Sorry, but You Gotta Learn before You Teach

Author: Quill ofQuillsOccultSupply / Labels: , , ,

From work comes experience, from learning comes knowledge.  And from experience and knowledge come wisdom.  I have met many wisdom-seekers but very few who are interested in either work or learning.  And that is a terrible shame.

With the magical community's focus on self-awareness and personal experience over doctrine, teachers are hard pressed to find students who will listen instead of trying to lead the class themselves.  I know it's not an
easy avenue to take.  The dream of receiving great mystical enlightenment is soon overshadowed by the time and effort that go into understanding it.  But taking instruction in person is nearly guaranteed--no matter what kind of teacher you choose--to be noticeably easier, faster, and more linear than going it alone.  It's just different.

Being taught by another person is unlike reading a book, the standard method of learning for many modern practitioners.  The book demands very little and is often reassuring of your progress just by you returning to it day after day.  "You're reading me three days in a row?  Good job!  Look at you go!"  But a teacher wants you to do more than just show up.  You must demonstrate that you are grasping the information and also that you will know how to use it when the time comes.  And that means homework, questions, examples, challenges.  "You finished your focus training for the day?  Good.  Now tell me why focus is important and list three ways to use it for spellwork."

Magic is an ever-changing discipline yet old as time itself.  This presents some interesting hurdles for teachers to jump: teach the traditional, explain the typical, but leave room for the revolutionary.  Unfortunately, students already experiencing the typical will often disregard the traditional.  This comes back to the attitude (common now with eclectics but by no means held by all practitioners) that all magic should be revolutionary--each spell must be made by the individual for this one specific event and its formation should only be based upon "what feels right."--and it makes it hard for students to even grasp the typical without feeling compelled to ridicule its simplicity.  This explains many teachers' reluctance to approach new students and why I let students find me rather than searching for them.  And sometimes the trouble starts even before the agreement has been made.  Here are some examples from my own experiences of wisdom-seekers who sadly were not work-seekers.

A few years ago, a young woman approached me on an unrelated matter but when she found out I have classes, instantly let me in on her rules for being taught.  First, I was to give up any plans of an orderly design--she would learn what she wanted, when she wanted.  Each class would be short or long, as she desired.  And I would be there to, what, supervise?

Also note that price was never an option.  As I've heard before, it is only right that I spend years learning these things and further years organizing them into classes--not to mention the time, expense, and travel dedicated to teaching each person--only to give it away for free on a whim to whomever gave me a second glance.  Yep, sounds like a solid plan that I can sustain for the rest of my life!  I explained how no one expects a yoga instructor or a piano teacher to go without compensation, but she was hearing none of it.  In the end, I simply sighed and told her that as I had never offered to teach her--nor would I--and I had no interest whatsoever in her expectations.  And if she, as a newcomer, had such specific notions of proper teaching, she should set up her own classes and let others heckle her for a while.  Needless to say, it didn't end well.

Another, much more mild, incident happened with a man who was already in the midst of my classes.  Once he came to History of Magic he declared that because he didn't like history he shouldn't have to take it.  I assured him that the ancient and modern history of magical practices was very interesting and useful.  The class goes quickly and is full of discussion and visual aids.  But he had himself set against it and chose not to do any homework from that point on.  Evidently I was being punished for giving him an agreed-upon class by him ruining his own grades!  This promising student ended up leaving because he wasn't able to run the class.

Now these were by no means the way that teaching always goes and I was sad both times that this is how these situations ended up.  If a student goes into any kind of training (not just for magic) well-informed of what to expect, ready to give their best effort, and with a little trust, they will succeed and enjoy the process.  And I am certainly not saying that teachers are infallible or that they cannot learn from students, but they do just as much work as the students.  Writing classes is work, coming up with (and testing) projects is work, fielding phone calls and e-mails any time of day or night is work.  The lesson plan a teacher comes up with before they even take a single student takes a very long time to create and shouldn't be thrown around on a whim. So here's my final word on it--respect teachers and respect students.  There is hard work on both sides and neither one has it worse.  Luckily, the outcome is so rewarding that it's worth all of that and more.

And if you don't like me saying so, go set up your own classes!  Grr!

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About Me

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My name is Quill and I've been practicing witchcraft for the past 17 years. 10 of those years I've been reading tarot and teaching.  I own a shop on Etsy called Quill's Occult Supply (check it out at full of handmade ritual and decorative items, spell components, and wild picked herbs.

I love to work with my hands.  Magic is a tool to shape our lives, and I'm using magic to shape tools to shape magic.  Cosmic! 

I use a lot of my favorite things in my shop: herbs, candles, wood, fabric, paint, clay.  And I get to carve, burn, grind, mold, think, dream ... I'm in the perfect business!

I've written 3 manuscripts for publication (2 non-fiction and 1 fiction) and am an avid NaNo-er!  I and my husband run a local coven called Orbis Prosapia, and our children are growing up surrounded by magic, mythology, fairy tales, Earth worship, art, open discussion, music, and humor. 

In addition to working on Ex Penna about my experiences as a professional witch, I also write for Scenes from the Circle about being a coven leader. 

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