Choosing a Teacher
So you want to learn about Wicca. What should you look for in a teacher? What should you avoid?
The best time to look for a teacher is after you have read or otherwise studied on your own for a while and formed a good idea of the direction you want to take. A good teacher can help you to increase the depth of your understanding.
How do you recognise a good one?
A responsible teacher will not accept a student who wants someone to mother him. The teacher's job is to help the student to develop, not to take over the student's life. Be sure you know why you want a teacher in the first place.
A teacher should have a life and visible means of support other than teaching Craft. Many traditions forbid a teacher to profit materially from teaching. In these traditions a teacher is usually allowed to recover the direct costs of teaching. For example, if today's lesson is how to engrave a copper pentacle and the teacher bought some copper discs for the students it is reasonable that the cost be reimbursed. It is not reasonable to pay more than a dollar for a dollar's worth of materials. We invited my first teacher to fly up for a weekend seminar. At first he declined since we wanted to pay his air fare. He relented when we pointed out that one plane ticket for him was cheaper than 10 for us, but he insisted that the ticket appear at the airport for him: No money was to change hands.
Beware of teachers who are too eager. Good teachers will want to know that people are committed to their path and understand where they want to go before accepting them as students. Teaching methods vary and the teacher and student must be right for each other's approach. A person who invites you to be a student the first time you show up at a circle could be looking for self-aggrandisement.
Teacher qualifications are difficult to check. "I was initiated into the third degree of the Old Glassy Eye Tradition by Lord Rhuadh" means nothing if you have never heard of the OGE and/or have no way of contacting Lord Rhuadh and/or have no idea how real Lord Rhuadh is. Just because people are famous does not mean that they are good, decent or know what they are talking about. A sad number of Pagan authors have been found to have stolen much of their "knowledge" from a variety of miscellaneous sources and presented the result as their own. As a result we must often rely upon demonstrated abilities.
Look for results. Teachers should be "-ible": sensible, reliable and dependable, honourable. They should also be fairly rational, without deep neuroses or hidden agendas. Teachers should be able to demonstrate their abilities: If Lady Glitz says that she can fly then she should be able to demonstrate this on request without any excuses. The important thing is that in a crunch the teacher actually does something real. It may be something simple like helping you solve a spiritual or mundane problem. A good teacher won't encourage you to avoid reality and won't ignore you when you are troubled. A good teacher will give you an honest answer and may say "I don't know."
Unless the teacher and student are already involved in a stable physical relationship before the subject of teaching is raised, there is absolutely no way that a teacher and a student should become lovers while the teaching relationship exists. The teacher / student relationship is one in which it is all too easy for the student to form a crush on the "all-knowing, all-powerful" teacher. It is also too easy for a teacher to exploit that crush. If you and your teacher want to sleep together the teaching relationship must be formally dissolved first.
A good teacher will let you "try before you buy." My teaching style may not be suitable for you and I'd rather ask you to come to a few lessons before making a formal commitment than sign you up immediately and have you quit later.
Some teachers have a student/teacher contract that promises mutual honesty and respect. Having the expectations in writing helps to eliminate later misunderstandings.
People learn at different rates. Just about every beginning martial arts student wants to know how long it will take to get a black belt. The real answer is "as long as you take." A more usual answer is "well, the average student, coming to class an average of X times a week, will take an average of about Y years." Like it says on the commercials, your mileage may vary. Beware of a teacher who promises you such-a-degree in a specific amount of time.
Does the teacher like and respect herself but have a healthy dose of humility? If the phrases power-tripper, door mat, ego-maniac, paranoid or perpetual victim apply, the answer is probably no. Find another teacher.
As one person puts it, a Wiccan should not habitually live in self-generated crisis. If things are constantly falling apart in the person's life, seek elsewhere.
Ask yourself these questions:
Further ideas that can be applied to evaluating a teacher can be found in the Group Danger Evaluator.
Remember, there is no shame or difficulty in learning from books either by yourself or with some friends. Teachers can provide invaluable assistance along your path, but you must find that path and tread it yourself.
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