By challenging the hearer as to whether they will “hear” and follow the teacher, the Parable of the Sower and the Soils (Matthew 13:1-9) offers a larger framework for considering parables as part of the Master Teacher’s toolkit.
In the late 1980s, there was a popular television show called 21 Jump Street. Johnny Depp and friends portrayed cops in their twenties. Because they were too young looking to be taken seriously, they went undercover in high schools to take down drug dealers, gangs, etc.
It was 1991, during the summer between my first and second years of medical school. I was in the basement of a Christian clinic in Times Square. The clinic provided free medical care for homeless people in New York City. I was filling up a tub with warm soapy water so one of our homeless clients could soak his feet.
Really listening to my students also challenges me to see course material with new eyes—their eyes. It forces me to approach the familiar grounds of knowledge using unfamiliar pathways. At its best moments, listening to my students equalizes us as we become collaborators in the project of learning.
Earlier today, I wrote a letter to my major professor from my Ph.D. program thanking him for all the time and work he put into training me. I told him that any accomplishment that I or my students might achieve could be accredited to him because of his dedication to excellence. Knowing him, this statement might mean as much to him as his winning of the Nobel Peace prize in 2007.