Friday, May 12, 2006

Good Teacher, Bad Teacher

How do you define “teacher?” What makes a good teacher good or a bad teacher bad?

I’ve had experiences recently that have me thinking a lot about teachers. More accurately, I’m thinking about lessons learned. And it seems that some of the most valuable, the most important lessons have come from the worst teachers.

Possibly the most valuable lesson of all is this: every encounter is a learning experience; everyone is my teacher. The lessons may come directly in a deliberate transfer of knowledge. They may come “sideways” from observation and reflection. Or they may come as a result of disappointment, betrayal, even abuse, often from the very person I looked to as a teacher. Those lessons are hard and painful, but they are the ones that protect me, shape me, and sometimes, set me free.

The trick is to realize the real lesson. A teacher who fails to meet stated objectives still teaches me. Maybe I learn how to choose better teachers. Or maybe I learn to take more responsibility for my own learning. The teacher who hurts me through betrayal or abuse, or whose personal power struggles overshadow his or her commitment to students has much to teach me. I learn to recognize the situation for what it is. I learn that I am strong enough to step back, extricate myself, and regroup. And, when the initial shock, anger, or hurt subsides, I learn accountability tempered with compassion.

Teachers are students, too. The loss of a student, maybe even a friend, can be a hard lesson to accept. Seeing them suffer the natural consequences of their actions is a lesson in accountability. And I learn compassion when I realize that I, too, will experience failure, hurting or betraying others with my actions, even if unintentionally.

There are many good teachers in my life and I’m grateful for them. But even bad teachers teach good lessons, and I’m grateful for them, too. In a sense, every teacher is a good teacher if I can recognize the real lesson.

1 comment:

  1. Well stated! The lessons we learn through through those interactions are often the most valuable. It is the same with love- the worst relationships / breakups teach us the most about ourselves! We humans are stubborn that way...

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