In 1620, as the Pilgrims were making preparations for their journey to the new world aboard the Mayflower, the task before them was daunting. North America had been frequently visited by fishing fleets and whalers, but establishing a permanent colony was something else altogether.
While these Separatists from the church of England (they came to be called Pilgrims) were experienced at resettlement, having moved from England to Holland, a journey to America posed greater challenges. It was a new adventure for each one.
Robert Cushman, an important organizer of the voyage, wrote,
“It doth often trouble me to think that in this business we are all to learn and none to teach.”
The teacher Cushman desires is someone who had been to New England and would be able to help the Pilgrims settle into their new home.
Among the many definitions of a teacher, this one is filled with images – a teacher is someone who has been there before and is now leading learners to new territory.
A teacher is someone who has been there before. This suggests a realm of education and experience that is invaluable to the learning process. The biblical picture of a teacher, whether parents as they teach through life in Deuteronomy 6, or Ezra teaching from the inside out (Ezra 7:10), or the Apostles teaching out of their encounter with Christ (1 John 1:1-3), supports the idea that a teacher is someone who has been there before.
The most significant implication of this idea is that teachers must consistently encounter new places. An ever-expanding horizon of spiritual growth, life experience, and intellectual development is the necessary requirement for anyone who seeks to be someone who has been there before.
*For a detailed account of the Pilgrim’s settlement in New England, I recommend Nathaniel Philbrick’s book, Mayflower. Cushman’s quote is on page 20.