsibilities to fulfill, but with dharma/meditation teachers, it's not clear to me. What I see is that when a student is successful in their practice, then the teacher gets credit, that has taught well, but when the student is not successful (which seems to be much much more comman than the other one), then the teacher doesn't have any responsibilities, and it was the student that didn't practice well or didn't follow instructions or had more stuff and etc, but the teacher gets the money and fame and respect.
 
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Noah D, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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Did you know that tucker & upali just started a podcast on teaching meditation ? 

​​​​​​​http://Teachingmeditation.buzzsprout.com
Hector, modified 26 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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It's linked in the original post emoticon
George S, modified 26 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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Chris Marti
I've tried teaching, with the blessing of several of my teachers. Here's why I stopped:

Chris, you've taught me a huge amount about growing up and being less of a jerk. Thank you
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Chris Marti, modified 25 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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Thanks, George.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 24 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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Olivier
So, guys, a slighty different take on the question : who's a good teacher, qualified to teach, and how does one get there in your view ? Most people who teach meditation, imo, aren't very qualified. If the people who know their stuff don't teach, isn't there kind of a problem ? Let's take it full circle : isn't it actually the duty of someone who's got some degree or more of realization, to share it with others who might wish to hear it ? Thanks

In some traditions people pray and promise to never become the kind of realized person who doesn’t share the dharma, as it's considered something of an abomination. They probably wouldn't count us as realized, though. 

I have also heard that you become a teacher when people ask you to teach them and call you their teacher. 
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Olivier, modified 24 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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Hmm
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hae1en, modified 5 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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In zen, where I come from, only people, who have a confirmed realisation experience, polished and stabilized through years of practice and specific check-up sequence of koans and other Dharma activities, are supposed to teach - if they IN ADDITION have a strong emotional balance and ability to deliver the holy message. 

In real life however, some people with stabilized concentration only experience, who accomplished some koans and other dharma activities, teach.

But in the latter case - their students are often dissatisfied. They can intuitively feel lack of depth somewhere within. Why do it to yourself and to them?

I was surprised nobody mentioned realisation (stream entry or anything alike) as a prerequsite. But then I thought that maybe most of you self-diagnosed yourselves as knowing what it's all about and of course it's okey here. 

But isn't it that in the mainstream Dharma community, you have to be diagnosed and confirmed by someone who is also realised and confirmed... etc?
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Chris Marti, modified 5 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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I was surprised nobody mentioned realisation (stream entry or anything alike) as a prerequsite. 

Good point. It should be.
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Ben V., modified 5 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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I once asked a teacher in the Mahasi lineage if stream-entry was a requirement to be a teacher in that lineage. She said that it was. Dipa Ma also included first path as one' criteria for becoming a teacher.

I also really like what Linda said above, about one becoming a teacher ''when people ask you to teach them and call you their teacher''.  I think this would allow one's teaching to develop in a very organic, natural, non-coercive, as well as humble way. And I think it would make teaching a consequnce of attunement to needs of the moment (e.g. somebody asking you for guidance), instead of a consequnce of just seeking a status as a teacher.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 5 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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The podcast linked above on teaching has a soundbite from Shinzen where he says something to the effect of: "The teacher should have the gravitas of Awakening." which I assume to mean that you should at least have reached Stream Entry, but I think MCTB says that within the Theravadan tradition the rule of thumb is to wait until after 2nd path. I remember Bill Hamilton in Saints and Psychopaths recommending the same thing but also that you should find an Arahant if at all possible. I think he also makes a point about how boring unadorned settings are a good place to look to avoid all the dangerous stuff. I think that's kind of one of the main takeaways from the book.
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 5 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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Now that the theme of awakening has been brought up, I think it deserves some serious consideration. There are two extremes that I have become aware of lately that puzzle me.  One is the Zen approach that has been mentioned by hae1en and the other the DhO pragmatic way.  In Zen the tendency is to own peoples experiences, a current Roshi has even declared that if the experience isn't confirmed by him it's not real.  On the other hand, there's the self-confirmation you find in pragmatic circles.  In the interview with Taft, Ingram, and Yang (see thread) when asked what stream-entry is, there is a lot of variance but I think the consensus is on the effects. There has to be a noticeable effect on the outlook towards life events.  But who can really judge this?  I would volunteer that the best judge of this besides an honest self-appreciation, an examen of conscience, would be the opinion of children, husband, wife, close friends and neighbors.  The ability for self-deception is immense.  Anyone who practices sincerely will have experiences. But what is going to be the true measure of an accomplished practitioner who is capable of teaching?
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Noah D, modified 4 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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I tend towards the teacher confirmation side.  This has been helpful in my practice.  When the teacher learns what you have stabilized, they can guide you towards the next steps.  Also time - things which last for years & become the new normal can be trusted.  Ultimately though, one has to have confidence in their own experience.  No external teacher can provide that.
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hae1en, modified 4 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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 These two sound sensible to me: "things which last for years & become the new normal can be trusted" & "The ability for self-deception is immense."

I think it's not only about self-deception, but also about not being equipped for self diagnosis, if you haven't seen the real deal and it hasn't started to show up through you. 

I think it's valid to become the teacher if you mastered the concentration technology well. But then be clear what you teach is concentration, not insight and don't deceive others. To trust the grandfathers, there is heavy karma for it.

I've spent couple of years in silent retreats, formed relationships with some sober mainstream teachers, and yet found it *extremely* difficult to tell one/unified/concentrated mind textures from (1) insight, (2) functioning in daily life from within insight (I think cessation models don't assume it's possible? because it would mean walking in cessation, yet one can walk and talk having kensho) AND (3) long-terms results of insight in every day life after insight like luminosity, center- and agencylessness etc.

Examples. Is it is X or: (1) 8J neither perception, yet non perception realm, (2) 7J emptiness (perceived profound sensation of emptiness), (3) insight regarding empty nature of just thinking faculty but without seeing clearly the emptiness of will and agency (not the whole field), (4) witness seat stable even in the sleep state but without seeing it's also just a profound sensation, so staying in radical mind-matter duality, (5) insight manifested for some seconds and then taking the afterglow thinking it's still "on", (6) insight and more-attachment-mode flickering every couple of seconds/minutes and not seeing it etc.
 
George S, modified 4 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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I agree that self-deception is the number one problem and the best way to detect it is through issues in relationships with ones's nearest and dearest in a non-spiritual context. Also addictions, although these become progressively more subtle. The problem as I see it with a formal student-teacher relationship is that the teacher has a vested interest in the "success" of their students, which tends to bias ignoring certain issues. Also, how does one gauge the self-deception of the teacher? That's why I like the DhO model - start an honest log and let other people tell you when you're full of shit! It's usually pretty obvious when someone is deceiving themselves and there's less vested interest to fear on here in pointing it out.
Martin, modified 4 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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Yes, that's a good point, George. 
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Chris Marti, modified 3 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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In places like DhO, there are on occasion those who are impervious to the opinions of others, whether because they have a self-deception thing going on, have no self-awareness, or because they're intentionally faking it. Then what?
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Noah D, modified 3 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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All we can do is pray for their souls.
George S, modified 3 Days ago.

RE: Why Don't You Teach?

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Of course, but because more of the discussion and interaction is out in the open then more people see what's going on, so it's harder for them to leverage their deception into a teaching position. And if they do go on to become a deceptive teacher, there will doubtless be a robust discussion about it on here so at least there's some public record potential students can check out before committing to them (not that they all will, of course).

The biggest risk we run on here imo is the possibility for collective self-deception, but that's a separate topic.

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