He should not take the blame. I am likely not the only one who took something from Larry Mott during their high school days at Northwest Classen. No, I did not take one of his pens.
Yesterday I learned that Mr. Mott had died.
Since I read the note on Vince’s Facebook Page, I have not stopped thinking of my long held appreciation for Mr. Mott. In fact, every time I hear someone say, “This may be a dumb question,” I reply as did Mr. Mott, “There are no dumb questions.” I go so far as to tell the story of what I call, “The Mr. Mott Rule.”
If my memory serves well, Mr. Mott had studied at one time to be a Methodist Minister. Whatever prodded him to teach, I am glad. Maybe some of the things I have taken from him have made me a better minister, pastor.
Before I knew anything about Socrates or the Socratic Method, I was learning it from Mr. Mott. Maybe this was intentional. Maybe not. Questions open up possibility. Telling closes off options. Even if we are talking about history, we all learned history includes interpretation. Choose an era and opinions will vary as to the meaning of the events which in turn informs how the story is recorded. It is very difficult for human subjects to convey information with pristine objectivity.
Exposing our underlying assumptions is better experienced inductively rather than deductively, asking rather than telling. We bristle when someone “tells” us. We are endeared when someone “asks.” It was this feature that pushed we who took Mr. Mott’s history classes to understand human history, meaning, and our own takeaways. These patterns transcend pocket protectors and overhead projectors, two teaching accessories prominent with Mr. Mott.
Some clamor for ministers to tell others what to believe. It makes it easier. It also removes responsibility.
Teaching may be more like gardening. Provide the right atmosphere and essentials for the soil and help the plant grow. We talk to our plants, we do not berate them or demand from them. People thrive with the same. Create space for learning, for questioning. It does not mean there are no right answers. Mr. Mott did not grade on the subjective scale. But, when we would grapple with events and their relationships we would explore by asking questions. And no, we did not ask, “Will this be on the test.” We did not have to because our interest was in learning not regurgitation.
Today some think the Church should teach for some supernatural test. People may get the Creeds or Confessions correct and still not have learned much. Distancing doctrine and dogma from practice is not just something that happens when teaching for the EOI’s in current public education.
I have enjoyed a lot of great teachers in the course of earning three degrees, one of them terminal. But, they all have been measured to some degree by my time as a learner with Mr. Mott working the garden of education.