I’ve been thinking about all the teachers I’ve had in my life. Some have been inspiring. Some have been dreadful. Some have been lifesavers. There is a saying about spiritual seekers that when the student is ready the teacher appears. That has certainly been my experience and I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and study with all kinds of teachers.
The easiest teachers to think about are of course the ones associated with public schools. I was fortunate to have a high proportion of really good teachers. Being involved in the arts and excelerated classes probably helped. But if I had to pick just one it would have to be Miss Suzanne Kelly. She taught English when I was in 7th grade. She told me that if I could use a dictionary and learn to type it wouldn’t matter that my spelling was bad and my handwriting illegible. Best advice I’ve ever gotten.
Then there are the teachers who show up in your life and lead by example. I have all kinds of those too. The ones who stand out the most are my ex-Mother-in-Law. Suz died this year and it was much harder than I expected because I owe so much to her. She had an incredible ability to find something nice to say about everyone. She could be sincere and gracious in the most difficult situations. I worked with her for a year and watched her deal with customers this way. She was amazing. She also had the ability to give you her full attention when you were talking with her. These are talents I’m sorely lacking. Any skill I have at all in these areas I got from watching her.
My other example is my son. I know that seems odd, because to some extent I probably taught him to persevere, to look on the bright side and to be kind. But again, he has a talent that far exceeds any abilities I might have in these areas. Orion is just a happy guy. He finds delight in the smallest things. He knows how to be satisfied. He assumes everyone he meets likes him and is pleased to meet him. It’s amazing to watch him struggle so hard and come up smiling. My favorite part of the day is watching him get excited about something.
My best example of a teacher who showed up when I needed it was Paul. I’d known him for years in the community. We’d nod at each other at events. We were in a group at a bar at a convention one evening. I announced to the group, “I need to find someone to teach me sword, staff and ballroom dancing.” An odd combination, and exactly Paul’s skill set. Who knew? I can’t say I’m an expert in any of those areas, in spite of Paul’s best efforts. But I learned a lot of what I really needed to know about moving in my body.
But the teachers that really fascinate me are the ones that show up just for a moment and say just the right thing. The small bit of inspiration that leads to great things. I’m writing this blog because of one of those aside comments. I’m working on a book – for real rather than just in my head – because of one of those comments. I’ve had people say the darnedest things on the bus or at community events.
I think this kind of teaching fascinates me because most often this is the kind of teaching I do. I’m the person who asks the odd question that makes you think about a problem in a different way. I’m the person who will give a “homework” assignment to anyone who asks “what do you think I should do?” I’m the person who you sit down with and talk to until you begin to understand what it is that you’re really talking about.