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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Teacher (10/26/06)

TITLE: The School of Life
By Marlene Bonney


I think we learn the most from those teachers who are not in the business of teaching. They come across our pathways every day, some whom we know very well, and others who are strangers to us.

We look to our elders and peers for advice because they have traveled the same way before us; we follow in the footsteps of our parents and role models, sometimes with favorable results; but other times we become what we know instead of what we want to become. We learn by example from imperfect teachers who have their own agendas and do not think about their impact upon our lives.

If we come into contact with any other person, we become teachers. We can be men, women, children or babies; parents, grandparents, daughters, sons, aunts, uncles, cousins; we can be of any age; uneducated or educated; of any race, religion, or political persuasion; we can be healthy or ill, single or married, optimistic or pessimistic, tall or short, slender or heavy, rich or poor or in-between. By the very act of our presence, we are teachers. The relevant question is,

“What are we teaching?”

It is well documented that children are impressionable and learn the examples set for them by their parents and their peers. I would agree, but take it ever further and state that we are all, to a certain extent, products of our environment. And we all, to various degrees, model behavior that is portrayed to us by those who surround us.

People who treat others with love and kindness and respect are teachers of love, kindness, and respect. People who treat people with rudeness, or brutality, or disrespect are teaching those same attitudes and actions to some who observe them.

I once worked with a person who was constantly pessimistic and who complained almost constantly. Before long, I found myself falling into these same qualities, and I ended up requesting a transfer to a different department because I was in danger of learning unwanted demeanor.

Experience is, however, our greatest teacher. Through it, we learn things no schoolteacher, tutor, relative, or acquaintance can teach us. Experience teaches us truth by trial and error on the most personal level possible, because it completely encompasses us as individuals in our own unique set of circumstances. Experience teaches us what is successful and what is not, who is healthy to associate with and who is not, what is dangerous and what is safe, and so on as we learn by our own successes and failures, as well as from those we can watch.

Repeatedly, all of us are teachers when we least expect we are . . . a child walking by a house may witness a temper tantrum as an individual’s hose refuses to cooperate and he explodes with foul language . . . a teenager sees someone in a grocery aisle impatiently pushing his cart ahead of a physically-challenged shopper, rolling his eyes . . . a waitress watches behind a pillar as a couple hold hands & offers God thanks before eating their meal . . . the fellow occupants of a waiting room see an elderly gentleman showing patience with a receptionist who is being rude and abrasive . . . drivers in a hurry watch as a stranger stops in front of a driveway to courteously allow another driver entry into the line of traffic . . .

And, the opportunities for teaching go on and on for each of us; the question is,

“What kind of teacher are you?”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 11/05/06
Lots of truth here, and a very apt title. Thanks for writing this very thoughtful piece.
Daniel Owino Ogweno11/07/06
I am challenged. What kind of teacher am I and what am I teaching? I'll not let that escape me. I loved the following: "a waitress watches behind a pillar as a couple hold hands & offers God thanks before eating their meal".
Practical! Thanks.
Donna Haug11/07/06
I liked the paragraph giving examples of how we are teachers even when we don't realize it. You might want to go a little easy on the semi-colons. I found them a little distracting. But I enjoyed your message and reminder to watch my life. We never know who is watching!