I See You is a greeting. In the Na’vi language, it is expressed Oel ngati kame for a neutral greeting or Oel ngati kameie to express a positive feeling about meeting someone. Furthermore, the Na’vi have two versions of the verb “see”:
tse’a, which pertains to physical vision.
kame, which means to see in a spiritual sense. It is more closely a synonym of “understand” or “comprehend.”
(From the movie, Avatar 2009, https://james-camerons-avatar.wikia.com/wiki/I_See_You)
Tonight is my second last class for my Vocation, Work and Ministry course. I will be having dinner with one of the participants before class. I look forward to hearing his story and being a friend to him as he wrestles through his vocational decisions. I have been doing this with the class members, either in small groups, or in one-on-one conversations. It helps that the class is not too big, only 14. But I try to do it whatever size the class.
To teach in this way requires commitment of time and energy outside of class time. (I appreciate the fact that students often pick up the tab for the meals.) I am not trying to be heroic. It’s just that I am totally sold out to the conviction that education must be personal, at least Christian education, though I suspect that is how we should teach in any context. When I meet up with my students one on one or in small groups, it is an attempt to get to know them as individuals. I don’t see this as pastoral care. I see this as an integral part of my teaching.
In their book, Deep Mentoring, Randy D. Reese and Robert Loane state that the first thing we do in leadership formation is to pay attention to the people we are shaping.
The leadership formation of others is a slow and deep work, and it is fundamentally a work of paying attention . . . Learning to guide the leadership formation of others is . . . (to) become detectives in search of the work God has already been up to in the lives of those before us. (Deep Mentoring, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012, 45?46.)
In other words, Christian formation must respect the fact that God has been working in a student long before he or she enters your class, and you need to know some of that story to know best how to connect the material you are teaching with this particular individual.
Reese and Loane calls us to pay attention to the individuals we are seeking to teach precisely because so much of the teaching we do in church and in our institutions is based on programmes that view people superficially: that are based on a one-size-fits-all approach that does not respect the fact that people are different, that see students only from the perspective of how they fit into our plans, and that are driven by the pressure of reaching as many people as fast as possible.
Reese and Loane also give a more fundamental reason why we need to pay personal attention to the lives we are seeking to shape. We all need to be noticed to be healthy human beings.
Psychologists tell us that much pathology and mental disease result from the experience of being unnoticed, especially early in life. Our communities, in their many forms somehow do not notice and care for the person in the way he or she is designed to be noticed. Consequently, early on, people internalize the pain of their unnoticedness. Over time they learn to compensate for this pain in different ways. Some become high achievers. Others become very skilled at entertaining or pleasing others. Some withdraw. Others addictively attach themselves to someone else. All of them ache for someone or something that will address their deep sense of unnoticedness. (Reese and Loane, Deep Mentoring, 34.)
In contrast we see the apostle Paul nurturing his disciples in very personal ways. In his relationship with the Thessalonian Christians for example, he shapes them as a parent, as both father and mother (1 Thessalonians 2:1?12).
I am not arguing against public lectures. I give a lot of public lectures myself. Jesus taught the crowds and so did Paul. But they also poured their lives into key individuals. Jesus spent three years with twelve of his disciples, giving extra time to three of them. They were the core group of His Kingdom revolution.
I guess we need to ask ourselves what we are trying to achieve in our educational programmes. Do we just want to impart information or are we seeking to see people transformed for the Kingdom? Do we just want an educated church or are we stirring a revolution? We need to answer these questions before we get caught in any debate on pedagogical approaches. What are we trying to do?
Yesterday I met a university lecturer who is teaching in one of our major local universities. My brother in Christ sees his work in the university as his calling. This involves research and teaching. But he also shared about the many opportunities he had to interact with students. He remarked that what struck him was that so many of the students he met were hungry for a “father/parent” figure. They were hungry to be noticed. These students were the cream of the crop, undergrads in a top school, but they still needed someone to “see them” as individuals.
The rock group, the Who, cry out:
Oh can you see the real me, can ya?
Can you see the real me, can ya?
(Pete Townshend, “The Real Me“, 1973)
What will be our answer?