As a new teacher, I was sure I had a lot to offer. The students needed me. They needed what I had. I was the outside expert parachuting into their world to save them from their ignorance and give them what they couldn’t possibly get for themselves.
As my career progressed I discovered I was working with a horribly flawed model. My students didn’t need to be saved by an expert. They needed a partner who brought some resources and skills to the learning process.
And like every good teacher, I learned and grew from the relationship at least as much as my students.
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I’ve been reading a lot about how to address injustice issues like poverty and racism. Like me as a new teacher, our solutions usually involve some version of the outside experts swooping in with their version of a solution.
The best solutions involve relationship in which there’s acknowledgement that everyone’s broken and in need of reconciliation. Local folks contribute both ideas and resources, and the entire process is a partnership. It’s about being servants, not saviors.
And there’s never a sense that we’re “bringing Jesus” into communities in which He’s always been active.
I’ve learned that we tend to greatly oversimplify issues of social justice. Poverty, for example, is a good deal more than simple lack of resources. Without understanding, the best intentions may cause harm.
Victims of injustice already have a Savior. They need a partner.
If you want to learn more, I strongly recommend this book: When Helping Hurts
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