One of the joys of teaching is the chance to introduce students to new friends: inside the pages of their books. One way I do this is by discussing what we read. Our talks are informal and, I hope, instructive. Sometimes they are no more than a skate across the surface as we endeavor to see the big picture. Other times we plumb the depths of theme and characterization as we seek to see the inner-workings of the story before us.
Mortimer Adler says it beautifully:
“The teacher’s role in discussion is to keep it going along fruitful lines—by moderating, guiding, correcting, leading, and arguing like one more student! The teacher is first among equals. All must have the sense that they are participating as equals, as is the case in a genuine conversation…These basic insights are epitomized by Socrates…he describes his role as a teacher by analogy with the service performed by a midwife who does nothing more than assist the pregnant mother to give birth with less pain and more assurance. So, according to Socrates, the teacher assists the inquiring mind of the learner to give birth to knowledge, facilitating the process of discovery on the learner’s part.” ~ Mortimer Adler