Some Guidelines for Beginning a Teacher-Pupil Relationship

Deciding whether or not to enter this teacher-pupil relationship

You have been approached by someone who is asking you to be their Course teacher. Your first order of business is to see if there is a fit between you and this person. Do you have a sense that you are called to be this person’s teacher? Do they have that same sense? Some things you may want to bring into the discussion:

  • Ask “How can I help you?”
  • Ask why they chose you in particular.
  • Ask what they are looking for.
  • Ask about their background with the Course. Get a sense of where they are coming from with the Course.
  • Look at any resistance you have. Does it feel like an indication of lack of fit, or an indication that taking on this person will provide the lessons you need?

After this, pray for guidance. Sincerely ask, “Am I being called to be this person’s Course teacher?”

Establishing a common purpose

Joining in a truly common purpose is what makes a relationship holy. This joining has to be genuine; just stating a common purpose is not enough. But it can be a help. You might want to spend some time with the pupil selecting a common goal. For instance:

  • Learning this course (in the understanding that the teacher learns by helping the pupil learn)
  • Growing toward holiness
  • Joining in learning and applying the Course, and to join so fully that eventually all sense of separation is transcended
  • Walking the path of the Course together
  • Using the Course to achieve the goal of life
  • Allowing the HS to act in each other and in the relationship to bring about healing for both

The basic idea is following the Course in order to reach its goal of transformed perception, experience, behavior, and character, which will in turn allow us to make our contribution to the world’s salvation.

Understandings about roles

The following passage, given by Jesus to Helen and Bill, says almost everything we need to know about the roles of teacher and pupil:

It is not true that the difference between pupil and teacher is lasting. They meet in order to abolish the difference. At the beginning, since we are still in time, they [teacher and pupils] come together on the basis of inequality of ability and experience.” The aim of the teacher is to give them more of what is temporarily his. The process has all the of the miracle conditions we referred to at the beginning. The teacher (or miracle worker) gives more to those who have less [miracle principle #8], bringing them closer to equality with him, at the same time gaining for himself.

The confusion here is only because they do not gain the same things, because they do not need the same things. If they did, their respective, though temporary roles would not be conducive to mutual profit.

So the basis of the relationship is “inequality of ability and experience.” This means the teacher temporarily has “more.” And his aim is to give it away to those who don’t currently have it, gradually abolishing the difference between them.

Since we are talking about learning the Course, what the teacher has more of is “ability and experience” in doing the Course. This means understanding and experience in the Course’s teachings, practice, and extension. And hopefully it also means more sanity, truer perception. As Jesus said about the psychotherapist: “The therapist (hopefully) does have the role of being the better perceiver. (This is also, again hopefully, true of the teacher.)”

So you, as teacher, are meant to pass on your greater ability and experience in following the Course, as well as your sanity, your better perception, to the pupil.

This means that you are the teacher. This needs to be understood by both of you. However, this plain hierarchy is also mitigated by a number of factors:

  • You and your pupil are fully equal as Sons of God.
  • You are not really the teacher. Your should be doing your best to pass on the teaching the Holy Spirit is trying to give through you.
  • You will not have more ability and experience, or better perception, in every situation or area relevant to your teacher-pupil relationship. You thus need to be flexible in any given situation, while still retaining the teacher role overall.
  • You both receive from the relationship, and you both give, just in different ways. The teacher receives by giving, the pupil gives by receiving.
  • As Jesus said, the whole purpose of being a teacher is to give away all you have to your pupil, thus abolishing the difference between you.

In the Text, Jesus says, “I have been careful to clarify my role…without either over- or understating it.” You and your pupil want to do the same, neither over- or underestimate your role. This means avoiding both poles. On one pole are the teachers who want “merely to collect bodies to worship at their shrine.” On the other pole are teachers who are so “humble” as to abdicate the teacher role entirely.

Another way of talking about the right balance is that the teacher does not control, but does guide, leaving it up to the pupil to follow. You can become so soft in your avoidance of controlling that you don’t even guide. And you can become so firm in your guidance that you slide over into control. You want to guide but not control.

Assessing where the pupil is with the Course

As an initial starting point, you’ll need to assess where the pupil is at with the Course. Some thing you will probably want to find out are:

  • How long has the pupil been with the Course, and how consistently in that time?
  • Is the Course this person’s sole path?
  • Where is he or she with the volumes?
  • How is his or her practice?
  • What has the focus been up till now?
  • How has the Course affected his or her life?
  • What does the pupil see as his or her strengths and weaknesses in relation to understanding, practicing, and applying the Course?
  • What resistance has he or she noticed in relation to the Course? What are her “issues” with the Course? How does he or she deal with them?

Deciding on the pupil’s focus

You will need to decide what the pupil’s focus is on working with the Course. The primary options are going through the Text or going through the Workbook. Hopefully, a combination of finding out where the pupil is at and praying for guidance/having an internal sense will decide this issue. If the focus is the Workbook, then the structure for that is given—a lesson a day. However, if the focus is the Text, you may need to come up with a structure so that you and the pupil have the same expectations about how the pupil will go through the Text.

Establishing a meeting structure

Obviously, you need to establish how you meet (in-person, phone, e-mail), how long for, and how often. Once a week seems to be a pretty comfortable schedule for most, but you’ll need to find out what is right for this particular relationship. Also, do you welcome e-mails or calls in between meetings if something comes up?

Actively involve the Holy Spirit

It is crucial that the teacher seek guidance from the Holy Spirit about questions and issues that arise and about the direction of the relationship. It is also a good idea to seek guidance together—to each take the same question into the silence and see what comes through. At the beginning of the relationship, you may want to jointly offer a prayer of dedication of the relationship to the Holy Spirit.

Periodic check-in, re-evaluation

It’s important to have periodic check-ins to see how the process is working for both of you. You might want to set a timeframe for this at the beginning.


The teacher should keep confidential all information shared in sessions. The one exception arises from the teacher’s need to review things with his or her own teacher in order to better serve the pupil’s needs.