what i don’t know i’m teaching

One thing I’ve enjoyed about my relationship with my parents as I’ve moved from youth to college to adulthood is the transition toward working out how parents and children can be friends as adults. It takes a little transition from when parents had disciplinary obligations to now when they’ve got wisdom and perspective and such that we would do well to listen to. In particular, I’ve enjoyed their self-reflection in light of our children arriving. 

Case in point: One self-reflection of my dad’s upon the birth of my son (my oldest child) was, “I never worried about what I knew I was teaching you; I was worried about what I didn’t know I was teaching you.” In other words, what we teach on purpose is just that—on purpose. What is passed along because it is “caught” rather than “taught,” as they say, is poweful for the same reason it is nerve-racking. What is “caught” is happening at the intuitive, almost subconscious level. I appreciated dad sharing that self-awareness. It’s helpful to try and unearth the unrealized assumptions that shape our words and actions and thinking on life. 

A recent article from John Ortberg in Leadership Journal, “Your Hidden Curriculum,” examines this dynamic with church ministry as the reference point. The point is the same. What we teach intentionally reveals what we think we value; what we teach unintentionally reveals what values actually order and direct us. 

It seems to me that this is a helpful piece of self-examination for interpersonal relationships, teaching (be it in the areas of spirituality, academics, life), and organizational leadership. Those are the big three for me.

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