But to me the Hierophant is more than just the teacher or spiritual leader. He's the one front and center on the card, but let's not forget about the two people that are on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck whose faces you cannot see. They are the adepts, the acolytes...people who have chosen to follow him. And it is those who often go unnoticed that I would like to focus on today.
Did you ever think about why people teach? Well...they certainly don't do it for the money, at least in the public schools. Those individuals have my total respect and admiration, because they're doing a job that is often thankless for barely enough pay. Administrators, parents, and students fight them at every turn, and they're constantly told their charges are not measuring up on ridiculous standard tests that are used later to determine which teachers should keep their jobs. Who in their right mind would want THAT job?
Imagine if you had 25-30 individuals watching you ALL DAY LONG. I'll bet you that you'd be surfing the internet less and not taking long lunches anymore. And they say teaching is the world's second most private act!
If I had my way, I'd double their salaries immediately and try make it a much more attractive profession. In my humble opinion, it's one of the top ten most important jobs in the world. Children who cannot think become adults who cannot think, and for the world that is a really bad thing. But I digress.
So I didn't answer the question. Why do they do it? Ask a teacher that and if they're a teacher worth having, s/he will say, "I do it for the students." It's not for money or fame or accolades. It's for the students.
Good teachers remember what it was like to be a student, one of those faceless people in a crowd watching a teacher do their work. They have to know what they're teaching inside and out, because students can spot a fake a mile off. They have to make it more exciting than technology or having a private conversation with a friend. And they know how to connect with their students, to get that message across in the hopes that even a fraction of it might sink in.
The Hierophant is a reminder to me that I can't just sit on my ass and expect my students to blindly follow me. I constantly think about what my student persona would say to my teacher me, and I try to act accordingly. I try to never stop learning and growing, because as soon as I say "I'm done," I'm done as a teacher, too. How can I expect my students to aim high if I stop?
More than leading students, though, I try to remember the lessons my students teach me every single class. I've learned more about my craft and myself in a classroom than I have from any book, and from any other person, except for maybe three or four pivotal people in my life. And to me, that's the way it should be, and the way I hope it will be until I stop drawing breath.
So next time you think of the Hierophant, think about your role as both the teacher AND a student. It may help you be a little more patient or compassionate when the next "student" in your life asks for your time, attention, or help.
And me? Why do I do it? For my students, of course. And I'm a better man for it.