Lessons Learned and the People Who Teach Them

This week has been a challenge. I’m not just talking about writer’s block (which is there) but a darker struggle inside myself, as I question whether or not anything I do has value in this world. I’ve been dealing with:

  • students who seem to think attendance during the last weeks of school is optional
  • students who think that my assignments and the deadlines associated are optional
  • administrators who think that my opinions do not have weight or are not worthy of consideration
  • young students whose lives are so difficult outside of school that its hard to see if anything I am doing is reaching them
  • at least one class where the women in the class refuse to speak up and participate, they defer to the male voices a large percentage of the time. It drives me insane as someone who truly values mentoring young women.
  • a complete lack of faith in myself as director, writer, artist, teacher

But then, Siobhan Curious over at Classroom as Microcosm, posted this prompt as part of her Writing on Learning Exchange Series: she asks this provocative question “Who Taught You?”

That message made me think about what we learn when we least expect it, and who teaches us those important lessons. Sure, hopefully we have teachers throughout our educations that actually teach us something, but I am beginning to think that perhaps true learning comes to us in a different way. This isn’t to say that we have nothing to learn in a classroom environment . . . there’s plenty to learn through those formal methods, but sometimes we learn in unexpected ways, and sometimes we teach without knowing we are  teaching.

In my own life, lessons have come from so many unexpected places and people:

  • the fellow teacher from Australia who didn’t graduate from high school, used less than legal means to get hired to teach English in Japan (you were supposed to have a college degree) and showed me that a love of life and a passion for following your heart is in some ways more important than what you learn  from books. Too bad I didn’t fully absorb that lesson until very recently, despite the fact that she taught me it about 20 years ago.
  • the lessons I learned about prejudice, hate, and racism while working with a group of Roma children in Slovakia.
  • the lessons I’ve learned from the leaders of that Slovakia trip, about caring, sharing, traveling and living life with the understanding that there is more to the world than our small section of it.

    The leaders of Dramatic Adventure Theatre pitching in to make sure we were well fed.

    The leaders of Dramatic Adventure Theatre pitching in to make sure we were well fed.

  • There’s my current student who faces all kinds of challenges including incessant and debilitating migraines, being struck by lightning, and numerous friends dying from suicide or car accidents and things. She’s taken all this sadness, all these challenges, and given herself a goal to help others by becoming a school counselor and learning as much as she can about psychology. She is an inspiration.
  • The lesson I learned this morning from a woman I don’t know. Mia McKenzie’s blog post starts with the words “Hey White Liberals!” and challenges me to reflect on ingrained aspects of racism and injustice that we all need to think about, and somehow change.

This list could go on forever, and my blog is peppered with posts about people of all ages, races, cultures, levels of education who have taught me lessons. The point is that we never know when we will learn something that changes our lives. Nor we will ever truly know when we have taught something that has made a difference.

With that perspective, perhaps my life isn’t as empty as it feels at the moment, because there’s always something new to learn and the possibility that someone actually learns from you.

This is my greatest teacher.

This is my greatest teacher.


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andra Watkins
    Apr 24, 2013 @ 15:32:51

    It always helps to remember our blessings during low moments. This post reminded me to try to do that right now. Thank you.


  2. Siobhan Curious
    Apr 24, 2013 @ 15:34:00

    This is awesome. (I also loved that “Hey White Liberals” article and have thought about it a LOT since I read it….)


  3. An Embarrassment of Freedom
    Apr 24, 2013 @ 16:34:50

    Your sensitivity to those you are teaching is apparent. You speak specifically of the one young woman setting such inpiring goals for herself. Enjoy her light as she is absorbing yours. The young women deferring to the men in the class is an interesting problem. No doubt you are finding more of their true expression in reflections from their journal writing . I always enjoyed responding to journals, privacy understood. What the young men have to offer is valid too I’m sure but they need to be gently reminded to allow others to contribute expression. Maturity is a great teacher. You can only do what they have the maturity to deal with. Administration, no doubt is another issue all together! Sometimes it is all a game of strategy with admin!
    Your little girl is a radiant teacher. Enjoy her light.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Apr 24, 2013 @ 18:58:42

      This was an Intro to Theatre, without a journaling assignment. And actually, the guys in the class kept trying to encourage the women to participate more. It was bizarre, and fascinating.


  4. lisaspiral
    Apr 24, 2013 @ 16:35:55

    One of those sayings that I love to hate is “The teacher appears when the student is ready.” In the life lessons department this has proven true for me. Sounds like for you too.


  5. CMSmith
    Apr 26, 2013 @ 11:16:20

    I’m struggling with the whole meaning of life question now as well. I think it is in part due to the witnessing of the passing of two of the most important people in my life. It makes me wonder what it’s all about. I think ultimately we have to find meaning within ourselves, not in the rewards or appreciation or money or recognition we get from outside.

    It may not be any more involved than just enjoying where you are and what’s around you, and making the most of each moment. It may not be any more than simply being as kind as we can be.

    We are all running in circles looking for more these days of modern technology. Sometimes I yearn for the simpler farm days of the past where simple living was enough.


  6. Kathy
    Apr 28, 2013 @ 12:33:31

    Thinking that perhaps a most important thing is that we’re still learning, day and night. Even if it takes so long–it seems–for us to get the message. Maybe that’s why we’re given a lifetime to let go of everything that no longer serves us…


  7. T (@ToscaSac)
    Apr 29, 2013 @ 22:00:42

    What I loved about school was not the curriculum based stuff. It was always the social interaction. What I took away mostly from my teachers was very personal individual content that they brought into our classroom sessions even when it was simply a passion for the subject.


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